A Lesson For the Children – Summary of part 1: The wife of the prominent rabbi, the Shach, passed away. He was forced to flee from the Cossacks, and he had to leave his sick young daughter in the snow, thinking she was dead. The King of Poland found her and his physician made every possible effort to revive her. When the rabbi returned a while later he could not understand what had happened to his daughter’s “body.”
With G-d’s kindness, Esther very slowly returned to her former strength. Impatiently, the king’s six-year-old daughter, Princess Maria, waited until she would be allowed to meet this girl who had been found in the forest. And when she finally saw Esther’s pretty face she fell deeply in love with her.
After Esther became strong and told where she came from and how she was brought to the forest, the people could not decide what to do with her. It was suggested that she be returned to the Jews, but when Princess Maria heard this she cried out: “No, Father, don’t take the forest girl away from me!” And the Queen suggested, “Let us christen the girl and keep her in our home for as long as Maria wants to keep on playing with her.”
The King agreed to do this. But the people of the king’s court were very upset when Esther refused to eat any of the food that was offered to her. When she was asked why, she said: “G-d has forbidden us to eat this food. Until now I was sick, and I remember that when my mother was very sick my father told her she could eat anything that might save her life. But now I am healthy, and I am only allowed to eat kosher food prepared by a Jew.”
That very day, the King’s personal priest came to try and convince Esther to eat. He told her about all the good things she could expect if she converted to Christianity. He said, “Your life was given back to you as a gift only because of the kindness of the King. It stands to reason that you belong to him, and you therefore must accept his faith and religion.”
When Esther heard this, she turned pale, and she put her face into her hands and wept bitterly: “Please just leave me alone, or kill me if you want to.” She had heard many stories about holy men and women who had been killed by the Cossacks, and she was convinced that she must give up her life and not convert to another religion. Her friend Maria heard her crying, and ran into the room. She asked, “My dear forest girl, why are you crying? Who is it that dares to hurt you?” Esther did not reply, but she made a sign with her hand towards the priest. And Maria asked, in surprise: “You, the priest? This is my sister that you upset so badly!” But the priest replied, “No, I want to give her real happiness, so that she will be able to be a real sister to you.”
“And you, Esther, don’t you want this?” Maria asked. “No, my dear sister,” Esther replied, “I want to remain Jewish, I would rather die than change my religion.”
So Maria went to her friend, kissed her and wiped away her tears. “Calm down, Esther, nobody will force you to do anything against your will. Come, let us go to the flower garden.” And Esther began to smile. The two girls took a walk in the garden, laughing together as if nothing had happened.
The King hired a Jewish woman to bring Esther food every day. But the people of the King’s court made sure that no Jew would ever get close to her, in the hope that eventually she would forget that she was a Jew and decide on her own to convert to Christianity.
In the meanwhile, the friendship between Esther and Maria grew. Esther joined Maria in her studies, and she often studied better than the Princess.
One day, Princess Maria was sitting on a bench in the garden. Suddenly, Esther jumped up, screaming with fright. She grabbed Maria and quickly dragged her away from the bench.
For part 3 click here
(Source: “A Treasury of Stories”; to be continued). Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.