A Lesson For the Children – Summary of part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4: Summary of the previous chapters: The six-year-old daughter of the SHACH was lost in the forest, where she was found and then adopted by the King of Poland. But she was not happy because she was pressed over and over again to convert to Christianity. When a fire broke out in the palace, Esther took advantage of the great tumult and ran away. All the people came to the sad conclusion that she had perished in the fire. At about the same time, her father also despaired of finding her, until he heard a rumor about a young Jewish girl in the home of the King who maintained her faith. He decided to go there and check if this could possibly be his long lost daughter.
Rabbi Shabtai journeyed to the Palace of the King. As he went, he remembered his childhood days in this area. This included memories of his neighbor at the time, a Polish boy name Vratislav. Years later, he had become deep in debt and he was sent to prison. When Rabbi Shabtai heard about the prison sentence of his childhood friend, he was very upset. He paid the debts and freed his friend from prison. Since that time he had not seen or heard about Vratislav at all.
Deep in thought as he was, the rabbi lost his way in the forest. Night fell, and he became very frightened. He began preparations to sleep in the forest, when he saw a flame in the distance. He started to walk in the direction of the light, when he reached a large cave hidden among the trees. Rabbi Shabtai approached and looked inside, and he was startled to see a band of robbers sitting around a table drinking. He quickly moved back, but he was already surrounded by some of the bandits, who brandished their swords and yelled: “What are you looking for here?” The rabbi replied in fright, “I am a wandering Jew, and I lost my way in the forest.” But one of the bandits shouted, “Liar! You wanted to find our hiding place and tell the authorities about us! We will have to kill you!”
The rabbi begged for his life and explained that he was only looking for a place to sleep. But nobody would listen to him. The bandits tied him up with rope and took away everything that he had. And then one of them lifted his ax, moving towards Rabbi Shabtai.
The rabbi began to recite the “Vidui”, the final confession. But at that moment one of the bandits jumped forward and stopped his colleague. “Wait until our leader Vratislav arrives. He is the only one who has the authority to put somebody to death.” And the first bandit replied, “You are right.” He put the ax down and pushed Rabbi Shabtai deeper into the cave.
Suddenly there was the sound of approaching horses. “The chief is coming!” the bandits cried out, and they rushed to greet him. He turned to his colleagues and they asked him, “What did you find today, was it gold, silver, or diamonds?” And he said, “No, all we managed to find was a young girl wandering around in the forest. Perhaps we can sell her to somebody and make a profit. Beilush will bring her here soon.”
And then, suddenly, everybody was greatly shocked. From inside the cave, a cry rang out: “Vratislav!” And the chief shouted back, “Who is it that dares to call out my real name here?” All the bandits were struck by fear, for they had never dared to use their chief`s name. But then the same voice continued, “Vratislav, save me, just as I once saved you!” And the anger drained from the chief’s face, as he said, amazed: “Can this be? Do I hear the voice of my childhood friend, Shabtai?”
Quickly, Vratislav freed Rabbi Shabtai from his ropes, hugged him with feeling, and said, “Shabtai, Shabtai, you are the only person who ever had pity on me, through all the time of suffering in my life, which forced me to become what I am today.” The chief signaled his men to leave him alone with the Jew. Vratislav told his friend Rabbi Shabtai everything that had happened to him in his life. He had huge debts which brought him to great despair, and he had thus become the chief of the bandit gang.
For part 6 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.