Chapter Twenty - Victor
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
In the attic room of a house on the edge of the city of Rome, a young man sits by a small table, supporting his head in both his hands. A dim candle burns, but it doesn't illuminate the occupant, and he continually gives voice to heavy groans from his torn heart. Suddenly he jumped up and said, "I won't believe that it can happen. Angels from on high will descend to earth and forget the stone they were hewn from [Is. 51:1]. The entire natural order will be overturned. Every land will stagger about like a drunk. The stars in the sky will withhold their light because they will alter their role, but she will never go back on her word, and she will never break her covenant until that until the last day." So spoke the young man and his face reddened like fire. "Oy, what am I saying! Didn't I read the letter that she sent me? Words that I cannot charm away. They were so clear that a little boy could understand. But no! It's a lie! I will read it another time, because maybe I was mistaken." Fearfully and hurriedly he opened the letter again and read:
My Heart and Soul's Companion,
With a sad heart and bent knees, I approach with this letter [2K. 5:5] to plead before you. Forgive me for the rebellion that I'm forced to make against my desires, against the Lord and against you. The terrible mischance that my father's house is enmeshed in is known to you, as is my love for my father, which I didn't hide from you. If somebody were to say to me that I could ransom the life of my father with my own, wouldn't I happily say 'I will die in place of my dear father.' This is the text of the letter [Es. 3:14]. My father is in great trouble, and his enemies are in place all around him. The district minister is a wicked and worthless fellow, and he loves me mightily. Therefore, he said if I will yield to his request, then he will do everything for my father and mother. If he withdraws his hand from them, then we will surely be destroyed, because they lay in wait like robbers [Pr. 23:28], and they won't be satisfied with his blood. Even though I see my tragedy before me, I'm compelled to give my hand to him in order to save my father. Please don't be wroth, and the Lord will send you a faithful heart as your own, one who won't lie in her pledges. And you will see happiness and life with the woman the Lord arranges for you. Never come to Milano if my life is dear in your eyes, because if I see you another time I will put an end to my life and my sorrows together. I loved you with a love I will never forget, but we will always be remote, because I am parting from you forever.
Fin a l iaA d e l b er g
"Oh Lord," cried Victor, spreading his hands to the heavens. "Why do you give light to the suffering and life to the bitter in spirit? [Job. 3:20] I don't know where I stand. Should I put an end to my life and add sin to iniquity? But why should I live! I will live no longer! Ha! The matter is true! True! She betrayed me! Traitoress! The faithless have acted very faithlessly [Is. 24:16]. Finalia was thought by me to be a daughter of the gods. Finalia betrayed me! She! She will give her hand to another! I won't believe it. I will get the first letter that she sent me and with my candle shining above my head [Job. 29:3] I will see the difference between them. He took the first letter from the chest and read:
Greeting to you my shining star, my star of happiness in days of sorrow. In your illumination I walk in light, and without you both my peace and my rest vanish. I walked in blackness all the time that you withheld the fruits of your pen from me, and I cried all the time. I said that you stole my heart and forgot me, but now that I have received your letter, my soul comes alive. I repeated it, and repeated it, until all of your words were captured in my mouth. Let me respond to the expressions of your soul. You aren't right to pass crooked judgement on Rome, the crowning city [Is. 23:8], even though your words were true, that from all the cries of the suffering, her splendor is turned into destruction. Despite that, like the Garden of Eden I will think of her. I value her earth over fine gold, her dust I will praise over gold. Why? Because the cradle of my soul's beloved is there. He grew at her breast and played on her knees, until he was a man, beautiful in his greatness [Ez. 31:17]. His heart is full of wisdom and understanding and a rare spirit abides within him. Where is the place of his birth if not Rome? From whose womb did the man emerge with such refined characteristics if not Rome? Therefore, the renowned city of Rome is very dear to me, because I will honor the place where your feet have tread. You must swear in the name of our true love that you won't worry or be sad, only hope in the Lord who has it in His hands to change destiny. Can we recognize light without darkness, or can we know good without evil? Therefore I command you [Jb. 36:32 - Heb. meaning unclear] not to be sad, but to be strong and brave. Hope will comfort us and guide us and transport us across the angry sea until we reach the port. Do not weaken, my friend, because the teachings of sorrow are a medicine to a man in days of misfortune, as a wise man said. Do not ever refrain from informing me how you are doing, and walk in wholeness and righteousness. Your lover forever,
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" he laughed from the pain in his heart like a madman as he gazed at the two letters. "Sometimes this, sometimes that, I won't believe this is happening. She couldn't write this one time and that the other time. It can be nothing other than the hands of our enemies at work here. They desire to separate us and to tear apart our union. But who could have written the counterfeit letter? The purity of her language informs me that the hand of Finalia composed this cruel letter. But even if it is true, then I will forgive her, because her love for her father is stronger than her love for her beloved. You are justified, dear soul, justified. You show that you know the obligation of children to their parents. You stand as a standard [Is. 49:22] for the children of your people. She will not be thought of with scorn or disdain in the eyes of those who honor their parents when they know of her refined feelings. All those whom the Lord favors with a rare soul would do as you, but you are at their head. Now, forgive me for all of the angry words I spoke, for profaning your honorable name and calling you a traitoress. I forgive! I forgive you, dear soul, for everything you have done to me. May the Lord grant that you find solace in the house of the man you are entering. But no! Cursed is the man who has done this. I've made up my mind to race to Milano and fight him. I will say to him that he is low, that the Lord has given him honor and fortune, but he went and stole a meek lamb, because the Lord will not revenge those who do so." As he spoke, he took his jacket and his hat and he ran outside, but there he stood a few minutes and thought things over. "No!" he said suddenly to himself. "No!, I won't journey to Milano. Didn't she say that she would put an end to her life the moment she saw me? Therefore I will desist, and I will go about with a bitter spirit under the Lord's heaven until my final day. From now on my only concern will be for my parents and my sister, until I bring them out to freedom." When he finished speaking, his fury was exhausted, and he returned to room and his work.