|Vaysechvoos illustrations by Warren Dayton|
Leah, the wife of Mendel and eldest daughter of the Sage, was known in Vaysechvoos as a very pious and wise woman. She was also very accurate in predicting things. And her insight seemed to come from dreams. Leah didn’t remember every dream, but those she did portended events that would happen. No one could recall one of her dreams that hadn’t become a real event.
When she dreamed of a “flood,” it rained for twenty consecutive days, and the only ones in Vaysechvoos who came away unscathed were the katchkas. When she dreamed of a plague, the Malach Ha-Moves was not far behind. Thirteen souls kept the Angel of Death company when he left. It was a very dark season for the shtetl. Then there was the time that she had a dream that one of the daughters of Vaysechvoos ran away with a goy, and sure enough, a week later, Chana and Gregor, the Russian peasant who helped with the harvest, were not to be found. A silly note talked about their love for each other.
Not all of Leah’s dreams were of impending calamities. When Leah dreamed of a bountiful harvest, everyone in the shtetl had a big crop that year, the biggest they ever had. Ah, that was a time of great rejoicing.
On another occasion Leah had a dream that the king was coming to visit, and sure enough, the butcher’s cousin from Chicago arrived and gave enough tzedakah to buy land for the cemetery, repair the shul and sponsor two young men in yeshiva. How could a king do any better?
The news was now circulating around Vaysechvoos that Leah had a dream that there would be a pogrom in a week’s time. In her dream she saw gentiles coming with staves and torches to beat the townspeople and burn down the village. Knowing that Leah’s dreams were not to be ignored, her father, the Sage, called a town meeting.
“What’s to do?” cried Shimmon the Butcher.
“We’re all doomed!!” Mendel the Dyer shouted in despair.
“God help us!!” the others implored.
The Sage spoke in quiet tones so as to lessen the frantic mood that bordered on hysteria. “God help us indeed. Is this not a good time for us to pray? We must pray and we must work if we are to survive this attack on our home. We must get ready for the pogrom,” reasoned the Sage.
A course of action was discussed and agreed upon, and for the next several days, the people spent their time pouring water on the thatched roofs so that they would not easily catch fire. They buried their few pieces of silver and wedding rings and any other items of value to hide them from the coming plunderers.
Right after the Shabbos service, they removed the Torah scrolls and hid them away as well. They also took away the livestock and quartered them with fodder in fields many kilometers distance from the town, so that there was nothing worth stealing and nothing dry enough to burn. They even sealed the well and created a false one. They had heard of how in a mass pogrom the goyim slaughtered a pig and threw it into the well, thus defiling all the water of the village. This would not happen to them. They were prepared. They were ready.
Oh, for the women and children, they constructed special hiding places, again a distance from the village.
They even took an hour a day to teach one another how to swing staves and how to use their spades and hoes as weapons. While they recognized that they were no formidable force, still they weren’t going to make it easy for the invaders. They were going to defend their village!
So the people of Vaysechvoos, reluctant but readied defenders, waited and watched the horizon. And they waited some more and nothing came down the road except a breeze chasing some loose leaves. And as they waited, they prayed the holy prayers of deliverance as they had all week. Every man, woman and child in Vaysechvoos prayed as they had never prayed before. They prayed an astronomical deposit into heaven’s bank.
And as they waited, it became apparent that Leah’s dream was not as powerful as the prayers of the people. They could barely believe it. But yes, they did believe it. They had to believe it. Their prayers were answered.
Even the Sage commented, “Prayer is a more formidable weapon than staves and spades.”
Malach Ha Moves: angel of death