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THE PROMISED CHILD
"Shloimele's Heaven-sent talents will be put to the
best use, I assure you. There will be plenty of time for
him to learn Polish when he has to have dealings
with the gentiles."
"I didn't mean to offend you," said the priest. "He is your son.
Do with him as you wish."
The priest extended his hand to Reb Mendel once again. Reb
Mendel hesitated for a moment, before he took the priest's hand.
"It was nice meeting you," said the priest. "I hope we can be
Then the priest bent down and took Shloimele's hand in his
"It was nice meeting you too, Shloimele," he said in Polish
even though Shloimele didn't understand it. "I will be living
nearby. I think we'll be seeing quite a bit of each other in the
With those words, the priest turned on his heel and walked
Reb Mendel was very disturbed by the encounter. He
gathered up Shloimele in his arms and carried him into the house.
As soon as she caught sight of them, the Rebbetzin dropped what
she was doing and came running.
"What is the matter, Mendel?" she asked anxiously. "Did
something happen to Shloimele? Is he hurt? You look white as a
sheet. What happened?"
Reb Mendel told her about the priest and what he had said.
"I've noticed him watching Shloimele from afar quite a few-
times these last few weeks," said Reb Mendel, his voice shaking
with agitation and concern. "I had a very uneasy feeling about it,
but I told myself that it didn't mean anything. But now this! I'm
very concerned. He'll be living nearby for who knows how long. I
don't want him coming around to influence our precious
Shloimele with his galochishe ideas, Heaven forbid. I'm afraid he's
going to try to destroy everything we're going to instill into him.
I'm afraid Shloimele won't see through him the way I do. He is so
friendly and polite. But look into those hooded eyes and there is
evil and malice."
"I think you might be reading too much into this, Mendel,"
the Rebbetzin said. "Once the priest settles in he's probably going
to be very busy with his own parish. He won't have the time or the
inclination to bother with trying to influence Shloimele. Besides,
Shloimele is still very young, and the priest may leave to another
parish long before he poses any danger."
"I don't know what to say," Reb Mendel said. "I just have an
uneasy feeling about the whole thing. Maybe you're right, but this
terrible premonition refuses to go away."
"Wait a minute, Mendel. Shloimele doesn't understand or
speak Polish, and the priest doesn't speak Yiddish. All we have to
do is keep Shloimele from learning the Polish language as long as
"Yes, that's true," said Reb Mendel. "That will surely help for
a while. You've certainly set my mind at ease to some extent. It
always helps to talk things over with you."
The Rebbetzin smiled.
"But the truth is that I'm worried by any association
whatsoever," Reb Mendel continued. "Even his passing by the
house every day and saying hello to Shloimele worries me. 1 don't
want him coming anywhere near Shloimele."
"But how can you stop him, Mendel?"
"I don't know. I would rather leave Pulichev and move
somewhere else before I would take any risks with Shloimele.
There must be other places where I can serve as Rav. Perhaps I
should look for another position."
"But, Mendel," she said, a note of alarm in her voice,
"Pulichev has been in your blood for generations. How can you
even think of leaving?"
"Nothing else matters when it comes to Shloimele. Nothing
"How deeply concerned you must be if you're willing to
make such a sacrifice!" she exclaimed. "I'm frightened. Mendel.
What shall we do?"
"Wait, I know," Reb Mendel said with a sudden flash of
inspiration. "Next month we're going to Krakow to Reb Zalman.
Let's ask him what to do about this problem. I will be content to
do as he says."
The Rebbetzin breathed a sigh of relief. "Of course! That is
what we must do. In the meantime, let's put all these disturbing
thoughts out of our minds and concentrate on the upcoming
Yom Tov. Let's not allow this priest to interfere in any way with
our simcha on Sukkos."
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