Chapter Sixteen - The Letter

Translation Copyright 2001 by Morris Rosenthal

Translations from Hebrew

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Copyright 2001 by Morris Rosenthal

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A Righteous Love 

By Sarah Faiga Menkin - Published in Hebrew in Vilna 1880

Days passed and week replaced week since the time the lovers parted. Finalia worried about her beloved because all word from him ceased. Her previous happiness turned to grief, and her cheeks and face were reddened from crying. But who was there to see now if she was crying or sad? Dina also sat in the corner of the house crying, because it was six weeks since she had seen the face of her husband Meir. The minister had instructed them not to come until the danger had passed, because the villains laid in wait around his house. One time, a servant came from the minister and said, "The minister and the baron request that the two of you come." Dina wanted to go, but Finalia told to the servant to bring proof he had been sent by the minister. Dina laughed at her words, but she said that she wouldn't go. The servant left and in a few minutes he returned with a note written by the baron and the two of them went.

"What is this, that you are so frightened?" the baron asked his wife and daughter when he saw them.

"It is Finalia's intuition," said Dina, "She is always frightened by the sounds of a rustling leaves."

"Why?" asked her father.

"Because I know more about the danger that hovers over our heads than mother."

"And from where do you know about this?"

"My heart forewarns me."

"And why has your face fallen [Gn. 4:6] so?" asked the father examining her closely, "The color has entirely fled from you."

"It's nothing," the daughter replied, "Only that I was worried about you, dear father."

"Don't your worry, everything is fine with me," said the father. "When the minister returns from his work we pass the time together, and he entertains me with his evening conversation, He is wise, educated, and understanding like no other, and also a very dear soul."

The minister came in and greeted Dina and Finalia, spoke a few words with her and left.

"Hope in the Lord, my darling," said the baron, "That soon I'll be back on my feet, because the minister tells me that soon the wicked will return to their tents. But you Finalia, my only daughter, will be happy and joyful because the Lord will spread pure new skies over your head, and once I am standing on my own I will make your happiness permanent. Even if I were back in Paris in my former glory, I couldn't have hoped for such happiness as this." Finalia didn't say a word, and the baron grew very angry because he understood what was in her heart. But he hid his wrath in his bosom, and he said, "Tell me, my daughter, has Victor Shonfeld visited our house?"



"I have heard that he left Milano."


"I don't know."

"And where did he journey?"

"To his father's city, Rome."

"I am very sorry for that dear man, for all of the appalling and horrible things [Jer. 5:30] that that those savage men have done to his father's house. It is a very terrible thing, for if they stretch out their hand over a man, they will pursue him to his destruction."

"It distresses me, my dear father, but my depressed heart compels me to tell you that men like them are also found amongst are own people. They pluck the fatherless from the breast [Job. 24:9], and they spread a net for the innocent to do evil."

"If this is what you are looking for, my daughter, then you will find much of it. But don't accuse your brethren, because they aren't guilty in this matter. Their neighbors mingle amongst them and teach them their ways [Ps. 106:35]. Furthermore, a Jew these scattered lands without money is like a soldier without a weapon."

"If only it were like you say, dear father, and another time I will show you that I am also in the right." She kissed her father, and the two woman left. When they arrived home, John told to Finalia that a man named Albert had asked for her, and said that she should come tomorrow morning. "Good," the maiden said. "Will you come with me tomorrow, John?" Then she turned and went to her room. "I'm very distressed," she said to herself, "The day is closing and I can't go now, as certainly a letter has come from Victor." She got into bed, but she didn't close her eyes and the night seemed like an eternity. When dawn broke, she rose and dressed and called to John, and the two of them went out to go to Albert's house.

"How are you, Albert," the maiden said as she stepped over the threshold of his house. "I though that you'd still be sleeping."

"I got up early this morning," said Albert, "Because I knew that you wouldn't sleep all night, and you would come with the first light. So here I am to deliver to you the letter from Victor that has waited for you since yesterday." As he spoke he gave the letter into her trembling hand, and she opened it and read these words:

Here I am in Rome, the great city of God that rose to the pinnacle of power in ancient times. The remains of her destruction and her ancient monuments are still found within her. These were put in place in the days of Vespian and Titus, of whom memories of their power yet remain, and these wonders give witness to splendor and majesty of days gone by. Even now she is the glory of all lands [Ez. 20:6] and full of everything good, such as first pressings of oil and balsam, and even the skies drop dew. She is a city entirely splendid, and on every street and corner my eyes see precious things that broaden the perspective of those who see them and cheer every heart that feels. Wealth and might have ruled here since ancient times [Is. 23:70]. She is the city that imposes boycotts on the gentile kingdoms, and mighty men humble themselves before her and go in fear of her majesty and the deceit and fraud in her. (Every reader of history knows about the boycotts imposed by the rulers of Rome over all the kings of the world, and especially about what Gregory the Third did to Heinrich the Fourth until he abandoned the Calvanist faith and embraced Catholicism. Only then did Gregory remove the ban from him and he succeeded to the throne of France in 1593). The tears of the oppressed [Ecc. 4:1] water her soil until she is exceedingly fat, because the leaders of the Jesuit brotherhood rule over her. The ruler of the city is also the Holy Father who stands between God and the people, and he is one of them. The children of our covenant wail and groan [Ez. 9:4] under the hard yoke and heavy burden that is laid on them until their heads hang in the dust. Come here, my soul's companion, to the houses of our brothers, and you will see only tears and hear only moaning, because the hands of the Jesuits abuse them. Here they steal a father from his children, and rip boys and girls from their mothers bosom. They bring them inside their walls and they entice them and force them to abandon the teachings of their fathers. On all of our brothers they levy a tax that must be paid every year on behalf of those who become Christians. (See Ha-Melitz, No. 19, 1878. It reports that the Jews of Rome are forced to pay a special tax to the monasteries to finance Jewish children who are kidnapped and brought into Catholocism. This evil decree was given over ten years ago.) Oh! Be still my pen, in order not to melt the soft heart of the gentle maiden, whom it is my responsibility to comfort. But every time I speak about this coty, my anger burns like fire at she who has spilled blood since the moment of her inception. Thousands of our faith found their graves in her eighteen hundred years ago. Many of our brothers sank like lead in the waters of the river Tiber, and our holy mementos, which were our pride and glory, sank in them and descended to the deeps. And who threw down our glory for us if not these fierce and impetuous people, these Romans. Despite this, they haven't repented at all, and their hands are stretched out over us. Why should I speak about ancient history, so distant from us. I will speak about the robbery and murder that touch my bones and flesh. About my father and sister who are taken prisoner, my mother who was the pride of women, and now all that remains is the breath within her [Job. 27:3]. And who is to blame if not that savage people, who pervert everything decent, and to whom everything bad is good? "Hah," I thought as I walked in those great wide streets with pleasant views [Is. 2:16] raised up before me on the pinnacles of power. "What good are all these to me? Will they pleasure my eyes or cheer my heart? The more I look at the riches of Rome, the more a burning fire [Pr. 16:27] is kindled within me. All the pleasant views add to the bonfire, like the burning of many trees {Is. 30:33] that can never be extinguished. Under each stone is heard only groans, and under every wall mourning and wailing. You were entirely correct, Finalia, when you said that sometimes a man walks under the bright light of the sun, and it is dark all around for him, and sometimes a man walks in the dark, and despite that he has bright light. Now I see how well your words fit. How happy I was when I walked about the streets of Milano, even when the light was absent from them. But you were there, my soul's companion, and with your sweet words you lit the way for me and brightened my heart, and I soared on the wings of hope. But how my heart has languished [Ez. 16:30] now when I walk the streets and see all of the riches of the world, because what is there for me here? Who is there for me here? My father is gone and my sister, Hah! May the Lord grant that I find her so I can give my life for her. But what use is my life to these barbarians? They only have eyes for gold and silver. This is the bloodsucker [Pr. 30.15] that says, "Give, give." When will this exactress of gold cease! Forgive me if I have depressed your spirits, but I decided I would speak and be relieved [Job 32:20], and who can I talk to if not you? Therefore I have poured my complaint of the bitterness in my soul [Job. 8:11] in the bosom of a letter, and in my mind it was like talking to you face to face. You will gather the words and hide them in your heart, and will I not then be relieved? Forgive me that my letter is so late, but the guilt is not mine. I found my mother in a terrible condition, and this week I obtained work in the trading house of Hiedelberg. Now that I've had a little respite from my sadness, I took up my pen to write you, my dear. I ask you that you will quickly write back and tell me how you and your honorable parents are doing. Answer in order that you may revive the spirit [Gn. 45:27] of your beloved forever.

Victor Shonfeld

With a broken heart and eyes full of tears, she placed the letter in her pocket after reading it a second and a third time. She said goodbye to Albert and she left. This same day we see her walking with a letter to the express house to send to Rome.

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