Shimshon could only watch as two more darts flew. In seconds, he was also fast asleep, swinging silently above the forest ground
himshon felt the blood rushing to his face. He struggled to free himself as Baruch and Jorin swung on either side of him.
“Baruch! Any luck?”
“No! I can’t untie this knot! You?”
Jorin slipped off the knot and let out a yell as he plummeted back down to the earth. He landed on the ground with a loud thud.
“You all right?”
“Yes. Now let’s get you both down from there.”
At that moment, an old man in dark robes stepped out of the trees. It was the sorcerer. He held a long pipe that he blew into, sending a dart into Jorin that put him to sleep instantly. Shimshon could only watch as two more darts flew. In seconds, he was also fast asleep, swinging silently above the forest ground.
When Shimshon regained consciousness, he found himself somewhere on a mountaintop, tied to a boulder alongside Jorin and Baruch.
The sorcerer was standing in front of them, talking animatedly with Sylvester.
Sylvester noticed Shimshon was awake and quickly strode over.
“Look who’s finally woken up! Great news, boy. We managed to recover that old man, Reb Shabsi. The sorcerer is going to get him to make those golems for us.”
“What’s this? You’ve made some sort of alliance of evil with the sorcerer?”
“I know who I need to partner with to further my own goals.” Sylvester grinned. “Don’t worry, when I don’t need that black magic-wielding old goon anymore, I’ll send him toppling off this mountain and take control of the golems all for myself.”
“No one’s going to make you the golems, Sylvester. Just forget about it and go home.”
“We’ll see how long old Reb Shabsi can go without food or water. You’ll all starve or die of thirst out here in the sun, tied to this boulder. No one is going free until that stubborn man builds us our army of evil golems.”
Sylvester retreated into a dark cavern and then returned, dragging Reb Shabsi behind him. He tied Reb Shabsi next to Shimshon, and then he and the sorcerer went away.
The sun came out from behind the clouds, beating down on their heads with ferocious intensity.
“We can’t survive long like this. Tell them what they want to hear, so they’ll cut us free!” Jorin pleaded with Reb Shabsi.
“Ha! You think it will help?” Baruch shook his head. “It won’t. The moment Reb Shabsi does their bidding, they’ll kill us all anyway.”
“Maybe not.” Reb Shabsi swallowed, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead. “Maybe they will spare your lives. Maybe I really should just do what they want me to do. After all, Sylvester wasn’t entirely wrong. I am a bad man, no matter how many times I try to convince myself that I am not. I can never do teshuvah for the deeds of the past—”
“Chas v’shalom!” Shimshon called out. “Why do you think such things? Sylvester is just a crook who is trying to get inside your head and make you believe things that are not true.”
“Reb Shabsi… what happened in the past that makes you feel this way? What deed do you refer to?” Baruch asked softly.
“I suppose I may as well tell you all. Perhaps, if you do survive this ordeal, you will learn from my mistakes and do better than I did.”
And that is when, as they baked under the hot sun, Reb Shabsi finally related what had occurred many years earlier….
Young Shabsi had always been a genius. And there were few other boys around who could appreciate his incredible intellect. He found himself without friends, unable to relate to others, much to his regret.
But one day a new boy moved in to his village. This boy turned out to be just as brilliant, if not more, than young Shabsi. His name was Shimshon. And he took a liking to Shabsi. He saw beyond the pale, small, and timid boy and recognized his true greatness, just waiting to be tapped into and released.
“You know, Shabsi, if you spent more time around others, they would also appreciate your great mind,” Shimshon said one day as the two friends sat beside the river near their village, just near the bridge that connected their village to the mainland.
“I’ve been hurt too many times to trust other kids. Every time I try making friends with someone else, it backfires. Instead of being nice to me, they just make fun of me and my short stature and squeaky voice. That’s all I’ve ever been to others… a source of amusement and ridicule.”
“I’m so sorry, Shabsi… That’s so hurtful. But wasn’t that a few years ago already? People have grown up, just as you have. We’re 14 already. We don’t need to dwell in the past and hold people to the sins of their childhood any longer. The boys who teased you regret it and have asked you mechilah many times. There’s no reason you can’t spend time with them in the main beis medrash, learning beside others your age.”
“I like learning by the river. It’s peaceful here. The sound of the birds—”
“The sound of kol Torah b’rabim is even sweeter.”
“Now you sound like you’re just lecturing me.”
“No, I just wi—”
“Wish that I was like everyone else?”
“No, no.” Shimshon shook his head. “I just wish that you were happy. You’re my friend, and I see that because of the hurt you’ve endured, you won’t allow yourself to trust others again. And that’s keeping you back from so much good.”
“I trust you.” Shabsi looked up.
“And I’ll always be grateful for that, my friend.”
The boys fell into silence and watched the river flow past.
“Shabsi, what are those scrolls in your pocket? It looks like something exciting. I’ve noticed you’ve been spending a long time writing on them, late at night when no one is around… Care to share what you’ve been working on?”
A dark look crossed Shabsi’s small face.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 976)
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