Love of the Land

For the week ending 20 November 2004 / 7 Kislev 5765

Wine and Blood

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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"Rush to the synagogue where blood-red flames are burning in the Holy Ark. Hurry before the fire spreads to the rest of the city!"

This was what the shamash of the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Old Jerusalem heard in the middle of the night from a mysterious stranger standing next to his bed.

When he reached the synagogue and opened the ark he saw no flames, only the Torah scrolls and a bottle of wine he had placed there for kiddush on Shabbat eve. But the bottle was not in the spot where he had placed it. His suspicion was aroused and he examined the contents of the bottle. He discovered that it was filled with blood! He quickly poured out the blood and refilled the bottle with wine.

The next morning the Moslem ruler of Jerusalem, accompanied by the Greek Patriarch and a Greek citizen, burst into the synagogue announcing that the priests had charged that Jews had murdered a Christian child in order to use his blood for sacramental purposes. An order was given to open the Holy Ark and the Greek shouted that it contained the blood of the child. But when the Patriarch opened the bottle and poured some of its contents into a glass it became clear that the guilty party was the Greek who had falsely accused the Jews.

The Moslem pasha leading the investigation was so angry with the Greek that he drew his sword to kill him. But the Patriarch held him back, declaring that it was wrong to shed blood in a holy place. Outside the synagogue the Greek confessed to the murder before being put to death.

The shamash and all the Jews of the city then understood the meaning of the mysterious warning about flames in the Holy Ark.

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