The Daughter of the Shach (Part 4)

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Palace on Fire
27 Jun 2007

A Lesson For the ChildrenSummary of part 1, part 2 and part 3: Esther, the six-year-old daughter of the SHACH, a famous rabbi, was lost and picked up by the King of Poland, who treated her almost as his own daughter. Esther became friendly with Princess Maria, and one time rescued her from being bitten by a poisonous snake. But she did not feel comfortable living in a Christian home. The people allowed her to eat kosher food, but they repeatedly tried to convince her to convert and become a Christian.

That night, Esther had trouble falling asleep. Finally, she slept, and she dreamt that she saw her dying mother, who opened her mouth and spoke in a very weak voice: “Know, my husband, that you and our daughter will have very difficult and bitter experiences. But in heaven I will pray to the Master of the Universe that He will send an angel to save you from all evil and to rescue you from all the trouble.” And Esther broke into weeping: “Mother, Mother, save me! Your daughter is in great danger. Rescue me!”

Suddenly, Esther heard loud banging on the door, and screaming: “Open the door! The palace is on fire! Save yourselves!” Everybody started to run wildly, to escape the fire. “Now, I have an opportunity to run away without being seen by anybody,” Esther thought. She opened the window and climbed onto a nearby tree, and she was on the ground within a moment. She went from the courtyard through a back door, leading into an open field. “Now I am free,” Esther said to herself, as she happily moved towards the forest. All around it was dark, but the flames in the palace lit the way for her. She knew that wolves and sometimes bandits prowled the forest at night, and she was very much afraid. But she said: It will be better to be caught by wolves or to be killed by bandits than to rebel against my G-d and my people. Her shoes were torn and her feet became weary, but she kept going with her last remaining strength.

Meanwhile, Princess Maria began to search, and she asked with fear in her voice: “Where is Esther?” The servants quickly searched for Esther but in vain. Everybody was sure that she had perished in the fire. She was thought to be the only victim of the great fire. All of the members of the royal court were struck with sadness, and Maria could not stop crying and weeping about her sister and soul mate, Esther.

And now, let us leave Esther and return to her father, Rabbi Shabtai (known as the SHACH). After he could not find his daughter’s body in the forest, he returned home. Based on his great faith in G-d and his love for the holy Torah, he managed to keep his strength in spite of the death of his wife and the loss of his daughter. He left his empty house and began to wander around the countries of Latvia and Poland. He rejected many offers as a rabbi and remained dedicated to one mission alone – to find his missing daughter. He felt in his heart that his daughter Esther was still alive, and he hoped to find a trace of her.

After many years of wandering he began to despair. He finally accepted an offer as chief rabbi of the city Helshoy. He married a second wife who gave birth to a son, and his life began to return to normal. But he could not stop thinking about Esther, who might still be alive somewhere, and every day he would pray to G-d to return his daughter to him.

One day, Rabbi Shabtai had a visitor from Poland. During their meal, the guest described the life of the Jews in the land and specifically in Krakow, and he mentioned the amazing story of a Jewish girl in the king’s palace. He enthusiastically described her courage in insisting that she would not eat food provided by the king but only kosher food prepared by a widow who brought all her meals to the palace.

Rabbi Shabtai’s hopes immediately rose. “Do you know how this Jewish girl came to be in the king’s palace?” he asked. And the guest replied, “They say that the King found her half dead when he was hunting in the forest.” When Rabbi Shabtai heard this, he knew what he must do. The next day he rose early, took leave of his wife and son, and started out for the capital city of Krakow.

For part 5 click here

(Source: “A Treasury of Stories”; to be continued). Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.