A remarkable personage who, according to tradition, occupied the throne of Poland for a short time was a Jew by the name of Shaul Wahl. As legend goes, his father had done a great favor for one of the Polish princes, Nicholas Radziwill, and in return, the prince took young Shaul, whom he had searched for and located studying in a yeshivah in Brest-Litovsk (Brisk), under his wing. He was so captivated by the brilliance and depth of Shaul’s intellect that he brought him to his own castle, provided for all his wants, and supplied him with all possible means for study. The noblemen who visited Radziwill’s court marveled at the wisdom and learning of the young Jew, and thus the fame of Shaul spread throughout Poland.
When King Bathory of Poland died (1586), the people were divided into factions. There were quite a number of candidates for the throne, but the contending parties could agree upon no one. Polish law stipulated that the throne must not remain unoccupied for any length of time, and in case the electors could not agree upon a candidate, a “rex pro tempore” (temporary king) must be appointed. Prince Nicholas Radziwill proposed the name Shaul Wahl, insisting he was a man who belonged to neither party, and who, in wisdom and goodness, was far superior to anyone else he knew. Eventually, amid great enthusiasm and shouts of “Long live King Saul,” the young man was elected to this high office. The name “Wahl” was added from the German word “wahl” (election). Traditions differ as to the length of his reign. Some state that he ruled one night only; others make it a few days. All, however, agree that Shaul succeeded in passing a number of very wise laws, and among them some that tended to ameliorate the condition of the Jews in Poland. Although this story cannot be supported by historical data, it gained a firm place in the belief of the people.
After his short reign, Shaul Wahl settled in Brisk and continued to be a wealthy and influential individual who was a frequent visitor at the prince’s palace. As a result of his close personal relationship with the prince and other influential ministers, his son came to the attention of one of their daughters. She was a wild spirit and was used to getting whatever she desired. She became infatuated with this Jewish boy and decided she must marry him. Of course, Shaul Wahl and his family were not of the same mind. In order to avoid an unpleasant and perhaps dangerous refusal, Shaul sought to quickly marry his son to a Jewish girl so that he would no longer be eligible for the nobleman’s daughter.
Time was of the essence, as was the need for secrecy. Shaul searched the city and found, in the local hospital, a young Jewish woman who had contracted a life-threatening illness. The doctors had gone so far as to despair of her life. Shaul Wahl contacted her father, who granted permission for his daughter to “marry” the Jewish nobleman’s son in order to save him from the designs of the princess.
The wedding ceremony was conducted in private and the two were married. However, once she became his daughter-in-law, Shaul felt responsible to take care and treat the young woman’s sickness, and he investigated her situation in depth. Not satisfied with the medical care she had been receiving, he provided the necessary funds to hire expert physicians, and a new course of treatment was prescribed. Thankfully, the woman saw marked improvement almost immediately, and after a short time she was completely cured.
After she had recovered, she requested an audience with her father-in-law, Shaul Wahl, without revealing her identity to his secretary. She wanted to thank him for all he had done on her behalf. As he was not accustomed to meeting women privately, she was not granted a meeting. However, she insisted, explaining that it was an unusual situation. When Shaul heard this he permitted her to visit. Upon arriving at his stately office, she told him her name. Instantly, he recognized her and said, “Oh, yes, I imagine that now we should arrange divorce proceedings for you and my son ....”
“Please,” she interrupted, “may I ask why? What is it that I have done wrong?” Taken aback, Shaul realized that she was right. He was very impressed with the young woman and her modest demeanor, and the couple remained married. They were blessed with five sets of twins, which inspired their surname Teomim (or Thumim), Hebrew for twins.