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Coming Home: Chapter 2

And that how is a lost Jew in a French school came to live in Russia, residing in the royal palace of the Russian prince



The next morning Pierre made his way to the prince’s apartment. They had a lovely day, exploring the incredible sights the French countryside had to offer. They discussed a vast array of topics and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

“You must come with me when I go back home to Russia.” Radzivil insisted. “I very much value your friendship. Where I am from, there are too few people who understand the nuances of a good political discussion or the basic ideas behind economics, philosophy, and other topics that don’t involve vodka.”

“It would be my honor.”

And that how is a lost Jew in a French school came to live in Russia, residing in the royal palace of the Russian prince. Life was good for Pierre. He enjoyed the company of a powerful aristocrat, lived under his protection, and enjoyed his wealth and access to all kinds of leisure pursuits.

But Hashem was not going to let Pierre live out his life in the dark, thinking he was enjoying This World, when he was truly missing out on the greatest opportunity known to mankind — the chance to be a Jew, serving and connecting with the Master of the World.

One fateful day, Radzivil sent his royal messenger to summon his good friend to appear before him immediately.

“Thank you for coming so quickly, Pierre. I just woke up today and looked out my bedroom window. I feasted my eyes on the forests in the distance, the snow falling, the mountains in the background… It stirred a fire within my heart to do the one thing I enjoy most in this world…”

“So, you’re inviting me to go hunting with you?’

“Are you available?”

“You already know the answer.”

Out they set, heads bent against the frigid Russian cold, their boots sinking and rising through the deep snow as they trekked toward the forest.

“No soldiers coming?”

“No need.” Radzivil shrugged. “If a leader fears his people, that means he’s abusing his power. Remember what we learned in the academy about the success of governance? I rule with kindness, fairness, and my citizens know that unless they try to double-cross me, there is nothing that would provoke me to interfere with their lives and make them miserable just for my own gain. Other leaders exploit the common man to fill their own pockets, but not I.”

A messenger galloped up to them.

“Prince Radzivil! Before you leave, three men just arrived at the castle. They were summoned because they failed to produce the money they were required to pay back after taking a loan from the royal coffers three months ago. They say they still don’t have all the money… How should we proceed? Take out the whips? The dog—?”

“No, no, let them be. They’ll pay up. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. Tell them they have one more month. That’s more than enough time. If they still don’t have the funds after that, I will deal with them with stricter measures…”

“Sir, they’re Jews.”

“My words stand.” Radzivil looked up. “Go.”

The messenger galloped off, plowing through the snow as fast as the horse was able to, and the two friends continued toward the forest.

“See? People expect us rulers to be crueler, to discriminate against the least popular members of our society, like the Jews. But I go a different path. And that’s why I don’t need protection all the time. I think people do not want to kill me.”

“Wise.” Pierre nodded.

They spent a few hours hunting, and after having no success, decided it was time to return home. They sat down on a toppled tree to eat and rest their weary bones for a moment. It was very peaceful as the sun began to set, and the winds seemed to cease for a moment as silence fell across the snowcapped forest.

“Unsuccessful day, eh?” Pierre sniffed, pulling his coat closer around himself. “At least the weather is not terrible today…”

“The forest is always beautiful.” Radzivil clapped his hands together. “Very well, Pierre. Let’s get up and head back. I don’t want to be stuck here at night.”

They rose, tossing their sacks filled with equipment, hunting gear, and some food across their shoulders.

“Your rifle.” Pierre pointed to the prince’s weapon still resting against the tree.

“Thank you.” The prince bent down and snatched his rifle up. As he pulled the rifle toward his chest, his foot slipped on the frozen ground and he stumbled two steps forward. The rifle slid in his grasp, twisted and—


The prince flew backward as a haze of gunpowder trickled through the frosty air, shimmering in the fading rays of sunlight.

“Benedict!” Pierre raced over to the prince and knelt at his side. The prince’s eyes were shut, and his face was ghostly white.

“Don’t pass out!” Pierre shouted as he took off his scarf and wrapped it around the prince’s open wound.

Pierre hoisted the prince onto his back and began the treacherous journey toward the castle. With each step, he found the prince’s body becoming heavier. Darkness soon overtook the land, turning the frozen landscape into a dark trap, filled with ice patches and dangerously steep ditches. Howling wolves prowled around for their supper.

“I don’t even know if you’re still alive, but if you are, please don’t die on me. Your people need you…”

Pierre spoke to the prince, though he knew that his words were falling on deaf ears. The wind had picked up now, and the cold was unbearable. Pierre could not see the castle in the distance, and he began to wonder if perhaps he had taken a wrong turn in the dark…

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 895)

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