Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Sivan 5766 - May 31, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Tell Them You Are My Sister

by Yisca Shimony

Two women stood in the large and spacious kitchen, busy preparing for the day's meal. They kept talking while their hands mechanically prepared the trays. Noise from the street filtered through the open windows into the kitchen, and Lea, the older of the two, sighed, "It seems that another group of unfortunate people has arrived in town," she commented. Shayne nodded sympathetically.

Soon Shayne picked up a loaded tray and walked out of the kitchen. When she came back, she exclaimed, "Do you know who came here today to the house?! None other than the very important Tzdokoh Gabbete!

"Really?!" Lea cried in surprise, "When a new group of poor wanderers arrives in town, she is very busy helping them. There must be a very special reason why she came here today. I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a very important guest among those poor refugees who had to flee from that outrageous Chmelnitzky and his fierce, brutal soldiers. Many of them have to escape with nothing more than the clothes on their backs."

Just as Shayne finished talking, the door to the kitchen opened and there at the entrance stood Mrs. Tober, the mistress of the house, "I want you to train a new maid. The Tzedokoh Gabbete told me that a young girl in the group is a very fine girl. Her father was a prominent rabbi, but unfortunately he was killed . . . It is a miracle that she remained alive . . . She wants the girl placed in a good home and not to continue wandering with the group . . . Do you need a helping hand in the kitchen? I do wish you will make her feel at home and help her get settled here!"

"A daughter of a prominent rabbi . . . I am not sure she will be of much help here," Shayne was skeptical. Lea, the other maid, was willing to coach the young rabbi's daughter in homemakers' duties.

"I think we can let her serve your son-in-law, R' Shabsay Cohen. The work isn't hard; it's just tedious . . . All she has to do is stay outside his study room door, and wait till he comes out, and then serve him a nice, warm meal. I am sure she will do it efficiently, and by serving a talmid chochom, she will gain much satisfaction."

The mistress of the house sighed. It was obvious that she felt pity for the unfortunate girl. She stood in the kitchen and pondered what she should do. At the end she said, "We have to give her some work, and I hope she performs it with dignity and modesty, the way you do, Lea . . . In addition, I will employ her as our representative, and she will help those poor wanderers coming to the door."

Both Shayne and Lea were satisfied with the new arrangements. The young son-in-law, Reb Shabsay Cohen, studied long and late hours, and the two maids felt it was too exerting to stay up waiting for him, while keeping his meal warmed on the stove. Now that the rabbi's daughter would take over this task, they would have it easier. As the young girl walked into the kitchen, both women started questioning her about her family, but the poor girl just wiped her tearful eyes and sighed, and at the end they left her alone . . .

Late that night, the new girl sat behind the door of Reb Shabsay, and listened to his learning. As she sat there, she recalled her father's voice, his sweet learning, and she could not help herself. She burst out crying, shedding tears profusely. Suddenly, the door to the room opened and the young man stood glaring at her, "Why are you crying by my door?" he asked quietly, in subdued anger, "I want complete quiet here; I must concentrate." He walked back to his room and was soon absorbed in his studies.

The poor girl sat by the door, and forced herself to keep quiet. After many hours, she was able to retire to her small room, and there she shed tears into the soft pillow. The following morning, she was kept busy attending the poor wanderers who constantly knocked on the door. She dispensed money and food to them, and received many blessings in return. She felt that this job had dignity and blessed her good luck . . .

The following night, she again kept vigil by the door of the learned scholar, and again she was reminded of her deceased father. She sobbed into her handkerchief, and murmured, "Father dear! See me now, I am a maid . . . Look down at me, Mother, and have pity on me!"

No sooner had she whispered those words than the door opened. Reb Shabsay Cohen stood by the door, "Who are you? I heard you cry last night, and I hear you crying again tonight. You are the new orphan maid, aren't you? Tell me, who were your parents?"

With downcast eyes, she murmured, "My father and mother were killed by Chmelnitzky and his cruel soldiers. My father was rabbi of Amstibov. As I heard you learning, I was reminded of him, and couldn't help crying . . . "

She looked down at the floor. The young man stood mesmerized and leaned against the wall. At last he said in a choked voice, "The rabbi of the town Amstibov was killed?! And his wife, too?! You must be their youngest daughter!"

The girl nodded her head, "Did you know my parents?" she whispered.

"Yes, I knew them quite well." He whispered, too. After a short pause, he said, "Go to bed, I am not hungry tonight . . . "

The girl went to bed, but was restless and worried, "They will surely send me away for having disturbed the scholar," she thought.

It was a long, sleepless night, but at last the sun rose, and the new maid, the rabbi's daughter, headed for the kitchen. The mistress of the house stopped her, "Go to Yente and be with her. She needs help and a companion." And thus did the rabbi's daughter become a friend and companion to the wife of Reb Shabsay.


Soon a catastrophe struck the home of the rich Tober family. The mistress of the house became ill and shortly after, she died . . . Everyone in the town of Vilna cried and mourned her. Matchmakers from all over town came to the house of the widower, Reb Binyomin Wolf Tober, the grandson of the Rema, but they were turned away. The son-in-law, the great scholar, Reb Shabsay, whispered into the ears of his wealthy mechutan, "Why don't you marry this orphan girl, the daughter of the prominent rabbi of the town of Amstibov? I know all about her yichus and I promise to tell more about her on the night of the wedding . . . "

The preparations for the wedding were brief, and, as promised, on the wedding night, right after the chuppah, Reb Shabsay divulged his secret.

"You, the kallah, are my sister! I left home when you were a young child. I therefore didn't recognize you directly. I feel honored that my father-in-law is now also my brother-in-law . . . " Reb Shabsay shed tears. And so did the bride . . .

After a while, Reb Shabsay, who was later to become famous as the 'Shach,' said in a happy voice, "I bless you both; may you have children and grandchildren, talmiday chochomim who will enlighten the Jewish world in learning and Torah knowledge."


Shortly after the wedding, war broke out again, and Chmelnitzky and his barbaric soldiers came to Vilna. All Jewish inhabitants fled from Vilna, escaping in all directions. The newlywed couple ran off to Ashkenaz (Germany) and settled down. They kept thinking about the blessing the Shach given them.

After a while, a son was born, and eventually he grew, and married. He, too, eventually had a son, who was known as Rabbi Meyer Eisenstadt, the author of the noted work, Ponim Meiros.

As the Shach had promised, the couple derived much nachas from their offspring and Am Yisroel gained a scholar of world renown . . .


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