Wednesday, 5 October 2011


     A very long time ago, there was a small village near Lublin, in Poland, which became renowned throughout that part of Europe for the beauty of its women. Not a daughter was born to any family in the village whose every feature was not pleasing to the eye, and as each year passed, these daughters grew into young women so refined and comely that one could not look upon them without sighing, and many men would break down and cry at the sight of such perfection.
     It was a wonder to everyone that such exquisite beauty should exist in our world. Naturally, parents came from far and wide to arrange marriages for their sons to such beautiful young women.
     But then, one day, tragedy struck.
     It happened to one household, but soon began to spread throughout the village. That day began as any other. A mother arose just before dawn, quickly arranging her scarf over her hair as she climbed over her sleeping husband.  She was careful not to waken him before his morning prayers and tiptoed to the cupboard bedroom where her two daughters and young son slept. She woke her eldest daughter and sent her to the well to bring fresh water for breakfast.
     As in every other household in the village, it was the custom that each morning the eldest daughter would bring fresh water from the well while the mother laid the fire and prepared the family breakfast.  All seemed normal that morning, but as the mother began to shape the balls of potato dough into pancakes, she began to wonder, where was Yenka with the water?
     And so it was that Yenka, her beautiful eldest daughter, never returned from the well that day. The other girls from the village found the empty bucket laying beside the well, but there was no sign of Yenka.
     At first, some of the villagers thought she might have run away, eloped with one of the Gentile boys who sometimes visited the village to admire the women there, but a week later, another daughter from a different household disappeared at the same well.  After that, no daughter was allowed to visit the well by themselves - or to go anywhere without a chaperone.
     But despite these precautions, the following week, another beloved daughter disappeared, this time from her own bed, which she shared with her two little brothers. No one saw or heard anything. She simply vanished and that was that.
      Now the village was in an uproar.
     The wisest man in the village was the Rabbi, of course, himself the father of three gorgeous daughters. He called together a meeting of the entire village, men, women and children.  He began by listening to the parents of the missing girls. Their stories were heartbreaking and many of the villagers cried upon hearing them.  Then he allowed any villagers who wished to say anything or offer any suggestions to speak. Most only wanted to express their fears for their own daughters, but several suggested some useful ways to better protect their families.
      After listening carefully, the Rabbi told the villagers what he thought.
"My friends. These tragedies can have only three causes. One, that our daughters are unhappy here and for some reason have decided to run away. leaving without a note or a word to anyone. Two, some person or persons, either out of envy or wickedness, have stolen into our village and kidnapped our daughters from under our noses, or three, evil sorcery is at work, and our daughters are being stolen away by demons, whether out of pure evil or mischief or for a purpose we cannot know or fully understand.
     As for the first reason, let me tell you now, that I do not think our daughters are running away or leaving of their own free will.  We know that our daughters are good girls who love their families and would not leave them without a word of goodbye.
     As for the second reason, it is possible, because mankind has such a great capacity for wickedness, that some person has been clever enough to steal our daughters our from under our noses, so this must be considered and our daughters better protected. But for the third reason, I believe it is most likely that someone or something dedicated to evil is responsible. Our girls have vanished as if by sorcery, and sorcery is the most likely reason behind these tragedies." The villagers gasped at this proclamation, but the Rabbi continued.  
     "Because of the seriousness of our misfortune, I must consult with the High Council in Lublin. I will leave in the morning and I will be gone for 3 days, but when I return, I will be able to tell you the exact cause and the steps we must take to stop this misfortune from recurring and to bring our daughters back from wherever they have been taken."
     Then the Rabbi added, "In the meantime, we will take the suggestion offered by Jacob Weisman, and divide your households into guardian teams, so that your daughters can be watched over and be guarded both day and night." 
     The villagers were in awe of the High Council of Lublin and the Rabbi's words reassured them that help was on its way.  They gathered round Jacob, who regularly led the minyon and who could be relied upon for neighbourly advice, and they began to form themselves into teams to watch over each family throughout the next four nights, until the Rabbi's return.