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Coming Home: Chapter 1

“You could probably study all day and all night, like those religious Jews.”


There are many, many lost souls wandering this planet. Jews who have no idea that they are raw gold, endowed with a piece of Hashem inside them. They live their lives as if they are  gentiles, most don’t have the slightest clue who they truly are. It is everyone’s duty to reach out to these lost souls, each in their own way, according to their abilities. And of course, the greater the person, the greater the responsibility — and ability — to save these wandering Jews while they still have life inside of them. So, it should come as no surprise that the holy Baal Shem Tov was renowned for his ability to track down the most distant, clueless Jewish soul, reignite his spiritual fire, and bring him back home to the world of Torah and mitzvos. 

Somewhere in an elite seminary in France, where the children of the most powerful and wealthy aristocrats and world leaders were educated, wandered one of these lost souls. His name was Pierre Louis. His Jewish name was unknown, even to himself. He was smart, likable, and had a knack for connecting with the most powerful students in the French institution. 

One day, while he was studying alone, he noticed another student poring over a pile of books that lay before him on the thick wooden table. Pierre watched the other student for a few moments, before deciding to walk over and make his introduction. 

“Hello, I’m sorry to bother you. My name is Pierre. It looks like you are delving into something very deeply. Looks interesting. Care to share?”

“Hello there, Pierre.” The student looked up, his thick eyebrows rising with some surprise. He spoke in a heavy Russian accent. “My name is Benedict. I must admit, I’m a bit surprised you came over to introduce yourself. While I love the school, I simply cannot stand the students. They are all rude, stuck up, and they never seem to greet others, especially newcomers. You must be one of a kind.” 

“Thank you, Benedict. I also wish people here were friendlier, but you know what they say: Be the change you want to see in others.” 

“That was very wise, Pierre….” Benedict smiled. “Come sit with me, I will explain to you the matter I was delving into. I would love to hear your take on it.”

“Thank you.” Pierre pulled up a seat next to Benedict, and the two of them sat there for many hours. As nighttime fell, Benedict yawned and pushed away the books in front of him.  “Enough, Pierre. If I study any more, I’m afraid my eyes will fall from my head and my ears will pop off! My brain can only tolerate so much new information before it overwhelms me.”


“No, you don’t have to make me feel better, Pierre. It’s obvious by looking at you that you can handle much, much more than I. Look at you, you barely seem exhausted at all. You are one of those intellectual types, the ones with the big brain.” Benedict chuckled. “You could probably study all day and all night, like those religious Jews.”

“I’m not Jewish,” Pierre responded, feeling anxious, though he didn’t know why.

“You sure? You look Jewish.” 

“No, no. If I was Jewish, wouldn’t I know about it? Even the most far-flung Jew, irreligious and all, would at least know his ancestry, right? I’m no Jew. It’s impossible.”

“I see I made you nervous.” Benedict smiled and placed a hand on Pierre’s shoulder. “Relax. I’m different than my predecessors. I don’t think of Jews the way most of my countrymen in Russia do. I think the stereotyping goes too far. Not all Jews are greedy, dishonest and evil. Let each man be judged by his actions, am I right?”

“Your ‘predecessors’?” 

“Come, Pierre, I want to show you where I am staying during my time here at the academy. Tomorrow I would love for you to come and join me on a little expedition. I’m calling it a mini vacation, a small break from my intensive studies. Soon, I’ll be returning to the motherland, but in the meantime, I want to enjoy all that France has to offer, in academics and in nature.”

Pierre followed Benedict down the hallway, down the stairwell, and up to two double doors leading to Benedict’s quarters. Two towering soldiers stood at Benedict’s door. They scowled down at Pierre, their lips pursed tightly as their eyes narrowed and their hands rested at the weapons hanging on their thick belts. 

“Never mind my angry-looking friends,” Benedict laughed at Pierre’s frightened expression. “They’re just for show. I’d dismiss them, if it was up to me, but alas, I must take them with me wherever I go, even in France. Now you see where I sleep. Come first thing tomorrow, my new friend, and let us enjoy the beauty nature has to offer around here.” 

Benedict slipped into his room and one of the tall men shut the door quickly behind him. 

“Are you a friend of his?” The man asked Pierre. He too had a strong Russian accent. 

“I-I think I am now, y-yes.” Pierre turned to leave, but then hesitated and turned back around. “Who is Benedict exactly?” 

“You mean Prince Benedict Radzivil!” The man’s scowl deepened. 

“He’s a… prince?” 

“Yes, and in Russia, many, many people are under his dominion, so be careful how you address him in the future. Prince Radzivil is known throughout his province as a kind, benevolent leader, but make no mistake, he is no pushover. Everyone knows he is fair, but also someone who will not hesitate to set someone straight, no matter the method…. Whatever the case, it seems you have found favor in the eyes of the prince. You are truly lucky, as the prince very rarely allows outsiders to get too close to him. As a person with much power, he must always be on guard, suspicious of everyone.” 

“Maybe it’s best I don’t return here tomorrow and go with the prince…” Pierre swallowed. “I don’t know if I’m up to striking up a friendship with such a powerful person, a Russian prince.” 

“What do you mean?” the soldier hissed. “It would be highly insulting to the prince if you were to back out now. You must come back tomorrow. If the prince desires it, you have no right to refuse….”

To be continued… 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 894)

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