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The Wanderer: Chapter 1   

It was a rainy evening when Reb Meir’s wife, Blima, found Freida



eb Meir was a very wealthy businessman who lived in Europe. He was a colorful character, with lots of personality. He was extremely giving with his money, and his house was open to one and all. But he was also extremely exacting with others, and he would not tolerate any deviation from the truth. Kind, generous, but also somewhat uncompromising, Reb Meir was loved by all, even as he was treated with caution.

Members of his household included many orphans, usually orphan girls whom his wife would bring in to provide them with work so they would have money, and to ensure they always had food and shelter. Among these was a girl named Freida. At the time of our story, she had recently been brought under the shelter of Reb Meir’s home.

It was a rainy evening when Reb Meir’s wife, Blima, found Freida as she was rushing home from the marketplace. A servant whipped the horses as the wagon sped through the muddied roads, dodging merchants and customers fleeing for shelter from the rain, their hands pushing merchandise and rickety carts.

Blima found her eyes latching on to a short, bent-over girl, who was not taking refuge from the rain. She stood there on the corner, huddled over a small cart of vegetables. Something tugged at Blima’s heart.


The wagon slowed, and Blima leaned out of the wagon.

“Excuse me! You need to get out of the rain before you get sick.”

The girl looked up, her eyes round.

Finally, after a long pause, the girl said softly, “I need to sell these vegetables.”

Blima sighed. “I’ll purchase all the vegetables. I’ll give you money for all of them right now. Just please get out of the rain.”

Blima handed the girl more than the vegetables were worth. But what now? The girl turned and silently headed for the overhang of a nearby shop. Where was home for this girl?

“Where do your parents live?”

The girl shook her head.

“Oh, I’m so sorry… I… Would you like to come home with me? I have many other girls who work for me in my home. We pay well, and we’ll provide you with food and a warm room.”

The girl accepted Blima’s offer and climbed onto the wagon. The servant yanked the reigns, and off they were again.

“What’s your name?”


“That’s a beautiful name. I think you’ll be happy staying with us. You’ll make friends with the other girls, I’m sure.”

Freida was happy, it turned out, to have a place to call home. But she never made friends with anyone. She was always quiet, withdrawn, preferring to stay in the shadows. She didn’t interact with anyone.

Life could have continued like that, Freida living in Reb Meir’s home, Reb Meir continuing to provide her with shelter and food, fulfilling one of the greatest mitzvos. But unfortunately, three months after Freida’s arrival, things changed.

It started with a huge sum of money that was entrusted to Reb Meir by a close friend. The money was deposited in a safe place in Reb Meir’s study, to stay there until his friend would take it back in several months. But one day Reb Meir walked into his study and discovered that the money was gone.

He began to search the room frantically, turning everything upside down as his heart beat wildly.

“Did someone enter my study? Did someone steal the money?”

Reb Meir’s cries brought his wife running into the study in a panic.

“Meir, what happened?”

“The money my friend gave me is missing! A fortune! Could someone have entered the house and stolen it?”

“Let’s ask the girls! They were home the entire day. If anyone snuck in, perhaps they can help us identify them.”

The girls were called into the large living room and seated before Reb Meir and his wife.

“It’s impossible that a thief snuck into the house,” the oldest girl said. “I was doing laundry outside the entire morning, and after that we were working in the kitchen, right next to the front door. Are any windows destroyed?”

“No. Not at all. They haven’t been opened. There’s still dust on the sill to prove they haven’t been disturbed in many months.”

“Was anyone anywhere near my study?” Reb Meir was utterly baffled.

“No,” the girls chorused.

But then….

“Well, Freida was cleaning up outside your study door in the afternoon. It was her turn to wash the floors. Maybe she saw something?”


Freida shrugged.

“Freida, did you… um… also wash the floor in the study itself?”

A nod.

“So you were in there today?”

Another nod.

“Did you notice anything different about the study? Was there anyone else that went in there with you to wash the floor?”


Reb Meir cleared his throat.

“Blima, Freida, can you come with me into my study, please?”

It was the first time Reb Meir was directly interacting with Freida. His wife had told him that Freida got overwhelmed when directly addressed, so he had given her a lot of space until now. But now that he was finally speaking directly to her, he found himself growing impatient.

“Freida, can you look at me please when I’m speaking to you? And it’s very hard to get a clear answer from you when you’re only nodding your head yes or no, instead of providing answers in sentences.”

“Meir, stop.”

“Blima, I need to have a normal discussion about this situation. That money was worth more than everything I currently own! This is a very, very big deal. I’m not asking for much, just to have a conversation….”

Reb Meir hitched a smile onto his face and tried to catch Freida’s eye. She refused to look up.

“Freida… I know you’re probably scared, and I’m sorry about that. Don’t worry, okay? No one here thinks you stole anything. I just want to ask you a few questions. Is that alright?”

Freida did not respond.

“When you were washing the floors, did you also touch anything else in the study by any chance? Perhaps something underneath the desk?”

Freida nodded.

Reb Meir and Blima exchanged shocked glances.

“You did?”


to be continued… 


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 942)

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