by Devorah Davydov, age 12, New England Hebrew Academy
The Markstein family was hiding from the Germans for the past four years. Rachel Markstien, a thirteen year old girl, hardly remembered life before the war. The one thing she could recall was the Shabbat candles her mother lit every friday night. Occasionally, they aquired a match and candle. Then her mother would lightit in honer of Shabbat. That is how they lived in the war years. However, little did the Markstein family know, that a German soldier found out that three Jews were hiding in a cellar.
“Rachel, stand beside me as I light the Shabbat candle.” Mrs Markstien instructed her daughter. As Rachel’s mother prayed with her hands covering her eyes, Rachel realized that something was wrong. She her father wasn’t home yet, and he promised to be back a half hour ago. He stressed the fact so much that, he needed to be home to watch his wife light the shabbat candles. Rachel and her mother stared at the candle, mesmerized by its dancing flames.
“Knock, knock, knock” Mother and daughter started. “It must be Father” Rachel said. Mrs. Markstien opened the pass way to let her husband come inside. Rachel looked, and looked again. Her father was pale and half of his beard was unevenly cut off. “What happened Papa??” Rachel cried. Mr. Markstien looked at his wife, and in a weak voice began to explain. “As you both know, I was outside looking for food for Shabbat. After I had collected enough, I was heading home, and then, a German soldier came out of no where and ripped off half of my beard. Thank G-d he didn’t kill me! I don’t know if he knows where we are, but on Shabbat I refuse to escape from here. Now let us begin our Shabbat prayers.
Rachel looked at the dancing candle flame, and began to remember the Friday night before the war began. Her mother lit Shabbat candles. The table was beautifully set with a crisp white tablecloth. Two golden braided challahs were laid on the middle of the table. Two silver candlesticks stood at the side of the table. On top of them stood tall white candles, the flames danced the same way the flame did now.
“Crash. Boom. Crash.” Rachel felt the ceiling crumbling over her She gasped in surprise and shock, and saw one German soldier standing over her father. “My fellow brother, I was the one who tore your beard. Awaken up your wife and daughter now!!” The German soldier said in a soft voice. Rachel sat up, as did her mother. “Pack up your belongings, and let’s hurry, fast!” the German soldier said.
“Please explain yourself!” Mr. Markstein said. “I have no time, we have to run.” The German said. “We must leave now!” he insisted.
Mrs. Markstein quickly wrapped up their belongings into a sheet, and tied the ends into a knot. Rachel took their food, and off they went, deep into the forest.
After three hours of walking the German began to explain, “I am a Jew myself, but I don’t remember anything about my parents. When I got a command that I to kill all of you I listened. I ripped your beard only because my commander was watching. The sight of a Jew, and later tonight, a small candle burning, stirred up memories from deep inside me. I remembered that when I was a boy of three years old I was watching the dancing flame of two candles. Then someone carried me away.”
Mrs. Markstien turned to her husband and whispered, “Could this be…”
“Is this Levi our son?”
“It seems like a good possibility. I have seen a scar on his left knuckles, exactly the way our Levi did…”
“Levi?” The soldier sharply turned his head, his eyes round.
“Yes?” he whispered
“It is you, our son!” Mr. Markstien cried.
Mrs. Markstien hugged him, and cried. “Thank you, Hashem, For reuniting us.”
Rachel stood on the side, and said, ” I never knew I had a brother…”
Levi lead his family to a deserted barn. Inside they found food and water. Levi instructed them to ration the food because they didn’t know how long they will have to stay there.
Months past, and finally the war ended.
Levi rejoined his family, and at last, they came out of their hideout. Everybody stood there, just drinking in the fresh air and blinking away the sun light, reveling in freedom.
After a whispered conference with his father, Levi announced to his family “None of us want us to stay in this cursed Poland anymore. I have obtaine all necessary papers, and next month, G-d willing, we shall leave to Palestine.”
Mrs. Markstien embraced Levi, “Levi, Thank you so much for saving our lives! You are so unbelievable!” Rachel added “This is truly amazing how Hashem’s hand lead us together through one little candle.”
On a snowy Friday night, around a large wooden table sit twelve people. Rachel’s whole family is celebrating 30 years since the end of the war. In a clear voice she explains to the six children gathered, why this is such a special day. You hear her say in an awed whisper to her parents, husband, Levi, his wife, and all the kids, “Only through our family keeping the tradition, and lighting Shabbat candles, at all costs, we got our salvation. Through them, Uncle Levi found our family, and was G-d’s messenger to save us. Thank you, Hashem for sending this one candle as a guiding light for us in this dark exile.”