Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Cilibi Moise

(1812–1870), author of adages and aphorisms. Froim Moise, known in Romanian literature as Cilibi Moise, was the son of Alexander Sender Schwartz, a native of Galicia. Illiterate in Romanian, Moise would dictate his compositions to printers and sell them in pamphlets in the market towns of Walachia, where he was a traveling merchant. The 14 pamphlets issued as of 1858 included adages and sayings, maxims, thoughts, and moral lessons drawn from the school of life, revealing a picturesque and lively mixture of popular wisdom, Balkan humor, and Jewish folklore.

Beyond Cilibi Moise’s words of wisdom, he presented a philosophy of life that combined skepticism with serene resignation to poverty and hardship, and also demonstrated a critical and ironic overview of social rules and injustice. He commented on the manners of his times, as well as on human nature and the human condition, with echoes from Ecclesiastes (“Remember where you come from, where you stand and where you are headed to”). Several thoughts are extremely powerful, though expressed in a lapidary style: “It is hard for the poor to live, while it is hard for the rich to die”; “Time is a stairway: one goes up, another comes down.” His self-mockery and black humor derive from Jewish popular origin: “Moise the Jew keeps a bell on his table; when he rings once, he brings water himself as he does not have a servant”; “One day Cilibi Moise suffered a great embarrassment: thieves broke into his house at night and didn’t find anything”; “Cilibi Moise has been asking poverty for several years to get out of his house at least for as long as it takes him to get dressed.”

Encouraged by Moses Gaster, the folklorist Moses Schwarzfeld collected and edited a posthumous book of Cilibi Moise’s sayings, titled Practica şi apropourile lui Cilibi Moise vestitul din Țara Românească (The Practice and Sayings of the Renowned Cilibi Moise from Walachia; 1883). Cilibi Moise became, mostly after his death, a legendary figure, an embodiment of popular wisdom and humor, nostalgically evoked by a great Romanian writer (Ion Luca Caragiale) or turned into a character in several plays. He is considered to be the first Jewish author of literary pieces, naive though captivating, and enjoyed by both Romanian readers and the Jewish public. Rightfully considered an “oral genius,” his style set the stage for Romanian Jewish writers of the modern age.

Suggested Reading

Țicu Goldstein, “Cilibi Moise vestitul din Țara Românească”, in Practica şi apropourile lui Cilibi Moise vestitul în Țara Românească, pp. 115–136 (Bucharest, 2000); A. B. Yoffe, Be-Sadot zarim: Sofrim yehudim be-Romanyah, 1880–1940 (Tel Aviv, 996), pp. 33–40.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea