< TITLE>Jewish Children and Young Teen Books - Heir to the Throne
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HEIR TO THE THRONE
Sad times loomed ahead for Spanish Jewry. A wave of anti-
Semitism was sweeping over the land of the Sephardic Jews, quickly
filling their lives with misery and fear. Fanatic monks brainwashed
the masses, who became devoted followers, willing to do anything
the depraved monks preached from the cathedral lecterns. Their
influence also increased at the royal court. Because the royal coffers
were practically empty after constant wars with the Muslims in the
south, plans had to be made to refill them. This provided a new
excuse for persecuting Jews, namely, to gain their riches.
Jewish wisdom and influence were of no consequence, and even
the Jewish representatives at court, ordinarily very influential, were
increasingly powerless. The peace and prosperity that Spanish Jews
had enjoyed for centuries was coming to a brutal end. Their noto-
rious banishment from Spain was imminently approaching.
This was the situation the messengers of Tirnau faced when they
reached the borders. They set out on fresh riding horses for Cor-
dova, capital of the province of Andalusia, which had long been
famous for being a great Torah center, where learning flourished
and the greatest Torah authorities resided. Cordova was the home
of the distinguished Torah Academy, which radiated Torah through-
out the land.
Much as it pained them to see the tragic plight of their Spanish
brethren, the messengers could not help feeling relief at the
appropriate timing of their mission. Even a scholar who would in
the past have rejected their proposal would find it difficult not to be
tempted now, considering the hatred raging in Spain. They began to
gather information about dozens of Cordova's promising young
men, trying to spot a suitable candidate for the post of Rav of Tirnau.
There was one young man among the teachers in the Torah
Academy, who was in his late thirties and whose striking features
attracted everyone's attention. He had a slim figure, classic high
forehead and pitch black hair. His black eyes twinkled brightly, and
his face attracted an admiring gaze from observers.
This scholar, Rabbi Yitzchak, was the star of the Cordova
Yeshivah. Not only was he extremely talented, he possessed a pene-
trating mind, an excellent memory and a sharp brain. His discourses
were brilliant and fascinated his listeners. His pupils loved and
revered him. Students would pose the most confusing questions to
him and be awed by the logic and clarity of his responses. He had
been offered the post of Dean of the Yeshivah on several occasions,
but he always humbly declined. It was to this man the messengers of
Tirnau now turned.
Rabbi Yitzchak welcomed his visitors warmly, rejoicing to hear
that Torah was valued so highly in distant lands. He was impressed
that they were going to such great lengths to find a Torah scholar for
their community. Nevertheless, he expressed his regret on being
unable to abandon his home town and his students, whom he
regarded as his children. The messengers tried to convince him that,
considering the situation in Spain, it was the obligation of the
Spanish rabbis to spread Torah to different parts of Europe. In this
way, the study of Torah would flourish even if the attempts of
anti-Semites to destroy it in Spain were successful.
Rabbi Yitzchak asked for a week to consider their offer. During
that period, the messengers exerted tremendous pressure upon
him. Eventually, he agreed, stipulating that besides his family, which
consisted of his wife and daughter, he would be allowed to bring
along ten of his best pupils. The messengers were jubilant. This was
even more than they had dared hope for.
On the entire journey back, they could not stop talking about
Rabbi Yitzchak's fine qualities and thanking Hashem for His great
kindness. When they finally arrived at the Hungarian borders, they
dispatched express couriers to announce the imminent arrival of
the Spanish rabbi. They instructed the Jews of Tirnau to begin
preparing a suitable reception, as befitted Rabbi Yitzchak di Cor-
dova, known in Jewish history as the Baal Haminhagim.
The news spread like wildfire. A new rabbi, a famous scholar, was
coming to Tirnau! The air was charged with excitement as men
gathered on every corner to discuss what they had heard about
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