I was very clueless on the whole Jewish
religion until I met Nancy. She would always answer all my strange
questions and I would always be grateful for that. I never could
understand why she could not eat what the rest of us were eating
but I always knew she would explain it to me again. She would
bring her own food and her pots and always some sort of treat
for everybody when she came.
Her commitment to her faith never ceased
to amaze me. At first I was puzzled—why did she not turn
the TV on some mornings when I knew she liked hearing the weather
first thing? What would
happen if she was in the car on Friday after the sun set? What
was the deal with the money on Saturdays? I didn’t understand
at first, but gradually I saw more and I began to understand
and appreciate the beauty of her Sabbath.
IT HAPPENED IN THE CITY of Minsk. A
young Christian girl was found dead. It did not take long for
the mob to gather, demanding
Jewish blood to avenge her death. The Minsk police, attempting
to maintain a show of decency, piously explained to the anxious
Jews that they would not be able to restrain the mob from
seeking retaliation—unless the killer was found.
A Jewish fellow by the name of Ashkenazi
went to the police and “confessed” to
the killing. Everyone in town, including the police, knew
that Ashkenazi was innocent. Everyone knew that he was offering
as a sacrifice, to spare his fellow Jews another devastating
The sacrifice was accepted. Ashkenazi was
hanged to satisfy the bloodthirsty appetite of the mob, and the
pogrom did not materialize. For years afterward, the entire
of Minsk would light a yahrtzeit candle and recite kaddish for his soul on the day of his death.
This story is not unique to our people.
Rashi relates (Taanit 18b) a heart rending tale of one such blood
libel that took
place long ago, in the city of Lod. When a king’s daughter
was found dead one day, the city’s Jews were accused
of killing her and sentenced to a collective death—until
a pair of Jewish brothers stood up and “confessed” to
having committed the crime. The king had the two put to death
place of the entire community. In this way, these two holy
redeemed great numbers of their falsely accused brethren.