The Year of the Sword
The revised and expanded edition of Avner Gold's The Year of the Sword opens in 1648 with the happy occasion of Rav Shloime Strasbourg's marriage to Brachah Surkis, to the delight of his parents who never thought they would live to see this day. Several months later, Rav Shloime travels with Aharon, his ten-year-old stepson, and his friend Elisha Ringel to a family wedding in Nemirov, Ukraine.
In the middle of the festivities, the count informs the Jewish community that the Cossacks have revolted and are fast approaching, and he offers them sanctuary in the castle. The people run to the supposed safety of the castle, the bride still in her wedding dress, but the Cossacks gain entry through trickery. The trapped people heroically choose martyrdom, and the scenes that ensue are horrendous.
Rav Shloime, Aharon and Elisha escape Nemirov through Elisha's resourcefulness, but danger pursues them. Rav Shloime and Aharon become separated from Elisha during the attack on Polnoye, and only Rav Shloime's quick thinking saves them from certain death.
The Year of the Sword depicts the early stages of the tragedy that befell the Jewish people during the years 1648-1649, known to Jewish history as "Tach v'Tat", when a large portion of European Jewry perished at the hands of the Cossacks and their Tatar allies. It vividly portrays Bogdan Chmielnicki, the Cossack hetman, and Tugay Bey, the Tatar general. We behold the faith and courage of Rav Yechiel Michel Katz of Nemirov and Rav Shimshon Ostropolier of Polnoye as they inspire their followers to sanctify the Name. And we witness Rav Yom Tov Lipmann Heller, the Tosefos Yom Tov, the illustrious rabbi of Krakow, struggle with the plight of the women whose husbands disappeared in the war.
The Year of the Sword is historical fiction at its finest.