Chapter Twenty Two - Raphia and his Wife

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

'Woe to a father who raises a daughter like yours," said the woman of around forty to her husband as he entered her room.

"Didn't I tell you, Vannah my dear, that there is nothing I can do no to help the matter."

"So you always say. A father who can't cure the backsliding of his daughter!

"Tell me, pray, what it is, and I will with all my effort and strength I will..."

"I don't wish to talk about this further. My throat is hoarse and you always toss my good words behind your back, thinking I am seeking what is best for my son. According to the way you know your daughter, you should understand that it won't increase a man's honor or happiness to take her. And, unless he does everything I command him, he won't get a look at her."

Raphia heard the honor of his beautiful and gentle daughter profaned in the mouth of her step-mother, who had never learned in her youth whether to eat or drink so that her flesh had increased upon her like the cows of Bashan [Am. 4:1]. But he didn't want to quarrel with her and was silent, and when his anger had passed a little he said to her in a quiet voice, "Believe me. If only your son's looks and intelligence were like my daughter's, then with all my heart I would give her to him. But..."

"Silence! Silence!" cried the woman leaping up from her place with her face flushed with anger. "My son! You insult my son, who has the greatest lineage. This is the teaching of Emilia your daughter who is always calling him the scum of the earth. Whatever will be will be for you, but I hope that in a few days everybody will be talking about you and your daughter the way they talk about the baron Adelberg and his daughter, because the baron's daughter has fled the city and gone to Victor. Your daughter is going flee to Albert."

"What's all this," Raphia asked perplexed. "Elucidate your words for me because I don't understand them."

"The daughter of the baron fled with Victor from the city."

"How can a thing like that be possible?" asked Raphia. "Didn't Victor leave here last year, while she fled just a few days ago? How could this be? Besides, Victor is a poor man, so how could she desire him?"

"Oh, you heartless fool! I imagine that old age has robbed you of your wisdom and understanding to the point where you are no longer a man. A young maiden can deceive her old father so that all of her corrupt and shameful doings are good in his eyes. You are like baron Adelberg whose daughter deceived him right up to the moment she fled him. Now husband, prepare yourself [Ez. 38:7] to hear the fate of the honorable maiden who was the first to do this shameful deed, and your daughter will be the second. The daughter of the baron fled with the servant of the Minister. She left a letter on the table in which she asked forgiveness from her parents for fleeing without their permission. She gave her hand to Victor because she couldn't remain here any longer. They are scorned and ridiculed in everyone's mouths and they are the taunt of drunkards [Ps. 69:13]. I know that your daughter loves Albert, so it is my obligation to warn you not to be idle but to do something."

"You are right, my dear. You are right," said Raphia, who followed after his wife. "But what can I do? She hates him, and her end will be like the fate of Goldberg's daughter..."

"What happened to her?"

"She tried jumping into the river a month after she was married, but Yechidiel and some other men saved her. Therefore I am also afraid, for she is my only daughter."

"Shame on you. You are to be ridiculed for returning to your vomit [Ps. 28:11 - "As a dog returns to his vomit, a dullard returns to his folly"]. Wouldn't it have been better for Goldberg to lose his daughter from this earth and hide this suffering from his eyes? From now on she will be a sorrow {Is. 50:11] to her father and her righteous and pious bridegroom. But now things may change for them, because he will send her to his land, to Galicia, and there she will as one of them. Either she'll forget the backsliding youth of Milano or she'll find her grave there, but she'll be guiltless before the Lord and before man. And now you are afraid! But I don't want to talk about it any more because you stop your eyes from seeing." When she finished speaking she rose, and said, "This time I am blameless before the Lord and before you," and she turned her face to the door.

"I pray, my dear! Don't abandon me in this evil time," Raphia said to her. The apparent integrity of his wife blinded him, and he didn't know about the sevenfold abominations in her heart. She wanted to put an end to the life of his daughter who had become an obstacle and stumbling block to her. The whole time since the two of them had gone to the ball, and the young men scarcely looked at her or approached to greet her because they all gathered around her step-daughter, her fury had increased until there was no cure for it. Therefore she wanted to put an end to her everlasting life. After this shamefully acting woman found that the last spark of pity and compassion hidden in her heart had been extinguished by her energetic speech, and she reminded him that his honor would be sullied through his daughter. He, in his feeble spirit, believed all her words, she turned her shoulder to go and to leave him suffering just as his sickness came upon him.

"Pray, my dear!" said Raphia getting up from his place and grasping her hand. "Pray don't leave me in this evil time, when my only daughter wishes to strip my honor from me. I will trust in only you, dear soul. Council me with advice and I won't deviate from your words."

"Don't you know me, my dear?" said Vannah with the sycophant's mouth that had bought her his old heart forever [Lev. 5:23]. "Don't you know that I don't like speaking if my words aren't heard. I'll speak to you in this matter and you won't listen."

"Haven't I always done what you wanted? Didn't you ask that the house I bought last year be called by your name, and didn't I do it!"

Vannah colored with anger, but she hid her rage and said, "With whose money did you buy it? Wasn't it money from my fortune?"

He didn't want to quarrel with her, and he said, "It is proper and definite that I won't deviate from your words."

"If that's the case," said Vannah, she returned and sat with him on the couch and sighed. "If that's the case, I have no advice but that your daughter be a wife for Shlomiel [play on Shlmiel] my son. He has ten thousand Liras as an inheritance from his righteous father, and you will give a dowry to your daughter, and after the wedding he will apply himself to business. So what will your daughter lack?"

"It will be as you say," he said. "You prepare everything for our children's celebration, which will be in a few days. Is she doesn't want this, my hand will be heavy upon her."

"Now I know that you really love me," said Vannah and went out. Raphia got up and went to deliver these pleasant tidings to his daughter.

"Where is Emilia," asked Raphia, as he stepped over the threshold of her room and didn't find her, only her maid Ada was sitting there. "Do you know, Ada, that I'm putting an end to the backsliding of Emilia, who is always running around [Jer. 49:3] outside."

"Your are mistaken, master Raphia. You are very mistaken, for she doesn't run about without," said Ada. "Just now she has gone out for a few minutes."

"Do you know, Ada, that in a few days my daughter will be betrothed to Shlomiel."

"Are you not her father?" said Ada, "And certainly you seek what is good for her." But her heart was torn to pieces because she knew the good heart and the honest soul of the maiden, because she had been her nurse from the day of her birth. Now she saw her bitter fate, because her father had sold himself into the hands of his wife, who wanted to bring her to destruction.

Raphia saw this and he understood, but he didn't say a thing and he went out. "Woe," said Ada when he left. "Is this the father of an only daughter, and a rare soul like her! Verily I remember when Esther the mother of Emila was alive. Then he said that all of his labor and all of his work was done on the behalf of his only daughter. It's been eight years now since that cursed woman came into this house, and she has turned the whole household upside down and distorted a father's heart to hate his only daughter. Woe. Your day will also come, subtle hearted woman [Pr. 7:10] and your end will be groaning. And to you, cruel father, the cup will also pass, because you gave your daughter into the hands of this shameful woman. But I won't hide my hands in my pockets, I will advise her what to do to save herself. I will go to find Emilia in order that she may know what will be. She will seek advice from Albert to halt this evil," and as she spoke she went to seek her.

"Where are you going, my dear Ada?" said the maiden on meeting her in the street.

'I came seeking you."

"Seeking me? What news do you have?" the maiden asked, and fixed her lovely eyes on the woman.

"Why do you stare at me so, my dear. Do you imagine that I would conceal something from you?"

"And what is it? Pray tell me!" said the maiden, and her heart pounded.

"Do you know that your father and mother decided..."

"What did they decide," asked the maiden impatiently.

"That in a few days you will be betrothed to Shlomiel."

"Do they think to force me? It won't be so, for I'm no longer a five year old girl. But give me your advice what to do."

"Come with me to Albert and we will take council together,' said Ada, and they went.

Albert was sitting in his house and thinking. "I don't know what will be. The day I was hoping for has come and I will serve in a higher office, because starting tomorrow I will be the secretary of the District Minister. Will Raphia say even then that I am a poor man? But what is he to me! She isn't a little girl that her father can tie her with rope to some fool. But where can I find her now, in order to give her the news about my new office." Suddenly he heard the sound of a knock at the door, and he quickly opened it. "Ha, what is this my eyes show me. How are you my dear?"

"I'm well, but pray know that I came to your house on an urgent matter."

"What is that?"

"Father wishes to betroth me to that fool Shlomiel, and he has said that he'll do it by force."

"Pray, be easy my dear! You will be happy and joyful if you just follow my advice."

"Isn't that why I came here?"

"My advice is for now you should do what your father commands."

"What are you saying!" said the maiden. "This I won't do."

"Pray be calm. Didn't you promise you would hearken my advice? It is right and certain that this will turn out well for you. Don't be afraid and do as he tells you. This is just in order to gain time, and I will know what to do next. Faithful Ada will be appointed to carry our letters, and I hope that this day will be to our benefit. As a wise man once said, 'Put light in the place of shadows.' Behold, the minister has chosen me to be the secretary in his house. Now promise me that you will do as I advised."

"I will do it," said the maiden, and she said "Shalom' and left, with Ada after her, Three days later, the beautiful Emila was betrothed to the beast Shlomiel. Vannah danced on one foot when she saw that he did as she advised, and that she could twist the heart of her husband to whatever she wished, just like she had with her first husband. This is always the way with Galician women, for whom the name "cows of Bashan" is fitting. The say to their men, "Bring something and we'll drink," and they don't search after or investigate whether by stealing or pilfering it came into their possession, or by cunning and scheming. As long as their stomachs aren't lacking, and on over their corrupt heart is a sapphire displayed which covers every blemish. Their broad necks are draped with pearls so they can stroll about Rome, grind the faces of the poor [Is. 3:15] and laugh at those who walk in integrity [Pr. 10:9, Ps. 26:1]. Vannah was one of these, and therefore she was happy and joyous now. Vannah, the wife of Raphia from Grenovich was the daughter of a Galician Hassid, and she had been very beautiful. Her parents loved her and brought her up according to their love. If you ask me, dear reader, 'Why are you telling us that parents love their children? Is it news!' I will answer you, 'Am I not also a daughter with parents, and my parents also love me very much.' But for all that, they always showed me my faults and punished me severely [Ps. 118:18] for minor things. But that wasn't the love of Vannah's parents for their daughter. Their love was like the love of all the Galician Hassidim for their children. They didn't lick her into shape or withhold from her anything her heart desired. Everything she did they thought was brilliant, and every shameful and abominable thing their daughter did was concealed by their love. One time she came and showed them that she had stolen a toy from anther girl, and they didn't scold her saying, 'Keep yourself from such sins as coveting and stealing a thing that isn't yours.' Instead they were happy about it, and when the girl saw that she could please of her parents through these actions, she went even further in the path of hard-heartedness, and her backsliding increased from day to day. She always ran around with rebellious boys and girls of her age, and when her parents sought to teach her languages and books, she didn't want it, and they didn't force her. Therefore, she remained empty of all learning, and her backsliding grew until she reached the age of fourteen. Her two parents dressed her in jewels and long dresses that dragged for a yard on the ground, in order that she be thought a great maiden. Then the matchmakers began to knock on the door, and the parents showed all of them their valuable merchandise, for in truth she was very beautiful, because no burden had ever been placed on her. In the fifteenth year of her life, Vannah was married to the son of Gila, who was also a Galician Hassid. He hadn't learned any wisdom or trade, but he went three times a year on a pilgrimage to the Tzaddik. He continued doing so after his marriage to Vannah, to the joy of her parents, because they were also devotees of the Tzaddik like her husband. Then the time came that he lost all his fortune in some bad deal, and their daughter was left empty of everything. But Vannah didn't adjust to this, because there was always something to drink in her father's house, and as long as her parents were rich, she wouldn't lack a thing because their table was always set for her. But even a well can be drawn dry, as the folk saying goes, and so it was with the riches of the Galician Hassidim. Their Tzaddik was imprisoned in fetters and he had to pay a huge ransom for his life with hard cash. So the Hassidim were stripped of their money their wives of their jewelry, and so the end came to her parents wealth. But what one kind of locust left over, another consumed, because the son-in-law went to the parents house and took the little that remained to bring as a gift to the holy man [1S. 9:7]. When he returned home from there, his wife Vannah said to him, "Do you imagine that you can sit with your arms folded while I starve, become thirsty and go naked? Do whatever you want, but don't leave me lacking anything because I'm not accustomed to it."

"And what can I do," he said. "I never learned any trade"

"Neither did Chaim Pasalas learn any trade. Where do his wife's fine, expensive clothes and many fancy jewels come from? When she comes to the prayer house, all the women look at her and are jealous of her."

"Do you know what Chaim Pasalas does? He trades in counterfeit notes and base silver [Pr. 26:23]."

"It's all the same to me what you trade in, but don't leave me lacking anything. If you don't do this, I will make myself horrible, understand?"

Dispirited and sullen [1K. 20;43, 1K. 21:4] her husband Hamuel left the house, and she ran after him and said, "Don't think that you can come and go from time to time and I will open the door of my house to you. It is right and sure that you'll spend the night on the other side of the door and the mezuzah if you come here empty handed. Go to the devil, you and whoever gave birth to you and brought these sorrows on me."

Dispirited and sullen [literal repetition] Hamuel went on his way. For a whole year she didn't hear anything from him, and she and Shlomiel her son, who was then a boy of six, supported themselves by selling the household furnishings one after another. A year passed and Hamuel returned home with money in his hand. He gave the money to his wife and told her that he happened on a man who traded in the merchandise of Chaim Pasalas and joined with him, and in a short time, accumulated all of the money."

"Oh, my husband, my happiness and my joy," said Vannah wholeheartedly and hugged him in her arms. "How happy I am. I'd wondered about your fate. I would give my life and soul in place of yours. Just wait here a moment and I will bring you something to restore you, because I know what you like." As she spoke she ran and brought very strong vodka and sweets, and put them before him. "Drink and eat, my dear, in order to strengthen yourself, and afterwards we will talk." Hamuel drank and also gave the same to his son in order to educate him in his according to his ways. Vannah didn't look at anything but the money, and it made her happy. "Pray know, my dear," she said, "That if you work in this trade for a long time then we will be the richest people in the land, and we will buy houses and possessions, silver, gold and dresses. Pray tell me, my darling. Will you continue to trade in this business, or will you be satisfied with a little?"

"A little!" said Hamuel. "Didn't I bring home five thousand florins? I am thinking of entering some other trade so we can sustain ourselves honestly."

"Do you think this a sin?" she asked him.

"Certainly it is a sin to mix with others, and the wisest of all men ordered us, 'Fear God, my children, and the king.' Therefore I'm afraid, because this is against our religion and against the kingdom. If they catch a man in this trade, they send him to the land of exile and confiscate all of his household."

"God forbid, Hamuel my dear. Don't do this. What can we do with this little money and a house empty of everything. Verily I suggested this trade to you. Don't leave off until we gather great riches, and then we will do a great business and our names will be known throughout the land."

"I'm afraid," said Hamuel, "Because they lay in wait for us on all sides. Our wise men of blessed memory said, "The earthly kingdom is like the heavenly kingdom [Talmud Bavli - Tractate Brachot, 58A]," and I have sinned against the Lord and the king.

"Don't be afraid, my dear. You won't get in trouble over this [1S. 28:10], because you are a husband with a wife and children. Would it be better if you were to follow the laws of the Lord and of man while your wife and son expired from hunger? With words like these and many other, she seduced her husband and prevailed over him, until he promised to do as she wished. And so he did. For six years he worked that trade and accumulated a mighty fortune. She bought valuable gems and many expensive clothes of the sort worn by the daughters of kings and ministers.

But who is the man who can raise his hand against the anointed of the Lord [1S. 26:9 - i.e. the king]! Therefore, also to him the cup passed, and even though there was no guilt in him, only that he had been incited by his wife Vannah, he bore the burden of her sin. He was caught red-handed and put in prison. He was there for a whole year. Finally the verdict was decreed and he was sentenced for ten years of hard labor, but he didn't live very long in this work. After another year passed he died from oppression, affliction and sorrow [Ps. 107:39]. He was also angry and heartbroken because his wife, on who's behalf he lost his earthly life and honor forever, never once came to comfort him and lighten a little his hard burden. She was afraid that if she went there and saw his bitter condition, then her heart would pain her, and this isn't desirable to a cow of Bashan. One he sent her a letter, full of tears and groaning that she have pity on his life, and he said, "I know that police didn't take everything because you beat them to it. Therefore, have pity on my miserable soul, and remember that it is my money that I accumulated with the blood of my heart, in terror of death, because my heart prophesized this bad ending to me. Therefore, have pity and come to me with three thousand in silver, and you'll be able to lighten the heavy work that I do. Then I will be able to bear the punishment that I was sentenced to. After nine terrible years I will be given my freedom if I live, and I am yet a young man. Have pity on my unfortunate soul, for I didn't obey the voice of the Lord or the king."

But she laughed at his words and she said, "I should spend all that money on you and be left naked and lacking everything? No! I won't do this." Therefore he died from anger and disappointment, because these terrible times taught him understanding, and he saw for whom he labored and lost his earthly existence. She remained with great wealth that exceeded fifty thousand florins. Seven years ago, after the death of her husband, she went to the spa in Italy. Raphia and his daughter were also there, because his daughter sickened with a serious illness after the death of her mother. So they got to know one another, because her money and her beauty drew Raphia's heart, and he fell in love with her and married her. Thus she became the mistress of his household, and therefore her advice was now being carried out. The beautiful Emilia was betrothed to her wild son who had grown up like his mother. So she was happy while Emilia wept and groaned. But "Let not he who girds on his sword boast like he who takes it off [1K. 20:11]," as the early proverb says.

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