Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Of Cracow Part II
As we mentioned in part I, Rabbi Yosef Shmuel of Cracow, the modest teacher of young children, became the rabbi of the prestigious city of Frankfurt.
The very day that he arrived, he plunged into a critical situation that threatened the very existence of the Jewish community there. This is the story of that crisis.
A Blood Libel
The Jewish section of Frankfurt was bedecked with flowers and radiated happiness, as they awaited the arrival of their new rabbi. Amidst this joy however, came great terror as the body of a young Christian boy was found in the Jewish ghetto.
To the horror of the Jews, certain priests in the city raised the blood-chilling libel, "The Jews killed him for his blood." Ritual murder.
The obscene accusation, which threatened hundreds and thousands of innocent Jewish victims in the past, now incredibly achieved a measure of belief in the progressive German city of Frankfurt. The town council demanded that the Jews produce the murderer within three days or be expelled from the city.
Jews In Terror
Rabbi Yosef Shmuel arrived from Cracow for the greatest day of his life. He still could not believe that he was worthy to be rabbi of the great city of Frankfurt, but he was determined to serve the community to the best of his abilities.
When he arrived, however, he was stunned to see that the communal leaders who had come to greet him appeared haggard and depressed.
"What has happened?" he asked. He listened in horror as the whole story was unfolded before him.
"We cannot tell you, rabbi," they said, "how sorry we are that this has happened on the very day that you arrived to be our spiritual leader."
"That is nothing," answered Rabbi Yosef Shmuel.
"The main thing is that we find the real murderer and save the community from expulsion."
"But how can this be done? We have not the slightest clue to the identity of the murderer!"
"Have faith in the Almighty," said the rabbi. "I will go myself before the court three days from now and with His help, I will uncover the real killer."
For three days, the Jews of Frankfurt sat in prayer and fasted, beseeching the Almighty to help His people in their time of need. Finally, the time given by the authorities was over. The Jews watched with pounding hearts as the police came to lead the communal leaders and the rabbi to the court for the great confrontation.
The Main Accuser
Rabbi Yosef Shmuel watched silently as the main accuser stood before the judges, made an impassioned accusation and demanded vengeance against the Jews. He was none other than one of the priests in the city. He was a well-known anti-Semite and agitator, and all his hatred and poison now emerged.
Rabbi Yosef Shmuel watched as the priest spoke and studied the man very carefully. Finally, he finished and it was the turn of the Jewish community to make its defense.
All eyes turned to Rabbi Yosef Shmuel as he moved forward to face the judges.
Bring The Corpse
"My lords," said the rabbi, "I contend that the entire accusation is a false and vicious attempt to wipe out Jewish community of Frankfurt.
"I can prove my words if only you will have corpse of the poor boy brought in."
"Your request has been granted, rabbi," said judge. "You may now attempt to prove your case."
"I thank you. I will prove my case and also name the real murderer. Furthermore, the guilt of the murderer will be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by myself but by the murdered boy himself."
The spectators in the packed court gasped at the rabbis words. What could he mean? How could a dead boy name his own murderer?
The priest who had made the main accusation now stepped forward and laughed.
"My lords, this rabbi surely mocks us all. How can the Jew cause this boy to name his murderer?"
"Very simple," said Rabbi Yosef Shmuel. "I will ask each person in this room to lay his hand on the body of the boy. When it is the murderer's turn, he will be unable to remove his hand. In this way he will be discovered."
The priest, upon hearing these words, grew vehement in this denunciation of the plan.
"What nonsense is this? The Jews have brought a Polish rabbi here to mock us all. Let us stop this absurdity and expel the Jews immediately."
But the judges refused to listen to the priest and they ordered all the people to pass by and touch the child. The masses walked past fearfully, gingerly touching the corpse. Finally, it was the turn of the priest.
"I absolutely refuse to have anything to do with this farce," he cried, as his face turned red with anger and beads of sweat stood out. "This is witchcraft, and I demand that we stop it and throw the Jewish murderers out of the city"
But the judges demanded that he too touch the child.
"No, no. I will not touch the boy. I admit it. I admit that I had the boy killed in order to libel the Jews and expel them from Frankfurt"
Thus was the Jewish community of Frankfurt saved by Rabbi Yosef Shmuel as soon as he arrived to be their rabbi.
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