Long ago, there lived a rabbi and his wife who had no children. They prayed every day for a child of their own, but their prayers were never answered.
Now it is said that the sky opens at midnight on the night of Shavuos, and any prayers or wishes made at that time come true. So one Shavuos the rabbi and his wife decided to stay awake, so that their prayers would be certain to reach G-d’s ears.
To their amazement, at midnight the sky parted like the waters of the Red Sea, and for one instant the world was filled with the glory of heaven. And in that instant both the rabbi and his wife wished for a child. That night the rabbi’s wife dreamed of a wonder child, a girl who would be born to them clutching a precious jewel. In the dream the rabbi’s wife was told that the child must keep the jewel with her at all times, for her soul was inside it. And if she ever lost that jewel, she would fall into a deep sleep from which she would not awaken until the jewel was returned.
The next morning, the rabbi’s wife told her husband the dream, and he was much amazed. And, indeed, things occurred exactly as foretold, and nine months later a beautiful baby girl was born to them. In her right hand she clutched a precious jewel, which seemed to glow with a light of its own. The rabbi and his wife named their daughter Kochava, which means “star,” and the rabbi set the jewel in a necklace for her to wear around her neck.
One day, when Kochava was only three years old, she picked up her mother’s flute. She had never played a flute before, but the moment she put it to her lips, beautiful melodies poured forth. Not only could she play any musical instrument, but at a very early age, she taught herself to paint lovely pictures, to write the letters of the alphabet, and to read books. Her favorites were the books on her father’s shelves that told stories of the ancient days when Abraham and Moses walked in the world.
As the years passed, Kochava grew into a beautiful girl. Her lustrous black hair shone in the sunlight. Her dark eyes sparkled like the dazzling jewel she wore around her neck. Her skin was as smooth as the outside of a peach, and her smile brought happiness to everyone who met her.
Now the rabbi and his wife realized that their daughter was truly a wonder child, as the dream had promised, and they gave thanks to G-d. But in their hearts was the fear that someday she might be separated from her necklace and lose her soul. That is why the rabbi and his wife watched carefully over Kochava and rarely let her leave home.
One day the rabbi and his wife learned that the queen was going to visit the bathhouse that very day and that she had invited all the women of the village to come there. Kochava asked her mother if she, too, could go, for she had never seen the queen. At first her mother was afraid, but at last she agreed to let her go.
When the two arrived at the bathhouse, the women looked at Kochava in amazement. “Where did she come from? Why, she is more beautiful than the queen!” they exclaimed.
When the queen heard this, she grew angry. “Who is this girl?” she asked her servants. They replied that Kochava was a Jewish girl of great beauty and that it was said that she could play any musical instrument set before her.
The queen demanded to see Kochava for herself. And when she realized that the girl’s beauty did indeed outshine her own, she was filled with jealousy, and with the sudden fear that her son, the prince, might see Kochava and fall in love with her. And that would be a terrible thing, for she wanted the prince to marry a princess, not a poor Jewish girl.
The queen had one of her servants bring forth a flute and commanded the girl to play it. At once Kochava played a melody so beautiful it brought tears to everyone’s eyes. Everyone’s, that is, except the queen’s. Then the queen commanded that the girl play a violin, and after that a harp. And from every instrument that Kochava touched, beautiful melodies poured forth. When the queen saw that Kochava truly had a great talent, she ordered: “This girl must return with me at once to my palace to serve as one of my royal musicians.”
The rabbi’s wife was heartsick at the thought of Kochava’s going off to live in the palace, yet she knew they must obey the queen. But before Kochava left, her mother took her aside and whispered that she should never, ever take off her necklace, nor should she tell anyone that it held her soul. Then the mother and daughter kissed good-bye, and Kochava rode off in the royal carriage with the queen.
Now the queen had no intention of letting Kochava be a musician, for in :hat way her son, the prince; might see her. Alas, as soon as they reached the palace, she shut Kochava in the dungeon and ordered that she be left to starve.
So it was that the confused girl found herself imprisoned and frightened for her very life. She would have died of hunger had not the prison guard, overwhelmed by her beauty and gentleness, brought her food in secret. In her dark cell, Kochava wept for her mother and father, and prayed to be saved from the evil queen.
One day the queen went down to the dungeon to see for herself if Kochava was still alive. As she walked into the dark cell, she was surprised to see a glowing light. When she looked closer, she realized that the light was coming from the jewel Kochava wore around her neck, and that the girl was, indeed, still alive.
“Give me that necklace!” the queen demanded. “I want it for myself.” Kochava was terrified, for she remembered her mother’s warning. But the queen, not waiting for Kochava to obey, pulled it off herself. And the moment she did, Kochava sank into a deep sleep.
The queen was delighted. “Ah, I’m rid of her for good,” she cried. Then she ordered the prison guard to bury Kochava far away from the palace where no one could ever find her. But when the guard reached the wood far from the palace, he saw that Kochava was still breathing, and he realized that she was only asleep. So he brought her to a but he knew of in that forest, and left her there. Day after day, Kochava slept a long, dreamless sleep, and no one except the guard knew she was there.
One afternoon, when the prince was out riding in the woods, he saw that very but and decided to stop there and rest. When the prince entered, he was astonished to find a sleeping girl, and he lost his heart to her the moment he saw her. The prince wanted to tell her of his love, but when he realized that she would not wake up, he was very sad. So the prince put a guard outside the but to protect the sleeping beauty. Every day he came to visit her, and every day he shed tears because she could not be awakened.
As the days passed, the queen noticed the sadness of her son, and one day she asked him what was wrong. He told his mother that he was in love with a beautiful young girl.
“Is she a princess?” asked the queen.
“Surely,” said the prince, “she is a princess.”
“In that case,” said the queen, “would you like to give her a gift to show your love?”
“Oh, yes,” said the prince, “I would like that very much.”
“Then I know just the gift for a beautiful princess,” replied the queen. “It is something very special.” And she brought forth the jewel that she had taken from Kochava. The prince took the necklace to the sleeping girl at once, and the moment he put it around her neck, she woke up.
“Who are you?” asked Kochava as she looked around the small hut. “And where am I?”
The prince told Kochava how he had found her and how she had awakened at the very instant he had placed the necklace around her neck.
Kochava looked at the jewel and remembered how the queen had snatched it from her. “Where did you get this?” she asked.
That is how Kochava learned that the one who had saved her was none other than the queen’s son. And when the prince learned of his mother’s evil deed, he realized that Kochava’s life was in danger. He decided to leave the girl in the hut while he hurried back to the palace.
When he arrived, he went straight to the queen. “Mother, I have great news,” he said. “I’d like to get married.”
“I can see how much you love this princess,” said the queen. “I will give orders for the wedding preparations to begin at once!”
Every servant worked night and day. The cooks prepared a magnificent feast, the gardeners cut huge bouquets of roses, and the maids polished the silver goblets until they shone. By the seventh day everything was ready. All the people of the kingdom were invited to the wedding. They gathered at the palace and whispered to one another, “Who is the bride ?” For not even the queen had seen her. But when the bride arrived, she was wearing seven veils, and no one could tell who she was.
Among the guests at the wedding were the rabbi and his wife, who had come hoping they might see their daughter, Kochava, from whom they had not heard since the day the queen had taken her to the palace.
At last the wedding vows were spoken, and the guests waited breathlessly as the prince lifted the veils, one by one. And as he lifted the seventh veil, everyone gasped at Kochava’s great beauty. Everyone, that is, except the rabbi and his wife, who could not believe their eyes, and the queen, who thought she was seeing a ghost. Screaming with terror, she ran from the palace as fast as she could and never was seen again.
So it was that the prince and his new bride became the rulers of the kingdom, and Kochava was reunited with her father and mother. At the palace Kochava continued to play music and make people happy with her songs. And the love that Kochava and the prince had for each other grew deeper over the years, and they lived happily ever after.
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)
There was peace between Sultan Muhammad, king of the Turks, and his father-in-law Demetrius, king of the Morea. Sultan Muhammad sent many gifts of precious stones and pearls aplenty as befits a king to Demetrius his father-in-law because of his love for his daughter. Then Demetrius sent back to his son-in-law a certain fine golden chest that was closed and doubly sealed with his seals. And he ordered his messenger that nobody was to open the chest except the king himself. And he sent him a certain letter, saying, “Thank you, indeed. Your kindness and goodness have reached me and restore my soul; and now let my lord receive this blessing from your servant. So says Demetrius, who seeks your peace and well-being.”
The sultan was astonished at this closed and sealed golden chest and said to himself, “Maybe it contains precious stones and jewels which are few in number but of high quality and value.” So he opened the chest and in it he found one little taffeta.
The sultan was infuriated at this gift and said to his people, “Do you see how this unbelieving wretch repays me, mocking me and sending me this single herb!” And he showed the taffeta to all his ministers and attendants. They were astonished but feared to say anything; and the king instructed his people, “Prepare food and swords, for in seven days’ time we shall go to war against him, since he considers that I am worthless.”
Now the following day the holy Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi was seated and learning, as was his custom. And the sultan sent for him and told him what had happened and showed him the herb. The sage inspected it with his wondrous wisdom and saw that this matter was of Hashem. And he said unto the sultan, “My lord sultan, listen to me, for you are a wise man and a mighty ruler. He has not sent you this without reason. What have your ministers and attendants said of it?”
“They did not say anything,” said the king.
Then the rabbi explained, “This small amount here is worth more than all the silver and gold and precious stones and pearls in the world. For my lord the sultan has sent him money, but he has sent my lord something that can deliver you from evil. For when my lord goes to hunt or in some place where there are wild and savage beasts, take the taffeta with you. As soon as any evil beast smells it, they will fall apart limb from limb. And the way to test it is to take it to a place where there are evil beasts.”
So a man whom the king held to be his enemy went and slept with it beneath him in a dangerous place. When he and the others who were with him woke up in the morning, they found that the wild beasts were scattered limb from limb.
And when the sultan saw the wisdom of the rabbi, he gave praises to the Holy One, blessed be He. And it was a sign and a wonder.
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)