Shoshanah stopped reading. She could feel her heart beating very fast and a wave of shock swept through her
The Cossacks were nearing, and the fear of their arrival hung over the village like a black cloud. People spent their days boarding their doors and windows, preparing food, and davening to the Master of the World to save them from the impending danger.
One day Shoshanah left Baruch and walked across town to visit her parents. When she arrived, it was already close to evening, so she decided to stay for supper.
“Papa, you don’t look scared. Why? Everyone else seems to be walking around as if the sword of death is literally resting on their neck.”
“The sword of death is resting on our necks,” Chaim said softly. “But there is no such thing as despair.”
“Even now, Papa?”
“Yes, even now. If one believes that everything that happens is decreed by Hashem, what is there to fear? Hashem is good and everything that He does is good. Even though right now it seems bad to us, we know the truth. Not even one Cossack can lift his sword against us, if Hashem does not decree for it to happen.”
“But still, it’s a very scary time.”
“Scared of whom, my dear daughter? The Cossack? The puppet with the sword? No! Chas v’shalom! But fear of Heaven is allowed. We do not want to be punished by Hashem’s attribute of Justice, so we must certainly daven for Hashem’s infinite compassion.”
Suddenly there was a sound outside of the door.
“I’ll get it!”
Shoshanah opened the door and blinked in surprise. There was no one in sight. Then, she stared into the distance and saw a figure escaping into the forest. At that moment her eyes drifted downward, and she spotted a black envelope at her feet. She bent down and opened it with trembling fingers. She recognized it from somewhere, but from where? Aha! Yes, now she remembered! That night she had seen Papa sitting at the table after she had chased the mysterious cloaked figure.
She began to read it.
Dark times are falling across the land, but there is great joy in my heart. I have very big news to share with you….
You see, I stopped writing to you for many years because it seemed futile. After all, I cannot see your reaction. In truth, I don’t even know if these letters actually reach you at all. Perhaps they are thrown into the furnace the moment they arrive! Who is to say you even know the truth? And during my darkest hours, as I lay awake at night, I wonder if perhaps you did not even decide to adopt the girl as your own.
My precious Shoshanah.
Shoshanah stopped reading. She could feel her heart beating very fast and a wave of shock swept through her.
But then I remind myself why I chose you as the one to adopt her. I met you many years ago, though you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I know you are a man with a truly good heart. That is why I believe within the deepest recesses of my mind that you did indeed adopt the baby as your very own.
And now, as news of the Cossacks’ bloody rampages reach my ears, another piece of news arrives…. I am told the time has come, at long last. I am returning now. I am finally coming back and I am coming to take back the precious gift I entrusted you with many years ago.
My precious daughter, Shoshanah, will once again be in my arms. I thank you for caring for her; indeed, I will never be able to fully express my thanks. But now, as the darkest hour approaches, my personal dawn is arising.
So, consider this letter a reminder: I am returning home to take back which is mine.
Also, I hope you still have the golden key that was given to you together with the baby. My baby… Keep the key close and let no one touch it or even see it. I will reclaim it too, when I arrive.
Be well, Chaim, and take care of yourself and your family. I will see you very, very soon. Of this, I have no doubt.
Shoshanah felt her fingers go limp and the letter floated slowly to the ground.
“Shoshanah, what’s wrong?” Chaim and his wife came to the door with alarmed expressions. “Why is your face all white?”
Chaim’s eyes fell upon the fallen letter and he picked it up and quickly read it.
“I wanted to tell you…. I just didn’t know how, or when… I’m sorry.”
“Who is this person? I can’t believe this! I’m adopted? Who are my real parents?”
“I don’t know….” Chaim sighed heavily. “Come inside, Shoshanah, and I will tell you everything, starting from the cold wintry night when I first found you at my doorstep.”
After Shoshanah had heard the entire truth, she broke down crying together with her adopted parents. When they had calmed down, it was already very dark outside.
“You mentioned there was a key, Papa. Can I see it?”
“Yes, wait here.”
Chaim left and returned a minute later with a large, golden key dangling from a chain.
“What is the key for?”
“I have no idea, Shoshanah. It’s a mystery, just as your origin is truly a mystery. Do you want it?”
“What? The key?”
“Yes… Here, take it. It’s yours now. I think you were always meant to have it. Soon, someone will return to be reunited with you. Your parents, I assume. They also want to have this key, whatever it’s for.”
Shoshanah took the key and chain and hung it around her neck.
“The Cossacks are coming!”
Screams rent the air and the sound of hoofbeats pounding across the ground filled the air.
A moment later, several Cossacks on horseback galloped past the house and tossed burning torches through the window. Flames leaped up in every corner of the room.
“Out the back! Come! Quickly!”
Chaim led his family through the back entrance, and they raced through the snow toward the forest beyond the village.
Baruch raced in their direction, overjoyed at seeing his wife and her family.
As screams of terror arose from the village, Chaim turned to see three Cossacks on horseback pursuing them.
“We must get to the forest before it’s too late!” Chaim urged his family to run faster. “If we don’t hide among the trees, it will be too late!”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 816)
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