THE PROMISED CHILD
Thirty-five years ago, Avner Gold's The Promised Child burst onto the Jewish literary scene and became an instant classic, a beloved favorite of young readers and adults alike. It was translated into Hebrew, Spanish, French and Russian, and it established itself as a standard on the preferred reading lists of parents and educators. The book has been out of print for many years, and now, Avner Gold has rewritten it for this new edition. It is twice as long as the original, and more than twice as good.
The new story begins in 1592 when Rav Shloime Strasbourg is taking his son Mendel for his bar-mitzvah to the Maharal of Prague. While traveling through a snowy forest, they find a wounded cavalry captain half-frozen to death. The dramatic rescue sets into motion a chain of events that leads to vengeance, arson, betrayal, abduction and heartbreak. Mendel grows up to be a prominent rabbi in the Polish city of Pulichev, but he and his wife live in the gloomy shadow of the tragedy that has befallen them.
The book reaches its breathtaking climax when the rabbi of Krakow is challenged to debate the Bishop of Lubianewicz in a highly-publicized spectacle. Should he lose, the Jewish community will be expelled. Rav Mendel Strasbourg is invited to defend the Jewish position. The prospects of success seem bleak. But a combination of many threads from the painful past results in a stunning turnaround and the ultimate deliverance of the Jewish community from its enemies.
The Promised Child is rich in Torah values and historical background, offering glimpses of the Maharal, the Maharsha, the Tosefos Yom Tov and the conditions of Jewish life in Poland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is a book that enriches even as it entertains.
The story related in the expanded edition of Twilight is a direct continuation of The Year of the Sword, the third novel of the Strasbourg Saga. The story of The Year of the Sword came to a close in 1649 during the Cossack wars in Poland and Ukraine, and the original edition of Twilight picked up the story in 1658. The expanded edition follows the exploits of the popular characters of the Saga from the end of 1649 through 1658.
During these years, the massacre of countless Jewish people finally came to an end, but the painful memories were still fresh in the minds of the survivors. The Jewish people still suffered from the violent convulsions shaping Poland and all of Europe in the middle of the seventeenth century, convulsions that had not yet run their full course. As the story begins, a report of twins abducted by the Cossacks during the massacre at Tulczyn spurs Elisha Ringel to action. He manages to secure a meeting with Bogdan Chmielnicki, the hetman of the Cossacks, in his headquarters in Zaporozhiye, and the exciting story unfolds from there, coming to a climax in Warsaw nine years later. In the course of the story, we also meet Rav Shabsi Kohein, the Shach, and follow the turbulent events of his life through the eyes of Rav Shloime Strasbourg, rabbi of Pulichev.
Twilight is that fragile moment that is not quite night and not quite day. The period described in this book was a twilight time. The wounds of war were not yet healed, but there was hope once again. A darkness of different kind, however, loomed in the future. The next installment in the Saga, The Impostor, describes what happened when Shabbesai Tzvi triggered one of the most disastrous episodes of our history.
THE YEAR OF THE SWORD
The revised and expanded edition of Avner Gold's The Year of the Sword opens in 1648 with the happy occasion of Rav Shloime Strasbourg's marriage to Brachah Surkis, to the delight of his parents who never thought they would live to see this day. Several months later, Rav Shloime travels with Aharon, his ten-year-old stepson, and his friend Elisha Ringel to a family wedding in Nemirov, Ukraine.
In middle of the festivities, the count informs the Jewish community that the Cossacks have revolted and are fast approaching, and he offers them sanctuary in the castle. The people run to the supposed safety of the castle, the bride still in her wedding dress, but the Cossacks gain entry through trickery. The trapped people heroically choose martyrdom, and the scenes that ensue are horrendous.
Rav Shloime, Aharon and Elisha escape Nemirov through Elisha;s resourcefulness, but danger pursues them. Rav Shloime and Aharon become separated from Elisha during the attack on Polnoye, and only Rav Shloime's quick thinking saves them from certain death.
The Year of the Sword depicts the early stages of the tragedy that befell the Jewish people during the years 1648-1649, known to Jewish history as "Tach v'Tat", when a large portion of European Jewry perished at the hands of the Cossacks and their Tatar allies. It vividly portrays Bogdan Chmielnicki, the Cossack hetman, and Tugay Bey, the Tatar general. We behold the faith and courage of Rav Yechiel Michel Katz of Nemirov and Rav Shimshon Ostropolier of Polnoye as they inspire their followers to sanctify the Name. And we witness Rav Yom Tov Lipmann Heller, the Tosefos Yom Tov, the illustrious rabbi of Krakow, struggle with the plight of the women whose husbands disappeared in the war.
The Year of the Sword is historical fiction at its finest.