“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Shaya shook his head. “But I see you will not change your mind”
ife was never better for Naftali and Chaim. Only a short period of time after Naftali had blessed Chaim that his daughter should find her true zivug, the brachah materialized. Soon after that, Naftali merited to find his own soul mate. There was tremendous simchah at both weddings, a culmination of an incredible story and a wonderful relationship that had started between the kind innkeeper and the scholarly boy years before.
But stories do not always have happy endings. In real life, the future is always uncertain. There were still dark clouds on the horizon.
Naftali eventually settled in Posen, taking on the esteemed position of chief rav.
But as happens sometimes in even the best Jewish homes, marital strife broke out in the home of Yocheved and her husband, Shaya. Poor Chaim was aware of the conflict, and it broke his heart to see two good people suffering so much. He tried his best to restore shalom, but despite his best efforts, the situation continued for a few years.
One day Yocheved told her husband that she was going to join a group of Jewish travelers who were leaving the village and heading to distant cities to visit the kevarim of great rabbanim. Perhaps after crying and davening at the gravesites of these giant souls, they would have more Heavenly assistance as they tried to bring peace and harmony into their home.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Shaya shook his head. “But I see you will not change your mind. Well then, may it be with hatzlachah.”
So Yocheved left, joining a group of men, women, and children heading out of the village on an entourage of wagons.
Only a few hours after they left, the trails of dust kicked up by the group attracted some unwanted attention. A group of bandits began to follow the travelers from a distance, watching and analyzing to see if there were any men with weapons traveling with the group. Once they determined the group was unprotected, they closed the distance quickly, surrounding the entourage with weapons in hand.
“Everyone off the wagons!”
The bandits threw everyone into a circle and began to ransack all their belongings. They confiscated all their money and any item worth any value. Yocheved watched all this taking place and began to worry that perhaps the bandits were murderers as well.
“Listen closely, because I don’t like to repeat myself.” The only bandit who had not yet dismounted his horse, now did so. His voice was like an earthquake erupting, and his giant frame towered above everyone who stared up at him in terror. Marat was a sight to behold.
“We know you Jews are always willing to pay money to ransom another Jew. So it’s not enough that we’re going to take all your possessions now. I want to take with us the wealthiest person in your group. Someone who has a family member with some means to pay up a ransom to redeem their relative.
“Now, I know you all live together in your little villages, and you know which person among you is a good candidate for me to take. Give that person up now, and I’ll spare the rest of you. I want one person, that’s not too much, right? The rest of you will be sent on your way.”
No one spoke, but immediately everyone began to look at each other nervously. Marat watched this silent exchange very carefully, his dark eyes darting around as different members of the group began to fidget uncomfortably under heavy stares.
“You.” Marat pointed his giant finger at Yocheved. “Get over here.”
“W-what do you want from me?”
“Why does everyone keep looking in your direction?”
“M-my father used to be a man of some means, but he is no longer. That is the truth. A long time ago he gave away most of his wealth. He makes a decent living, but he is not a wealthy person by any means.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Marat grinned evilly.
Marat and his henchmen took Yocheved away from the rest of the group and galloped toward their secret hideout, as Yocheved davened fervently that Hashem should save her from this terrifying predicament.
The sun had come out in full blast in the sky, beaming down on their heads as they traveled. Eventually they reached an old, abandoned castle. It was their secret hideout. Yocheved was placed on the top floor where she was told to stay — or else.
She could hear them romping around downstairs, drinking and getting rowdy, knocking over chairs as their inebriation increased. Then, incredibly, she heard snoring. Had they truly all fallen asleep?
The door to the room burst open and there stood Marat.
“You’d better not think of any tricks, young lady! If you’re a good prisoner, perhaps we’ll keep you alive… for a little while.” The giant’s face was beet red, and his eyes were glazed. “Don’t even think about escaping!”
Marat hiccupped. “Stay put, and when I’ve had enough alcohol to quench my thirst, we’ll have to decide what to do with you. All you Jews have rich relatives, isn’t that right? I’m sure someone out there will give us a good amount for your release. Don’t you agree?”
“Whatever you say.”
“That’s right. Whatever I say. I’m the boss now, and you’ll obey everything that I tell you. Now sit down and be quiet.”
Marat stumbled out of the room, tumbling against the walls as he went. A minute later she heard him rolling down the stairs, splintering the wood as his giant frame crashed against the steps.
She heard a faint, “Ouch…”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 916)
Oops! We could not locate your form.