A Lesson For the Children – Many years ago, a man named Dervish arrived suddenly in the area of Simyan in Ethiopia. He was an evil man who took control of the entire area, and he commanded the people to eat the flesh of dogs and cats, in addition to other evil decrees. The Jews, who were not willing to stop observing the mitzvot of G-d, prepared for the worst. They decided that if Dervish came to them they would be willing to sacrifice themselves if necessary, but they would definitely not accept his decrees. Many of the people went to the hills and prepared hiding places for themselves where they thought Dervish would not be able to find them.
In one place, the people appointed a guard to watch the surrounding area and warn them if the evil ruler and his men approached. Suddenly, they heard sharp whistles, and the bad news soon arrived: The man had come! The moment of truth was near. Now the people would be forced to choose: They could surrender to the evil man and follow his decrees, try to fight him, or die a hero’s death, without a struggle. The people in hiding did not hesitate. They refused to contaminate their Jewish souls, and they therefore did not even consider accepting the man’s decrees. It was clear that they would lose any struggle, since they had no means of defense while he had many weapons and trained fighters. They therefore made their decision: they would all prefer death to surrender. As soon as the warning was sounded, they threw themselves from the top of the mountain, and they all died. Their souls were given up in purity, and the hands of the evil ruler did not touch them.
Seven years later, it is said by those who know, a spring appeared at the site where these brave people had fallen. The spring separates into two channels. To this very day, the waters of the spring are famous for their healing powers. Any person who is in need of a cure can immerse in the water of the spring and be healed. The spring is considered holy, and only a pure person is allowed to approach, even then only after a seven-day process of purification.
One time, when a group of people came to immerse themselves in the spring, a large lion suddenly appeared, and with a tremendous roar he threatened to attack the people. The group included wise elders of the community. They prayed to G-d to save them and not to allow them to become prey for the lion. And in fact the lion looked around until he found a garment belonging to one of the people and tore it to shreds – and he then went away.
When the people saw what had happened, they understood that the lion had come because of the actions of this man. They asked the man what evil act he had done, such that he had deserved such a great punishment. He thought for a long time until he remembered that one time he had left the area where he was on Shabbat and gone on a long journey. The people understood that because of his desecration of Shabbat he had almost been devoured by the lion. When they heard the man’s story and saw what had almost happened to him, they all repented of their sins. The man himself also repented and agreed never to desecrate the Shabbat again.
The story of Dervish and how he later disappeared took place very suddenly and were not written down in the history books. The story was passed down from father to son, and the way the Jews resisted his evil path remains a symbol of faith to this very day.
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NOTE: We do not repeat this story in order to support the decision of these people. Perhaps they should have tried to fight and not lose hope from the very beginning. Who knows? Perhaps they could have maintained their purity and managed to survive. But we can learn from their determination never to abandon the path of Torah, and from their remarkable will to give up their lives if necessary. They can be compared to Mordechai, who “would not kneel or bow down” [Esther 3:2], even when his action was dangerous for his nation and for himself. Let us hope that we will never have to make any decisions of this type.
Source: Yedidia Adiv, who heard the story from Mrs. Yalpin Abrah. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Reactions and Suggestions for Stories. Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il). Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat BeShabbato please write to email@example.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.