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Soul on Fire: Chapter 6

“Come here, boy!” A man with a long black robe beckoned from inside the carriage. “Get inside right now!”


Tzvi trembled before the cruel, cold gaze of Jan.

“Whatever I owe you, we can work out. If you have a little patience, a little heart, I can get you the money and we can settle the issues between us.”

“We’re past that now, Jew. Don’t talk to me about waiting after several months have gone by, in which you’ve selfishly decided to sit and study your ancient books while my coffers aren’t being filled with my rightfully deserved and owed rent!”

Jan grabbed Tzvi and shoved him to the door. “I know what the issue is, the heart of the matter, which is why I cannot stand the Jews who live here. You are all so crazy in love with your religion, your G-d, your Torah, that you neglect everything else and live in ways that cannot be sustained! What needs to happen is for you to wake up and snap into reality. Look at you, an old, hunched-over man, who has yet to realize that in This World, in our town, one cannot rely on G-d for everything and expect everything to be alright, and for money to fall from the sky and rent to be dropped off in my coffer by some angel floating down from heaven on wings! This is Sharayeh! Not some make-believe place, Jew!”

“I cannot remain silent in the face of those hurtful and untruthful words,” Tzvi said as he straightened himself up and looked Jan directly in his eyes. “G-d can do anything. Just because you do not have enough faith to do what we are doing, do not begrudge us for living on a higher level than you and your drunken cohorts!”

Silence reigned in the room as Jan’s jaw dropped. Then, his jaw clenched shut and anger burned in his black eyes.

“Get out of my house, Jew!”

Tzvi did not need to be told twice. He turned, fumbled for an awfully long minute with the handle, and then burst out of the house and ran as fast as he could in the snow. But he had deep misgivings. Jan would have his revenge. He was not a man to let anything slide, and he certainly wouldn’t remain silent after Tzvi had put him in his place like that, however justified the latter was.

But Tzvi could not have imagined how far Jan would go to prove his point and have his revenge…


Tzvi’s son Heshy was on his way back from cheder the next day when a carriage stopped right in front of him.

“Come here, boy!” A man with a long black robe beckoned from inside the carriage. “Get inside right now!”

“I-I can’t! I don’t know you!”

“Get inside!”

Heshy zipped around the carriage, narrowly missing getting trampled by the startled horses, and began racing toward home. The carriage swung around — the chase was on. Heshy knew the streets of Sharayeh like the back of his hand, but somehow the lumbering carriage managed to keep pace with him, even as he zipped down alleyways and underneath passageways.

Finally, as the race led them to the outskirts of the town, the horses galloped over a layer of ice that had glazed over the top of a small pond. The ice cracked and in the horses went, screaming with horror, heaving to and fro as they tried to break free from the carriage.

Tzvi turned and saw the man in the black robe leaping from the carriage and landing in the pond with a splash. Two more men followed suit, both carrying clubs. The men thrashed about and managed to clamber out of the pond. Heshy put his head down and raced away with all of his strength, but now his feet were starting to tire, the cold filling his expanding lungs with frosty, frigid air, and his muscles had no more strength left to propel him forward. He stumbled and landed face- first in the cold snow.

Heshy could not fight or run as he heard the sound of his pursuers’ boots crunching through the snow as they advanced on him. He rolled over, spitting snow out of his mouth, and looked up at the three angry faces towering above him.

“Take him!” The man in the black robe growled to the two bigger men beside him.

Like a sack of potatoes, the men effortlessly hoisted Heshy and began to march him away. To Heshy’s horror, he saw they were heading toward the local church. The heavy wooden doors to the church were opened, and they brought him in and plunked him down on a chair. The robed man sat down across from him, dripping wet, icicles forming at the ends of his hair.

“Do you know who I am?”

“No! Take me home!”

“I am Peter the priest, and you have been brought here because of the sins of your father. But do not worry, we will work everything out in due time. In return for losing rent for several months, Jan has been nice enough to forgive the entire debt your father owes him, down to the last penny. Instead of money, Jan has graciously allowed the debt to be repaid in a much more meaningful, and lasting manner. You will be converted to Christianity, and will be given the chance of a lifetime to learn about our religion, the truth about why we are special, and a chance to join our ranks and leave your own religion.”

“Never! I would rather die!”

Peter scowled.

“Soon your tone will change, boy,” he said menacingly.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 887)

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