In 1903, the great master of Yiddish fiction Shlomo Rabinovich—better known by his pen name, Sholem Aleichem—published the novel Moshkeleh Ganev (“Moshe the Thief”) in serial form in a Yiddish newspaper. Curt Leviant describes the book, which he recently translated into English:
Prior to Moshkeleh Ganev, Sholem Aleichem had never devoted a full-length work to the Jewish underclass. In fact, it was a first for Yiddish literature, with its riveting plot about a rowdy, uneducated horse thief who falls in love with the flirtatious daughter of a tavern keeper. Sholem Aleichem’s commitment to capturing their world and their language was plain from the outset.
Although Sholem Aleichem could not have known it, his great contemporary Anton Chekhov praised precisely this kind of realism when, a few years earlier, he wrote to a friend, “To depict horse thieves in 700 lines, I must all the time speak and think in their tone and feel in their spirit.” But, of course, he is just as convincing (and comical) in depicting Jews shopping for their Passover wine or the seder of a drunken tavern keeper.
That is the theme of the excerpted passage at the link below, which begins thus:
Throughout the year, Chaim Chosid’s wine cellar is open to the town worthies. But on the eve of Passover, Chaim and his entire family, including the wine cellar and all its wine, are held in bondage to the Children of Israel in [the shtetl of] Mazepevke.
To get a sense of what happened at the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, please come down to Chaim Chosid’s cellar when the Mazepevke Jews buy wine for the four cups of the seder.
All year long, Jews manage to survive, thank God, without wine. They make kiddush over challah and drink water from the stream. But with the approach of Passover, they get spoiled and pampered. They prepare themselves to become kings at the seder, as tradition prescribes. Now they think they’re sophisticated connoisseurs and experts in wines.