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The "Balky Horse"

Posted: 3 January 1997
Updated: 11 May 1997

This story was contributed by Aunt Bunny. It's about how we all got here.

So how did it all begin? Have you heard of the "balky horse"? Do you know what is a "balky horse"? You tell it to go... "Giddap"-. and it balks.. stands still... won't move. You can shout and insult it... you can whip it... but it refuses to move. Let's start at the beginning. "Bubbie" Fruma Esther arrived in Ottawa approximately 1887, with two young children, (Sadie & Chaim Avrum), only to find her husband ---- who had preceded her-----in the hospital. During the time Bubbie and family were traveling from Bessarabia, Zaida had suffered a stroke, which left him paralyzed. One of the ways with which Bubbie managed to support the family, was supplying room and board to the new immigrant men, who came alone to Canada to prepare a home for their families. One such "boarder" was Shmuel Cohen. When his family joined him, Sadie befriended his young daughter Sarah, to whom she was an "older sister". Meanwhile, Shmuel's brother, Shneur Zalman ... who had earlier fled to South Africa with a passport in the name of Epstein in order to escape the Czars army draft.... came to Ottawa to join his family. Sadie was now a lovely young woman. Zalman was a handsome bachelor... all the necessary ingredients for a "shiduch". "Whoa...no way!"...said Sadie, who was not yet ready to give up the single life for holy matrimony. When Zalman came "to call" on Shabbat afternoon.... no Sadie! She had skipped out a back window and run off to spend the day with her girl friend. Next week, Sadie was invited out to spend Shabbat with Sarah's family, who had a store, and lived in a small farming community outside of Ottawa. Who turned up on Friday, with his newly-acquired horse and wagon,,, but Zalman. When it was time for him to return to Ottawa for Shabbat, his horse had other ideas! He turned stubborn as a mule, and continued to balk at every effort made to harness him and leave. So what to do? Nothing left but to invite Zalman to spend Shabbat also. Apparently this gave Zalman the opportunity to soften up Sadie's resistance, because it seems that within the year, 1899, Sara Zelda "Sadie" Rosenfeld and Shneur Zalman Epstein were married.