“How can I thank you, O great rabbi? All that I own is yours.”
“You owe me nothing,” replied Rashi. “Though our faiths are different, we are all the children of Adam. All of us are created in the image of the Almighty and my Torah compels me to aid each and every human being in his time of need.
A Horse For A Life
Toward the end of Rashi’s life, Klal Yisrael was beset by the Crusades. Thousands of Jews were killed and their property plundered, and Rashi himself was almost killed.
One of the leaders of the Crusades was named Godfrey of Bouillon. According to historical records, Godfrey conquered Jerusalem and massacred the Muslims there. Following this, he turned his attention to the Jews. Rounding up every Jew in the city, he forced them into one of the synagogues and then set fire to the structure. Every Jew in the building was burned alive.
Prior to his murderous journey, he had visited Rashi, and asked whether his mission would be successful.
“Why have you come here?” asked Rashi.
“I have heard that you are a holy man,” answered the crusader. “I want to know whether I will succeed or fail on my crusade to the Holy Land.”
Rashi thought for a moment and then answered, “You do not really want to hear the truth. You only want me to say that you will come back victorious.”
“No, no,” he protested. “I wish to know the truth. Tell me what will be my fate in the Holy Land.”
“Very well,” said Rashi. “You will indeed succeed in conquering the city of Jerusalem. You will only hold it, however, for three days before the Muslims drive you out. You will flee the Holy Land and return to this city with only three horses.”
When Godfrey heard this he grew livid with anger.
“I promised you that I would do you no harm and I will keep my word. But I give you fair warning now. Should I return with even four horses, I will cut your head from your shoulders and massacre all the Jews of France.”
“I have told you what the truth is,” replied Rashi. “You will not enter the city with more than three horses.”
“Very well, stubborn Jew,” scoffed the crusader. “We shall see who is right.”
Godfrey went on his Crusade and was away from France for four long years. Eventually he succeeded in conquering Jerusalem, committed his atrocities, and was then driven out by a powerful Muslim army that destroyed his army and forced him to flee for his life.
He returned to France and made his way to the city with four horses, his own and three others, ridden by the sole remnants of his once mighty army. As he neared the gates of the city, he remembered the incident with Rashi and the desire for punishment burned within him.
“The Jewish rabbi dared to think he could emerge victorious. I shall kill him and wipe out the Jewish community in the kingdom of France.”
The four horsemen neared the gates of the city and rode through the archway. As they did so, however, a heavy slab of masonry broke away from the arch and came crashing down on one of the horses, killing both the horse and its rider.
The prophecy of Rashi was fulfilled. Godfrey returned to the city with only three horses.