A Lesson For the Children – Summary of part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6: Summary of the previous chapters: The daughter of the SHACH was lost in the forest, where she was found and adopted by the King of Poland. She was very close to Princess Maria. But the royal family kept pressing Esther to become a Christian, so when a fire broke out in the palace she ran away, and the people thought that she had perished. Her father heard a rumor about a young Jewish girl in the palace but on his way to look for her, he was caught by bandits. The SHACH was released, but meanwhile the bandits captured Esther and suggested to their chief that he should marry her.
Esther fell down at the feet of the bandit chief, and she wept bitterly: “You can kill me, but do not force me to do this abominable thing. Take note of the Master of the World, who will mete out punishment for every sin. But he also has mercy on those who do good deeds.” Vratislav jumped from where he was sitting, and he said in surprise: “Just an hour ago, my good Jewish friend said almost the same thing to me. In deference to this friend of mine, I will set you free and send you to Vilna. There, the Jewish community will pay a handsome sum of money for you, and I will set you free.” He told Bolush to go to Vilna and see if the Jewish community would pay to redeem the girl.
A lively discussion took place in Vilna about whether to redeem the strange girl from the bandits for the huge sum of money that they asked, 3000 gold coins. There was not such a large sum in the community treasury, and the people feared that if so much money would be given to the bandits they would increase the number of kidnappings. On the other hand, everybody had pity on the poor captive girl, held in the impure and cruel hands of the bandits, and they looked for a way to rescue her.
And then one of the younger men present, Rabbi Menachem, rose up and said: “Gentlemen, I will give the ransom money from my own pocket.” All the people were very happy, and they blessed Rabbi Menachem for his generosity. After Rabbi Menachem handed over the entire sum of money, Vratislav brought the frightened Esther to the city, and she was brought to Rabbi Menachem’s home.
When Rabbi Menachem brought Esther home, his wife Gita greeted her with great joy. “You poor girl, so young and so beautiful. And look how much hardship you have had.” And Esther replied, “Yes, and you have paid a very high price for me. I would like to serve you and your family.” But Gita replied, “No, my girl. You will not be my servant but my friend, my sister, my daughter. G-d has prevented me from having children, and I see you as a wonderful gift from Him.”
Rabbi Menachem’s house was a true Jewish home. Every poor person was greeted with an open door. The house was a meeting place for wise and learned men. Esther very quickly began to feel at home, and she was very happy. In Rabbi Menachem’s home she felt peace and spiritual calm, and she was happier than she had been in the glorious palace of the king. But she did not tell Rabbi Menachem or his wife about the palace. She was still afraid that somebody might come to take her back to there.
However, in this house too the happiness did not last for very long. Gita was quite ill. And one day, she called her husband and said to him: “My beloved husband, I feel that my end is near. But you are still young, and you must live out your life, to marry and have children. Listen to my advice and after I have passed on marry the wonderful girl, Esther.” Rabbi Menachem began to weep and begged his wife never to repeat what she had said. But in the end it was clear that Gita was right.
Source: “A Treasury of Stories”. 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.
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