Saturday, December 21, 2013
"This is the story of the uncovering of the hair of Jewish women..."
This is a fascinating anecdote I came across in R. Chizkiya Feivel Plaut's biography of the Chasam Sofer included in his Likutei Chever Ben Chayim (link).
The story, as told to the author by Rabbi Daniel Prosstitz (a close friend of the Chasam Sofer) takes place in 1785, when the 23 year old Moses Sofer accompanied his rebbe Rabbi Nathan Adler on his journey to Baskowitz, where he was to become rabbi. When in Vienna, they stayed in the home of a wealthy man, Reb Nathan Arnstein - who was none other than the banking giant Adam Isaac von Arnstein (1715-1785). Rabbi Nathan Adler has sent young Moshe out on some errand, and when he returned, he stumbled into a room where the host's daughter-in-law was sitting, bareheaded, having her hair done in a "frisiere" - her hair was being styled. Fuming, the boy berated the hostess, "Is this how a married Jewish woman goes?" Not surprisingly, she told her husband's father that if the guests are not thrown out immediately then she was going - to Berlin, to her father's home. (Her father was Daniel Itzig (Jaffe) in Berlin, an interesting personality in his own right, how maintained a Beit Midrash in his home, which luminaries such as the Peri Megadim frequented.)
So - and one imagines this part of the story is either imagined in the retelling, on behalf of the kind man who hosted great rabbis, or was meant to soften the blow to the guests - Nathan Adam von Arnstein approached them, thanked the young man for chastising his son's wife, and asked them if they would remove themselves to another apartment of his, a better one, so that his wife would not travel on the holiday, as it was Pesach.
Concludes the teller, Rabbi Plaut, go check if Reb Nathan Arnstein has any Jewish descendants! And this is the story of the uncovering of the hair of Jewish women...
The woman? Fanny von Arnstein, whose Wikipedia page says "In 1814, Fanny von Arnstein introduced a new custom from Berlin, hitherto unknown in Vienna: the Christmas tree."
This, presumably, is what the young Chasam Sofer found, when he wound up in the wrong room:
 Actually, Fanny's husband was Nathan Adam von Arnstein - I assume that in the story the son and father's names were confused.