In the Little Shtetl of Vaysechvoos at Passover
Around Vaysechvoos, there weren’t many friendly Gentiles, but there was one. He told a Jewish friend that a pogrom was scheduled on the first eve of Passover. Those who organized such things felt they could be sure all of the Jewish families would be at home that night. A “little protest demonstration” was what it was called, but when word spread throughout the village, the terror of such “protest demonstrations” struck deep.
Of course it was the policy of the czar and the government to have these pogroms from time to time just to keep the Jews from being too comfortable, just to remind God’s ancient chosen people that they were guilty of the crucifixion, and also just to let the Cossacks have some fun.
The warning came late, but the sage of Vaysechvoos counseled each family to hide in the root cellar of each home, which also doubled as a shelter in such troubled times.
Nathan Levi and his family took some provisions and huddled together in a special place hidden away. Seven-year-old Shmuel Levi was bewildered. He asked his father why this Passover eve was different from other Passovers. Shmuel had been looking forward to the celebration, but instead of seeing the usual joy and fun-making in his parents, he saw anxiety. Nathan thought for a few moments. There wouldn’t be an easy answer. Then he told Shmuel, “Do you remember from the seder last year when we told of the very first Passover in Mitzraim, when the Malach Ha-Moves went from house to house? Well, Shmuel, tonight the Malach Ha-Moves has come back and he’s brought some helpers. That’s why we’re hiding.”
Shmuel didn’t know everything it meant. There was no recitation of the Haggadah. There were no prayers except the traditional prayers for safety. There was no light and the family huddled together or warmth. Amazingly, all except Shmuel soon fell sleep.
Then it occurred to Shmuel. He did indeed remember the Pesach story and recalled God’s provision. He struggled free and groped out from the hiding place through the trapdoor that had been concealed. He heard the din of windows breaking and saw the sky brightly lit with several villagers’ homes and the synagogue serving as candles. The spring night should have been cold, but the heat from the fires warmed him as he went from pen to pen, place to place, examining the livestock. The cattle and sheep were skittish.
Then he came to the sheepfold near the forest of Motke the Shepherd. Amidst the bleating of the sheep, he found one that would be about a year old. Shmuel picked him up and began carrying him.
Suddenly, upon a black horse rode a dark man laughing and swinging a sword which flashed in the direction of Shmuel as if to pierce the youngster. But instead the lamb was pierced. Shmuel fell down, the bleeding, dying animal on top of him.
When he awoke later (he didn’t know if it was minutes or hours) he knew his work was almost complete. He dragged the lamb just a bit further to the Levi home and found a broom. Dipping it in the lamb’s blood and striking the upper doorpost and two sideposts, he recalled the lithographed drawing in the Haggadah. He was so exhausted that, as he stumbled into the house and went downstairs, he quickly fell asleep.
In the morning all of the Levi family awoke before Shmuel. When they looked at his clothes, they saw him covered with blood and presumed him to be dead, whereupon they let out a wail that woke the child. The parents, startled and amazed, demanded to know what had happened. Shmuel tried to tell them that he was knocked down by the Malach Ha-Moves with a sword. His parents then bathed him and, seeing no wound whatever on his body, brought him to the rabbi who then proclaimed that a great mircale had taken place in their village.
Director of Communications, Missionary
Susan Perlman is one of the co-founders of Jews for Jesus. Susan is the associate executive director of Jews for Jesus and also director of communications for the organization. She also serves as the editor in chief of ISSUES, their evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers. She left a career track in New York City to help launch Jews for Jesus in San Francisco in the early 1970s. See more here.