"P apa?”

Her father is lying on his bed, resting. She crouches down beside him. “Can you talk?”

She has chosen his bedroom, for it is the one place where Clara will not hear, nor Regina, nor even the porous walls of their home. She has closed the wooden shutters to keep out the sun; it will keep in their secrets, too, she hopes.

“Papa?” His eyes are open, and she looks into their darkness.

“Yes, my dear?”

“Papa, I have a worry on my heart.”

“Speak.”

But he does not sit up. In the old days, when she went to ask his advice, he would put both hands behind his head and lean back, as if in repose, but his eyes sparkled with lively intelligence. Now, his body is in repose, but his eyes are veiled; there is no quickness there, no excitement of a challenge to be solved.

Stop this dwelling in the past, she berates herself.

“If this stranger is, indeed, a Jew…”

“Yes?”

“And if his soul is stirred…”

“Yes?”

“Then this might be a dangerous thing for our family.”

“But think, daughter,” Papa says, eyes suddenly flickering with excitement. “Think of the strange ways of Providence. Did not Maimonides write in his letter to the people of Taimon: We are in possession of the Divine assurance that Israel is indestructible and imperishable, and will always continue to be a preeminent community. As it is impossible for G-d to cease to exist, so is Israel’s destruction and disappearance from the world unthinkable….”

He shakes his head. “It’s hard to fathom. Ten years ago, many of our brethren fell to the plague. And those losses were increased by the sword. And yet, even as one camp is struck, there are always those who remain. Who knows how many lost Jewish souls are planted in isolated villages? And it appears that one of them has found his way home.”

Aster watches Papa, in a mixture of pride and dismay. Why does he not realize the implications that this could have for their family?

“And you do, indeed, think he is a Jew?”

He shrugs. “A Jewish soul is a Jewish soul, no matter what it has been through, or where it has come from. It is almost unmistakable. He may not be one of the sharpest, but there is something in his character that is innately good. A refinement, a level of spiritual understanding that I would not expect to see in an orphaned farmer’s child, from a tiny village in the south of France.” He hauls himself up a little, plunges into silent thought.

“But Papa,” she says eventually, “it is one thing to contravene the law against allowing a gentile to remain on your property. But if he turns around and decides that he is a Jew, this could mean terrible things for us, for our community.”

“A Jewish soul returning to his maker? What better reason to rejoice?” For all his knowledge, where is Papa’s wisdom? She leans forward, her voice low but urgent. “What better reason to fear?"  (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 579)