by Avraham Kass - Illustrations by Baruch Becker

“Look over there. See, it’s an old shul, Chaim. I told you it was here.”

Moshe Vogel pointed to an old abandoned building facing Forman’s Lane, in what used to be the busiest Jewish section of North London.

"Chaim, what's this?" Moshe said, lifting up a long wooden case. ..."It's a Megillah!"

“Are you sure it’s a shul?” asked Chaim Segal timidly.

“Of course I’m sure. I noticed it last week when I rode by here.You
can tell from the shape of the windows.And see, there, over the door, it says Bais HaKnesses Anshei Chesed — The Synagogue of the Men
of Kindness.Come on, let’s take a closer look.”

“But Moshe, it’s all boarded up,” Chaim protested.

“Don’t be a sissy, come on. Look over here, the boards on that window have fallen off. Let’s climb in.”

Moshe went over to the window and gave it a tug. It rattled a bit, and then lifted open. In an eyeblink, the two boys were inside.

The abandoned shul smelled dank and musty. In the dim light, Moshe began to rummage about.The old wooden benches were covered with dust. Here and there lay worn-out curtains. Empty bookshelves stood by the walls.

“Look Chaim,”Moshe called.“Here’s a closet full of old books!”

At last Chaim also began to get interested.“There’s boxes of them,” he said.“Let’s pull them out and see what’s inside.”

The two boys began sifting through piles of old Hebrew books with yellow pages and torn covers.

“Moshe, what’s this?” He lifted up a long wooden case, about the size of his arm.Together they opened it. Inside was a scroll.“It’s a Megillah!”Moshe exclaimed.“Wow! Look Chaim!”

“Why would anybody leave that here?” asked Chaim.

“I don’t know,”Moshe replied.“Look, here’s a name written on the case: Samuel Rosen. He must be the owner.Do you think he’s still alive? We ought to return it to him!”

“What a Mitzvah!”Chaim exclaimed.

The two boys returned home together with the Megillah, and began their search.They asked their parents.They looked in the phone book.They asked every old person they could,“Do you know who’s Samuel Rosen?”But nobody knew.

“Why don’t you go to the Post Office and ask there?” said Chaim’s father.“Maybe this person Samuel Rosen moved away years ago, and left a forwarding address. It might still be in the postal records.”

At first, the postmaster complained. “It’s too much work,” he grumbled.“When did you say the person moved?”

“We don’t know.That’s the thing.You see,we’re looking for him so that we can return a valuable old scroll that he lost.”

“Hmm, let me take a look,” the postmaster said, taking an interest.

After about twenty minutes, he came back to the counter. “Boys, I think you’re in luck.We have an old listing for a Samuel Rosen. He moved from Forman Court in North London to Mapledown.”

“Where’s that? the boys asked.

“In Surrey, about an hour south of London.”

The boys copied down the address, 11 Fox Run, Mapledown, Surrey, and hurried home.That same day they posted a letter to Mr. Rosen, announcing that they had discovered his Megillah, and wondered if they could return it.

Every day, Chaim would ask,“Did you get an answer yet, Moshe?” But no reply came.A week passed.“ Maybe our letter got lost,” said Chaim. Another week went by.

“Maybe Mr. Rosen doesn’t like to write,”Moshe suggested.

“Well, what should we do now?”Chaim asked.

“There’s only one thing we can do,”said Moshe. “If we want to return the Megillah,we’ll have to take it to Mapledown ourselves.”

**********

Moshe and Chaim planned their trip for the following Sunday. Moshe took the Megillah in its wooden case, and
Chaim prepared a knapsack with sandwiches.They took the underground to Victoria Station, and bought tickets for the
mid-morning southbound train to Surrey.

They walked up a stony pathway winding between trees towards an
old white house, at the top of a hill.

Upon arriving at the Mapledown station, the attendant gave them directions how to get to 11 Fox Run. “Are you sure that’s where you want to go?” he asked. “A strange old man lives there. No one hardly
sees him. Some say the place is haunted. I don’t believe it myself, but I wouldn’t be so hasty to pay a visit either.”

Chaim looked timidly at his friend.“Maybe,Moshe,we shouldn’t...”

Moshe waved away his objections.“We’ve come too far to turn back now,”he insisted, setting off down the road.“Come on Chaim.”

The train station of Mapledown was situated on the outskirts of town. In a short time the boys found themselves walking briskly down a narrow tree-lined country road.They followed the station-master’s directions for about 25 minutes. Finally, near a gnarled old oak that must have been hundreds of years old, they saw a weathered sign post that said,“11 Fox Run. No Solicitors.”

Chaim tugged at Moshe’s sleeve.“Moshe, it says No Solicitors.”

“We’re not solicitors, Chaim.Don’t get nervous. Solicitors collect money. We’re returning a lost object.That’s different.”

They walked up a stony pathway winding between trees towards an old white house at the top of a hill. Unkept weeds grew by the sides of the path. Finally they approached the front door.Moshe put the Megillah in his left hand, and began knocking loudly.

There was no answer.He banged some more. Suddenly, the door swung open on its own.

Moshe looked at Chaim with a question in his eye. Should they go in? “ Maybe Mr. Rosen’s upstairs and can’t hear us,” Moshe said.“Let’s take a peek inside, and call him.”

“Oh Moshe, do we have to?”

“Don’t be a scaredy,”Moshe replied.

“Mr. Rosen,” the boys called,“Mr. R-o-o-sen.”

Suddenly the front door slammed shut! Moshe and Chaim rushed to
the door to open it.

“It’s locked!” cried Chaim in terror.

“Never mind. We can climb out the window,” said Moshe, but to their
surprise, the windows were secured with iron bars.

“What are we going to do?” cried Chaim.“We’re trapped!”

Just then they heard a long eerie creaking sound.They turned around.The front door had swung open!

“Moshe, let’s go, please.”

“Just a minute, Chaim. I want to see what’s upstairs!”

“U-Upstairs! Moshe. I don’t want to go upstairs!”

“Well, are you going to stay down here all alone?” said Moshe as he began to go up the stairs.

“W-wait!”Chaim whispered.“I-I’ll come too.”Slowly the boys mounted the wooden staircase.

Bang! Clang! Clang!

“Wh-What’s that?” cried Chaim, grabbing at Moshe’s sleeve.

“S-sounds like metal crashing,”said Moshe.

“Moshe,m-maybe this place is haunted,”sobbed Chaim.

“Pull yourself together Chaim. Here.You hold on to the Megillah.Come on.”

At the top of the stairs the boys entered a long hallway. Bang! Clang! Clang! The strange noises started again, and then stopped.The boys edged their way forward, passing several doors. Finally, taking a deep breath, Moshe held Chaim by the hand, and slowly pushed open one of the doors.

The room was empty.Then together, they entered a second room. Suddenly the banging started again, this time louder than ever.The boys leapt fearfully back into the hallway. Again the banging stopped.No one was there. Only silence.

“I have an idea,”said Moshe.“You go into the next room. I’ll stay out here and hide in the hallway under this table. We’ll find out where that banging is coming from.”

“Are you sure, Moshe?”

“Don’t be afraid, go on.”

As Chaim entered the next room, Moshe heard footsteps, and then the banging and crashing of metal started again. Moshe peeked out from under the table.There stood an old man banging two pot-lids together.

“Mr. Rosen,” cried Moshe as he jumped out from under the table.“You’re Mr. Rosen, aren’t you!”

“I-I suppose I am,” the old man mumbled gruffly.“What are you doing in my house?”

“The door was open,”said Moshe.“Then someone closed it on us, so we came upstairs.”

Chaim came running out into the hallway. Seeing the old man, he suddenly blurted out,“Who are you? Why are you trying to scare us?”

“Because I don’t want you to bother me any more.That’s why! Yes! I locked the door on you because I wanted to scare you away.Now go away and leave me alone.”

“But Mr. Rosen,we have something for you,” interrupted Moshe.“We found your Megillah in the old shul on Forman’s Lane...”

“I know, I know,” the old man said.“I got your letter. But I don’t want it. I just want to be left alone.”

“It’s very valuable,Mr. Rosen,” said Chaim.

“Listen boys, it’s a long time since I left London. Something happened.... I-I don’t go to shul any more.Nobody bothers me here. You keep the Megillah.”

“But it’s a real Megillah,Mr. Rosen,”Chaim argued.“It’s holy. It’s part of the Torah! Don’t you like Purim? I get so much candy, it takes me a month to finish it!”

For the first time, Mr. Rosen smiled.

“Every year I dress up in a costume,”Chaim went on.“My mother helps me make it. Last year I was a bag of jelly beans.”

“I was Mordechai,”said Moshe.

“Yes,well I’m sure you looked very nice,” said Mr. Rosen.

“Would you like to see my costume this year?” asked Chaim. “My mother is already working on it.”

“Is it Purim soon?”the elderly man asked.

“In two weeks!”exclaimed Moshe.“Will you come and be with us. Will you let us read your Megillah?”

“You can surely keep the Megillah and read it, but as for joining you, I’m afraid not. I’m too old to change.”

*********

Purim arrived. Chaim put on his new costume, and Moshe put on his.Then they went out to the car with Chaim’s father and his sister, Rivka. Everybody was excited.Chaim held the Megillah in his lap. Rivka had a big basket full of fruit and cakes and some grape juice.

“I hope he won’t take it the wrong way,”said Moshe.

“We’ll soon see,” said Chaim’s father, as the car sped down the Motorway towards Mapledown.After driving about an hour and a half through the hilly country-side, they came to their destination.“There’s the High Road,” said Chaim.“I recognize it.”

“There’s Fox Run,” said Moshe.

They parked the car and went up to the old mansion. This time when they knocked at the oak door,Mr.Rosen answered.He smiled.“Come in,” he said.“I see I can’t get rid of you so easily.”

“Happy Purim, Mr. Rosen,” said Chaim.“This is my father. He brought us down here. If you agree, he said he’d read the Megillah for all of us.And this is my sister, Rivka. She brought the Shaloch Manos.”

“Thank you,” said Mr. Rosen.“Would you like to put it on the table?” He led them to a room with a large mahogany table in the middle.

“I thought you might be coming,” said Mr. Rosen,“but I wasn’t exactly prepared to hear the ganze Megillah, heh, heh.”

“Would you like me to read it?” asked Chaim’s father. “The boys tell me it is your Megillah.”

“Alright,” said Mr. Rosen. “You can read it.Do I have to wear a yarmulka? You’ve got a pair of clever boys there, you know?” he said, addressing Chaim’s father.“I think they want to make a religious Jew out of me in my old age.”

“Would you like to say the blessing on reading the Megillah?” asked Chaim’s father.

“Oh no! I couldn’t, ”Mr. Rosen protested.

“Let me help you,”said Moshe. Together, the old man and the boy said the blessings.Then Chaim’s father chanted the Megillah reading. Everybody got out their graggers.When Haman’s name was read, Mr. Rosen suddenly smiled, and motioned with his hand as if asking them to wait a minute.

Chaim’s father paused silently, as Mr. Rosen scurried out of the room. In a minute he re-appeared with two pot-lids in his hand.Chaim’s father understood.He went back and re-read the last verse of the Megillah till he came to the name of “Haman.” When he said it he raised his voice dramatically. Moshe swirled his gragger.Chaim stamped loudly on the floor, and Mr. Rosen crashed and clanged his pot-lids with all his might.

When it was all over, Chaim’s father turned to Mr. Rosen. “Won’t you take back your Megillah now?”he asked.

“You’re very persuasive,” the old man said.“You’ve convinced me. I will take it back. It belonged to my grandfather, may he rest in peace.”

“Thank you, Mr. Rosen, for allowing us to return your Megillah,”said Moshe.

“No,” said Mr. Rosen.“Thank you for returning me to the Megillah. It’s been so many years....”

He looked around at the two boys, at Rivka, at Chaim’s father, and then back at Chaim.“Now where is all that candy you were telling me about?”