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The Locked Tower: Chapter 8

“Whatever is happening here is the source of tremendous evil.” Rav Yerucham shuddered



av Yerucham had no choice but to comply. He returned home with two burly soldiers who supported the chest between them. The soldiers marched into his home with grim expressions and would not leave until they saw Rav Yerucham replace his table with the chest and spread a tablecloth across it.

“What, uh… is this exactly, by the way?” Rav Yerucham swallowed. “I know the emperor said it contained treasures that he wanted to hide, but I would like to know exactly what I’m storing inside my home.”

“None of your business.” The soldier flexed his muscles and sneered. “It doesn’t open anyhow, so don’t even try checking what’s inside. Just do what you’re told, and use it as your table until after the holiday.”

The soldiers left the house, slamming the door behind them.

In truth, no one really had time to think too much about the chest and the strange request from the emperor. Pesach was coming! There was a lot of work to be done, and everyone in the home was delegated a different task to prepare for the holy Yom Tov.

The first night of Pesach arrived. Rav Yerucham entered his dining room after returning from shul and beamed at his family seated around the beautifully set Seder table.

The wine was poured from sparkling glasses into large kosos, and a sense of excitement and anticipation filled the very air.

“Tonight, we are all royalty!” Rav Yerucham’s voice boomed around the room. “Every single Jew in the world is being set free from personal bondage, just as our forefathers were redeemed from the lowest level of tumah many years ago. Hashem never gave up on the Jewish nation then, and He will never give up on us now or in the future. We will always be His chosen people, His cherished children. Whoever feels stuck in the quicksand of personal struggles, in the clutches of taavah and sin, let them take heart and strengthen themselves. Hashem is taking all of us out of Mitzrayim, out from the darkness, sadness, and evil of that impure place, right now, right here!”

Rav Yerucham opened his mouth once more, intending to announce Kadesh. But someone screamed.

“Chometz! Chometz is inside the home!”

The terrifying voice screeched from somewhere in the house. Everyone yelled and jumped with fright, turning around but finding no source for the startling screaming.


Another scream.

Rav Yerucham and his family staggered away from the table, their eyes wide with shock. Something bad was happening, but they were uncertain what it was exactly.

“Yerucham, perhaps this is a sign from Shamayim that we have something in the house that we need to get rid of.” Rav Yerucham’s wife’s face was white. “Quickly, let’s search the house!”

They checked every inch of the house, but found nothing.

The voice had stopped yelling, so very cautiously they crept back to the table.… But just as Rav Yerucham reached for the table, another shriek split the air.

“Chometz in the house!”

And again, this time even louder, “Chometz!

This time everyone fled from the house, making sure the door was shut behind them.

“Children, listen to me closely.” Rav Yerucham pulled his sons close. He told them the names of several people to call to the house immediately. They were from the most learned and pious Yidden in Rome.

His sons ran off to do their father’s bidding, and within a few moments, a small group of elderly, righteous Yidden were standing before Rav Yerucham. He told them what was happening and requested that they enter the house together with his family.

They cautiously tiptoed into the house, steeling themselves to hear again the eerie, ear-shattering voice.

Sure enough, before they had even made it back to the table, the screaming began yet again.

“Whatever is happening here is the source of tremendous evil.” Rav Yerucham shuddered as he felt a powerful source of tumah in the air. “This is not just about us, here in Rome, this is something that could have ramifications for all of Klal Yisrael. We must get to the bottom of this quickly and deal with this before chas v’shalom something terrible happens… There must be an evil gezeirah of some sort.”

The chachamim conferred among themselves, trying to discover what the screaming meant and why it could be occurring now, on Pesach, and specifically in this room.

“Abba, the chest!” One of Rav Yerucham’s sons pointed to the chest. “Perhaps there’s something in there that’s causing all of this.”

Rav Yerucham had everyone clear the table and pull the tablecloth off. Then, very slowly, he pried open the lid of the chest. Something pushed against the lid as he was lifting it up, and he was knocked backward.

A golden calf emerged from the chest. Prancing wildly around the room, a dark air of tumah radiating from its impure body, the calf bucked up and down as everyone in the room scattered in an attempt to escape.

Only Rav Yerucham and the talmidei chachamim stood their ground. They understood that somehow this golden calf was part of a terrible plan to harm Klal Yisrael, and that time was of the essence. They had to destroy the tumah immediately!

“We can only call out to the Ribbono shel Olam, just as our forefathers did on Pesach! Surely, our Father in Heaven will answer us in our time of need!”

Rav Yerucham and the others burst into bitter tears, raising their eyes to the Heavens, beseeching Hashem to help eradicate this golden calf and everything it represented. Their eyes still filled with tears, they turned their holy gazes on the calf and began combining different letters of Hashem’s name in their mind’s eye, concentrating on eradicating the tumah from the room and from the world.

And before their very eyes, the calf began to twist and shake, melting into a heap on the floor and then disappearing entirely. Hashem had answered their cries! The other family members reentered the room and shouted in joy and thanks to Hashem, seeing that the Yidden had triumphed over their enemies. The other talmidei chachamim and their entire families joined Rav Yerucham then for the most exhilarating, uplifting Seder night any of them had ever experienced.

When Decimus summoned Rav Yerucham to return the chest to the palace, he was quite surprised to see the elderly Jew’s face shining with joy and holiness. In the presence of the evil emperor, Albanus, and Albanus’s father, Rav Yerucham recounted all that had occurred on the first night of Pesach.

Decimus checked the chest. The sheaves were gone. He exchanged glances with Albanus and the old man who had told him of the secret weapon inside the chest that could be used to harm the Jewish People.

At that moment, even those wicked men came to the realization that “He neither sleeps nor slumbers, the Guardian of Yisrael.”

Not when He took us out of Mitzrayim. Not once during our long, tiring galus, as we await the final blast of the shofar of Mashiach. And nor will Hashem ever “slumber,” for His protection and concern is always upon us, each and every Jew, no matter when, no matter where.

The End


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 909)

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