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Best Cure: Chapter 4 

“Am I a common criminal now? Has my duty to the king and the king’s noblemen been all but forgotten?"


Madrid, Spain, Late 1400s–1500s

The months that followed were extremely difficult for Aviasar. The Inquisition raged ever stronger, trapping more Jews in its deathly vise. Who could escape the reach of the Church? It was only a matter of time until every Jew was caught, discovered by a neighbor eager to see another Jew burned alive before the masses.

Then, a visitor appeared one day in the countryside village where Aviasar was staying. It was the grand Duke, accompanied by a battalion of soldiers. They surrounded Aviasar’s house, demanding that he appear outside.

“Aviasar Ibn Crescas! Make your presence known!”

“What crime am I being arrested for?”

Aviasar stepped out of the house, blinking in the sunlight. He raised his hands, his face fearful but defiant.

“Am I a common criminal now? Has my duty to the king and the king’s noblemen been all but forgotten? Will the hands that saved so many of your people now be burned in the pyre, like the rest of my people?”

“I’ve come to do no such thing.” The duke slid off his horse. His immaculate uniform and medals gleamed in the sunlight. “I’ve come to ask for a favor, a request from the most skilled doctor in all of Spain. My relative is deathly ill and needs someone to operate on her. I can find no soul in this land who is able to perform the operation she desperately needs. I need you to save her life.”

Aviasar chuckled darkly.

“Have you not heard, Duke? I am no longer in practice. I am a farmer now. The hands that once held the sharp, delicate tools of my trade, now are calloused and dirty. Can you not see my clothing? My sunburned skin? I am a farmer now, slaving away underneath the sun. The physician you seek no longer exists, Duke.”

“Please…” The duke walked forward, his eyes pleading. “Put aside everything that is happening around us, all of the madness of the Inquisition. I assure you, I have nothing to do with it all. My hands have not spilled innocent blood, nor those of my soldiers. Come with me and save the life of my loved one. I will reward you greatly.”

“You and I both know you cannot reward me with money. If anyone found out you were using my services against the king’s wishes, and paying me as well, we would both be punished. You with a slap on the wrist, and I by… fire. Seek out another physician, Duke, there are many out there besides myself.”

“Listen to me.” The duke grabbed Aviasar. “I never meant repaying you with money! I’m willing instead to offer protection. My men will keep checking up on you and your family. We will do our best to keep you safe and alive during these treacherous times.”

That was an offer Aviasar could not refuse. Perhaps it was the only lifeline that would keep himself and his family alive during the long, dark months ahead of them.

Aviasar glanced down at his calloused, dirty hands one more time.

“To where are we traveling?”

Aviasar bid his son farewell and traveled to perform the operation. A week or two later he returned home. The surgery had been a major success. The Jewish doctor had not lost his special touch.

But the next visit to the Ibn Crescas home was of an entirely different nature. The Inquisition had finally swooped down to claim another victim.

It was around midnight when they came. Not a small group, but a battalion of over 40 soldiers, along with close to 100 bloodthirsty civilians. This was not going to be a quiet arrest. It was planned, like a great, exciting event, and everyone in the land had heard about it.

Aviasar was dragged from his bed by two soldiers and thrown outside before the crowd.

“You’ve gone protected for too long, doctor!” Someone from the crowd threw something at Aviasar’s head. “It’s a disgrace to the Church, a blight on our country!”

“Confess your sins, Jew! Why should you be allowed to continue living secretly as a dirty Jew? We all know where your loyalty lies! You must accept upon yourself our holy religion!”

“Accept or be burned!”

A chant erupted from the crowd.

“To the fire! To the fire!”

Avraham watched in fright from inside the house as the soldiers threw his father onto the back of a horse.

“Anything to say before we take you away?” One of the soldiers sneered.

“It’s not for sale.”


“My soul.”

“Dirty Jew!”

“Burn my body, then. The parchment may burn, but the words endure… My soul will live on.”

And they took him.

Avraham waited for his father to return, his eyes always on the horizon as he worked alone in the fields over the next few weeks. But then weeks turned into months and he finally realized his father was not going to come home ever again.

One day as he toiled over the earth, he remembered the day his father had told him of the buried treasure. He looked around carefully. There was no one watching.

He began to dig, slamming his shovel into the dirt at the base of the tree. Soon he hit something hard. It was a small box. He took it from the ground and brushed away the clods of earth. Slowly, he opened it.

A pair of tefillin lay inside. Truly, a treasure. Avraham could not remember the last time he had put on tefillin. Hot tears spilled from his eyes, and he quickly snapped the box shut. He stumbled across the field, into his house, and locked himself in a room.

He lay the tefillin across his arm, and then his head. His body shuddered. They could take his body, but they could never claim his soul. He knew then that his father would never have renounced his faith, no matter how much they surely tortured him before the end.

Suddenly, Avraham heard hoofbeats in the distance and the sound of commotion. Soldiers! He unwrapped the tefillin and hid them inside the box. He looked out the window and saw a battalion approaching. The Duke led the soldiers, galloping toward Avraham’s house.

And beside the Duke, emaciated and weary, but very much alive, was Avraham Ibn Crescas. The Duke had heard of the Jewish doctor’s plight and kept his part of their agreement to protect Aviasar. He had rescued him.

Like the tiny, holy pair of tefillin, the Jewish nation would survive. Through the centuries to come, pogroms, and the Holocaust, the soul of the Jewish people would prove it is inextinguishable. Hashem’s children would always endure, no matter how great their enemies are. Even if their bodies were destroyed, their souls would live on for eternity.

Avraham ran to the door to greet his father.



(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 901)

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