W orms, Germany

The sun began to set over the Jewish quarter of Worms, Germany. Darkness replaced light and the warm air began to turn cold. Inside the modest Jewish homes, candles were kindled behind thin, glass windows. As children slept, women gathered to recite Tehillim and the men began to learn Torah.

A man with a long beard walked slowly through the empty streets. His hands were clasped behind his back, and his eyes were almost completely shut. Inside his brilliant mind, holy thoughts of Torah sprouted without letup.

“Look!” a father whispered to his son, pulling him to the open window. “There’s our beloved and saintly rav, Rav Eliezer ben Yehuda! Worms was granted a priceless gift from Hashem on the day that Rav Eliezer agreed to be our guide and mentor!”

Rav Eliezer continued walking, enjoying the cool, night air. As complete darkness swallowed the Jewish community into a black cocoon, his concentration only improved. Indeed, the Gemara tells us that nighttime was created solely for Torah learning.

“Help!” An earsplitting scream shattered the silence of the night. “Dear Rabbi! Save me!”

Rav Eliezer gasped as a member of the community stumbled out of the inky darkness and landed at his feet.

“Chaim, what happened?” Rav Eliezer asked, peering into the night. He expected to see bandits rushing at him at any moment, with weapons raised.

“I-I was a-attacked by several men,” Chaim sobbed, holding a hand over several cuts to his arm. He pointed to the forest beyond, gesturing at the towering, ominously swaying trees. “T-they c-came out of nowhere! I barely managed to push them off me and run for my life!”

“Lie still, Chaim,” Rav Eliezer said. “I’m going to run and get help!”

But there was no need to get help. Several men had heard the shouting from their homes and were running toward them to offer assistance.

One of the men bandaged Chaim’s wounds. The man’s young son, a rosy-cheeked, innocent looking lad, stared at Chaim’s cuts. “Did thieves do this to him, father?” he asked.

“No, no, not thieves, boy,” Chaim whispered. “It was Crusaders.”

A sudden chill descended upon the group of men.

“Why would they do this?” the boy asked. The men looked at each other, shocked at the boy’s naïveté.

“Let me tell you something about the Crusaders,” Chaim said, breathing heavily as he stared into the boy’s eyes. “They are Christian men who fight in ‘holy wars’ that their unholy popes declare. They fight against Islam, enemies of the Christians. They fight against the Muslims for control over Jerusalem!”

“Who wins?” the boy asked, his large eyes never leaving Chaim’s face.

“Who knows?” Chaim growled. “Back and forth they battle, back and forth. But recently, the Crusades were dealt a huge loss during one of their conquests to redeem the Holy Land for the Christians. The Muslims, led by powerful leaders, have delivered them a crippling blow.”

“So, t-that’s g-good, r-right?” the boy asked, desperate for reassurance.

“You simply don’t understand, my boy,” Chaim said, lowering his voice. He placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “In the eyes of Christians, Jews are also considered enemies. These Crusaders are not content with the blood spilling that already occurs during their battles against the armies of Islam! No, they are always thirsty to terrorize Jewish communities along the way to their battles.”

“What about us? Are we safe?” The boy looked in terror at his father. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 695)