A Lesson For the Children – Summary of part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6 and part 7: 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 when a fire broke out in the palace she ran away, and the people thought that she had perished. Bandits captured Esther and offered to release her to the Jews for an enormous sum of money. Rabbi Menachem, one of the leaders of the community of Vilna, redeemed her and adopted her as his daughter.
After a few years, his wife became sick and she suggested that the rabbi should marry Esther after her death.
As autumn arrived, Gita indeed passed away. Two years later, Rabbi Menachem married Esther, and the two of them lived a happy life.
One day, a new decree was announced for the Jews of the country of Latvia. The Prince, who was head of the government ministers and had just returned with his young wife Maria from their honeymoon, announced that the Jews would be required to pay a very high fine – one hundred thousand gold coins – to support the national army. He declared that if they would not pay by the appointed time, all of the Jews would be expelled from Latvia.
All of the protests and the begging against the decree did not help. Esther looked into the matter, and she found out who was the wife of the young prince. “I will go by myself to see the Princess,” Esther said, getting up suddenly. And Rabbi Menachem asked her, “What good will it do?” So Esther was forced to stop hiding the story of her past from her husband. She told him all that had happened in her life. Rabbi Menachem was astonished to hear her story. He said, “But this means that you are the girl Esther whose great courage has been praised in the stories. Go to Princess Maria, and let G-d give you success!”
And Esther went to see the Princess. Maria was sitting in the palace, and she had sudden memories of her beloved friend Esther, who she thought had perished in the fire. Her eyes filled with tears and her heart was filled with yearning. And then the door opened and a servant girl ushered Esther into the room. She wanted to fall on Maria and embrace her, but she held back and asked Maria: “Didn’t you once have a Jewish girl as a friend?” And Maria replied sadly, “Yes, poor Esther, who was burned to death in the great fire.” And Esther said, “You are wrong, Esther did not die. Do you remember the tall tree that stood near the bedroom that the two of you shared? Esther climbed down that tree and ran away. Even though she was treated very well, she ran away because the people kept trying to convince her to become a traitor to her own people and to her religion.” Esther bowed down and took Maria’s hand in her own and kissed it. She said: “Can you ever forgive your friend Esther? I am Esther, the one you have mourned such a long time!” Maria jumped up from her seat. For a moment she stood in shock, and then she fell over Esther and hugged her, and she wept. “Esther, my dearest sister, how happy I am at this moment. My beloved friend, you must forgive me, I am not the one who has to forgive you.”
The Prince heard his wife’s cries and came to see what had happened. After Maria calmed down, she said to him: “My good husband, I wept from joy. How happy I am today. This is my friend and colleague, whom I never expected to see again. This is my friend Esther, who saved me from the snake when we were children.” The Prince was astounded, and he was as happy as his wife. And then he suddenly asked: “Maria, was Esther ever given a reward for saving your life? After all, she ran away and was never given any reward.”
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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.