Esther (HaTzaddika) Hayot (Katz)
Hebrew: אסתר הצדיקה חיות (כ"ץ)
|Death:||Died in 1650|
Daughter of Harav Shabtai HaCohen HaSHACH and Yente Leah Leah Katz
|Managed by:||Leah Hoffman|
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About Esther (HaTzaddika) Hayot
Esther, Lost Daughter of Shach
Reb Shabtai HaKohen (the Shach) lived in a small shack, together with his very ill wife and only daughter, Esther. The Reb sat close by to his wife, learning Torah while their daughter, Esther, sat on his lap when all of a sudden, his wife opened her eyes and whispered "I must leave you my dear husband and daughter, but I need to tell you something very important. When I was asleep, the Rema appeared and commanded that I comfort you. The future is very bitter and will be very difficult. The decree will cause much suffering to you and our daughter. I will stand in prayer in front of the Creator and ask for mercy and ask HaShem to send His angels to protect you".
Her head shifted backwards and with the last of her strength, said to her husband "I appreciated being your wife even though our happiness was decreed for a short time. The end has arrived. Go in peace, my husband. Go in peace my cute daughter Esther. God will watch over you and protect you".
She quietly said "Shema Israel" and with these final words, her holy soul returned to the Maker.
After her mother's passing, Esther became very ill and her health was quakering between life and death. Her father constantly sat by her bed, watching her while learning Torah. He was so engrossed with the learing, he didn't hear the yells of fears outside his home. Rabbi Shabtai heard terrible screams: "The oppressor Chamil has come, and the cruel Cossacks are close behind!" As the voices of fear increased, he grabbed Esther, covered her quickly with a blanket and ran outside, towards the fields. It was Friday afternoon, midwinter and a snowstorm was wildly coming down, covering the fields with high snow. But Reb Shabtai did not stop running on the freezing ice, while carrying Esther. Behind him, he heard wild yells of killers. The danger was very close and he ran without stopping till he entered the snowy forest.
He sat by a tree and covered Esther with his coat. It was Shabbat and he was all alone in a big forest without food and help. He raise his eyes to HaShem and thanked Him for saving them from the wicked Cozacks.
He davened Kabbalat Shabbat and his ill daughter sat on his lap the whole nite. She was burning with fever and very weak. The poor father couldn't even give her water to drink. Towards sunrise, her body stopped shaking and when the sun shone, he was shaken to see that she is no longer breathing.
After a while, the poor father got up and left his dead daughter on the snow. His only daughter passed away. His holy Torah books and writings burned. Everything that was so dear to him is gone. He wanted to die with his daughter but remembered that it was Shabbat.
Under deep depression, he said to himself 'Today is Shabbat, a day of rest and happiness. The Tzaddikim are enjoying HaShem's Light and I want to descecrate Shabbat? This is the work of the Satan and will not fall into his trap. Shabbat is holy and is no time for mourning'. He prayed Shacharit and said the Parsha out loud with its explainations.
He heard trumpets from afar, horses with dogs coming towards him and from the confusion, left Esther and ran to hide. He fell into a deep mud puddle and waited till his ears can no longer hear noises. After Shabbat, he came out of his hiding place, the mud puddle, and looked for little Esther's body to properly bury her, but couldn't it. He realized that his dead daughter disappeared and he fell to the ground, crying: "My beautiful dear Esther, where are you? Will I not merit to give you proper burial?".
What happened to orphan Esther? During the early hours of Shabbat morning, when Reb Shabbtai ran away, fearing the loud noises, thinking it was the Cozacks. It was the King of Poland with his entourage, hunting. When they saw Esther's body lying on the snow, the dogs barked nonstop. The King stepped down from his royal horse and saw a little girl with beauty never seen before. The Doctor checked her pulse and stated that the girl is alive and has fainted. The King ordered to take the girl to the palace and nurse her back to life.
The King had a daughter, also 6 years old named Maria. When her father told her that he brought her a playmate, Maria would visit the sick girl often and became very attached to her. When Esther healed, the King and Queen inquired from her to know who she is and how she got to the forest by herself. She told them everything except about her father.
The King realized she's Jewish and ordered to send her back to the Jewish community. When Maria heard this, she protested and the Queen decided they will keep the girl, but she must be first baptized so Maria can play with her. The King agreed and called the priest to prepare the girl to convert to xtianity.
Esther refused to eat or drink and the priest told her that no one can save her except her newly adopted parents. She covered her face and cried bitterly "I'll not convert and eat non-Kosher food. You can kill me as a Jewess". When Maria heard Esther crying, she ran into her room and told the priest to leave. She told Esther that she must promise to stay in the palace and if she does, she'll get whatever food she desires and will not have to convert. Maria picked Esther up from the floor, hugged and kissed her and wiped her tears. Esther promised her she'll stay with her in the palace under these conditions.
The palace hired a Jewish widow woman to cook for Esther daily. The story spread like wildfire in the city of Cracow about a 6 year old Jewish girl living in the Palace and her amazing belief in her God.
Esther and Maria became great friends and sisters. They would take long walks in the gardens and one day, Esther gave a loud yell and pushed Maria hard. From the screams, the maid came running and saw a snake wanting to harm Maria. She took a rock and threw it on the snake's head, killing it. Maria, realizing that Esther saved her life, swore to her that day, "I'll never forget you saved my life, Esther".
The King and Queen, hearing the commotion, quickly ran to the garden. The maid told them what happened and the Queen broke down in tears, hugging Esther in gratitude. The King also shed a few tears and kissed her forehead. From that day, Esther became everyone's favorite and was treated with much respect. Princess Maria's love towards Esther grew tremendously.
A few years passed and Esther forgot most of the little Judaism she had known. The old Jewish widow woman that prepared her meals gave her a gift, Siddur (prayer book) but Esther did not know how to read Hebrew, it was foreign to her.
The girls reached the age of 12 and Esther became saddened. She remembered her mother passing away and her father, sitting and learning Torah. She burst out in tears and Maria hearing her best friend crying, tried comforting her. But Esther couldn't explain and Maria couldn't understand.
The winter days turned into summer and one day, the maid took the girls for a ride in the royal carriage. All of a sudden, one of the wheels came off and the girls jumped out of the carriage. The maid fainted and the driver revived her. On foot, they all went to the closest house for help. They saw a hotel and as soon as they entered, a powerful storm hit. The owner of the hotel was a God-fearing Jew. He was very honored to have the 2 princesses in his hotel.
The sun was setting and the storm was at its peak and it was Erev Shabbat. Esther had a big urge to join the hotel owner's family for the Shabbat meal. With permission from Maria, she entered the family's dining room. When Esther entered, the hotel owner knew that she's the famous Jewish girl who was adopted by the King. He right away invited her to join them for the Shabbat meal.
When the owner blessed his children after the Shabbat Kiddush, Esther approached him and asked him to bless her, too. He placed his hands on her head and blessed her "HaShem will put you like Sara, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah". "Amen", Esther replied. The room was silent. That moment, Esther knew clearly that she will return to her God and nation, the Jewish people.
The following day, Shabbat, Maria returned to the palace and gave Esther permission to stay till after Shabbat. Esther took advantage of the precious time, and learned about Judaism. The owner explained to her about Providence and Esther felt like a big heavy stone was removed from her pained heart.
Sunday, the royal carriage came to take Esther back to the palace.
During the Summer months, the Royal family went to their summer home in Lita and the priest would stay with them. Esther was forced to join his classes but ever since spending Shabbat at the hotel, paid no attention to his teachings and it had no influence over her. The priest noticed the change in Esther and complained to the King. The King spoke with Esther gently, promising her fame and fortunes and a rich husband on the condition that she'll enter the wings of their religion. Esther quietly listened and kissed the King's hand, while hot tears flowed from her angelic face and burned the King's hand. He understood the tears to be from gratitude and kissed her forehead, as a father would.
That night, she was not able to fall asleep. She realized that she must returned to her God and nation, the Jewish people but didn't know how. While crying, she finally fell asleep .
In her sleep, she dreamt seeing her parents. Her weak mother laying on the bed, and her father sitting close by the bed, learning Torah. All of a sudden, her mother raised her head and said, "My dear husband, the future is very bitter and will be very difficult. The decree will cause much suffering to you and our daughter. I will stand in prayer in front of the Creator and ask for mercy and ask HaShem to send His angels to protect you".
"Ima, Ima", cried Esther, "save me, save your daughter, Esther from the grave danger". Just then, Maria and her maid entered Esther's room and told her to hurriedly get dressed, the palace is on fire. Esther realized this is her opportunity to run away without getting caught; they will all think she burned to death. She quickly opened the window and grabbed on to the tree and climbed down to the ground. She ran towards the field, feeling free. All around her, the darkness of night was lit with flames of fire and she was able to see where she was running. Her shoes tore and her legs tired but she didn't stop running.
The palace burned completely. Maria searched for Esther and soon, everyone was searching for poor Esther. It was clear to everyone that Esther did not survive the fire and got burned alive - she was the only victim of the wicked fire. The Queen was comforted that it was Esther that died and not her precious daughter, Maria. But Maria could not be comforted, her best friend and sister that saved her life is gone... Esther was lost in the woods.
Let's go back to Reb Shabtai and see what happened to him after leaving the forest, unable to find his precious daughter's body. He returned to his home but found only ashes. With a stick in hand, he headed towards Lita and various cities in Poland. Wherever he went, he was greeted with due respect and offered to be the Rav of the town. He dismissed all offers. He had one thing on his mind, to find his missing daughter. He felt his daughter is alive and had no rest. After many years of searching, he gave up. Finally, he accepted a Rabbinical position in Halshoy, Morvi'a. He remarried and had a son. But every day, he prayed to HaShem for the return of his lost daughter.
One Shabbat, he had a guest and the guest spoke about a Jewess living in the Palace and the royal princess becoming her best friend. He described the Jewess refusing to eat non-Kosher food and a Jewish widow was hired to cook for her Kosher meals. Reb Shabtai inquired the girl's name and the guest replied "Beautiful Esther". Reb Shabtai froze and prayed to HaShem that it's his precious daughter, Esther. Reb Shabtai asked the guest if he knows how the young Jewess got to the palace and the guest replied that the King found her in the forest. Reb Shabtai's eyes burned and a loud sigh came out of his throat.
Sunday morning, Reb Shabtai told his wife and son that he must go to Cracow. When he arrived, he was told that the royal family is in Lita for the Summer. He headed towards Lita, as a youngster he learned there Torah and this is where the Grand Holy Rema chose him as a Chatan for his daughter. Suddenly, he found himself in the forest, deep in thought. Evening was setting and he became frightened. He saw a flicker of candle light and walked towards it. The light was coming from inside the cave and he walked insid and saw armed drunk men, sitting around the table. He backtracked quickly to leave, but they saw him and ran after him. He explained that he lost his way but they refused to believe him. They thought he was a government agent looking for them and came to arrest them. They decided to kill him. One of the men picked up an axe to cut his head off and Reb Shabtai quickly said the Viduy. That moment, someone said "Wait for the leader to return. Vortislav will decide whether to kill this man". They tied up Reb Shabtai and placed him in the corner.
The leader arrived and asked his mates if they had a successful day robbing people. All of a sudden, the leader hears someone yelling his name "Vortislav, save me as I once save you". The voice sounded familiar to Vortislav, could it be his childhood friend, Shabtai? He entered the cave and right away sliced the ropes to free Reb Shabtai's hands and legs. He ordered a chair be brought for the Reb with hot tea, to revive gim. He took Reb Shabtai's hands and kissed it tenderly. He ordered everyone to leave to give him and the Jew privacy. He told Reb Shabtai everything that has happened to him since they last saw each other. Reb Shabtai reminded him their beautiful days together, learning Torah and Vortislav's heart of rock started melting and was bitterly crying.
When his comrades heard the weeping, one wicked member approached Vortislav and accused him of being an old woman, scared of a Jew. Vortislav commanded his gangsters to release Reb Shabtai and begged his childhood friend, Reb Shabtai, to pray for him.
Reb Shabtai went to the king's palace only to find out that the palace burned completely down the previous night, together with his beautiful Esther. Reb Shabtai felt as if snakes bit his whole body and gave a sharp loud yell. He cried to HaShem "Why do you make Your servant suffer so much?" and realized that it was wrong to say that. He fell to the ground and raised his eyes towards the Shamayim and called, "Tzaddik HaShem in all ways and Chassid in all acts, for He is the Righteous Judge".
A day later, agonized Reb Shabtai retuned home. When he was asked for the reason of his travels, he answered "I went to find a lost treasure, but found I lost it again, forever. HaShem gave, HaShem took, His Name be Blessed".
Let's go back and see what happened to Esther. In the darkness of night, a man aimed a gun at her and ordered her to stand still, . She fell to her knees, crying and begging not to be killed. She said she's an orphan and lost her way in the forest and she ran away from the uncle's home, where she was tortured and her life was unbearable. Vortislav took Esther's shaken hand and told her that he'll return her, after they pay the ransom. He took her inside the cave, an hour after the release of Reb Shabtai.
Vortislav asked the girl who she is and she told him that her name is Esther and she's a Jewess. Vortislav didn't believe that she is a Jew since she looked like a daughter of Goyim. She explained that she is being forced to convert but she refused. Vortislav asked her for the names of her relatives and their whereabouts but she refused to say. Vortislav threatened her that he has plenty of tools to make her begin talking. She told him that she's ready to die but will not name her relatives. One of the gangsters offered Vortislav to marry Esther, since she is such a pretty girl. Vortislav asked her if she's willing to marry him and offered her to be the Queen of the Forest and everything he owns, will be hers. Esther fell to her knees and said to Vortislav, "I'd rather you kill me that force me to marry you".
Vortislav was confused from her answer. Esther told him, "The God of the Jews will avenge you if you force me to do anything against my will. The God of the Jews will have mercy on you if you have mercy on me".
Vortislav looked at her in wonder. How does a young girl know to speak like this, who taught her such wisdom? He said to her, "About an hour ago, I released my childhood friend and in his merit, I'll release you. I will send you to Vilna when the Jews pay your ransom and then, you will be free". To his comrades he gave a stern warning not to touch the girl.
He placed Esther in a locked room and told her to wait till she's ransomed. Esther wanted to thank him but Vortislav quickly locked the door, thinking to himself that his childhood friend, Shabtai, would be proud of him for not touching the Jewess.
Approximately 30,000 Jews lived in Vilna. They were rich and successful in business. The Rabbanim gathered all the Jews in the main shul to collect the ransom for the Jewess. Upon hearing the opportunity to save a young Jewish girl, young Reb Menachem offered the 3,000 gold coins for the redemption of the Jewess. He ran home and told his wife, Gita, his decision and she blessed him. That same day, the money exchanged hands and the girl Esther was released. Before releasing her, Vortislav warned Reb Menachem to treat Esther with respect.
Reb Menachem took the young girl home and Gita offered her a warm bed and food in exchange for helping around the house. Esther accepted the offer with much gratitude. Gita told Esther that she will not be a servant, she will be a friend, a daughter of the King of all Kings. Esther stayed in their home and eventually, told them her story as far back as she can remember. She never mentioned her life in the palace because she was afraid they will force her to return.
Esther loved being at Reb Menachem and Gita's home. They were God fearing people and with them, she found inner peace she had been longing for so long. Unfortunately, the happiness did not last long. Gita became ill and very weak. Esther was 14 years old when Gita told her that she's dying. She asked Esther to marry Reb Menachem. Esther begged Gita to stop talking like this but when Fall arrived, Gita passed away, a'h.
Esther went to live by Reb Menachem's sister and 2 years later, Reb Menachem married her. They were very happy together and Gita's good wishes and blessings for them to marry were sincere.
A son was born to them and then a daughter. They named the daughter Gita. Life for Esther was finally peaceful.
Prince and Head Officer of Vilna, together with his young wife, Princess Maria, returned to Vilna from their honeymoon. Upon his return, he decreed that the Jews of Vilna immediately pay a tax of 100,000 gold coins. The Jews of Vilna did not have this amount but the prince refused to listen. He said if they don't bring the total amount by the deadline, all Jews will be kicked out.
Vilna Jews gathered in the shuls, fasting and praying. They sent a group of women to speak with Princess Maria to cancel this decree but Maria sent them away. She told them that she cannot change her husband's mind since her husband commanded her not to interfere in his business.
Esther approached her husband and asked him if he knows the name of the princess. Reb Menachem told her that her name is Maria, Princess of Poland. When Esther heard the name, she asked him permission to speak to the Princess. Her husband, not knowing her royal past, demanded an explaination. Esther told him the years she spent in the palace without skipping any details. Reb Menachem stared at his wife in amazement and gave her permission to speak to Maria. He blessed her that HaShem will help with this mission.
Esther dressed in her best clothing, including jewelry and rented a coach to drive her to the princess' palace. While waiting in the guest room, Maria paid no attention and was busy writing her parents a letter. While she was writing, she remembered Esther and missed her so much. When the maid opened the door to announce the Jewish lady, Maria remembered her husband's warning, not to interfere in his business. She told the maid that she cannot see the guest. The maid bowed and closed the door but returned after a few minutes. "The Jewish lady says she is with a very important message to tell you".
Maria was curious and told the maid to bring the Jewish lady. When Esther walked in, Maria didn't recognized her. Tears were flowing from Esther's eyes. "Are you crying?", asked Maria, "I'm sorry I cannot save the Jews".
Esther replied "I came with an important message. Your highness, once you had a childhood friend, a poor Jewish girl that burned to death in the royal palace. Your highness, a mistake has occured. The girl did not perish in the fire. She's alive".
"What are you saying? Esther is alive?", asked Maria.
"Do you remember the tree by Esther's window?", asked Esther, "With the tree's help, she climbed down and ran away".
"What are you saying?", inquired Maria, "I mourn daily for my best friend. Itis not possible that Esther ran away. She knew gratitude and was grateful. If she was alive, she would not hide from me".
"She always loved you but could not accept the religion of your parents. She could not throw away her religion, her God and nation. That is the reason she ran away". Esther fell to her knees, kissing Maria's hands. "Will you forgive Esther, your royal highness?".
"I am Esther whom you mourned for so long".
Maria froze in place as if struck by lightening. She was shocked and fell to her knees, hugging Esther, weeping together with her. "Esther, my long lost sister. Is this a dream or reality? I am so happy. Bless the God who returns lost treasures. My friend and sister, I am so happy to have found you again".
The prince, hearing all the commotion in the guest room and his wife's weeping, entered the room, demanding an explaination. "What is it, my dove? Tell me why you are crying and who is this Jewess?".
Princess Maria wiped her tears and got up. After a moment, recollect herself and said, "My good husband, the tears are pure happiness. I am happy, so happy today that I've found my lost treasure that was lost to me for many years. This is my childhood friend whom I never thought I'll ever see again. God has sent her back to me. This is my Esther that saved my life from the venom of the snake". The prince stood dumbfounded. How did Esther escape the fire?
After everyone calmed down, they sat around the table and Esther told them all that happened to her since that night. The prince was very moved to know that Esther stayed faithful to her God and nation.
Suddenly the prince got up and demanded to know if Esther has come to require payment for saving Maria's life. No one ever paid Esther for saving Maria's life and payment is due. The prince turned to Esther and said, "Esther, my dear wife's sister, I am cancelling the 100,000 gold coin I placed on the Jews. It is yours to keep and do with it as you please".
Esther's eyes filled with emotional tears. Maria hugged her dear husband in gratitude for giving her so much happiness.
Pedestrians of the Jewish community were shocked to see the royal carriage on their streets, stopping at Reb Menachem's home. The royal couple, together with Esther, entered Esther's house and Reb Menachem told his servant to quickly fetch all the Rabbanim. The whole Vilna Jewish community surrounded Reb Menachem's house that day.
Inside their home, Esther introduced the royal couple to her husband and 2 children. The princess kissed them affectionately and gave them gifts. Meanwhile, the Rabbanim arrived and respectfully waited till the royal couple sat down. When they sat, the Rabbanim also sat around the table.
The prince asked the Rabbanim if the amount he decreed has been collected. The Rabbanim replied that they don't have this amount and therefore, will need to go to neighboring towns to collect it. The prince said, "You have 4 weeks to collect the entire sum and thereafter, hand the money to the wife of Reb Menachem as a gift for saving my wife's life".
Reb Menachem got up and thanked the Prince for his generous gift. The prince told the Rabbanim to tell the community the good news. The Rabbanim got up and bowed down to the Prince, thanking him with much gratitude.
The news spread like wildfire in whole of Vilna. The Jews gathered again in the main shul to give thanks to HaShem that He sent Esther the Tzaddika and thru her, the cancellation of the decree.
From that day on, the Jews of Vilna respected Reb Menachem and named him "Groom of the Prince". The relationship and friendship Esther and Maria shared during their childhood grew again and over the years, it helped the Jews many times. The Prince hired Reb Menachem to be his personal accountant. Very often Princess Maria would visit Esther and bring gifts for her children. This brought much honor to the Jews of Vilna. Neighboring cities heard the amazing story of Esther the Tzaddika, who never left her God and nation.
Meanwhile, Reb Shabtai reached the age of 40 and was known as Posek of the generation. He wrote many books and was ready to print Choshen HaMishpat but was lacking funds. He could not find anyone to donate the needed amount and decided to go to Vilna and merit the Jews of Vilna to cover the costs of print.
When the Jews of Vilna heard that Reb Shabtai HaCohen, the Shach, was arriving, they set out to greet the great Tzaddik. Reb Shabtai was asked to give a Drasha (class) in the main shul and he agreed. The shul was full, even a needle could not fit in, everyone wanted to hear the holy Shach and his holy words, including the children.
Esther also went to hear the Holy Shach. When the Holy Shach began speaking, the voice sounded very familiar to Esther and his voice reminded her of her sweet parents, and how her father would sit next to her mother, learning Torah. She listened to the holy words and remembered hearing it before, when she was 6 years old.
'If it was normal', she thought to herself, 'I'd say it's my father saying Divrei Torah, while I sat on his lap'. 'Maybe it is Aba. No, it cannot be. Do I deserve such happiness to find my father?'. 'Nonsense!, it cannot be my father. Who even knows if my father survived and is alive?'.
When the Drasha ended, Reb Menachem took Reb Shabtai to his home and the whole community followed them. Each wanted a glimpse of his holy face.
Rabbanim also entered Reb Menachem's house. Esther quickly set cakes and drinks on the table for all to feast, including wine to do Le'Chaim for the long life of the holy Shach. The chief Rabbi of Vilna also did Le'Chaim to the holy Shach and to "Reb Menache, the Groom of the Prince".
When Reb Shabtai heard this, he asked, "Isn't the wife of Reb Menachem the adopted daughter of the King who always kept Kosher, just as Prophet Daniel (zs'l) did in the King's palace?".
"Yes, this is our Esther, the Tzaddika", replied the chief Rabbi, "She's the soul mate of Princess Maria and has saved this community many times from harsh decrees. The royal couple come very often to Reb Menachem's home to visit Esther. Esther the Tzaddika never abandoned her Jewish faith. She followed the path of HKB'H and returned to her nation. She remained loyal and clean!".
Reb Shabtai's lips quivered, his face became ghostly white, his voice, hardly a whisper, "But Esther burned to death in the King's palace".
"No, Rabbeinu", everyone replied, "She is alive and is the loyal wife of Reb Menachem".
That moment, Esther appeared carrying trays of cakes, plates, and drinks. She placed the trays on the table and not hearing the conversation, turned to the kitchen, to bring more trays of food.
Reb Shabtai's holy eyes were glued on her, wondering if she is his Esther, his lost daughter. Before Esther reached the kitchen, Reb Shabtai asked her to tell him how she got to live in the palace of the King? Esther felt uncomfortable and quietly answered, "I was 6 years old when the King found me very ill and near death in the woods. My father ran from the wicked Cozacks and carried me to the woods".
Hot burning tears came down from Reb Shabtai's holy eyes. He raised both arms towards Shamayim and in a choked voice, full of tears, cried, "My daughter, my sweet Esther. Is that you, my lost daughter? You look just like mother".
Esther was in shock and her blood froze. She stared at the Holy Reb and he got up to hug her. She didn't know if this was a dream or reality. It felt like a dream because everything was so sudden. When she felt her father's hug, she held on to him and yelled, "ABA!". They stood hugging each other for an hour, not able to let go of one another.
The guests were dumbfounded. No one made a sound. No one dared break the silence of this great miracle. There was not one dry eye. They were silently watching the miracle and witnessing the reunion of the Holy Shach and his lost royal daughter, Esther.
Reb Menachem approached the Holy Reb Shabtai and said, "Now I'm really the Groom of the Prince. The royal prince is my father in law, Reb Shabtai HaCohen".
The father and daughter had so much to say to another. Reb Shabtai remembered standing next to the burned palace and Esther's mother warning them of the heartache they are facing. Miriam promised to pray to HKB'H to send Malachim (angels) to protect them. Miriam HaCohen, the great granddaughter of the Rema kept her promise.
Soon, the whole town heard of the miraculous reunion of the the Holy Shach and Esther, the royal daughter. The news also reached the royal couple. That Sunday, they were all invited to the royal palace to bless Esther for finally finding her father and wanted to meet him. The royal couple realized that the God of the Jews protected Esther, He is the Father of all orphans.
The prince realized that the Jews are the chosen nation of God and became a great friend to the Jews. He instilled his love for the Jews to his sons and grandsons.
Reb Menachem donated the needed funds to print the holy Sefer of the Shach. The Shach stayed a few weeks at Reb Menachem and his daughter's home.
It was during that time that the Prince told Reb Shabtai that Vortislav, the leader of the thieves, was finally caught and his sentence was to be tied to a wheel and wheeled on the streets, till he dies.
Reb Shabtai, Reb Menachem and Esther were shaken to hear Vortislav's death decree. They begged the Prince to be lenient with Vortislav and the prince promised to pardon Vortislav.
When Reb Shabtai received the Prince's promise, he ran to the prison to tell Vortislav the good news. Vortislav didn't want to see anyone. When Vortislav heard that the visitor is Reb Shabtai, his childhood friend, he agreed to speak with him. The moment they started speaking, Vortislav's heart of stone started melting and he confessed all his sins. He begged Reb Shabtai to help him and open the gates of Teshuva for him. He pleaded to Reb Shabtai, promising that he'll do Teshuva till his last day on earth.
That minute, the guards entered Vortislav's prison cell and told him he's free to go. The Prince granted him a full pardon. Vortislav fell on his knees and kissed Reb Shabtai's legs, promising him that his effort to release him will not sway from doing Teshuva.
Upon his release from prison, Vortislav asked to join the Prince's army and was granted his wish. He fought hard for his country and was promoted to high military positions. During the war, he died and his death atoned all his sins.
Esther and Reb Menachem tried convincing Reb Shabtai to bring his family to live in Vilna but Reb Shabtai refused. When he was offered the Rabbinical position in Lita, he was at his lowest. It was the community who helped him. How can he leave them?
He returned to his beloved community and family. A year later, he passed away, zs'l. During his short 42 years of living, he did more than people who live twice as long. After his passing, his widow and children moved to Vilna to be next to Reb Menachem and Esther.
The Shach's son, Reb Meir HaCohen, zs'l, grew up to be Gdol Hador and wrote books, explaining his father's books.
Esther and her husband, Reb Menachem, lived a long life and saw their children and grandchildren growing up to be Bnei Torah. Esther and Maria stayed best friends and loyal till death.
born 1642 or 1649
Esther (HaTzaddika) Hayot's Timeline
Brody, Brodivs'kyi district, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine