The Daughter of the Shach (Part 6)

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12 Jul 2007
History

A Lesson For the ChildrenSummary of part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5: 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. She became very close to Princess Maria. But the royal family kept pressing her to become a Christian, so when a fire broke out in the palace Esther ran away, and the people thought that she had died in the fire. At the same time, her father heard a rumor about a young Jewish girl in the palace who maintained her faith. On his way to look for her, he was caught by bandits who threatened to kill him, but he discovered that the head of the gang was a childhood friend, the Polish man Vratislav. The chief told the rabbi how he had reached such a low point in life.

Rabbi Shabtai listened carefully, and he was very sad to hear how his childhood friend had become a bloodthirsty bandit. He spoke to him very seriously, in a harsh way that reached into his very soul, about his terrible deeds and about how his soul would be lost because of his grave sins. The wise and convincing words of the rabbi had such an effect on the chief that he lowered his face into his hands and wept, out of a feeling of shame and remorse.

But in the end, Vratislav sighed deeply and said, “I can no longer leave this path. I am linked to these men by strong bonds, and we must continue on our path of robbery and murder. My good friend Shabtai, go on your way in peace, and pray for me to G-d.”

The chief then turned to one of the bandits and said, “Take this Jew to the main road. Remember, it will cost you your head if he suffers even a small scratch.” The next day, Rabbi Shabtai reached the site where the palace had stood before it burned down. But now all that remained was a final hint of smoke and fire. Rabbi Shabtai asked the Jews in the neighboring village about the fire, and one of them told him, “The pretty girl Esther, the friend of the princess, was the only one who was killed in the fire.”

The Jew did not understand why this stranger became so agitated and even fainted when he heard this. He woke Rabbi Shabtai with great difficulty and spoke to him, and only then did he understand the great tragedy. The rabbi had been on the verge of finding his lost daughter, and it now turned out that she was lost forever. This terrible tragedy had happened just at the last minute, and his beloved daughter had burned to death. Rabbi Shabtai was at first depressed and broken, but he overcame his shock and declared, “All of G-d’s ways are righteous. G-d gave and G-d took, let the name of G-d be blessed.” Rabbi Shabtai left the place in deep sorrow, went back to his home, and continued his Torah studies.

Let us return to Esther, who fled from the burning palace. She ran for a long time, until she almost collapsed, when she heard a commanding voice: “Stand still, little girl!” She stopped in her tracks, shaking and in fear, and she saw a frightening man pointing a rifle at her. She started to cry. “Don’t shoot me.” He asked, “Who are you?” And she replied, “I am a poor girl, orphaned from my father and mother, alone in the world. I was in the home of relatives, cruel and evil people, who made my life very bitter. And now I have run away.” And Vratslav the bandit chief took Esther’s trembling hand and held it. He hurried towards the bandit cave, while his friend Bolush was given the task of bringing the girl there.

Bolush arrived with the girl just after Rabbi Shabtai had left. Vratislav looked at her and began to question her, to find out from where she had come, in order to send her back in return for a heavy ransom. But Esther stubbornly refused to tell where she came from.

And then one of the bandits came forward with a suggestion: “Listen to me, Chief. Why don’t you keep this pretty girl here with us and take her for your wife…”

For part 7 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.