JHOM - Personalities - Glückel of Hameln - Memoirs-Son's Debt
rescues her ne'er-do-well son Loeb from debt
Memoirs excerpt below chronicles one several occasions after her husband's
death where Glikl is compelled to rescue a child who lacks her keen business
sense. Through the rumor mill at the trade fairs where she sells goods
from her shop, Glikl discovers the debts of her son Loeb, a Berlin shopkeeper.
She immediately follows him to the Leipzig trade fair to keep an eye
on his dealings and try to undo some of the damage . . .
[M]y son Loeb, I told you,
was still a lad and knew nothing of business. And his father-in-law, far from
keeping a steady eye on him, let him run like a loose sheep.
Then I meet at the Brunswick
Fair certain Amsterdam merchants who hold my son's notes for about 800 Reichsthalers.
My son Loeb writes me I can safely take up the notes-he will forward me the
money to Hamburg. As I always stood by my children, I said to myself, I shall
not put him to shame by protesting the notes, and I proudly paid them.
I mentioned, my son had undertaken a large business in Berlin, with a big store
full of all manner of goods. His father-in-law, likewise, had married his son
Model to the daughter of my brother-in-law Joseph. This Model was also a raw
lad and poorly bred. But his father placed his entire dowry of 4000 Reichsthalers
in my son's business.
My son kept this Model sitting
in the store, that is to say, watching out for things. But what a watchman!
The help, men and women, stole right and left. Other worthless folk, such as
are to be found in Berlin and thereabouts, made up to him, and while they went
through the motions of bargaining stole from under his eyes.
In addition, my son Loeb
loaned some thousands to Polish Jews, and the money, alas, was never seen again.
My children and I knew nothing of it all, we thought he was doing a good as
well as a big business, and so we made him large advances. At that time I had
a manufactory for Hamburger stockings, many thousands' worth of which I turned
out for my own account. And my unlucky son writes to me to send him a thousand
thalers and more of stockings, and I did so.
When I returned from the
Brunswick Fair I expected to find bills of exchange from my son Loeb. But nothing
awaited me, and when I wrote to him, he sent me all kinds of answers none of
which pleased me. What was I to do? I needs must content myself.Two weeks later, a good
friend came to me and said, "I cannot keep it from you, I must tell you
that your son Loeb's business mislikes me, for he is heavily plunged in debt.
. . ."Such and more my good friend
told me, and my soul nearly died within me, and I fainted on the spot.When my friend saw my shock,
he tried to console me and said he believed that with someone to stand by him
my son could still be saved.
I told all I had heard to
my sons Nathan and Mordecai. They shrank with fright and said he owed them several
thousands. God knows what it meant for me-my son Loeb owed me alone more than
3000 Reichsthalers-but I had little minded it were not his brothers so deeply
immersed. But what could we do in our distress? We dare speak of it to no one.We agreed that I should
accompany my son Mordecai to the Leipzig Fair and see how matters stood. When
we reached Leipzig we found my son Loeb already on hand, as was his wont, and
laden with goods.
I now began to talk with
him. "They are saying," I said, "thus and so of you. Bethink
yourself of God and of your good and honest father, that you bring us not to
shame." He answered, "You need not worry over me. But recently-it
was not a month ago-my father-in-law had visiting him his brother-in-law Wolf
of Prague, and we reckoned up my accounts and he found me, praise God, in excellent
shape." Whereat I said to him "Show me your balance sheet." He
replied, "I haven't it with me; but do me the favour to come to Berlin
and I will show you everything, to your content." "In any case,"
I concluded, "buy not a jot more of goods."
But my back was no sooner
turned than Reb Isaac and Reb Simon, son of Rabbi Mann of Hamburg, sold him
on credit more than 1400 thalers of goods. When I learned of it, I went to them
and begged them in Heaven's name to withdraw the sale, for my son needs must
give over the merchandise trade, else it be his ruin. But it was all to no purpose,
and they forced my son to take the wares.
After the fair, I accompanied
my son Mordecai, Hirschel Ries and the other Berliners to Berlin.
Once I was in his house,
my son Loeb said to me, "I fancy my one mistake is to have tied up too
much money in goods." Whereupon I told him, "You owe me more than
3000 Reichsthalers-for my part I am satisfied to take it in goods at the price
they cost you." "Mother dear," he sad, "if you are willing
to do that it will ease me of my difficulties, and no one need lose a penny
The next day I went with
my son to his store, and truly, he was badly overladen with goods. He gave me
3000 Reichsthalers of merchandise at the price it cost him. And you can imagine
the face I made. But regardless of everything, I only sought to help my children.
|Glikl continues to
try and help Loeb settle his debts, only to discover more that he owes.
His creditors, meanwhile, take advantage of him mercilessly. Glikl invests
large amounts of her own money in the disaster, and with the help of
brothers, Loeb is finally rescued. To keep an eye on him, and make sure
there is no more trouble, Glikl then brings Loeb to Hamburg and employs
him in her own flourishing business.
The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln. Marvin Lowenthal, trans. Copyright
© 1977 by Schocken Books (New York), pp. 165-168. Reprinted by permission
of Schocken Books.