Jacob is a Jewish man living in Poland following the Khmelnystsky Massacres where his wife and kids were slain by Cossacks. Jacob has been sold to the pagans as a slave, but he still practices devout Judaism. Jacob falls in love with his master's daughter, Wanda, but his Jewish beliefs prevent him from taking a pagan woman for a wife.
But the attraction is too overwhelming for him to resist, and they have sex. When the Jews return to Josefov, they buy his freedom, and he too returns, just to dream each night of his love for Wanda. He dreams one night that she is pregnant and feels abandoned by him. He decides to return, and takes her as his wife. She becomes a Jew.
They move to Pilitz together and Jacob finds work as a teacher. Wanda's name is changed to Sarah, and they agree to pretend she is deaf and mute so her accent doesn't give away her pagan background. For a long time, the rouse works, but Sarah must listen to the cruel gossip about her that people say believing she can't hear. Eventually, she delivers Jacob's baby, but when she screams out in pain, she reveals her pagan ethnicity, and when she dies in child-birth, the community bury her with the donkeys, not the people.
Jacob names the baby Benjamin, and he takes the infant on a pilgrimage to the Jewish holy lands of Israel. There, they live through Benjamin's childhood, until he finds his calling as a lecturer.
Jacob returns to Pilitz 20 years later to find that Sarah's grave now falls within the perimeter of the cemetery, since many more have died in that town. Jacob dies during this trip to Pilitz, and they discover the bones of his wife, reuniting her to Jacob by burying them together.