THE VERDICT by ALEXANDER KIMEL 804 Cypress Boulvard Apt 506 Pompano Beach, FL 33069 Tel. 954 973 3371 email@example.com
FADE IN ACT 1: Synopsis In a small Ghetto with about 4000 Jews, the German requested from the Jewish Council a list of 1000 to be resettled (killed). If the list is not provided all 4000 Jews will be killed. The question arises is providing the list considered savings 3000 Jews or killing 1000 Jews. The President of the Council refuses to sign the list unless the Rabbi issues a proper verdict. Meir, the Commandant of the Jewish Police is pushing for the list, declaring " We have to sacrifice the old to save the young, the future of the nation. The Rabbi after a whole night of deliberations refuses to issue the verdict declaring: "It is against the Law. A Jews cannot save his live by endangering the lives of others." In the last minute, Meir recognized the German duplicity and changes his mind declaring:" If the Germans want to kill us let them do it without our help." Cast of Characters Reb Nahum: The Rabbi, about fifty years old, misplaced as the Rabbi of a small town. He married a girl selected by his father. Now, his face is drawn- out from undernourishment, but his vivid penetrating eyes convey a subdued gentleness and warmth. Although misplaced in this small community, he does his best to fulfill all his duties as a Rabbi and spiritual leader of the Shtetl. Lea: The Rabbi's wife, about forty five years old. A pretentious, status conscious woman who looks down upon her husband?s integrity. Her round face shows signs of frustrated ambitions and there is visible tension in the expression of her face and in her movements. Reb Isaac: The Gabbai about sixty years old, a rich merchant whose business was taken away by the Russians. He is a pious, devoted Jew, pessimistic by nature. He deeply distrusts the Germans.
I-2. Rachel The rabbi's daughter, about twenty years old. A young, intelligent, knowledgeable and rebellious young girl, who dreams of armed resistance. Meir: The Commandant of the Jewish Police, who desperately wants to prove himself as the savior of the community. Dressed in a self-designed homemade uniform, comprising of a blue police type hat, garnished with gold stripes, breeches with high military boots; on his hand he wears an orange armband with the Star of David and inscription "Jewish Auxiliary Police." Age: about forty. A self-taught man without formal education, who has the air of man that knows it all. Krawczuk: The commandant of the Ukrainian Police. Age about forty. An educated man with a harsh voice, pretending to be a cultural, understanding. Dietrich: The Commandant of the German Police, about forty years old, with the typical German mentality, consciensciously following orders. Weiser: The President of the Jewish Council, an honest and religious man, not fit for his position. SCENE 1 - SYNAGOGUE SETTING: We are in a dilapidated, makeshift synagogue. On the right there is a big baking oven, with two black iron doors. Next stands a cracked night table serving as the prayer pulpit. A small brass candelabra stands on the pulpit. At down right front there is a small dusty window, letting in rays of sunshine that illuminate the dust in the air. At the center stands a wooden table, surrounded with benches. The table serves as the pulpit for reading the Torah Scrolls. At the up center there is a small door leading to a storage area. At up left stands a large metal barrel with drinking water. On the left center there is door leading toward the outside and next another small dusty window. A few chairs are scattered over the down left. TIME: Morning hours, late autumn day in 1942.
I-3. AT RISE: Reb Nahum stands at the pulpit conducting the prayers. Next to him stands the Gabbai dressed in a black caftan. They both are praying silently with the typical rhythmic motion. On their right arms they wear white arm bands with emblazoned blue Stars of Rachel. (The door opens and Leah enters the room. She is dressed in simple but elegant black dress, and wears a heavy copper chain with a dangling medallion. She looks around with disbelief and recognizing her husband moves swiftly toward the pulpit). Walks over to her husband, her face shows uncontrolled alarm). LEAH Nahum. I have to talk to you! Rachel, our only daughter, disappeared. (Pauses to catch her breath) Our daughter, Rachel vanished. Do you hear me? . . . Rachel, our only child disappeared. Vanished like a stone in water. No sign of life. Do you hear me? No sign of life. Oh woe to me! Reb Nahum looks around, sees Leah and proceeds with the silent prayers without paying any attention to her. His face carries the expression of remoteness. She is coming closer to Reb Nahum and pulling him at the sleeve to draw his attention. LEAH Nahum, I am talking to you! Don't you care about your daughter? For God's sake stop this masquerade. Reb Nahum continues the prayer motions for a few seconds, then takes three steps back, bows to the right, then to the left and turns toward Leah. The Gabbai also turns around and watches the scene with alarm. REB NAHUM Woman, watch your manners. You are in a House of Worship. How dare you interrupt the prayers? What example you are setting for the young people? Leah is coming closer. Her face hardens and shows signs of contempt. LEAH Nahum. Our daughter vanished and you worry about prayers. His only daughter disappeared and this man is concerned about his prayers. I can't believe it. (Pauses and proceeds softly.) Nahum, Rachel vanished. Do you understand this? Rachel vanished . . . Gone. Disappeared . . . Nahum, I am worried and nervous.
I-4. REB NAHUM (Taking a step back) Rachel is all right. Calm down. You are exaggerating as usually. A few days ago he came home late and you also raised hell. What is the matter with you, woman? We live in difficult times and we have to put our trust in the Almighty. REB NAHUM (He raises his hands and looks up pleadingly, like asking Heavens for help.) We have to look to God for protection and guidance. LEAH (Comes forward two steps, and faces her husband.) Nahum. I can't believe it! Look around you, what do you see? Hungry people with swollen legs, dying like flies. Your only daughter disappears and you talk about God's protection . . . What type of Father are you? You have no feelings! (She looks at him with apprehension) REB NAHUM (Calmly) Now, calm down and tell me what happened. Please tell me the whole story. LEAH (Tries to control her emotions) Rachel was sent to clean German offices. She worked on a night shift, and after leaving the job she did not return home. REB NAHUM Did you check with the Jewish Police? They should know. LEAH Talking to the Jewish Police is a waste of time. They know nothing and they tell you nothing. I spoke to Berta Bloch. She worked with Rachel that night. REB NAHUM What did she tell you? LEAH She told me that the whole group left the offices around 8 PM. When they were walking home Rachel stopped to tie a shoelace and was left behind. They never saw her again. REB NAHUM They did not wait for her? Why? LEAH I asked the same question and was told that it was dark already and they were rushing to get home. REB NAHUM What am I do do now? Let me think a minute.
I-5. PAUSE I can go to see Reb Isaac Gavrillo, the Ukrainian priest. He has influence with the Ukrainian Police. He might pull some strings for me. I can go to the Jewish Police, and get the go around, or I can go to Krawczuk the Commandant. LEAH Why don't you to the Jewish Police? They sent Rachel to work and they are responsible for bringing her back home. REB NAHUM Responsible? Those are not responsible people. They only care about saving their own skin. At this moment the door opens and Meir the Commandant of the Jewish Police, walks in. MEIR Good Morning Reb Nahum. How are things? REB NAHUM Not so good. Last night Rachel, my only daughter, disappeared. Vanished like a stone in water. MEIR. I know that. I just got a call from Krawczuk, the Police Commandant. They arrested Rachel. Reb Nahum, I would like to have a talk with you. (He takes Reb Nahum aside.) Krawczuk wants $300 ransom, otherwise they will turn her over to the German Police. REB NAHUM Three hundred dollars. This is a fortune that I don't have. Shouldn't the Judenrat pay the ransom. They send her to work outside the ghetto. Shouldn't they be responsible? MEIR Maybe they should, but we don't have the money. We can't help you. PAUSE By the way Reb Nahum, my Father died a few months ago and nobody is saying Kaddish for him. Could you do it, for a full year? REB NAHUM Of course I could. I will be happy to do it for you. MEIR Here are 35 dollars. This amount should cover a whole year. I am sorry but I cannot help you more. Meir exits the scene. Reb Nahum turns to Reb Issac. REB NAHUM Reb Isaac, our prayers are over. please go to Moses from the Burial Society and tell him that I need urgently a loan of 200 dollars. Tell him that it is very important. It is for Rachel. Please tell him this.
I-6. REB ISSAC I will run like on wings of a eagle. I will do everything to get the money. Now Reb Nahum turns to Leah. REB NAHUM Leah, please go home and bring me all the money we have, and all the jewelry in your possession. We have to collect all the money to save Rachel. LEAH Nahum what are we going to do now? I think you should go to see Weiser, the President of the Jewish Council. For Rachel's sake you should join the Council. You really should. Do it for Rachel, please! (Reb Nahum sits for a moment quietly, deeply engrossed in his thoughts. After a while he gets up) REB NAHUM Leah. I am going to see Father Gavrillo. He is the only man that can help us. (Leah gets up from the bench) LEAH Reb Isaac Gavrillo, this nationalistic Ukrainian priest? How is he going to help you? REB NAHUM Despite his oratory Reb Isaac Gavrillo is a decent man. He is esteemed and influential in the Ukrainian community. He is the only person that can help us. He has the right connections. (Pause) He also owns me some favors. Remember, the help I extended to him when his Church burned down? LEAH (Not answering his questions) You are going to see Reb Isaac Gavrillo. This is a crazy idea. Do you realize that you might be shot? Is this going to help Rachel? REB NAHUM Yes, I realize this quite well. To do nothing, is more dangerous. LEAH But Nahum what happened? Just yesterday you were preaching reliance on the Divine Protection and today you are running like a chicken without a head. We have to wait a day or two, to see what happens? I don't want you to go. Something might happen to you and I remain alone. REB NAHUM (After a moment of hesitation) Leah, we can't wait a day or two. Rachel is in mortal danger. You know Leah, when calamity strikes you, the whole perception on life changes. Mine is changing now.
I-7. LEAH For years I was trying to change your approach to life. To think more about yourself and your family. Suddenly - you discovered America. But as they say, better late than never. REB NAHUM Suddenly, I realized that I was more concerned with serving God than serving the people. I consoled many people in distress but I really never felt their pain and suffering. I remember when Milch, as shot for refusing to joint the Judenrat, I felt that he died a glorious death. (Pause) I felt that he sacrificed his life for the sanctification of the Holy Name - Kiddush Hashem, as it is called in Hebrew. What else can a pious Jew ask for? Remember the eulogy I delivered. Many people cried. (Pause) Now, I am ashamed of my behavior. Did I feel the pain of his wife Sarah, who lost a loving husband? No. Did I feel the distress of Baruch, his teenage son, who at the tender age became the head of the family? No. Only yesterday, when the pain penetrated my body, I realized my superficiality. The pain changed my perception, and I feel that I have to act now Leah, before it is too late. Leah, I have to go to Reb Isaac Gavrillo. LEAH But Nahum, you will endanger your life without helping Rachel. Wait a day or two. You leave the ghetto and you could be shot. There must be a way to find Rachel. People don't vanish in the middle of the day. (Pause) Vanish without a trace left behind. REB NAHUM No, Leah I have to go. Maybe this will be the glorious death I was praying for. (Sarcastically) What a fantastic material for a eulogy. Reb Isaac sacrifices his life to safe his daughter. Shakespeare could make a fantastic play out of this. LEAH What a sense a humor. (Coming closer to Reb Nahum) Aren't you scared Nahum? To leave the ghetto and expose yourself to danger. They recognize a Jew by his scared walk. They will recognize you and denounce you. How is this going to help Rachel? REB NAHUM Leah Dear. Do you really think that I don't know about the dangers out there? I am not a hero, I am just a man of flesh and blood. Yes, I am scared but what choices do I have. To do nothing when you only child is in danger? This is worse than death. LEAH The best way to help Rachel you have to stay alive, is to wait. Please wait! Please don't go! REB NAHUM Sometimes death is a welcomed escape from life and its earthly pains. To live or to die, only God knows what is better. (Pause) Until I die, I will survive and later my life will be in God's hand. So dear Leah don't worry.
I-8. LEAH But, how are you going to reach Father Gvrillo? You can't leave the ghetto. The exits are guarded. (Stretches out the left arm with the armband with the Star of Rachel) Yes, I can. I will take off this white armband, this sign of Cain, and sneak out of the ghetto. I will cross the stream at the border and go to see Father Gavrillo. LEAH Nahum! This is not a stream, it's a wide river. You can't jump the Lipa River. REB NAHUM A stream or a river, what difference does it makes. If I can't jump it so I will take off my shoes, roll up my trousers and wade through it. God helped the Jews to cross the Red Sea, so He will help me to cross the Zgnila Lipa River. LEAH But this is so dangerous. You might be shot. REB NAHUM I put my trust in the Almighty. A Jew that fears God, has nothing to fear. Leah, please bring me my street clothes. LEAH (Gets up from the bench.) Nahum. Are you crazy? You will be shot. Please don't go. Put your trust in the Almighty. He will deliver Rachel from danger. REB NAHUM God helps those that help themselves. I have to save our only child. (Pause) They will not recognize me in my street clothes. With my beard and side locks shaved, I look like a poor peasant. (Pause) Bring me my street clothes. Please! LEAH (With a pleading voice) Nahum, please don't go. It is dangerous. Yesterday they caught Joseph the Tailor smuggling food and they shot him on the spot. (Pause) please don't leave me alone. Rachel is gone and now you will expose yourself to danger. Please don't leave me alone. Let's wait till tomorrow. REB NAHUM Leah, Rachel is in mortal danger. I have to go. Remember, a man's lot is always in the hand of the Master of the Universe. A pious Jew has nothing to fear when he fears God. Please bring me my street clothes. LEAH Nahum, tomorrow I will go to Weiser and on my knees I will beg him to find and rescue Rachel. I swear I will do it. Please wait. (more)
I-9. LEAH (CONTINUED) (Leah steps back and moving toward the door, trying to block the exit) REB NAHUM (Pushing her aside, forcefully) Tomorrow, Rachel might be dead. please bring me my street clothes. I have to go. LEAH Nahum. You don't have any street clothes. I sold all your clothing to buy bread. You can't go. REB NAHUM (Stands up. His mouth wide open. He wants to say something but can't pronounce the words) You sold my clothes. Why didn't you tell me? Why did you hide it from me? LEAH Wake up Nahum. You hide from harsh reality in this makeshift synagogue. Have you seen all the people running around with swollen legs? There is hunger here. There is real hunger here. It is impossible to survive on a quarter of a pound of slimy bread a day. How was I supposed to feed our family? We are not in the Sinai Desert and God is not feeding us with manna. When is the last time you earned some money, Nahum? REB NAHUM (softly) I am sorry Leah. Really sorry. I wasn't aware that our situation is that bad. Leah, what do you expect me to do? The community needs a Rabbi in such trying times. This synagogue is my duty and my redemption. I can't do anything else. LEAH If the community needs you, so why don't they pay you? You know that the Burial Society, which is under your supervision is raking it in by smuggling food in coffins. (Pause) Why don't you get a share? A pound of bread, a piece of butter would help. REB NAHUM Leah I am a rabbi and not a beggar. I can't do it. Leah, I have to go. I will get dressed in this black suit. God will guide me and protect me. (He gets up from the bench, rolls up the trousers and gets ready to leave. LEHA (She tries to stop him. He pushes her away and reaches for the door) Nahum, for Heaven's sake don't go. Don't leave me alone. Don't go! (Seeing him reaching the door, she retreats a few steps) Nahum. When you leave the ghetto take off the white arm band, and don't walk on the main streets. Also. Remember that you have to walk on the sidewalks, not on the road. REB NAHUM (Turns around waves good bye) I will try to walk on the sidewalks. You know that I can't walk on those ancient headstones uprooted from the Jewish cemetery. I will take your advice. (He slowly walks out the door) END OF SCENE
I-10. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 2 - RETURN SETTING: The same location, the makeshift synagogue. Next day in the morning TIME: About 12 hours later. AT RISE: At the table sits Leah facing her Reb Isaac. The room flooded with the morning sun. LEAH What a day! You go to sleep at night, you have a family, a husband, a daughter and few hours later, you are alone in this world. All alone. What am I going to do? I can't take it. What is the purpose of living? REB ISAAC (reassuringly) Calm down, Leah. Your husband will be home soon and so will Rachel. I feel it in my bones that soon you will see them both. (Pause) I believe in Reb Nahum. He is such a smart and courageous man. Leah A smart and courageous man? (Pause) Yes Leah, a smart courageous man. You were lucky indeed to marry him. The Jews in this community are lucky to have a Rabbi with such knowledge and wisdom. (Leah disregards the praising of her husband and is trying to change the subject. LEAH I wonder where Rachel is now? Is she hungry? Is she scared? What is she doing? Is she thinking about us? (Pause) Let me ask you something, Reb Isaac. I overheard Rachel talking about resistance. She said that the Jews should fight back. leave the ghetto and hide in the forests. Are you sure that Rachel did not run away to the forest? Did you hear anything? REB ISAAC I heard the regular kid's talk. The Jews should fight back. Better to die fighting than die of starvation. They all talk big but when they face danger they run with the tails between their legs. (After a moment of he adds) I don't think Rachel would have done it, without letting us know. (The door opens and Reb Nahum walks in. His clothing is in disarray, the pants are torn, his jacket is crumpled. His face is flush red, and he looks very tired. He kisses the mezuza and sits down at the table. Seeing him Leah jumps up, runs to him and embraced him.
I-11. LEAH Oh! You are back. I am glad to see you. I was so worried. Can you imagine remaining all alone in this cruel world? (Pause) So what did you find out about Rachel? When is she coming home? Please tell me. Please tell me all! REB NAHUM I saw Father Gavrillo for a few minutes only. When his wife saw me, she screamed like seeing a ghost. She pinched herself to make sure that she was not dreaming. She thought that I was a ghost or the Avenging Angel and was trembling like a leave. Then Father Gavrillo heard her scream and came in. LEAH What happened? Was he nice to you? Did he ask about me? REB NAHUM Waiting there for Father Gavrillo, I heard noises of a party going on in the adjacent room. I felt like a beggar, pleading for food . . . I forgot that I came to plead for the life of my only child. (Pause) You hear the party noises, you smell the food. They live in security and we are starving. I felt so insignificant and I envied them . . . Why is this coming to us? Why? Aren't we human beings? (Pause) Then Reb Isaac Gavrillo and asked was if I were still alive? He was surprised seeing me . . . A live Jew is a big miracle, nowadays. LEAH Did you tell him about Rachel? REB NAHUM Yes, I told him that Rachel disappeared and asked him for help. He was shocked and promised to help. He said that he is entertaining important guests then he gave me a few pieces of bread, and like a beggar he pushed me out of the house. LEAH You think that he will find Rachel? REB NAHUM He promised to find out. He will talk with Krawczuk tomorrow and let Meir know. LEAH (Suddenly she sees his bleeding hand. She takes it and examines it closely) Oh my God! You are bleeding. What happened? Are you all right ? (She walks over to him and inspects his wounded hand) Nahum, you have to wash the wound. You might get an infection. (She turns to Reb Isaac) Reb Isaac, can you bring me a damp handkerchief? I have to dress his wound. (Reb Isaac Pulls out a red handkerchief from his pocket, walks into the storage room and comes out with a wet handkerchief).
I-12. LEAH My God, Reb Isaac's red handkerchief. It looks like it is dipped in blood. REB ISAAC Sorry my Leah, I don't have another one. Don't you know that a pious Jew uses only red handkerchiefs? REB NAHUM (Stretching out his hand) It's OK. What difference does it make? Go ahead Leah. (Pause) I am all right now. . . Listen what happened to me today. With God's help, I crossed the Lipa River and was on my way to Reb Isaac Gavrillo. I was walking on the sidewalk when I realized that I am walking on stones uprooted from the Jewish Cemetery. (Reb Nahum shows how he was walking, bent and looking sideways) Suddenly I recognized the headstone of my great-grandfather, the first rabbi of P. and I couldn't believe my eyes. (Reb Nahum straightens, raises his hands to heaven) I saw a sign from heaven. REB ISAAC Reb Nahum, I remember him well. What a pious Jew he was. LEAH (Turning to her husband) So you saw the headstone of your great-grandfather Isaac. Big deal. An old stone. REB NAHUM Leah, you can't imagine my feelings. Here, I saw an old stone, all covered with moss, and I hardly could read the letters. Reb Nahum ben Rachel, the great Rabbi of P. Died on the 20 of Tamuz, 5653. I was thunderstruck. I was named after him. LEAH You saw an old cemetery stone and you immediately forgot about Rachel. REB NAHUM No Leah. I didn't forget Rachel. I saw in this stone a sign from God. A good omen as they say. You are on the right track Reb Nahum, I told myself. LEAH Knowing you, you got lost in time. You are such a sentimental fool. Who woke you up? REB NAHUM Shouts and a piercing pain in my back, woke me up. I thought that I was shot and started to wonder where I will be buried. (Pause) I felt a piercing pain in my neck. Right here. (He puts both his hands behind his back, showing the place of pain) Your time is up, I said to myself and I started to recite the Shmah Israel, when I turned around and there was a four year old Ukrainian boy throwing stones at me and yelling: "A Jew! A Jew is here."
I-13. LEAH (Raises both hands to her head) My God! What did you do? I would have died on the spot. REB NAHUM As the Good Book says, when in danger run. So, I turned around and ran. I remembered that my middle name is Cwi which means deer. Nahum, I said to myself you, have to run fast . . . fast like a deer. LEAH Oh my God! You were in real danger. In real danger. REB NAHUM Yah! Soon I was chased by a gang of older boys. They set up some dogs to chase me. One dog bit me and tore my pants. I started to bleed. LEAH My God! How did you survive? Who rescued you? REB NAHUM An old Ukrainian peasant, Ivan. He took a stick and chased away the kids and the dogs. (He shows how Ivan used his stick) Then he took me into his house, fed me and dressed my wounds. LEAH (Surprised) He fed you? Nahum, you ate non-kosher food? I can't believe it! . . . Reb Nahum, the big Rabbi ate non-kosher food. REB NAHUM I was so exhausted, hungry and tired that I ate non-kosher food. For the first time in my life I ate potatoes with buttermilk in non-kosher dishes. I needed the strength. The food was delicious and God will have to forgive me. LEAH (Looks closely at her husband) How come your face is so red? (Reproachfully) You are sunburned. REB NAHUM I was hiding in the fields a whole day. I couldn't move. I was afraid to return to the ghetto, and I was afraid to proceed to the Church . . . to see Reb Isaac Gavrillo. I had to wait for sundown, so I decided to make the best of it and take in some sun. (Pause) You know Leah, in the ghetto the sun never shines. LEAH You weren't scared? I would have died of fear. REB NAHUM A timid person is frightened before there is danger, a coward during the time of the danger and a courageous person afterwards. (more)
I-14. REB NAHUM (CONTINUED) (Pause) Leah, I am frightened now, Leah. Really frightened. (Pause) I was sitting in the fields and thinking what a beautiful world it is. I heard the birds chirping, the bees humming, the sun was shining. I felt the warmth of the sun. It was was so peaceful. (Suddenly the door opens and Meir Meir enters the synagogue, surveys the situation and cautiously proceeds to Reb Nahum). REB NAHUM (Gets up from the bench to greet him) Meir I finally lived to see the day that you are coming to the synagogue. What an irony? How much do they want? MEIR (Looks at him with surprise) Reb Nahum, how do you know that Rachel is alive? How do you know that they are asking or ransom money? It's amazing. REB NAHUM I know from Father Gavrillo. I went to see him. MEIR (Stepping back in surprise) Reb Nahum. You left the ghetto without authorization? You know that you endangered yourself and . . . the Jewish Police. Guarding the Ghetto is our responsibility, you know. Next time I will arrest you and turn you over to the Germans . . . I mean it. REB NAHUM I am sorry Meir. But when your only child is in danger, you don't think about the consequences. . . What good tidings do you bring? MEIR What news do you expect, Reb Nahum? (Pause) They want 300 dollars. LEAH (Interrupting, panic stricken) 300 dollars. It's a fortune. Where are we going to take such a sum of money? Oh, my child. I will never see you again. REB NAHUM Leah! please calm down. Rachel will come back. I promise you that Rachel will come back. MEIR (Pulling out a folded letter from his pocket) The Ukrainian Policeman brought me this letter from Rachel. I thought it's better that I deliver it in person.
I-15. REB NAHUM (Takes the letter from Meir, and starts to read it) Dear Mom and Dad: I am well treated here, I get plenty of food, more than at home. I have plenty time for sleep, if only I could sleep. They asked me to write to you, and tell you to pay the ransom. I know that you don't have the money to ransom me. Don't worry about me. I am not afraid to die. It's all in God's hands. I put my trust in Him. As you Father used to say "Until I die, I will survive and later it's all in Gods hands." (Pause) Don't worry about me, please. Reb Isaac, do you remember the stories about the martyr's that sacrificed their lives for the sanctification of God's name. Kiddush Hashem. It's now time for our generation to do it. It's that simple. Dad, I remember all your sayings: "A Jew that fears God has nothing to fear." I fear nothing. I love you all, and please give my love to all. Please remember me. Through your memory I shall live forever. Love Rachel. LEAH (Slumps down in a chair and burst out crying) I am not afraid to die . . . I am not afraid to die . . . Oh my Angel. I won't see you again. REB NAHUM Woman! Take hold of yourself. Don't bury Rachel alive. She is still alive. She will come back to us. MEIR (Hesitating for a while) Reb Nahum I want you to say Kaddish, the Prayer for the dead, for my Reb Isaac and mother. I have never time to say it myself . . . Here is the money for it. (He hands Reb Nahum a few banknotes. Reb Nahum takes the money without counting and puts it in his pocket) LEAH (Gets up from the chair and approaches Meir) Meir, do you think that the Jewish Council could help us with the ransom money? MEIR We have a slush fund but it is used exclusively for members of the Council . . . The fund is used at the discretion of President Weiser. Talk to him. (more)
I-16. MEIR (CONTINUED) (Pause) Good night. I am sorry I can't help you. (He salutes them smartly and walks out) REB NAHUM (turning to Reb Issac) Reb Issac, please go over to Moses from the Burial Society and tell him that I ask him urgently for a loan of 200 dollars. Tell him that I really need the money. Insist on the loan, and don't come back without the money. REB ISSAC I will run like on the wings of an eagle. You car count on me. I love Rachel and I will do anything to help her. REB NAHUM (After a few minutes, he stops in front of the praying pulpit and stares intensively at the candelabra. A soft liturgical music plays in the background - Ata Yodea Raze . . . God you know the secrets of each human being . . .) Oh God. You know the deepest secrets of every human being, their longings and hopes . . . You know that I live to see my child under the wedding canopy. To see her married and happy, is the dream of my life. Master of the Universe help me. Help me. Bring Rachel back to us. please. Bring her back alive to us. END OF SCENE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 3 - WAITING FOR REB ISAAC SETTING: The same location, the makeshift synagogue TIME: Next day in the afternoon. AT RISE: Reb Nahum paces the floor nervously while Lea sits with Lea at the table. LEAH Nahum, I am nervous. Very nervous. My thoughts are constantly with Rachel. What is she doing at this moment? Is she hungry and scared? And where is Reb Isaac? He is always late. REB NAHUM Reb Isaac is an old man. He has a bad leg and barely walks. It will take him some time.
I-17. LEAH Why does it take him so long? Will he bring the money? I am afraid that he is having a drink with the guys from the Burial Society. People say that to be sane in their trade you have to be a heavy drinker. REB NAHUM People say this and people say that. Don't believe everything what people say. LEAH Nahum you are either a saint or a fool. I can't figure you out. REB NAHUM Both, Lea. I am a saint and a fool at the same time. A perfect husband for you. (The door opens and the Beadle walks in. He looks very pale, and he is walking slowly. His clothing is in disarray, with grains of corn stacked to it). REB NAHUM Reb Isaac, why are you late? What happened to you? A small errand took you a whole day. REB ISAAC (Philosophically) In the ghetto, you know when you leave, and don't know when you will return. This was not a pleasant mission and I am lucky to be alive. REB NAHUM (Impatiently) Reb Isaac, what happened? Did you see Moses? REB ISSAC Yes. I went to see Moses from the Burial Society, as you instructed me. Of course, I went to the building occupied by the Burial Society. What a place this was. Caskets all over, some filled with smuggled potatoes and cereals. (Pause) I waited sometime for Moses to show up. When he came in, he was very upset and nervous. (Pause) I asked him what is the matter, and he told me that a new German Commandant arrived and he is a real bastard. (Pause) A few minutes later panic broke up. People were running in all directions, looking for shelter. LEAH A panic? We didn't have any panics here. REB ISAAC This was at the northern gate of the ghetto. Kids were running and warning that the Germans were coming. I looked out through the window and saw three Germans moving in our direction. When in danger hide, says the Talmud. So I started to look for a hiding place.
I-18. REB NAHUM There are no bunkers in this building. Where did you hide Reb Isaac? REB ISAAC After some hesitation I raised the lid off a coffin and laid down. Unfortunately it was filled with corn and I almost suffocated. "At least I am safe here," I thought. The Germans don't touch coffins. They are afraid of typhoid. REB NAHUM My God! It was really a close call, Reb Isaac. REB ISAAC A minute later the Germans walked in, accompanied by Meir They looked around suspiciously and then one German ordered Meir to open a gasket. REB NAHUM What did you do, Reb Isaac? REB ISAAC (Jokingly) As any pious Jew before his death, I started to recite the prayers, the Shmah Israel . . . At least I will die with God's name on my lips. I am a pious Jew, you know. (Pause) Meir opened the casket next to me and found a real body. Had he opened my casket, I would have had a ready made funeral on a bed of corn. REB NAHUM I am sorry. I should have gone myself. Did you get the money, Reb Isaac? REB ISAAC I got some money, 150 dollars to be exact. (He pulls out three banknotes from his pocket and hands them over to the rabbi) Moses and the others were so shaken that they hardly listened to me. LEAH It's a shame. The Burial Society people are the richest people in town. Only one hundred and fifty dollars. It's a shame! REB NAHUM Did you explain the gravity of the situation? REB ISAAC Yes I did. I begged them, I appealed to their honor. They didn't listen to me and gave me the money just to get rid of me, so they can proceed with their smuggling business. LEAH You want my advice Nahum, put pressure on them. You can decree that food smuggled in coffins is not kosher, especially with the epidemic of typhoid raging in the ghetto. REB NAHUM (Disregarding Lea's remarks) Who is this German Dietrich? I never heard this name before.
I-19. REB ISAAC Dietrich is the new Chief of the German Gendarmes. He is supposedly a very nasty little fellow. Sticks his nose into everything. LEAH I can't understand you, Nahum. Your daughter is in mortal danger and you can't squeeze out the money from the Burial Society. They have the money. REB NAHUM It won't help. You can't push scared men. I have neither the power nor the authority. LEAH Declare their food non-kosher. You have the authority to do this. REB NAHUM Declare their food non-kosher? Starving people don't care about dietary laws. They will buy the food anyway. It is also against the interests of the community. LEAH Interest of the community. When are you going to grow up, Nahum? The cohesiveness of the community is gone. Everybody is for himself. I can't listen to this nonsense. (Pause) We need additional three hundred and fifty dollars. If you would have only listened to me and joined the Council. REB NAHUM (Impatiently) If you had listened to me and not spent your dowry on unnecessary luxuries, expensive trips to Vienna, elegant dresses and the like, Rachel would have a better chance. LEAH You are unfair to me. I did not know at that time and besides it was my money, my dowry . . . The money my mother left me. REB NAHUM Leah I know your arguments. Let's cut it. How much jewelry do you have left? LEAH Our wedding rings and a few more pieces, all in all worth about 50 dollars. REB NAHUM Fifty dollars worth of jewelry from a thousand dollar dowry. Not bad. Not bad at all. (He sits down at the table, takes out a pencil and starts writing) Lea, please bring me the jewelry. We have to act swiftly. (Lea walks out to bring the jewelry) REB ISAAC What are we going to do now? We can't abandon Rachel. How are you going to raise the ransom money? REB NAHUM We have to put our trust in God. Only He can return Rachel alive to us.
I-20. REB ISAAC That's true, but it also true that God helps those who help themselves. (He leaves the money on the table and slowly walks out. Reb Nahum takes the money and absentmindedly counts it. Suddenly he jumps up and runs after the Beadle). REB NAHUM Reb Isaac, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Come back please! (The door slowly opens and the beadle enters the synagogue) Reb Isaac where did you get the additional one hundred dollars? You left me 250 dollars and you collected only a hundred and fifty. REB ISAAC (hesitantly) My daughter Malka gave it to me. REB NAHUM Malka? Where did she get the money from? Are you trying to fool me? REB ISAAC No. Heaven forbid I should try to fool you, Reb Nahum. Really Malka gave it to me. She said "Father here is the 100 dollars, it's the share of my inheritance that I put away for my dowry. Please bring it to Reb Nahum." REB NAHUM I can't take her last penny. She will need it for the dowry. REB ISAAC A spinster does not need a dowry. Please take the money. REB NAHUM (Visibly touched) She is not a spinster. When the war is finished, she will get married. She is such a sweet girl and she will need the money for herself. REB ISAAC Reb Nahum I told her this in similar words. You know what she told me? Father, she said, I own my life to Rachel. When I was sick with typhoid, it was Rachel that fed and bathed me. She brought me food and medicine. Please take the money to Reb Nahum. It is for Rachel. REB NAHUM Oh, Reb Isaac, Reb Isaac. It's hard to take and hard to refuse. Thank you, my friend. It's a loan, that with God's help, I will soon repay. REB ISAAC Reb Nahum. I am glad to be of help. Also, let it please be between us. Don't tell Lea about it. She will be uncomfortable. She doesn't like Malka.
I-21. REB NAHUM (Leaning back and rubbing his eyes with both hands.) I feel very tired. It must be the pain. The picture of Rachel being led away is all the time before my eyes. I constantly feel the presence of Rachel besides me. I feel her gaze upon me. She silently calls for help. REB ISAAC (Looks at the Rabbi with admiration) Reb Nahum I have faith in you. I trust you like God alone. You will come up with a solution to the problem. REB NAHUM What can I do now? I don't have the money, just 300 dollars and I can't leave Rachel to rot in jail. What can I do? (Pause) Meir gave me 50 dollars yesterday. For saying Kaddish for his parents . . . He tried to help me. REB ISAAC 300 dollars. With 300 dollars you can begin to bargain. REB NAHUM (Perks up, like getting an idea. Walks up to the Beadle) You are right. I can start the bargaining process. Start the bargaining process. You just gave me an idea. A very good idea, indeed. REB ISAAC Me? I said nothing. REB NAHUM You said nothing and this nothing is enough for me. We are going to move. I am going to see Krawczuk, the Commandant of the Ukrainian Police. REB ISAAC (Steps back in surprise) You are going to leave the ghetto and go to the Ukrainian Police? They will kill you. This is insane! REB NAHUM Life without Rachel will be worse than death. So, what can I lose? Remember a Jew who fears God . . . REB ISAAC Has nothing to fear in life . . . Yah! Yah! Yah! ... Go in peace and come back in peace Nahum. END OF SCENE ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I-22. SCENE 4 - VISITING KRAWCZUK SETTING: An elegantly furnished apartment. On the right side is a small foyer with a coat hanger and an umbrella stand. At the left center there is an entrance door. A large dining room occupies the left and center part of the stage. At the center there is a mahogany dining table, surrounded with low back chairs. Over the table hangs a brightly lit crystal chandelier. On the up center stands an elegant buffet and above it hangs a large still-life painting. Adjacent to the buffet stands an old grandfather clock, indicating 10 P.M. On the right center there is a window and an exit door. On the left center there is a door leading toward the foyer. TIME: Ten o'clock at night, the same day. AT RISE: At the table sits Krawczuk, fully dressed in his uniform, reading a newspaper. The clock strikes ten times. There is a subtle knock on the door, and Reb Nahum peeks into the foyer. He slowly walks-in into the foyer and slightly knocks at the door. He is dressed in a gray coat borrowed from the Gabbai, a little too large for him, and has no white armband. KRAWCZUK (Surprised) Come in. Who is it? It's you, Reb Nahum. What a surprise! How did you get here? REB NAHUM I know this apartment layout quite well. As a matter of fact it is amazing how little things changed here. KRAWCZUK How did you pass the sentries? That is quite a feat. REB NAHUM At this time of the night all the guards are hunting the Jews in the ghetto. (Pause) I am afraid, Commandant that you are poorly guarded.
I-23. KRAWCZUK Aren't you afraid, Reb Nahum? It's like Daniel going voluntarily to the lions' den. Aren't you afraid to be shot? Don't you know that a Jew caught outside the Ghetto is shot on the spot? Aren't you afraid? REB NAHUM Yes, I am afraid. I am no hero. I am scared, but what can I do? You are my salvation, Commandant. I had to come, and you Commandant have to save me. KRAWCZUK How can I save you? You are not a Christian and you don't believe in salvation, and I am not a saint. REB NAHUM Save my only child, Rachel. She is my salvation. Rachel is my only daughter. (Pause) You have two beautiful children and you can understand my feelings. Put yourself in my place. I am about to lose my only child. Help me. Please help me. Rachel disappeared two days ago. Vanished without a trace. Most probably she was arrested. You can find her and bring her back to me. Please. KRWACZUK Why shall I do it? Did you ask yourself this question? REB NAHUM Mr. Commandant. Your Father, blessed his memory, was my friend. I saved his life. You have to do it for the sake of his memory. He told me many times "You saved my life, Nahum, I will never forget it. One day I will repay you." (Pause) You have to repay your Father's debt. Do it for your and his salvation, Commandant. KRAWCZUK (Surprised) You saved my Reb Isaac's life? I can't believe it. It's hard to imagine. REB NAHUM It is hard to imagine, but it is true, nonetheless. During World War I, I served with your Father, shall he rest in peace, in the 48 Field Artillery Regiment. He was an artillery scout, and I was the commander of the field battery. KRAWCZUK (Taken by surprise) My Father often mentioned the 48th Artillery Regiment and the 12th Offensive on the Isonca River. What a surprise? REB NAHUM Yes, this happened during the 12th Isonca offensive, in the mountains of Tyrol. You Father discovered a train of mules bringing in supplies to the enemy. He tried to zero-in on the mules passing a winding rocky path, and misdirected the fire. KRAWCZUK (Visibly moved) Go on! Go on! It is fascinating. Fascinating indeed.
I-24. REB NAHUM I was talking with him on the field telephone, when he suddenly cried out "Jesus Maria! Jesus Maria! The phone went dead and I faced a dilemma. (Pause) The Serbian Infantry was about to attack; they were already issued the rations of slivovitz. Our artillery was softening the ground; the Italians were shooting like crazy, and here my friend, your Father, was dying. KRAWCZUK So what did you do? It's quite a story. Are you telling the truth? REB NAHUM I swear on the life of Rachel that every word is true. As I said, they had already issued the triple portion of alcohol to the Serbian Infantry. When they attack, it is like a multi-headed monster passing the terrain. They kill everybody in their path. They kill foe and friends alike. (Pause) I hesitated for a moment and then under heavy hostile fire, jumped out from the trenches and using the telephone wires as guides, I found your father. KRAWCZUK He told me that he was wounded at the Isonca River, but he never told me the details. REB NAHUM (proceeding) I found him unconscious, bleeding profusely. He was wounded by shrapnel. I dragged him to safety under heavy fire, looking out for those Serbian fighters. I was later awarded a medal for valor. Here it is. You can keep it as a souvenir. I don't need it. He hands him over a small box. Krawczuk takes the box and opens it. KRAWCZUK I believe you, but at the same time it's hard to imagine you, Reb Nahum, as a military man. You don't fit the image. REB NAHUM You know that one sage said: "The old believe everything, the middle aged suspect everything, the young know everything." I guess you are acting your age Commandant. So what do you say? Are you going to release Rachel? KRAWCZUK Reb Nahum, I know your daughter from childhood. You saved the life of my Reb Isaac. I believe you and I really would like save Rachel, but I don't think I will be of much help. She is in custody of other people. It is they that want the 300 dollars. You must bring the money. REB NAHUM Commandant, I borrowed money right and left, and most I could get is 250 dollars. Please take the money and let Rachel live. He pushes him an envelop with the money. Krawczuk pushes the envelop away.
I-25. KRAWCZUK You Jews are amazing. You believe that money buys everything. You cherish money more than an only child. It is amazing. REB NAHUM Money? We cherish life more than money. But is difficult to strike water out of a stone. I simply don't have the money. You are a man with influence. Please arrange Rachel's release. KRAWCZUK You know what amazes me? The Jews are considered clever and learned people. How come you don't see the writing on the wall? The Germans are going to convert you into ashes. Why don't you act? REB NAHUM We don't believe that a civilized nation like the Germans is going to kill all of us. It is against their interest. They need us. KRAWCZUK They need you! People believe in what they want to believe. Why do they need the Jews? REB NAHUM Who is going to provide free labor? Whom are they going to blame for their failures? They need us or at least some of us. Where is the logic of the killings? KRAWCZUK Killing people has its own logic. Hunting people is like hunting elephants. It is a big game. Some hunters are getting addicted to the hunt. REB NAHUM Unfortunately, Jews are not big game. They are more like a herd of sheep lead to the slaughter. Not much fun for the hunters. KRAWCZUK So why don't you fight back? You have nothing to lose. (Before Krawczuk could answer him, the telephone rings. Krawczuk picks up the phone) Yes. Krawczuk here . . . He is coming? Send him up, or better, take him up yourself. (He turns toward Reb Nahum) I am getting another unexpected guest. please leave immediately. If he finds you here we both will be shot. He can't see you here. Leave the box with the envelop with the money here. I will try my best. (He points to the buffet. Reb Nahum deposits the envelop with the money and quickly exits. A few seconds later, the door opens and Dietrich, the German Commandant walks-in. Krawczuk clicks his heels and salutes smartly.) DIETRICH Heil Hitler! I make my inspections at times when I am least expected. (He turns his nose, sniffing like a hunt dog) What is the strange smell in your apartment, Commandant?
I-26. KRAWCZUK It must be the moonlight vodka. We recently confiscated a big load of it in the villages. Can I offer you a drink? I have excellent French cognac. (He pulls out from the buffet a bottle of cognac and places it close to the box left by Reb Nahum). DIETRICH French Cognac. Did you get it also in the villages? (Pause) No thanks. I like cognac but I don't drink when on duty. We Germans take our duties very seriously. An order is an order. No questions asked. I expect it from you too, Commandant. KRAWCZUK We Ukrainians are good in following orders. DIETRICH I don't think so. There was an order that all Jewish prisoners should be transferred to German custody within twenty four hours. Did you follow this order? KRAWCZUK Yes Sir! I ordered that all Jews alive be transferred to the German Police station. DIETRICH Thanks. Commandant remember one think. No Jew is innocent. To kill a Jew, you don't need proof of guilt, not even a pretext. Send the Jews to our post tomorrow morning. We will decide their fate. KRAWCZUK (Clicks his heels and salutes) Yawohl! Herr Commandant. DIETRICH (Dietrich walks over to the buffet and picks up the bottle of cognac, looks for a few seconds at the box left by Reb Nahum) I love real French cognac. I don't drink when on duty, but I will enjoy it later. (He puts the bottle in his pocket and picks up the box with the medal, opens it and examines the content) An Austrian Medal for Valor. Whose is this? KRAWCZUK My Father got it for the heroic rescue of his comrade in arms. He fought with the 48 Field Artillery Regiment and took part in 12th Offensive on the Isonca River. DIETRICH (Visibly excited and moved) What coincidence. My Reb Isaac served with the 48th Artillery Regiment and was wounded and saved during the 12th Isonca Offensive. (Sees the surprised look on Krawczuk face) I am Austrian, you know. I was born in Vienna. Later our family moved to Dresden. (Pause) Maybe it was your Father that saved my Reb Isaac. Is your Father alive? I would like to talk to him.
I-27. KRAWCZUK My Father passed away. He never fully recovered from those wounds. (Realizing the slip of his tongue, he adds hastily) He was wounded during this rescue mission. DIETRICH I am sorry to hear it. (He salutes and starts to leave the apartment, taking the bottle of Cognac with him. At the door he suddenly stops and turns around) You know what Commandant. I don't feel like going back to my empty quarters. Let's have a drink together. KRAWCZUK (excited) Yawohl! Her Commandant, with pleasure. DIETRICH (Sits down at the table, opens the bottle of cognac and pours it into two glasses provided by Krawczuk. Then he raises the glass) Let's drink to German victory. To Victory! KRAWCZUK (Raises his glass also) To German Victory! (They both drink in silence. Now Krawczuk pours the cognac and raises his glass to propose a toast) Commandant I propose that we drink to the health of your family. DIETRICH (His face hardens. He picks up the glass and throws it to the ground, smashing it) I don't have a family. They all got killed. (He breaks down, drops his head on the table and covers it with both hands.) KRAWCZUK (Looks confused for a minute and then picks up his glass of cognac and mutters a new toast) For our Homeland! For the Fuhrer! (He empties the glass in one gulp) DIETRICH (Dietrich looks sheepishly up and after a while regains his self-assurance. He picks up another glass fills it with cognac and raises another toast) To the death of our enemies. (He empties the glass). KRAWCZUK We finally got a good toast. The Reich has many enemies. We will need another bottle.
I-28. (He walks over to the credenza and pulls out another bottle. He puts it on the table, besides Dietrich). DIETRICH (Pushes away the second bottle of cognac) We don't need it. Germany has one powerful enemy - the Jews. We defeat the Jews and we defeat all our enemies. (He pours himself another drink) I used to be a nice fellow. I tried to help everyone; I even saved quite a few Jews from their death. I tried to help people. (He pours himself another drink) Until a few months ago I received this tragic letter from my parents. They informed me that all my family, my wife and my two children perished in an air raid. (Pause) They were burned and crushed like a box of matches. KRAWCZUK I am sorry to hear it. Really sorry. DIETRICH Oh shut up and listen, you monkey. Let me talk. (Pause) For months I could not sleep, eat or function. I felt useless without a purpose for living. Until one day I listened to the radio, to Goebbels speech. What an orator he is. (He pours himself another drink) He explained it all. He explained it how the Jews pushed for the war. He explained it how the Jews are fighting for world domination. Because of their ambitions my family perished . . . I found a purpose . . . Avenge. The Jews are the guilty ones and they should pay for their crimes. DIETRICH Soon, we will kill all the Jews that we can catch, that mean about 50%. We know that the Jews built extensive hideouts and shelters and we cannot catch them all, and we don't want to catch them all. They are better than slaves; they work free and even feed themselves. Only the superior culture could create such ingenious scheme where the victims work free and even help in their destruction. This is possible because we Germans take our orders seriously, no questions asked. END OF SCENE ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ SCENE 5 - WEISER'S OFFICE SETTING: This scene takes place in the Judenrat, in the office of Weiser, the president of the Judenrat. It is a sparsely furnished room with them large desk adjacent to the window. Over the desk hangs a bare incandescent bulb.
I-29. TIME: Two days later. AT RISE: Weiser sits at the desk, when Reb Nahum walks in. WEISER Welcome Reb Nahum. You finally made it to the Judenrat. Are you accepting my offer? Are you joining the Judenrat? REB NAHUM No, Mr. Weiser. I do have more urgent matters on my hands. I'm looking for my daughter Rachel. WEISER You're looking for Rachel? What happened to her? REB NAHUM She was sent to work outside the ghetto and never returned home. She was arrested by the Ukrainian police. WISER. Why? What is the reason? REB NAHUM To arrest a Jewish girl you don't need a reason. Just a whim will do. WEISER I am sorry, but I can't help you Reb Nahum.Reb REB NAHUM. Yesterday night I made a deal with Kravchuk and left in $250. He promised to release Rachel. But up to now, nothing happened. Maybe you can find out what is the reason for the delay. WEISER. Let me call Meir, the commandant of the Jewish police. But before I call him, I want you to know that I'm just a figurehead here. PAUSE You know Reb Nahum that I was a very successful businessman, proud of my integrity and good will. For me a word is a word better than signed and sealed contracts. This position is not for me. REB NAHUM. I know this. WEISER. I would rather die, than harm a fellow men. To send people to German labor camps, is against my grain. I cannot do it. Luckily, Meir does all the decisions for me. Suddenly Meir walks in.
I-30. MEIR (Seeing Reb Nahum.) Reb Nahum, I got a call from Kravchuk, saying that he was ordered by the Germans to transfer all Jewish prisoners to the German custody. Unfortunately, Rachel was included. She is now in the German custody. REB NAHUM. What can I do now? Woe to me! This will kill Leah, my wife. MEIR I have more disturbing news. Very disturbing news! The Germans claim that we have 1000 superfluous Jews in the ghetto. The superfluous means not contributing to the economy, not working. They requested a list of 1000 Jewish to be transferred out of the ghetto. We have seven days to comply. And we don't comply, they will kill 4000 Jews. All the Jews they can catch. WEISER. This means that we will sign a death sentence for 1000 Jews. I cannot do it. I will not do it. MEIR. Providing the list will be instrumental in savings the lives of 4000 Jews. We have an obligation to do it. WEISER It boils down to a simple question. Are we killing 1000 Jews, or are we saving the lives of 4000 Jews. I am all shaken, I am sorry to be alive. Meir, could you get for me cyanamid poison. I will need it. MEIR You won't need poison. Mr. Weiser please start the theatrics. We have to approach the situation calmly. (PAUSE) Mr. Weiser will you sign the list if the Rabbi, Reb Nahum will find in the Talmud a justification or a precedent. (Turning to Reb Nahum) Reb Nahum, for the sake of Rachel and for the sake of 4000 Jews of this community, you have to find a precedent. It is our moral responsibility. WEISER Reb Nahum, what is your opinion? Are we allowed to save 4000 Jews by turning in 1000 Jews? REB NAHUM The Talmud teaches us that a Jew cannot save his life by endangering the lives of others. MEIR We live in unusual times, and I am sure that you can find in the Talmud a precedent allowing us to furnish the German a list. We are not killing the 1000 Jews, we are just providing a list. (turning to Weiser) Mr. Weiser will you sign the list if Reb Nahum issues a proper verdict?
I-31. WEISER Yes, I will sign the list. END OF SCENE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
32. ACT 2 SCENE 1 - CONSIDERATIONS SETTING: In the synagogue. TIME: Same day, but late at night. AT RISE: Reb Nahum sits at the table with two stacks of Talmudic books. A flickering kerosene lamp provides a harsh, dramatic illumination. REB NAHUM Here I am, trying to find a solution to an insoluble problem. How do I justify the killing of 1000 Jews, for the good of the community? (Pause) The Ten Commandments clearly prohibits any killing. Period. The Gemara Berachot clearly says that a Jew can't save his life by endangering the life of others. This is the law. Can there be another interpretation? (Pause) On the other hand, we Jews survived 2000 years of exile by being able to adjust the ancient laws to the changing social conditions. So maybe the laws require some adjustment? (Pause) 4000 years ago, Moses laid down the foundation for the Western civilization, and here comes Reb Nahum overriding Moses and 4000 years of history. A small adjustment. (Pause) Create a precedence, demands Meir for the good of the community. Hitler created already the precedence. Kill! Kill! Kill. Shall I be his accomplice? Never. A man is born naked, and naked he leaves this world; only his good name is left behind. I can't do it. (Pause) Never? But what about Rachel? How do I save Rachel? What is he doing now? Where is he now? The light of my life will be extinguished soon and I, her Father cannot help her. (Pause) Create a precedence said Meir. Jewish history is full of precedence of sacrifices and persecutions. There is no need to create precedence. I think that the most important consideration is to do what is good for the community. But what is good for the community? This is the question. (Reb Nahum picks up a book from the stack and starts to read. There is a weak knock on the door and Leah comes in. She is carrying a bowl of hot soup and proceeds cautiously toward the table) LEAH I brought you some soup, Nahum. You have a long night before you.
II-33. REB NAHUM Thank you, Leah. I have no appetite and I am too busy. LEAH Eat Nahum. You need strength to face all those calamities. What are you going to do? You understand that Rachel's life depends on your decision? REB NAHUM No Leah. Rachel's life is in God's hands. He and only He can deliver her from the hands of our enemies. (Pause) Leah. All my life I longed to see Rachel standing under the wedding canopy adjacent to the groom, covered with the veil. I wanted to see him lifting her white transparent veil, handing her the cup of wine. I wanted to see the breaking of the glass and hear the hearty Mazal Tow. I lived for that day, and now, if I am lucky, I will see his dead body covered with a white shroud. Do you understand my pain? Can you feel my pain? LEAH Do I understand your pain? Nahum, it's so hard to bring up a child. Who understands all the sleepless nights, the wear and tear, the worries . . . all the care that it takes to bring up a child. (Pause) And suddenly it's all gone and emptiness engulfs you. Nothing to live for, emptiness engulfs you. Not a shred of light. But yet you have to plug along, suppress the cry of pain and plug along. REB NAHUM But still pain is a sign of life. It's better to feel pain than not to feel at all. LEAH Nahum, maybe you should sign this list? REB NAHUM I made up my mind to sign the list, when I unexpectedly run into these excerpts. Let me read them to you: (He picks up a book from the stack, opens it and reads aloud) "There should be nothing astonishing in our facing the death on behalf of our Laws with a courage which no other nation can equal . . . We trained our courage, not with a view of waging war for self-aggrandizement, but in order to preserve our Laws. To defeat in any other form we patiently submit, but when pressure is put upon us to alter our statutes, then we deliberately fight, even against tremendous odds, and hold out under reverses to the last extremity. " (Pause) "Robbed though we be of wealth, of cities, of all good things, our Law at least remains immortal: and there in no a Jew so distant from his country, so much in awe of a cruel despot, but has more fear of the Law than of him. (Joseph Flavius - Against Apion II:277-78) (He folds the book and puts it carefully on the top of the stack of books)
II-34. (PAUSE} Leah, do you know who wrote those words? It was Joseph Flavius, a Jewish historian, a contemporary of Christ. You see Leah; adherence to the Law was the glue that kept the Jews and their culture alive through the ages of dispersion and persecution. (Pause) Can I break this chain? LEAH What did he mean by this, Joseph Flavius? REB NAHUM He simply said that, already in his time, Jews will give up their wealth, freedom and their lives, but will not break their Laws. The Law was their conscience and guiding force. (Pause) Talk, talk but I have to find an answer and issue the verdict. The way I see it, the life of our daughter is not worth more than the lives of 1000 Jews. So the most important consideration is the good of the community. This is the problem. As far as Rachel is concerned, I believe that his fate is in God's hands. Only God knows what is better, life or death? (Pause) Leah, Meir gave me the authority to decide the difficult and tragic question. I have to do my best to find a solution. (Pause) I don't know if I am fool, but deep down in my heart I believe that Rachel will come back to us and this all is a bad dream. LEAH I trust your judgment Nahum. I am sorry that it took me so long to appreciate your wisdom and integrity. I love you and trust you. REB NAHUM (Embracing her warmly) Don't worry, Leah. Let me tell you about my problem. I believe that Meir is right. We have to postpone the judgment day. The Germans are not bluffing. They will kill the all the Jews, but I am too weak make a decision. (There is another knock on the door and Reb Isaac enters the synagogue) REB ISAAC Reb Nahum, did you hear the new joke about the smugglers from the Warsaw Ghetto. (Without waiting for his reply, he proceeds) You know that the Warsaw ghetto smugglers are very efficient. They smuggle sheep and cows into the ghetto. So Hitler turned to the smugglers and asked them if they could smuggle in a hundred German soldiers into the besieged Leningrad. (Pause) "No problem answered one of the smugglers, but we will have to cut them up first." Ha! Ha! Ha! Isn't that funny? REB NAHUM (Takes off his glasses and looks intensively at the Beadle) Reb Isaac, did you come to tell me jokes? What is the matter with you? To tell me this joke you endangered your life by violating the curfew?
II-35. REB ISAAC I came to cheer you up and talk to you. The news is out. Everybody is waiting for the verdict. Some criticize Weiser for passing the buck. People are divided and scared. Everybody has some advice for you. REB NAHUM What is your advice my friend? REB ISAAC Reb Nahum, I am not so much versed in the Law like you, but the way I see it, we the older people lived our lives, now we should give the younger people a chance to . . . suffer. REB NAHUM What do you think is the best solution for the community? REB ISAAC To be honest with you, I don't know? Everybody wants to live, especially when life is denied you. (Pause) On the way here I met Moshe the Fool, and you know what he told me? (Pause) "Reb Isaac, tell Reb Nahum not to take it so seriously. Signing or not signing will not make any difference. It's all lost." This Moshe the Fool, told me. REB NAHUM In ancient Greece they believed that the Gods talk through crazy people. They took all the pronouncements of crazy people seriously. I start to believe that they were right. (Pause) This is the best advice I heard today. In these crazy times only mad people behave normally. This is their world. LEAH (Turning to Reb Isaac) You are talking nonsense. Are we to accept the Fools as our Sages? REB NAHUM (Interrupting her) In trying times like ours everything is upside down. The Fools are the Sages and the Sages are the Fools. REB ISAAC You know what else Moshe the Fool said? He said, tell Reb Nahum that we are all living on borrowed time, and when you live on borrowed time you don't care about the high interest rate you are paying." (Pause) I believe that behind the mask of crazy man Moshe hides a smart man. It really does not make a difference. The die is cast. (Pause) We old people have suffered enough in this world. We suffered enough. It is time to retire. Let the young take over the suffering. Death is no big deal. Nobody leaves this world alive anyhow. (Pause) Yow know what Reb Nahum. Life for the older people is not such a pleasure. Sign the list. Sign it! Sign it!
II-36. REB NAHUM (Pauses for a minute and collect his thoughts) I wonder what are other people, ordinary people, thinking about this situation. REB ISAAC Before coming here I spoke to Malke, my daughter. She is a smart woman, with good intuition. What advice can you give to Reb Nahum? I asked her. (Pause) She told me that she has a friend that is working for the Ukrainian Police who told her that Dietrich and Krawczuk went out to look for antitank ditches. They will use them as mass graves. (PAUSE) There is plenty of space in those ditches. If Reb Nahum won't sign the list, we all will wind up in those ditches. REB NAHUM But where s the assurance that in two months the Germans won't ask for another list? (Pause) Thank you all for your advice. If I understand you correctly, the majority is for the signing and postponing the Day of Judgment. In Ancient Rome they use to say: The voice of the people is the voice of God. So be it. Thank you very much for your help and advice, Reb Isaac. Let peace be with you. Let God Bless you and protect you. REB ISAAC (Walks toward the door, but in the last minute turns around) Reb Nahum, all my life I prayed to God. "Al taazwenu b'eit Ziknah"- God Almighty, don't abandon me in my old age, when my strength is gone don't abandon me. Reb Nahum, Hitler, solved the problem of old age, he said Reb Isaac you are an old Jew, you have no right to live. No right to live. Period. PAUSE Now, Reb Nahum, you are a learned man, you are a man of God, answer me a simple question, please. All our lives we lived according to his commandments, we observed the Sabbath, we fasted as prescribed in the Torah, we kept kosher homes, we didn't kill or steal. Where is God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Why doesn't he listen to the cries of the Children of Israel? REB NAHUM Reb Isaac, it is important to do God's will and not to expect God to do our will. There is a reason for everything, although we mortals don't see it. You know that at the time of the Destruction of the Temple there was a big explosion of violence; thousand upon thousand of Jews lost their lives, scores were sold into slavery and the Jewish people were expelled from their Homeland. (Pause) It could be that He wanted to spread the Jews all over the world, to spread the message of righteousness, to spread the Ten Commandment REB ISAAC Reb Nahum, I am not a learned man, but I know one thing. It is written in the Bible that when in danger hide. I believe that best way to survive, is to hide: hide in the forest, hide on Aryan papers, hide in the countryside. Just hide. Signing the list will be a warning against complicity. (more)
II-37. REB ISAAC (CONTINUED) (Pause) Here in the Ghetto we are shooting ducks for the Germans. They are playing with us cat and mouse games. REB NAHUM You might be right, Reb Isaac, but what should be the verdict? This is decision that I have to make tonight. (The Beadle leaves the synagogue and Reb Nahum thinks a minute) Will the future generations understand our sufferings, our sacrifice? Maybe I should write about it? (He picks up a sheet of paper and starts to write feverishly) END OF SCENE ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE - 2 THE LIST SETTING: Weiser's Office TIME: One day later AT RISE: Meir and Weiser sit at the table. Reb Nahum enters. MEIR Reb Nahum did you reach a decision? We are waiting for your Verdict. REB NAHUM Meir, I understand your position, that we live in extraordinary times and we have to take extraordinary measures to save lives and protect the younger generation. Nevertheless, it is a short term solution, and it establishes a dangerous precedent. Tomorrow the German will use another pretext to ask for another thousand Jews. PAUSE I strongly feel that breaking our basic laws, breaking the Ten Commandments will leave the community and the society vulnerable. Our laws sheltered our community for thousands of years. Shall we abandon them now? MEIR We have to play for time. The Germans are losing the war, and Hitler will not last forever. Acting now we make sure that a big chunk of the community has a chance of survival. They should outlast Hitler. Period.
II-38. MEIR With a bleeding heart we prepared the list. We selected all the old, infirm, and the sick Jews that have little chances to survive the war. REB NAHUM You are going to kill 1000 Jews? The old, the infirm and the cripples. This is just awful. MEIR If we don't give them one thousand Jews the Germans are going to kill us all. 4000 Jews will lose their lives. What choices do we have? We are saving the lives of 4000 Jews, the whole Shtetl. REB NAHUM Meir, we cannot do it! It is against the Law, the Halacha. Thou shall not kill, is the basic Commandment. It is the basic foundation of our Jewish life, Jewish heritage, and Jewish morality. MEIR I did my best, Reb Nahum. See for yourself. REB NAHUM Meir, I don't want to see those damned papers. You want me to see a list of innocent Jews, selected by Jews, to be shot. It is horrible. It is inhuman. MEIR It pains me also, but what choices do we have? I want to save 4000 Jews. This is my duty and obligation. The problem is that Weiser, our President, will not sign the list unless you, the rabbi of the Shtetl, approve it. The ball is in your court, Reb Nahum. REB NAHUM Meir, you a putting a tremendous burden on me. I guess I will have to read the names of the victims. (He picks his glasses and sits down in the chair to read. His hands tremble visibly. After a while he turns to Meir.) Meir, I can't believe my eyes. You are killing the soul of the Shtetl. For example take Josele the Soifer- Josele the Scribe. He wrote every mezuzah in the Shtetl and wrote ten Torah Scrolls. He is indispensable for the cultural survival of the Community. MEIR Reb Nahum, he is an old man. He lived his life and besides he leaves behind six children. They deserve to be sheltered. REB NAHUM And how will they survive without parents? They will die from starvation. This is inhuman. MEIR Do you want me to take two of his children? The youngest for example. They are young, vulnerable and have little chances for survival Do you want to take them instead? REB NAHUN (With indignation) How can you take away young children from their parents? This will kill the children and the parents. You cannot do it! (more)
II-39. REB NAHUN (CONTINUED) (Pause) Shloime the Balagule is also on list. Shloime the Balagule, the most decent, the most loved man in the Shtetl. Let me tell you that for twenty years, Shloime crisscrossed the Shtetl, everyday, rain or shine, delivering sacks of potatoes, coal or firewood to the poor people. For pennies. Poor Shloime starved his horse to death, to feed his children. (PAUSE) I remember that one day during the services I saw Shloime sitting in his prayer shawl, dressed in a patched capote, with big boots lined with straw, to keep them warm and talking with God. Yes talking to God. Shloime was talking to God in Yiddish. What a character Shloime was. (PAUSE) You know Rabbi, he said to me, God understand Yiddish, and you don't have to use all this fancy Hebrew. What a character? You kill him and the Shtetl will never be the same. MEIR Reb Nahum, every human being is precious and priceless. I know it. But don't we have to do it to protect our future? REB NAHUM (Proceeds reading. From time to time he stops and his face shows strains of pain.) Moshe the Wasser Trager - Moses the Water Carrier. Everyday, Moses walked tens of miles, carrying on a wooden yoke two pails of crystal clear water. For two pails of tasty water Moses charged ten pennies. (Pause) You know Meir that Moses delivered water free of charge to widows and orphans. He is such a pious Jew always looking for a way to perform a Mitzvah, to perform a good deed. He always shared his meager Shabbat meals with people poorer than him himself. How can you kill him? (Pause) The moral of the story is that the cohesiveness of the Jewish community, the social responsibility kept us together for generations. You kill those people and cohesiveness will be gone forever. We will perish. REB NAHUM Meir, I can not sign those papers. Those are living people, my neighbors, my pupils, my friends. You are playing God. You are deciding who shall live and who shall die. You will be killing the Shtetl with your collaboration with our enemies. I can't sign it. MEIR Reb Nahum, you call it collaboration, I call it adaptation. Look here. (Meir walks over to a small cabinet, takes out a manila envelope and gives to Reb Nahum) Look here are my Aryan papers, for me and my wife: Mietek and Valeria Sikorski. With those papers I can leave tomorrow and live safely on the other side. (Pause) I am staying here because of the social responsibility. Unfortunately, I am the only one that can assure the survival of the Shtetl. Weiser, my boss, cannot make a decision. The Germans tried to starve us to death. All food supplies were cut off. We had to live on a quarter pound of sawdust bread but the Jews are adaptable, resourceful people. Now everybody is smuggling in food to the Ghetto, even the Burial Society, the Chevra Keddisha, is using the coffins for smuggling. The Germans are afraid of typhoid and don't touch the (more)
II-40. MEIR (CONTINUED) coffins. (Pause) Overnight we built grindstone mills, organized underground bakeries, built extensive bunkers for hiding. All this done under the eyes of the Germans, with the help and protection of the Jewish Police. You call it collaboration? REB NAHUM What is the use of all those activities when you are going to kill the people ad undermine the cohesiveness? MEIR The Germans realized that they cannot starve us to death so they are starting direct killing. We understand that. To assure the survival of the community we do have to slow this process. We have to protect the fittest and most valuable. We have to play for time, hoping that the Allies will break Hitler's neck. We have to adapt to the new conditions at this historical junction. We have to play for time and cannot afford the luxury of social justice. e REB NAHUM Meir I can't sign it. This is against the law, against the Jewish tradition and sanctity of human life. I can't do this. MEIR Listen to me Reb Nahum, listen carefully. Isn't saving of 4000 Jews according to the Law? For the sake of the community you have to find a precedence, to find a justification. The Talmud is full different opinions, different precedence and contradictions. (Pause) Remember Beth Hillel and Beth Shamai. They disagreed on almost all the issues. You can find the proper interpretation. REB NAHUM Meir, I am not a lawyer that looks for loophole in the ancient laws. I am a Rabbi who also has a heart. (PAUSE) I understand you....You maybe right? What choices do we have? But, I cannot do it. This quest for righteousness is deeply ingrained in my soul, my whole being. I cannot do it. MEIR Reb Nahum, you think that I am a scoundrel. You are wrong. I adjusted to the new reality. It is you that lives in the Talmudic world of yesterday, in the world of discourses and discussions about righteousness, morality and mitzvoth [good deeds]. (Pause) This world fell apart a long time ago and you are still clinging to the illusions. You cannot solve today's problems with the notions from the Babylonian age. REB NAHUM Don't do unto others, is not a Babylonian notion. It is the basis of our faith. MEIR (Gets up and approaches Reb Nahum. His face hardens, his voice is menacing.) (more)
II-41. MEIR (CONTINUED) Reb Nahum, you have to do it. You have to do it for your own sake and for the sake of your family. (Pause) I hope that you understand the implications. If this is true, you and your family will be on the list. It is only fair. Isn't it? (Pause) Here is the deal. You sign the list and I will promise you that I will do my best to save Rachel. I do have connections, you know. REB NAHUM Meir. I don't think that the life of Rachel is worth more than the lives of 1000 Jews. Never. In the eyes of God we are all equal. As to myself and my family I leave it in God's hands. A man is from dust and to dust he returns. MEIR Reb Nahum, I am not threatening you, I am only asking you do go home and find precedence. You have a 24 hour deadline. I am sure that you will sign the list. Integrity is a nice word, which goes out through the window when ones life is in danger. Self- preservation is the basic law of nature. REB NAHUM (Reb Nahum gets up and heads toward the door. He stops and turns toward Meir) Meir, I understand your position. You might be right but I cannot sign it. Nevertheless I promise you continue looking for a solution. END OF SCENE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 3 - APPARITION SETTING: The same synagogue. On the up left there is a white screen on which the apparition of Reb Nahum's Reb Father will be projected. TIME: Same day late at night. AT RISE: Reb Nahum sits at the table, opens a book and to looks it through. After a while he gets up and walks into the storage room and comes out with another stack of books. REB NAHUM It is late at night, soon there will come the time for the crowing of the rooster, and I still don't know what to do. I wish my Reb Isaac was here. Oh! I am so tired and I hardly can keep much eyes open. I have to rest. (more)
II-42. REB NAHUM (CONTINUED) (He leans his head on the table and exhausted falls asleep. He starts to dream. The apparition of his Reb Isaac appears on the screen. The Reb Isaac is dressed in a white coat that blends completely with his white hair and white beard) FATHER Nahum, my son, you called me? REB NAHUM Father, am I glad to see you. I have big, big problem, and you can help me to solve it. You are so versed in the Talmud. Tell me Father why does it happen to us? FATHER Maybe God is punishing Israel for its transgressions? REB NAHUM Reb Isaac I hate to hear this cliche about punishment of Israel for its transgression. For two thousand years we lived in accordance with the teaching of the great prophets, Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah. We beat our swords into pruning hooks and learned war no more, we kept all the Commandments of the Torah. (Pause) Where is the transgression? Why this sufferance and all those tears? FATHER You don't understand, son. After the destruction of the Temple all gates to Heaven were closed and the only gates to Heaven that remained open were the Gate of Tears. (Pause) It is unfortunate but the only way to communicate with God is through tears, my son. This is clearly written in the Cabala. REB NAHUM Father isn't it written in the Psalm that we have to serve the Lord with gladness and come into His presence with joy? (Pause) How can we serve God with gladness when the Gates of Gladness are closed? FATHER I understand your question son, but I don't have the answer. REB NAHUM Father, can you explain to me this insanity? What is the purpose of this killing? FATHER Son, this is a replay of the Tower of Babel. REB NAHUM The Tower of Babel? I don't understand this, Father. FATHER The history of mankind is best represented by the story of the Tower of Babel. Man is unable to recognize his limitations and accept the fact that he is part of nature and not its (more)
II-43. FATHER (CONTINUED) master. (Pause) God created this beautiful world, a delightful mosaic of colors, shades with constant interaction of lights and shadows, the birds and the bees, the fruits and the weeds, and even people of different colors and shades. (PAUSE) And in each generation comes a man that wants to improve God's world, to achieve gray mediocrity, a world without colors, without diversity, filled with poisonous hatred and injustice. A world of masters and slaves. Hitler is such a man and he will have the same end as the builders of the Tower of Babel. REB NAHUM Father what will be the end of this? FATHER There will be no end to these unnecessary sufferings, to all those conflicts, until man realizes the will of the Creator manifesting itself through his creation. (Pause) God could have created a mono-chromatic world inhabited with think-alike pious, devoted people. He did not do it. He created a diversified world full of people of many colors, many beliefs, serving the Creator in many ways. Diversity is spice of life, and to maintain a harmonious life enhancing diversity, religious and cultural tolerance is a must. Until man learns the tolerance the world will be in turmoil. REB NAHUM But Reb Isaac, what shall I do? I am called to decide the fate of a thousand Jews. I am only a small town Rabbi, how can I make such decisions? FATHER When Providence calls, a man rises to the occasion and to the challenge. Believe me, heroes are not born, they are made. In perilous time Israel was always guided, by individuals of high integrity and high moral standards. (Pause) You fit this picture, my son. Rise to the occasion. REB NAHUM What shall I do, Father? Are we killing 1000 Jews or are we saving the lives of 4000 Jews? This is the question. What should I do, Father? (Pause) Is my daughter's life worth more than the lives of 1000 Jews? FATHER I can't tell you what to do? You have to make your own decisions. REB NAHUM I have to make my own decisions? It is funny to hear this from you, Father. All my life you made the decisions for me. You selected my bride. You made me a Rabbi of this God forsaken town. Now, I have to make my own decisions. FATHER I did what was the best for the community.
II-44. REB NAHUM Yes, Father for the good of the community I gave my dreams to foster your illusions. (After a moment of hesitation he adds bitterly, his hand touching his chin, like searching for his beard.) But let's forget about the past. What advice can you give me now Father? FATHER I cannot solve this problem for you, and although I can see the future, I cannot reveal it to you, fully. REB NAHUM You said that you can't reveal the future fully. How much can you reveal Father? FATHER I can talk only in generalities. It is a time of great peril for Israel. A powerful, unscrupulous, blind enemy is trying to destroy Israel. A false Messiah has arisen, who teaches people hatred instead of love; teaches people how to destroy instead of how to build; how to kill instead of how to grow and sustain life. (Pause) Hard times are ahead for the people of Israel. (PAUSE) The false Messiah will not succeed, and in the end he will kill himself. Scores of thousands from Israel will die, but Israel will not perish. On the ashes of the burned out life a new life will sprout. (He hesitates a moment, like trying to decide if is not reveling too much) FATHER God has listened to the cries of his children and decided to gather them from all four corners of the world and bring them into the Promised Land. But before Israel can rise, the spirit of Bar Kochba must be revived. No more sacrifices for the Sanctification of the Holy Name. A tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. There will no peace for the weak, no peace for the wicked. (He stops for a moment) Nahum, my son, I hope that you understand that I am giving you only background information. I am not trying to make the decision for you. REB NAHUM (Bitterly) I understand your motivation, and I am thankful to you. You definitely made my death easier . . . You gave me hope . . . hope for the future, but what shall I do? What should the Verdict be? FATHER One advice I can give you my son. Do God's will, son. Don't ask God to do your will. REB NAHUM But what is God's will Father? I searched all the Holy Books: the Five Books of Moses, the Babylonian Talmud, the Treatises of Maimonides. I even looked to Spinoza for guidance. I couldn't find the answer.
II-45. FATHER I can also tell you that you will not find the answer in the Talmud. Israel had never faced such perils. You will have to look for answers somewhere else. REB NAHUM (Cries out in a distressed voice) REB NAHUM Where shall I look for answers, in Mein Kampf? FATHER You said it, not me. I can't help you. People in heaven can't interfere with the lives of the living. Your decision will not make any difference at all. Do God's will, son. It makes no difference. Good-bye son. My time is up. I have to go. God be with you, son. I will be waiting for you in Heaven. (The broken figure of the Reb Isaac disappears in the darkness of the night and Reb Nahum wakes up to the crowing of the rooster. He looks around in bewilderment. The apparition of his Reb Isaac is gone. Reb Nahum gets up rubs his eyes and suddenly remembering his dream wakes up and murmurs to himself) REB NAHUM Mein Kampf. Mein Kampf. The answer lies there. (He approaches the masked bookcase and pulls out a book. An old newspaper clipping falls out. He bends down and picks up the newspaper page and starts to read it). Father was right, as always. Here is the speech given by Hitler to the Reichstag, before the war. Oh God! The situation is clear. I should not sign the list. (Pause) Life in the Ghetto is so difficult, but we want to live. We want to live so much. We live in constant danger; life in danger is very fast, full of impression. Every hour of life feels like a day, every day feels like a month and every month feels like a lifetime. Can I rob thousands of Jews of the Shtetl their most precious possession, their lives? (Pause) My heart wants me to sign. With every beat it calls to me "Sign fool! Sign Fool! It is Rachel, the flesh of your flesh and the blood of your blood. Save him! Save our people at all cost. But my hands refuse to sign. My whole being is repelled. This is a struggle between my heart and my whole being. (Pause) W'Ahavta et Adonai . . . Thou shall love the Lord with all thy heart and all your being. This is the essence of our faith. How can I reject it and go against the explicit commandments of God? (Pause) This is a fight between the love of God and the love of Rachel. Rachel you must understand that my love of God, love of the Creator of the Universe is stronger. I am going to do his will. Who am I to break his Commandments? (Reb Nahum starts to pace the scene, then he
II-46. approaches the pulpit and grabs the candelabra, and raises it over his head.) Let me keep the faith Lord. . . Let Thy people live. Oh Lord you know how difficult it is to keep the faith in this sea of sufferance, hunger, terror and starvation. You know it Lord. (Pause) Oh, Lord let me keep the faith! Let Rachel live. Let our people live . . When my times comes and the sun will set forever, when all the miracles of Your creation: the trees, the grass, the birds and the flowers will whittle away . . . Let me die with Your name on my lips. Let me seek your Divine Presence with love and confidence . . . Let Rachel Live! Let Thy People live, Lord! END OF SCENE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 4 - THE END SETTING: The offices of the Jewish Police. At the left center there is a small reception desk made from a converted mahogany piece of furniture. At up rear there is a big desk of the Police Commander, Meir. The center piece of the desk is a big black telephone. The telephone is a hand cranked type. To the left of the desk stands a big dining table serving as a conference table. At the up left there is entrance door. The room is lit by a naked electrical bulb. TIME: Next morning. AT RISE: Meir sits at his desk and looks over a few sheets of typed pages. He gets up and looks at the clock. MEIR (Pacing the office, very agitated, nervous) Where is Reb Nahum, where is the Rabbi? The deadline is almost here and he is not here. Still praying, or maybe is trying to pass the buck, like Weiser. It is all on my shoulders. (Takes the list from the desk and looks it over) The list is ready, everybody is waiting and the Rabbi is not here. What am I going to do? Forge his signature? (He approaches the pass-through window, behind his desk and yells) Shmulek, take a guy and go over to Reb Nahum's home or to the synagogue, and bring him here. Immediately. Before the disaster strikes.
II-47. VOICE OF SHMULEK Yes Commandant, I am going immediately, and I will bring him dead or alive. MEIR (Resumes his nervous pacing) It is all because of this fool Weiser. I am sticking out my neck and he plays the role of a nice guy. But what can I do? Fire him? He was appointed by the Germans. (Suddenly there is a series of single shots. Meir approaches the pass- trough window and yells) Shmulek what is going on? Who is shooting? What is going on? (Stands still for a minute, listening) Shmulek went to pick up Reb Nahum, and I am alone in the station. (Glances at the clock) My God there is only 45 minutes left to the deadline. What am I going to do? (Resumes pacing, after a while Reb Nahum walks in) MEIR Finally you came, Reb Nahum. What was the shooting? Why are you late? REB NAHUM You are the chief of the Jewish Police, the man with the connections, and you are asking me about the shooting? (Pause) I will tell you what happened. When I was walking here, I panic broke out. Everybody was running and shouting: Hide. Hide. Run for your life. I was pushed into a bunker, and afterwards the shooting started. MEIR Who was shooting? Tell me, please. REB NAHUM I will tell you what happened. When I emerged from the bunker I saw Dietrich coming out from the hospital, with the gun in his hands. He shot dead all the patients of the Jewish hospital. MEIR Oh my God, he killed about 50 sick people. Killed liked that. Oh my God, Weiser's mother was there. (Regaining his composure. He gets up from the desk, takes the list and approaches the Rabbi) We have serious business to discuss. Reb Nahum I changed the list. . I took out Josele the Sofer, Shloime the Balagule. All of them. The list is ready for your signature. By the way, a few minutes ago I got a call from Krawczuk. He said to tell you that the Germans mean business. You better sign the list. REB NAHUM I am sorry Meir. I can't sign it. In the eyes of God this is murder. By signing the list I would be breaking the Law. (Pause) For two thousand years Israel was guided by the rulings of the Sages like Hillel, Shamaj, Rabbi Akiva, etc. They with their rulings created a Common Law called Halacha. For the sake of the Nation this Law can't be broken.
II-48. MEIR Why not? The Law should serve the community. The community doesn't serve the Law. REB NAHUM The Jews survived 2000 years of dispersion by strictly adhering to the traditions. You know a small crack in the foundation can cause the collapse of a whole structure. We have to guard the integrity of the structure. MEIR Reb Nahum, the structure is collapsing. Now we can only save individual stones of the foundation . . . to be able to build another structure . . . After the calamity is over. REB NAHUM We have survived two thousand years of exile by being a nation of dreamers. Generation upon generation, we accepted exile as a temporary setback and we accepted the dream of Return to Zion as the reality. If we give up our dream we will vanish. MEIR I agree with you that for two thousand years the Jewish nation was kept together by the dream of Return to Zion. We were a nation of dreamers, and now we pay the price for it. (Pause) We sacrificed generations upon generations, to keep the dream alive. The dream is gone. Now we have to help the individual to survive physically, to bear witness to the atrocities committed by man upon man, to make the world a better and safer place to live. The time for dreams is gone. REB NAHUM Interesting notion. We survived 2000 years of exile, by maintaining a close knit community, where the individual never hesitated to sacrifice his life for the good of the community. We Jews call it Kiddush Hashem. What you propose is to sacrifice the community for the sake of selected individuals. Meir it won't work. . . . It never worked. MEIR Reb Nahum you are hiding conveniently behind God's will. It was God's will to set up the Nazis upon us. Who are you to question his will? Why don't you sign the list? REB NAHUM I cannot sign it, because it is not good for the community. You know Meir, nations survive physically and spiritually, through their myths, legends, beliefs and history. If I collaborate with the Germans, a few Jews will survive physically, but we as a group will fail spiritually and the future generations will be ashamed of us, ashamed of our actions. (Pause) I cannot be a collaborator. A German collaborator. I can't. I hope you understand me. MEIR The other day I saw children playing in the street. You know what they played? German and Jews. One five-year old pointed his little finger at a group of children yelling: "I am a German and you are Jews. Puff! Puff! Ta-Ta-Ta. You're all dead." (Pause) My heart ached when I looked at those children. It is those children and their future that I am trying to protect. Remember if the young are going to be killed there is no future for our nation. Without the old people we can somehow manage.
II-49. REB NAHUM Meir, yesterday I made up my mind to sign the list and get it over with, but I looked further for some precedence in the Talmud. Until I found an old clipping of a speech that Hitler made in the Reichstag on January 30, 1939 Hitler. He prophesied the annihilation of the Jews, nine months before the outbreak of the war. Let me read it to you: (He pulls out from his pocket a folded page of an old newspaper, gets closer to Meir, shows it to him and starts to read aloud) Hitler said and I quote: "Today I will be a prophet again: If international Jewry within Europe and abroad should succeed once more in plunging the peoples into a world war, then the consequence will be not the Bolshevization of the world and therewith a victory of Jewry, but on the contrary, the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe." (Pause) In my opinion Hitler's words are saying it all. Killing of 1000 Jews is the beginning of the end. They will kill us all. So let them do it without my help. MEIR This is a piece of German propaganda. Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat to gain power. Only a maniac can believe in this garbage. REB NAHUM And what is Hitler, not a maniac? Only a maniac can believe that the Germans, a nation of 80 millions can conquer the whole world. MEIR Fate put upon me the responsibility for saving part of this community. I do my best. We are surrounded by enemies; even the Allies don't give a damn about us. They are preoccupied with fighting the war. The only hope of survival we do have is to cooperate with our enemies. The Germans have no reason kill all the Jews. They need us, they need our free labor. The Germans won't kill millions of Jews. Why should they? It is against they own interest. We will survive although in limited numbers. (Pause) I hope to be between the survivors. I am not a hero but I am no villain either. We Jews have not the luxury of choosing between Good and Evil. I am choosing a lesser evil. (Pause) Signing the list, you will be saving the live of not only Rachel but a thousand other young people that might be killed otherwise. If you don't sign the blood of innocent will be on your hands. (Pause) Let me tell you Reb Nahum. Your signature is just a formality. I will sign the list myself and who is going to check it? I believe that I am doing the right thing. It just a formality. Sing It. Sign it. REB NAHUM (Sits down on a chair, puts his head on his hands and contemplates a minute. Meir looks on silently. With shaky hands Meir hands over the list. Reb Nahum examines it, and then he turns to Meir with a pained expression on his face) This piece of paper with a long list of names, but those is all living people. People full of hope, pain, hunger, expectations, remorse. Today they are alive, tomorrow this will be a list of dead victims, a list of the past. Who will remember them? Who will say Kaddish for their souls? I never dreamed that I will be put in such a position. A simple scribbling with the pen and it requires superhuman strength. (more)
II-50. REB NAHUM (CONTINUED) (He takes the lists in both hands ad turns toward the audience. Raises the list like in a gesture of benediction) Father in Heaven, have mercy upon my soul. Raise Your countenance upon me and give me peace. Give me peace. Peace. (Pause) Meir, I took the easy way out. I made my peace with God. I made my peace with the community. Meir, I will not sign it. (At this moment there is a big commotion in the corridor. A minute later Dietrich, the German Commandant walks in. Raises his hand in a Nazi salute) DIETRICH Heil Hitler! Meir. Where is the list? MEIR (Takes the list from Reb Nahum and approaches Dietrich.) The list is not signed. In one hour, half an hour before the deadline the list will be delivered to your office, Commandant. DIETRICH No Meir, keep this list. Tomorrow morning, nine o'clock exactly, you will deliver the 1000 Jews to the trucks waiting at the market place. Remember 1000 Jews, nine o'clock. Remember Meir, if you don't deliver, I will shot you with this gun. Remember. (Pause) For tomorrow morning you will also prepare for me another list. I need 300 Jews, educated and able-bodied, to work on cataloging books in all the libraries of the county. It is work for about one month. Heil Hitler! (After the salute Dietrich exits while Meir and Reb Nahum stand dumfounded.) REB NAHUM (Coming to his senses) What are you going to do, Meir? What is your reply? MEIR (His tense posture and rigid face are slowly relaxing. He takes the list and approaches Reb Nahum) Reb Nahum, here is my reply. (He takes the list and tears into pieces. Throw the scraps of paper into the air.) If the Germans want to kill us, let them do the job themselves. We will not help them! REB NAHUM (Approaches Meir and warmly embraces him) Meir, I always knew that you are a honest man. You made the right decision, Meir. The future generations will honor us but they will never understand our trials and tribulations. We are in a non win situation, damned if you do and damned if you don't. When in doubt we have to follow our principles. (more)
II-51. REB NAHUM (CONTINUED) (Pause) Yesterday night, in the midst of my deliberations, I realized this and I decided to write a prayer. And here it is. (He pulls out a sheet of paper and starts to read PRAYER Praised be O God, Ruler of the Universe, who made us captives of Hope. Guard me, O Lord, from hating man, my brother. Guard me from recalling, what he did to me. Even when all the stars in the sky are quenched, Even when my soul becomes mute, When I am overcome by disaster, Let me not lay his guilt bare. When the barbed wire fence is locked, Darkness over the nation reclines, And we are drained of love and rejected, I am bound to my rock-O Lord. Permit me to see in my brother a spark, The spark of humanity still shining, That I may know that in me, myself, Not all is extinguished yet. EPILOG About 100 Jews of the Shtetl survived the Holocaust. Reb Nahum perished the next day, Leah died from hunger and typhoid, Meir was hanged for organizing a resistance group, Reb Isaac found a Polish peasant who hid him, and Krawczuk lives to this day in Canada. What happened to Dietrich is not known. FINALE AT RISE: Total Darkness.