“It’s the insignia of the Russians! The soldiers were likely not coming at behest of the poritz, but perhaps to fight the poritz!”
There was nowhere to escape. R’ Yosef and R’ Berel lifted their gazes upward and began davening to Hashem. The soldiers were nearing them, so close that they could see the flaring nostrils of the horses galloping ever closer. And then, as if they were invisible, the soldiers and their horses galloped past them. They passed so close that the men could feel the wind as they rushed by.
“I can’t understand what’s happening here.” R’ Berel shook his head as more soldiers poured forth from the dark forest path. “They’re all headed to town, but why? It’s almost like a war is going to break out! We’ve seen a few soldiers traveling to our city before, but not entire battalions!”
“We should hurry up and see what’s going on.” R’ Yosef yanked on the reigns. Off they went, their stomachs knotted with anxiety. They feared that perhaps this was connected to the evil poritz. Perhaps he was planning something against the Jews?
“Stop the wagon!” R’ Berel suddenly cried out. “Look here on the floor. One of the soldiers dropped his shield.”
R’ Yosef stopped the wagon and R’ Berel hopped out.
“Aha! It’s the insignia of the Russians! The soldiers were likely not coming at behest of the poritz, but perhaps to fight the poritz!”
Indeed, when R’ Yosef and R’ Berel got into the city they could see that the soldiers had surrounded the poritz’s castle. They barged into the massive fortress and found the poritz cowering underneath his bed.
“Get out from underneath there, you traitor!” The Russian soldiers dragged the poritz out by his feet and stood him up roughly.
“I’ve done nothing wrong, you fiends! Let me go!”
“You’ve done nothing wrong? Ha! That’s a good joke, you treacherous liar. Do you think we sent a small army out here for no good reason? It turns out your closest advisors are not as loyal to you as you might have wished. One of them decided to pay the czar a special visit. He shared some very interesting news… Yes, it seems that you were planning on amassing a huge army to march against the Russian Empire! You were going to lead a revolt and try to claim the crown for yourself!”
“Lies! All lies! Why would I ever even dream of turning against the beloved, cherished and wonderful Russian Empire? No, no, you have the wrong man. I assure you with all of my heart, I am the most loyal person in this entire land. Whatever you have been told is simply a lie. You’ve wasted your time coming out here tonight. Now take your hands off me!”
“Lies, eh? Your advisor also told us where we might find some interesting and incriminating evidence against you.”
The Russian soldier let go of the poritz and sauntered across the room, running his sword against the long wooden table as he went.
“Looks like someone likes playing darts.”
“Yes. So what?”
“What’s behind the map, you rebellious louse? What will I find if I remove it?”
“Absolutely nothing! Go ahead! Try it!”
The soldier pulled off the map to reveal… nothing. There was nothing there but stone.
“I told you!”
“Wait a minute… Why does the wall feel so hollow here? What will I happen if I press right here? Ah, that’s it… Just a little push and look what we’ve found! A hidden safe filled with documents. You’re finished now! How will you explain this, eh?”
“Please, have mercy on me…” The poritz burst into tears, hunched over in terror. “I’ll be killed for this!”
“Probably.” The soldier shrugged. “And look how busy you’ve been… Besides for your plans related to the failed rebellion, I see a lot of decrees here that you’ve been thinking of passing against the Jews.”
“Yes! Please, allow those documents to be given over to my son. He’s the one who will take over my post now that you are taking me to my death. At least let him follow through with my planned taxes against the Jewish community.”
“Hahaha! You think your son is going to take over for you? Why would we trust anyone in your family? No, he’s coming with us back to the czar to stand trial. In fact, your entire administration will be judged for aiding and abetting your vile plans for rebellion. Forget about any plans you had. Nothing you had conspired to take place will ever come to fruition!”
The soldier turned and threw the evil decrees against the Jews into the roaring fireplace.
The poritz watched as the documents curled into black ashes, as the fire spit and hissed hungrily. He remembered the elderly rabbi, R’ Leib Sarah’s who had come to him not long ago. The holy man had softly requested that he rescind his decree against the Jews. And how had he reacted? Belligerently. He had screamed and thrown his daggers.
And the Jewish sage had warned him then, and he could still hear his words echoing in his mind now, “You’re not in control of our fate. Only Hashem is in charge. You’re just a puppet, a messenger, like everyone else. If you won’t help us, fine. But don’t think you will be successful in any of your endeavors.”
The poritz was led out before the eyes of everyone in the Jewish community. R’ Yosef and R’ Berel stood beside the holy R’ Leib Sarah’s. Their emunas chachamim burned stronger in their hearts and souls than ever before. Hashem truly grants tzaddikim the power to annul evil decrees.
The Father and King of the Jewish people will never allow His children to be destroyed. As the pasuk says (Yeshayahu 8:10), “Conspire a plan but it will be ruined, create an evil plot but it won’t succeed, because Hashem is with us!”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 925)
Oops! We could not locate your form.