In a short story by the great Hebrew author S.Y. Agnon, an unspecified member of the Rothschild family—proverbially wealthy Jewish bankers—finds himself in a small shtetl for the Sabbath. Here Rothschild (as he is called throughout) encounters “the Patron,” the head of the local Jewish community of whose own riches the townspeople are in awe. The following passage describes the Patron’s grand entrance into the synagogue during Friday-night prayers:
Rothschild saw that the sun had set yet no one had started reciting the prayers for welcoming the Sabbath. He looked at his watch, he looked at the window, and he looked at the schedule on the wall. Rothschild asked, “The time to welcome the Sabbath has arrived, why aren’t we reciting the prayers?” They responded, “We are waiting for the Patron to arrive in synagogue, for we do not pray until he arrives, but he’ll surely arrive soon, since the sexton has already gone to get him.”
As they were talking the door opened and in walked the sexton, who called out, “Sha-a-a!” informing one and all that the Patron was about to enter. Everyone answered, “The Patron is coming! The Patron is coming!”
Rothschild raised his eyes and saw a corpulent man, as wide around the middle as he was tall, dressed in silks and sables, with his face set toward the east.
The Patron reached the eastern wall at the front of the synagogue and sat in his place, all the while puffing and panting from his walk.
The prayer leader approached him, bowed, and asked, “What does your honor think? May we welcome the Sabbath?” The Patron nodded yes. The prayer leader retreated, with his face toward the Patron and his backside to the congregation, ascended the platform, wrapped himself in a tallit, and began the prayers.
After the prayers everyone pushed and shoved to approach the Patron, bow to him with awe and reverence, and wish him a Shabbat Shalom, while he nodded his head in affirmation as if to say the same.