Chapter Eighteen - Mother and Daughter
Translation Copyright 2001 by Morris Rosenthal
Translations from Hebrew
Copyright 2001 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
A Righteous Love
By Sarah Faiga Menkin - Published in Hebrew in Vilna 1880
"I don't know what is with you, my daughter. If I look at your face so full of sadness and worry, it adds anguish to my pains, and the spark of hope that time has hidden in the corner of my heart will be quickly extinguished."
"I don't understand your words, my beloved mother. Why is it a wonder to you? Will I see the natural order overturned that we make treaties with our sworn enemies? The skies that have been clean and pure these ten years we have lived in Milano, are darkening now, and blackness covers the sun. Even the bright lights [Ez. 32:8] of the night are covered so that their glow is entirely absorbed. Black clouds rise from everywhere to seal the way against every spark of hope and ray of light that begins cast a little illumination before us. And you ask me what is with me? Father isn't here and there's been no contact with my brother who is our last hope. My heart predicts that more sorrows than these are waiting for us, and you will also go into your room to cry. How could I be happy? One more thing I will tell you. When I went to the Goldberg's house for the wedding of their daughter, Yediya asked of me that I and her other friends help him receive the guests, and bring for everybody whatever he was lacking. We didn't sit for a moment, just served the guests all day and all night. We didn't eat, we didn't drink, we didn't sit to recover. We just ran from place to place to bring whatever was needed. This one wanted meat and fat, that one wine. This one ate a lot, and she will be for him a crown [question mark is mine - meaning is ambiguous, could be - "and she will be a stranger to him."]? He yelled that he be brought something to revive him, because his heart was hurting, and when I gave him liquor and seltzer, he made fun of me. He said, 'You haven't tasted a thing yet, while I, after I drink this and feel better, I will go back to eat some more.' What do you say about the feelings of a man like this, dear mother?"
"What can I say? He is not a sensitive man."
"Believe me, dear mother, most men feel that way. So we labored throughout the feast until the guests departed. Then Yediya called us all to sit around the table, and he and his family sat with us to eat and drink and enjoy ourselves. To cheer our tired hearts he ordered the musicians to play for us, but if only you could see, mother, what it was like there. Were we not all tired and weary, not to mention hungry and thirsty? Within a half an hour almost everybody sitting there drowsed off and fell asleep. They only brought the food to their mouths and tasted a little of the wine prepared for them, then their heads began to spin like wheels and they were drunk. Some drank their cup down to the bottom, some didn't empty it halfway, some fell asleep as they began to drink. The servants and the maids took everything from the table and enjoyed themselves with portions that weren't theirs. What do you say about this now, dear mother?"
"Who can ascertain the breadth of your understanding, is what I say. But don't forget this either, that there was a feast in the house... I hope in the near future to show you that you are mistaken." Thus the mother spoke and she went to her room. Finalia remained alone in her room and plumbed the depths [Job 38:16] of her thoughts. "I don't know what is happening," she thought. "It's been a half a year now since I received the second letter from him, and I replied to him quickly. Since then there has been no word from him. It must be that the letters have fallen captive into the hands of our enemies. I'll read the second letter another time, and maybe I'll find the root of the matter that prevents him from writing." She got the letter and opened it, and read in it these words:
My Soul's Companion
Your letter is dearer to me than all the riches of the world. I read it with great joy, and your voice is the sweet voice I heard walking in the garden. The letter refreshed the day, but the words melted my heart like water, when I heard that you walk around pining from worry and sadness and that you constantly worry and are distressed over me. As to your words of complaint about my not writing for so long, I cannot justify myself before you, but first let me say that your letter was sweet like the drippings from honeycombs [Ps. 29:11], but also dipped in confusion on both sides. For all of that, I drank your reeling cup and wrung out the dregs [Is. 51:17], and in my mouth it was like the sweetest honey, because the right is with you. You are my beloved, and there is nobody like you. The wounds that your letter inflicted on me are real, and I welcomed them with open arms, and opened before them my closed and injured heart in order to squeeze the life from my breast. Your pleasant words profited me greatly, but the embers that you poured on my head were a little exaggerated in measure, as my eyes informed me. This I know truly, that a precious sacrifice you have offered up on the altar of our love, and this I know to value and recognize. But it's no wonder to me, because there is only one Finalia to found in the whole world. Believe me, my dear, I don't know what to write. Should I write a friendly letter? Behold, to be reassuring is very bitter for me. I hoped for good and here is horror. I didn't want to depress your spirits, and as I wrote you these lines, my eyes dripped tears as I recalled that my you, my perfect one, would melt in tears. You! Were you not a happy planet and me the sun? You comforted me and guided me on my path, and you opened before me the gates of spirituality and hope for a refuge, until the spirit came upon me and gave me wings to fly high into the heavens. Once you said that shining planets distribute their glow to guide us to proper place. If the Lord stretches out his hand [Jer. 15:6] to the wheel of our lives, palms branches will shelter us and created shade to supply our mutual happiness, and then I will know that it is you who prepared my happiness. If a weeping oak [Gen. 35:8] bends its roots [Ez. 17:7] and its chief branches bow in mourning, then I will be frightened and I will know that this is also by your hand. But I will hope that your memory and your thoughts will dress me in heroism and might, and cause me to be as solid as an iron pillar. But what has happened to you! In the words of your letter, I see your spirit flagging and enveloped in shadow, and you turn away. Where is your courage and your wonderful loyalty to me? You continue to smile even with the terrible pains complaining within you and with the dark spirit hovering over your face. The worm comes into the heart of the flower and it droops downwards, and it's lovely flower-cup [Is. 24:4] withers like the heads of grain [Job. 24:24]. But even in a time when the world is languishing, how desirable she is, there is no end to her heart stopping beauty. Be easy now, my soul's companion. Verily, for a little while, the lily will wither under the strong hand of the sun, but eventually she will bloom again because I will make a shelter for her and hide her so that the wind and the sun don't strike her. This is what I am always thinking, my soul's companion. In your love I will sleep, also when dreaming or awake. But immediately I remember that you are afraid of the accomplishments of the wicked that are always before your eyes. My anger burns hot and I say, "May the Lord grant that in that evil time I will be near to you, and with my life I will pave a path for you. I will slash to the right and the left and I will pour out my blood on the altar of your happiness. I will not be still nor rest until I put you back on your feet. But how can I be of use to you now, when my hands are tied and my feet are in fetters? [2S. 3:34] I have been expelled from God's Garden of Eden, and I can't return now because the flaming sword turning every way [Gn. 3:24]. Here I have only empty consolations. My sister is still within the walls of the Jesuits and I won't be able to quickly extract what they have swallowed from their mouths. One spark of hope is fanned at the base of my heart, and hope and fear will make it terrible flame. Despite this, some consolations have come from above. I came to know an initiate in a miraculous manner, and he told me that my father lives. He made me swear to stop up my mouth until the proper time, and said that my father is also in the hands of the Jesuits. All the things that they say to him to entice him are in vain. At first I didn't believe his words, but afterwards he proved that the truth was with him, because the next day he came a second time to this place and, behold! A letter written by my father in pencil. I held it with trembling hands and read:
My son! My son! How my heart languishes [Ez. 16:30] as I write you to tell you that I, your father, sit in prison. Not only in prison, but in a place remote from God and man. But I am greatly strengthened by the hope brought to me that I will hear you are doing well and be able to write you. I ask you, my son, to tell me how everybody fares, and how is my only daughter Shoshana, and that you all be consoled. Hope in the Lord for good expectations in life. If the Lord will begin to open the gates of life before us and begin to show us His kindness, He will not withdraw his hand until He returns us to our dwelling. And He will bring us consolation and our inheritance. Now, my beloved son, pour out on paper the expressions of your spirit. This man is not like all the initiates, but a rare soul, and he has promised me to be a messenger between us. Go now, my son, and quickly inform your mother and your sister Shoshana that their spirits be restored. May all of you live in prosperity and may the Lord remove the iron wall that separates us, and then tranquility we be restored for you and for your father.
These are the things occurred and came to pass. Pray imagine the pain in my heart on knowing that my father lives, but I cannot get to him. Now, my soul's companion, support me with your pen and your unsullied intelligence. Write me a letter full of the spirit of your understanding, and I will quickly write my thanks for this. Your lover for eternity,
"God in heavens!" cried the maiden from the discomfort in her heart [Ps. 38:9]. He said that he would quickly send me a reply. It could be nothing other than that the letter fell captive in their hands. Therefore, I will write him a second letter." So she spoke and she put the letter in her garment pocket, and she lay on her bed to think of what to write him. Just as she was solidifying her ideas, a terrible and threatening dream ran before her like lightening, and her face whitened like plaster. But she awoke when she heard the voice of a strange man, and she saw that he was the servant of the minister who came to summon Dina to the baron.
Dina left, and Finalia remained with John. She sat in a chair in the second room plunged into deep thought, when suddenly her ears heard a tortured cry, weak and stricken. Before she found the strength to rise from her place, two strange men appeared before her. Men who just seeing them would cause a heroes heart to die, not to mention the heart of a soft and gentle maiden like Finalia. Her knees collapsed, her eyes grew dark and her teeth rattled in her mouth. She opened her mouth to scream and call for help, but the words failed her [Job. 32:15]. Only here eyes looked here and there, and she saw that John wasn't there. With eyes wide opened she remained paralyzed and meek, and one of them approached her said, "Forgive us, my beauty, for dragging you from your rest. But do not fear, no evil will come to you." As he spoke he took from his pocket ink, a pen and three letters, and he said, "Come over here, my beauty! Sign your name on each one of these, and we will desire no more."
Finalias face reddened from fear and anger and she said, "What have I to do with villains. What if I don't want to?"
"You will want to, and you will sign," he said, "And you'll do so in a few moments." As he spoke he seized her arm in his savage hands and dragged her to the table. He put the pen in her hand and in a commanding voice said, "Write!"
"I won't sign until I read everything written within."
"Write!" he said in a strong and powerful voice, or in a moment you'll be no more." He showed her the place to sign, and with the last efforts of her strength she wrote her name. 'Your family name also," shouted the villain. "Sign the second and the third sheets also!"
When she signed the third letter, her strength abandoned her and she fainted, because with a glance of her eyes she saw a few words, and they terrified her heart. This worked out well for the villains, because they wrapped her face and her body in her mantle, put her on their shoulders and left.