A Lesson For the Children – Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7 and part 8. Summary of previous chapters: The daughter of the SHACH fled from the palace of the King of Poland to avoid being forced to become a Christian, and the people thought that she had perished in a fire. Bandits captured Esther and released her to the Jews for an enormous sum of money. She eventually married Rabbi Menachem from Vilna. Years later, the Prince of Poland decreed that the Jews must pay a huge sum of money. Esther went to visit Princess Maria, her good friend, and they had a very emotional reunion after many years of separation. The Prince witnessed their meeting and offered to give Esther a prize for having saved Maria’s life.
After a moment of thought, the Prince said: “Esther, my wife’s dear sister, I am willing to give you the fine of one thousand gold coins that I demanded from the Jewish community of Vilna. You can collect the money and do with it whatever you want.”
Of course, all the Jews understood that Esther would not take any money from them, and the news quickly spread throughout the city. The synagogues filled with Jews who came to thank G-d for sending the righteous Esther to save them.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Shabtai continued writing his important book “Siftai Kohen,” known by its abbreviation, SHACH. He wanted to print a second volume, but he did not have the necessary funds. He decided to take a trip in an effort to gather contributions in order to publish his book, and he arrived in Vilna.
Rabbi Menachem and his wife Esther were happy to have Rabbi Shabtai as a guest in their home. Of course, the rabbi did not recognize Esther, just as she did not recognize him. After he gave a sermon in the synagogue, a large crowd gathered. Many cups were raised in a toast, saying, “L’Chaim, to the life of the great Rabbi Shabtai!” And then one of the people added, “To the life of our host, the son-in-law of the King!” Rabbi Shabtai heard this and was amazed. How could his Jewish host be the son-in-law of a Christian king? The people explained to him that Rabbi Menachem’s wife was Esther, who was once adopted by the King of Poland, until she ran away. They told him how she maintained her Jewish customs for many years, eating only kosher food, and so on.
Rabbi Shabtai heard all of this and he went pale. He asked: “But this girl Esther was burned to death in the King’s palace!” And the people answered, “No! She ran away, and she suffered many troubles. Here she is now in front of you.”
Just at that moment Esther came into the room. Rabbi Shabtai looked at her and he gave a great shout. “My own Esther! My dear daughter!” He took hold of Esther and hugged her warmly. “Father! Father!” Esther cried. “Who would believe that I would ever find you! And who would believe that my father is such a famous rabbi!” And Rabbi Shabtai replied, “I am not great. You are the great one! After you spent so many years in the palace and kept to your Jewish faith, nobody is greater than you!”
Rabbi Shabtai and Esther spent many hours telling each other what had happened in their lives since they had been separated. They both remembered what Esther’s mother had said before she died: “You will have many troubles and I will pray from heaven for G-d to protect you.” And Rabbi Shabtai and Esther clearly felt that G-d had helped them overcome their troubles through all the years.
Rabbi Menachem donated all the money needed to print Rabbi Shabtai’s book of commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, and the multitudes of Yisrael study this book to this very day. You can also study it. But you should remember its special story, a tale of Jewish courage of the author and of his daughter.
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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.