JHOM - Personalities - Glückel of Hameln - Memoirs-Wedding


A match and a 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,[1] of blessed memory.

My 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[2] 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."[3]

The Memoirs (analysis and selections):

The story of the father bird and the baby birds

The death of a child; the birth of another

Glückel mourns the death of Chaim of Hameln

Glückel rescues her ne'er do well son Loeb from debt

Appearance of self-proclaimed messiah Sabbetai Zevi

Dangerous travels to the Leipzig fair

A match and a wedding

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 never seen.

Then came the great preparations for the wedding. At that time, Prince Frederick was in Cleves.[4] 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.


[1] 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]

[2] 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]

[3] Talmud, Sota, 2-a. [back]

[4] 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]

excerpted Barnes & Noble linkGlückel. 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.




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