JHOM - Personalities - Glückel of Hameln - Memoirs-Wedding
Our business prospered.
And Zipporah, my eldest child, was now a girl of almost twelve. Whereat Loeb
Hamburger in Amsterdam, the son of Reb Amschel, proposed her marriage to Kossmann,
the son of Elias Cleve,
of blessed memory.
husband was accustomed to travel to Amsterdam twice a year, and now, after writing
the marriage broker he was coming to see what could be done, he set forth six
weeks in advance of his usual time. The country was at war
and Elias Cleve had left his home in Cleves and moved with his people to Amsterdam.
As soon as my husband reached
Amsterdam, rumours spread through Hamburg that the match had been arranged.
It was mail-day when the people read their letters at the Bourse. Many refused
to believe the rumors, and betting ran high around the Bourse; some said one
thing, others said another, as to whether the marriage would take place. For
Elias Cleve was a great prince in Israel, he had the name of a man worth at
least 100,000 Reichsthalers, and the name did not belie him. Whereas my husband
was still young, our fortunes had only begun to rise, and our little home swarmed
with children God be with them! But whatever the
Most High decrees must come to pass, whether we mortals like it or not; and
forty days before the birth of every child, a call goes forth in Heaven: "Such-and-such
a child shall be given the daughter of So-and-so."
Well, my blessed husband
concluded the match with the rich Elias Cleve and settled on our daughter a
dowry of 2200 Reichsthalers in Dutch money. They fixed the wedding for a year
and a half later in Cleves. My husband likewise undertook to contribute 100
Reichsthalers toward the wedding expenses.
When time for the marriage
drew near, I with a babe at my breast, my husband, my daughter Zipporah the
bride, our Rabbi Meir, who is not the rabbi of Friedberg, a maidservant and
our man Elegant Sam in sum, a great retinue
set forth for the wedding.
We sailed from Altona in
company with Mordecai Cohen, Meir Ilius and Aaron Todeleche. I cannot begin
to tell what a merry voyage it was, and after a gay and delightful trip we arrived
safely in Amsterdam.
It was still three weeks
before the wedding, and we put up with the aforesaid Loeb Hamburger. We ran
through more than twelve ducats a week, but we gave no thought to it, for during
the time we passed in Amsterdam my husband earned a half of the dowry.
Fourteen days before the
marriage we set forth "with timbrels and with dances," twenty strong
for Cleves, where we welcomed with all honors. We found ourselves in a house
that was truly a king's palace, magnificently furnished in every way. The livelong
day we had no rest for the elegant lords and ladies who came to have a peep
at the bride. And in truth, my daughter looked so beautiful that her like was
Then came the great preparations
for the wedding. At that time, Prince Frederick was in Cleves.
His older brother, Prince Elector Karl, still lived, and Prince Frederick was
then a young lord about thirteen years of age. Not long after, Karl died and
Frederick in turn became Prince Elector. Prince Maurice of Nassau and other
titled personages and great lords were likewise in Cleves, and they all signified
their desire to witness the nuptials.
Naturally, Elias Cleve,
the father of the groom, made fitting preparations for such notable guests.
On the marriage day, immediately after the wedding, there was spread a lavish
collation of all kinds of sweetmeats and fine imported wines and fruits. You
can readily picture the bustle and excitement, and how Elias Cleve and his people
set themselves to wait upon and cater to their distinguished company. There
was not even time to deliver and count over the dowries, as is customary. So
we placed our own dowry in a pouch and sealed it, and Elias Cleve did likewise,
that we might tally the sum after the wedding was over.
As the bridal pair were
led beneath the chuppah out it came that in the confusion we had forgotten
to write the marriage contract! What was to be done? Nobility and princes were
already at hand and they were all agog to see the ceremony. Whereat Rabbi Meir
declared that the groom should appoint a bondsman to write out the contract
immediately after the wedding. Then the rabbi read a set-contract from a book.
And so the couple were joined.
After the ceremony, all
the distinguished guests were ushered into Elias Cleve's enormous salon with
its walls of leather tooled in gold. There stood the mighty table laden with
dainties fit for a king. And the company were served according to their rank.
As it was, the young Prince
and Prince Maurice and all the noble-born guests departed in great content,
and never a Jew received such high honor in a hundred years. And the wedding
was brought to a happy end.
Elias or Elijah Cleve (Elijah Gomperz-died 1675) belonged to a prominent
Jewish family. He founded a large banking house in Emmerich, and later
a bank and a store in Berlin. He was a close business advisor of the Great
Elector, a banker for the Dutch government and purveyor to the Dutch armies.
He was, as we should say today, the "representative" Jew of
Cleves. His son Kossmann, who married Glückel's daughter Zipporah,
was a printer and publisher in Amsterdam. Kossmann's grandson was the
teacher of Moses Mendelssohn. [back]
 The Great Elector was an ally of the Dutch in their
defence against the predatory campaigns of Louis XIV. Cleves lay in an
exposed position. [Back]
 Talmud, Sota, 2-a. [back]
 Prince Frederick became, through the death of his
older brother (1674), Prince Elector, later Elector of Brandenburg, and
finally (1701) the first king of Prussia. [back]
The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln. Marvin Lowenthal, trans. Copyright
© 1977 by Schocken Books (New York), pp. 95-99. Reprinted by permission
of Schocken Books.