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The Devil's Arithmetic

by Jane Yolen
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In The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, why does Gitl insist on bringing all the gifts to the wedding if they are going to be brought back anyway?

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In Chapter 6, as her brother is about to get married, Gitl continues to arrange and rearrange the wedding gifts on two wagons as she says "Those schnorrers in Viosk will know we honor our own."

What she means is that she wants to make sure that everyone coming to...

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In Chapter 6, as her brother is about to get married, Gitl continues to arrange and rearrange the wedding gifts on two wagons as she says "Those schnorrers in Viosk will know we honor our own."

What she means is that she wants to make sure that everyone coming to the wedding (especially the family of the bride, Fayge, who are from Viosk) will be aware that Gitl's family and and friends have provided abundant and generous gifts to Shmuel and Fayge on their wedding day. The gifts are a gesture of love and honor, a tangible way of displaying the pride that the community feels for Shmuel, a hardworking man with a good reputation.

According to this article from the Jewish Encyclopedia, a schnorrer is a moocher: someone who pretends to have respectability while living off other people's generosity. This explains Gitl's attitude toward her brother's new in-laws: she assumes that they are taking a passive, unhelpful role in the wedding, and that the responsibility falls on her to make sure it's a classy affair. By ensuring that the gifts appear numerous and lavish, Gitl is ensuring the respectability of the whole event and, you might say, rubbing this in the noses of her brother's new in-laws. On the other hand, Gitl could just be joking. She's a kind soul who nevertheless likes to tease people and use words that are harsher than what she really means.

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