All from Above: Chapter 1| May 10, 2022
The boys gasped in horror as the stone flew straight between the arms of two soldiers and slammed against the head of the king!
Young Naftali was always a bit different than his peers. He was noticeably brighter and sharper, and he possessed a tremendous creativity that sometimes landed him in trouble. His eyes seemed to sparkle with excitement as he talked, and all who were privileged to be in his presence sensed this was someone who would one day become great. This assumption was correct. Reb Naftali would one day be the Rav of Posen, a master kabbalist and author of several works on the Torah, including several beautiful piyutim.
But kids will be kids.
And Reb Naftali was also once a young child. A child who did a terribly dangerous thing.
But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
As most stories start, it was a nice sunny day, and the youngsters were out and about, frolicking in the sunshine and enjoying the fresh breeze.
“Naftali, did you know that the king is coming by?” Naftali’s friend, Moshe, pointed to a nearby hill. There they could see a legion of troops trotting in front of a royal carriage. The blast of trumpets reached their ears.
“Pompous kings and their ever-doting soldiers.” Naftali shrugged. “People simply don’t realize that most kings care nothing about others, only about themselves. It’s incredible, isn’t it? Those soldiers would gladly die for their king. And in return for what? For nothing… An illusion they all live with, that their king and what he represents is something worth dying for. But us? We serve the Master of the World, the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe who rules the hearts of all rulers. To die for Hashem? Yes, that’s something great indeed.”
“But it’s harder to live for Hashem, isn’t it?” A passing old man stopped, leaning on his cane as he surveyed the boys with sharp eyes.
“Ah, Salomon the Wise, how are you?” The boys greeted the elderly man with smiles.
“Salomon is my name, yes, but who says I’m wise?” Salomon wheezed a bit before continuing. “Don’t be so clever and make light of kings and their entourages, Naftali. There’s an important lesson for us in everything we see in this world. Do I need to remind you of the gemara in Berachos, Naftali? Remember that Rav Yochanan teaches us that one should always run to witness kings and the honor they are given — even gentile kings. For one day, when Mashiach comes, a person will be able to recognize the tremendous difference between the honor given to kings nowadays, which seems like so much, and the much greater glory and honor that will be bestowed upon the kings of Klal Yisrael!
“Nu?” Salomon nodded his head at the distant hilltop. “Are you going to get a closer look, or not? Your opportunity is passing quickly…”
Naftali turned to Moshe.
“What do you say?”
“I think Salomon has a point. It’s now or perhaps never. Let’s go!”
The two friends raced down the hill, their feet pounding the tall grass, as the sun shone down on them. It was a wonderful moment; the bliss of youth and limbs filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Soon enough, they were standing on a ridge above the entourage.
“Here they come.” Moshe pointed at the royal carriage. “Ha! It’s literally just like you were saying. You’d imagine the man inside the carriage would at least look impressive and honorable, but all I see is a large man eating greedily as he reclines on expensive blankets.”
“Of course, what did you expect? And look at their soldiers! These are not honorable people. These soldiers love looting Jewish communities… They deserve a punishment, in This World and the Next… A boulder should come loose and crush them all right in this spot!”
“The boulders here look pretty sturdy, Moshe.” Naftali wiggled the stones beneath them. “But perhaps we could make do with a rock.”
Naftali bent down and dislodged a small stone, tossing it from one hand to the other.
“What are you doing, Naftali? Put that down before you do something unwise.”
“What’s the big deal? I’m just going to toss it over the entourage, I won’t hit anyone, of course.”
“No! That would be putting our lives in danger. What if your aim is off?”
“Please, you worry too much.”
Naftali took aim, leaned back and then hurled the rock over the group of passing soldiers. Except it didn’t quite go over the group. Instead, it flew right toward the group.
The boys gasped in horror as the stone flew straight between the arms of two soldiers, into the entryway of the carriage tent, and slammed against the head of the king!
The friends turned and began running for their lives.
The ground beneath them shook, and trumpets blasted as soldiers on horseback gave chase.
“I’ll lead them away, just get out of here!” Naftali shoved Moshe onward and then turned and raced straight toward his pursuers.
Within minutes, he was knocked to the floor. A soldier yanked him up and flung him over his horse. He was dragged back to face the rest of the entourage and an extremely angry king.
“You tried to kill me, didn’t you?” the king bellowed, as soldiers pressed cloths against the side of his head. “That stone almost took off of my head!”
“It was an honest mistake.”
“Lies!” the king snarled. “And you will receive exactly what you tried to do to me. You’re going to be executed, but not here. It will be done in the center of our main city, so everyone can witness what happens when someone — even a child — dares raise a hand against the king. Marat!”
An enormous soldier emerged, trotting forward on a horse that was the size of a bull.
“You will be responsible for the boy. Take him on the back of your horse and bring him back to the city. Don’t delay the execution for my arrival. Just make sure a nice size crowd is gathered there, and then do what needs to be done.”
Marat nodded his giant head, his black eyes glistening as he sized Naftali up.
The day had certainly taken an extremely unexpected and dark turn for the young Naftali. But he knew, as he raised his eyes to the Heavens and davened to Hashem for mercy, that there was no reason to fear a king of flesh and blood, nor his giant of a soldier. Everything in the world is decided by only One, the Master of the World.
As Marat lifted Naftali up like a rag doll and dropped him unceremoniously behind him on the horse, Naftali kept his gaze upward, at the blue sky. He knew that whatever happened next, he would never stop placing his faith in Hashem, and no one else.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 910)
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