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The Ruach Ami Series
The Promised Child
by Avner Gold
CIS Publications Division
Lakewood, New Jersey
The Three Conditions
Journey to Krakow
The King of the Bandits
The Scarlet Packet
Mieczko the Baker
Crisis in Krakow
The Bishop of Lubianewicz
Glossary of Terms
SINCE IT FIRST APPEARED in October, 1983, Avner Gold's The
Promised Child, as well as The Ruach Ami Series in general,
has become a beloved favorite of children and adults everywhere. It has
established itself as a standard on the preferred reading lists of parents
and educators, and indeed, during the first summer after the publication
of the first edition, it was staged in many schools and summer camps in
New York and Florida.
For the revised and expanded edition of The Promised Child two
completely new chapters have been added and a wealth of historical
and additional background information has been blended into the
The Promised Child introduces the saga of the Pulichevers, a
rabbinic family who have served for generations as Rabbonim in
Pulichev, a small city in the southern provinces of the Kingdom of
Poland. The story begins in the early part of the seventeenth century
with Reb Mendel and Sarah Pulichever embarking on a journey of hope
to Krakow and reaches its startling climax over thirty years later with a
return to Krakow for a dramatic and memorable confrontation affecting
the Jewish population of the entire region.
During this period, the status of the Jewish people in Poland was
undergoing a series of dramatic changes. For several centuries, Poland
had provided a benevolent refuge for the victims of anti-Semitic perse-
cution in other parts of Europe. Since Polish society consisted of two
extremes, nobility and serfs, the Polish kings eagerly encouraged the
immigration of Jews, because they were likely to emerge as a merchant
class and thus bring prosperity to Poland. And this is indeed what
happened. The kings, from Zigismund Jagiello to Zigismund August to
Stefan Bathory, were delighted and extended their personal protection
to their Jewish subjects. It was a good time, a time in which the Jewish
communities of Poland flourished both spiritually and materially.
\\ hen the good King Stefan Bathory died in 1S8^ and the fanatical
King X.igismund 111 ascended to the throne a new spirit of Catholic
fervor and intolerance swept through Poland. The Jesuit Order,
established hy Ignatius Loyola to do battle against the Protestant
Reformation, gained a strong foothold in Poland under /igismund 111.
The Jews suffered greatly at the hands of the Jesuits, and their position in
Polish society steadily eroded.
The outbreak of the Thirty Years War, in 1618, between the
champions of the Church and its Protestant opponents fanned the fires
of Catholic fanaticism in Poland and eroded the Jewish position even
Moreover, although the battles and bloodshed were mostly on
German soil, a steady flow of Jewish refugees into the cities of the
Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania spurred the
Jesuits and the other enemies of the Jewish people into renewed
anti-Semitic activities. This trend would reach its nadir with the massive
Cossack pogroms against the Jewish people after the signing of the
Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to end the war.
It must be understood that in the seventeenth century, unlike in
modern times, the Church was at the center of the political arena. Most
of the wars fought during this period were, at least nominally, over
religious issues. The power wielded by the Church was enormous.
Indeed, it was a law unto itself, with police powers. Thus, the everyday
life of the Jew in Poland, as well as in most other parts of Europe, was
affected by the positions and prejudices of the Church. The characters
in The Promised Child are strongly affected by their helplessness in this
climate. They also know that their only recourse is to have bitachon in
the Ribono Sbel Olam.
The Promised Child is a work of fiction. The city of Pulichev, the
Pulichcver family, and the events in this book are fictitious, although it
was certainly not uncommon for a Jewish child to disappear into a
monastery and never be heard from again. To a certain extent, many of
the episodes in this entire series are based on actual events. All the
historical background relating to the Jewish community and the
political situation in Poland is authentic. Most of this information is
drawn from Toldos Yisrael by Yavetz. as well as various encyclo-
pedic and other sources.
The Three Conditions " 1
REB MENDEL PULIGHEVER, the young Rav of Pulichev,
stood at his study window and stared out at the steady
autumn downpour. The new year 5370 (1609) had brought mild
weather to the river valleys of Galicia in southern Poland, but
then the rains had come. It had been raining now for almost a
week without any signs of clearing. The little river that flowed
down from the upper valley was already seeping over its banks.
The narrow streets of the Jewish section of Pulichev had long
since turned to mud. Soon the road leading up the mountainside
to the Pytuma Pass would be awash with debris from the forests.
It would be all but impassable. Reb Mendel sighed deeply and
returned to his chair.
Ordinarily, the spacious study with the jammed bookcases
lining the walls gave Reb Mendel a sense of relaxation. He
enjoyed sitting in his faded armchair at the sturdy mahogany table
surrounded by open sefarim and assorted writing materials. But
today the ceaseless rains pounded mercilessly on his ragged
This room symbolized everything he had achieved in his life.
At the age of thirty-two he was already a prominent Talniid
Chacham. His wife Sarah, the kind and personable daughter of
Reb Yaakov Sofer, the Rav of nearby Molodietz, was beloved by all
the people of Pulichev, who respectfully referred to her as "the
Rebbetzin." Their home was always open to guests and to poor
people. They had more than enough for their simple needs,
although they were by no means wealthy. Reb Mendel and the
Rebbetzin had everything they could possibly want, but they had
never had any children
At first they had been hopeful of still having children. But
almost nine years had already passed, and their prayers were still
unanswered. Hope gave way to despair. Their home echoed with
Reb Mendel thought back to that day several months before
when they had discovered that people like themselves had been
helped by the berachos of the great tzaddik Reb Zalman Mintzer
who lived in Krakow, the largest city in Western Poland. Krakow
was far away, and travel was difficult and risky, but once again
they dared to hope.
Letters had been written and posted, provisions and money
put aside, a carriage with a driver and a team of horses hired, and
the care of the house arranged. The date of departure was set for
immediately after Sukkos.
Unfortunately, the rains came then as well. As the journey
kept being put off from day to day, Reb Mendel became more and
more agitated. He tried to concentrate on the Gemara he was
learning, but his mind kept wandering off. Most of the time, he
alternated between pacing back and forth and staring glumly
through the window at the rain.
There was a gentle knock on the door, and the Rebbetzin
"Am I disturbing you, Mendel?" she asked.
"No, not at all," he replied.
"Would you like to come into the kitchen? I've prepared
some lunch for you."
"No, thank you. I'm not really hungry."
"Come, Mendel, you have to keep up your strength. The food
is hot. It'll be good for you."
"I'm sorry," said Reb Mendel, shaking his head. "I just can't
eat now. I'm too tense."
"Don't you think I know that, Mendel? I can hear you pacing
back and forth all the way to the kitchen. Tell me, Mendel, why
are you so on edge? We've waited so long. What do another few
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