by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
I am sharing another story discussed at a simchas beis hashoieva farbrengen.
Don Manuel was a close confidant to the king; however, he was never safe, as he lived in Spain during the infamous decades of the bloodthirsty inquisition. So while he conducted his life as if he was a pious member of the Church, deep down they scorned and hated him. Of course he was the first to be asked to contribute to all their worthy causes and he gave generously, but there always lurked the suspicion that he is doing it as an act to cover up his deepest secret that he is still a Jew at heart, and for that he was despised.
But he had the most powerful friend possible, the king himself. So by him the dreaded inquisition, had to be extremely careful that if they pounce on him, it is with irrefutable evidence. Their agents worked in his house and were around him and his family constantly, but there was nothing they could remotely point to as an adherence to Jewish tradition. But they bid their time, hoping that they will find something.
Sure enough one day, they found the evidence needed. His family had gone on an extended vacation, to an undisclosed location and coincidently some of those days were Jewish holidays. Obviously they went to practice their religion in secret. The fact that Don Manuel didn’t join them, was proof that he was just trying to cover for them, and he was duly arrested.
Don Manuel’s arrest was big news; it sent the message that even the mightiest cannot escape the reach of the Inquisition and their tribunal.
The king was saddened; he relied on his wise counsel, and treasured their friendship. But even his hands were tied, there was nothing he can do; the law was clear.
But then on the day he was to be burned in the auto de fe’ the king realized, if he can get him to admit his sin and publicly convert, then he has the authority to save him. So when the prisoner was brought to the public square in chains, the king left his place and walked over to his trusted advisor and asked him to kiss and bow down to the cross and he will save him and restore him to his position.
Don Manuel replied, “Your Majesty, the chains”
Thinking that he was saying he can’t walk because his feet were tied in chains, the king ordered that the chains be removed.
The tribunal wasn’t pleased with this, but they realized that they have to obey the king, and anyways the accused is surrounded by soldiers, so there is no chance he can escape, and they removed the shackles from his feet.
Then the king repeated his request and said Don Manuel, I had the iron chains removed from your feet, acknowledge the truth of our religion.
But once again Don Manuel replied, “Your majesty, the chains”.
Thinking that he was referring to the chains that secured his hands behind his back, the king once again gave the command to release him from those chains as well.
Once he was completely unshackled, the king said, I untied you as you requested, now show that the accusation against you are false, and you will be free and returned to your glorious position.
Don Manuel raised his hand and replied, Your majesty, there is a golden chain linking me to our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Are you expecting me to break loose from that? I am linked to my Creator, even in death.”
I chose this story, as this week we read and learn about akeidas Yitzchok. The Rebbe instructed his secretary, Rabbi Hodakov to instruct mosdos chinuch, that even though the children in the younger grades do not say the entire davening; nevertheless, they should be encouraged to say parshas akeidah every day. The explanation given was “every Jewish child has to know, that a Jew is willing to sacrifice their life in order to sanctify Hashem’s name. [And nowadays that Boruch Hashem we don’t face those challenges, we just have to sometimes sacrifice our comfort or enjoyment, we definitely have the strength to overcome those challenges.]”
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.