T he cold was more than Rav Eliezer could bear. Every particle in his body screamed in pain as the icy waters turned his blood cold. Every time he resurfaced from beneath the waves, he could hear the wild howls of laughter from the hooligans above.

In the throes of a horrible death, Rav Eliezer struggled to remember the words of Vidui. He slid below the surface, eyes wide in shock, the last seconds of his life slipping away.…

“AAAAAAaaaaahhhh!” He heard a scream that sounded closer and closer until a lifeless body crashed into the water, inches from him. It was one of the German thugs! A moment later a dagger and a wooden club splashed into the water. Someone on deck was battling the ruffians. There was hope yet!

A surge of adrenalin flooded Rav Eliezer’s body and he kicked himself to the surface with renewed strength.

“Hang on!” a voice boomed from above. “I’m coming for you!”

Rav Eliezer struggled to stay afloat as he listened to the sounds of fighting from above. Finally, a rope ladder slid down to him and he began to climb up.

It took him a very long time to reach the top. Every ounce of his energy was sapped from his battle against the waters. When he reached the top rung, the muscles in his arms gave out and he began to topple backward into the waters below.…

“I’ve got you!” someone shouted, grabbing Rav Eliezer’s shoulders before he fell. “Lie down here, I’ll get you a blanket.…”

Rav Eliezer lay shivering on the hard, wooden deck as he listened to the sounds of his benefactor’s boots marching away. A moment later a thick quilt was draped over his soaked body.

His hero was a soldier in armor. He looked young and intelligent and something about the way he carried himself gave an aura of an experienced warrior.

“Tausend dank! — A thousand thanks!” Rav Eliezer said through his chattering teeth. “Wo sind sie? —Where are they?”

“They won’t be coming back,” the soldier said. “I gave them a good beating.… Only cowards would pick on a defenseless man minding his own business. Those men were even more lousy for starting up with a rabbiner! My father always taught me to respect the scholars of other religions.”

“I am forever grateful for your kindness,” Rav Eliezer said, extending a hand. “My name is Eliezer.”

“My name is Peter,” the soldier said, shaking Rav Eliezer’s hand.

“What brings a soldier such as you to this ferry?” Rav Eliezer asked, drawing the quilt tighter around his aching bones.

“Das kann ich dir nicht sagen — I can’t tell you that,” Peter said. “What I can tell you is that I’m on a secret mission for my commander.”

“I won’t ask you again,” Rav Eliezer assured him. “I’m just glad you were here at the right time and at the right moment.…”

“Ich auch — me too,” Peter said. “Like I said, I respect der Rabbiner.”

When his sword was finally sharpened to his liking, Peter slid it into the well-worn sheath at his side. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 695)