Chapter Three - The Baron Adleberg argues with Zevchiel the Matchmaker
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
"Where are you going, dear father?" asked Finalia, on seeing him put on his coat.
"I've been called to the court."
"To the court! Why?"
"I don't know myself, but don't worry, nothing is wrong. If Zevchiel should come, tell him to wait for me. Don't quarrel with him or call him to account as you always do with fools such as he for being a dog of the heaven."
Finalia didn't say a word but closed the door and took from the book cupboard a volume of the works of Schiller. She read about the destruction of Troy, and she was very angry about the deed of Paris who stole the beautiful Helena from Prince Monolaus her husband. And when she saw his horrible end, she thought, "He is struck by his own hand." But afterwards she thought, "What was his sin? Didn't love cause this? How awful love is, blinding the eyes of the wise [Ex. 23:8] and not considering the evils and disasters brought about by it. But who is the man who can control and secret away his feelings when they rise up." She supported her head on both hands and sank deep into thought, until there was a knock at the door.
"Who's there?" asked the maiden, rousing from her reverie, as she heard the door creak under the pounding of a wild hand striking it.
"Open, pray," she hear a voice like thunder. "Open, pray. Why have you locked the door when I come on your behalf? Do you imagine that burglars or thieves in the night will come to your house? Would they find it worthwhile? [ Ob. 5]."
"Who are you?" she asked in anger at the scorn that was poured on her father's house.
"I am Reb Zevchiel, the Matchmaker," was the answer, and he continued to pound and push at the door. When she opened it, he fell inwards grasping the door handle [Ca. 5:5] in his hand. He entered and asked her in complaint, "Why have you locked the door," but she didn't answer this, only telling him to sit and wait for her father. Zevchiel sat stretched out [1Sam. 28:20] on a chair that lacked the strength to contain this heavy weight and groaned under its burden. She sat back in her place to read the book that was in her hand.
"What are you studying? inquired Zevchiel.
"One of the books of Schiller."
"Who is this Schilner?"
Finalia laughed inside and said, "He is one of the great German authors, and his name is praised by all of the educated."
"And why should a daughter of Israel read through worthless books as these and what will she find in them?"
"Everything is found in it; wisdom, ethics and proper conduct."
"You make me laugh [Gen. 21:6], that in a heathen book, which is an abomination to every man who calls himself by the name Israel, is found wisdom, ethics and proper conduct." Finalia didn't know whether or not to disabuse this fool on his foolishness, but to her relief her father came and rescued her from this disgusting man.
"Why did you return so quickly?" she asked her father.
"I didn't find the minister of justice at home, and his servant told me to come tomorrow morning."
'Was it to his house you were summoned, and not to the court?"
"To his home."
"For what reason?"
"I don't know."
"Behold Zevchiel is waiting for you," said Finalia and went to her room.
"Greetings, Reb Meir," said Zevchiel and rose from his place when he saw the baron at the threshold of the room, and he extended him his large, powerful hand, such that the small, soft hand of the baron was entirely hidden so one couldn't tell it was there.
"Pray sit," said the baron, and seated himself in a nearby chair.
"I've come to talk to you concerning your daughter," said Zevchiel and continued. "It's no secret to any of us that wisdom is a defense and wealth is a defense, but money can answer any problem. Don't we often see wise and intelligent men going to bow to a rich fool for the few pennies they will earn by the sweat of their brow? The rich man will dress himself in pride and haughtiness as he weighs the money into their hands, and who is responsible for this if not the money. When a man sits in prison for some wicked deed he has done, who will untie his bonds if not money? Who is granted honor and prestige in every street and corner and in the city bourse, or in the temples and the community assemblies, if not those with money? If a hall lacks the room for all those gathered, the rich will be seated, and few are the wise and intelligent men who will interfere with them. If a man comes to speak honorably concerning his son or daughter, what is the first question, but money? I am a native of Galacia and I was engaged there in the business of matchmaking for thirty years. There I was born and there I grew up. I have only been in this city for three years because Yechidiel brought me, but it is my desire to return to my land and birthplace. Here there are few people who fear God and that great man, elevated above his brethren, who the king of the world delights in honoring [Es. 6:6]. He was chosen, with his seed after him, such that a three year old boy and a two year old girl will speak great secrets. They are the children of God, and from just speaking of them a holy fire is kindled within me." As he spoke he became so enthusiastic that he practically went out of his mind.
The baron, even though it was hard for him to listen to the words of this man who opened his mouth in vain [Job. 35:16 - continues, "and multiplies words without knowledge."] controlled himself and was happy that Finalia wasn't there. He nodded his head even though he didn't listen to the half of it.
And Zevchiel went on, saying, "Everybody knows of the great acts of the Tzaddik of the generation are without bounds. Happy is the man who sits in his courtyard to guard the mezuzot on his door, because the dust of his house will make atonement for every transgression and sin. Anybody who touches the doorknob of the house of the Tzaddik is guaranteed that he will not die without confession. He is always in the secret of God and he knows the higher knowledge. We have seen that there are many in every time who do not believe in the Tzaddik, and their end is bitter. If they bind themselves to him with all their hearts, with all their souls and all their strength [Dt. 6:5] then they will be quickly saved, because he has the ability to change the appointed time. Therefore, my advice to a man with daughters as beautiful as Achsa bat Caleb (Our wise men of blessed memory said that all who saw Achsa became angry at her husband because of her beauty: Talmud Bavli, Temurah, pg. 16A in Rashi's commentary). Even if he has a great fortune, a man can do no better than to marry daughters to men of Galacia."
The baron, when he heard these last words of Zevchiel, grew very angry and stared at him in haughty pride and scorn on account of the insults to his honor and the honor of his gentle and praiseworthy daughter who he saw in his imagination on the heights of happiness. And he said, "Know, pray, that you aren't correct in saying that harsh and bitter will be the end of a man who doesn't believe in the Tzaddik, or that cleaving to him will bring rapid salvation. A groundless falsehood it is, because a man is as sealing wax in the hands of his creator [a liturgical poem], to do with as he pleases, and only he causes everything to happen, and by his hand every man's time is inscribed. A man cannot know what will be, even in his last moments, and if he can't know his own fate, how can he tell the future of others? We have seen many of the Tzaddikim of the generation gathered suddenly before their time, and they knew nothing about it beforehand."
Zevchiel leapt from his place on hearing this question as if he had been bitten by a snake, and he said, "This is known to all: A doctor cannot heal himself, and what I said to you about many becoming rich, it is true. The man Shmuel the merchant was incredibly poor until he went to the Tzaddik and complained of his bitter fate. The Tzaddik gave him a silver coin, and he started to trade with this coin, and now he is a rich man. Every year he brings the Tzaddik a thousand in silver for the redemption of his soul. Will you deny also this?"
"Let me answer you," said the baron. "When Shmuel received the present from the Tzaddik, and all of his faithful heard the Tzaddik tell him that he would become rich, they spoke to each other saying, 'Certainly we are all obligated to support him with enough money to start in business.' So he succeeded to the point where he became very great. And you ask me 'Where does this success come from if not the Tzaddik!' I will speak a further truth, that when the Tzaddik tells a man, 'You will get rich this year,' he doesn't tell him, 'Be on guard and watch yourself carefully that you don't cheat in your business, because it is forbidden for us even to swindle a foreigner.' And as the Tzaddik doesn't command him in this, he doesn't keep from it. When he trades he will only attempt to get rich and will do deceit and fraud in his business. Even if he doesn't lust after money he will do this in the name of the heavens in order to sanctify the name of the Tzaddik. And many, many are those who will believe in the Tzaddik, and his followers will be fruitful and multiply like the grass of the earth germinating everywhere. And by his thinking, it's not enough, since he won't be punished for this and will still receive his reward. Now who will make me a liar and invalidate my words?" [Job. 24:25]
Zevchiel bit his lips between his teeth and said, "Will you also say about the Hassidim of Russia what you say about the Hassidim of Galacia?"
"They are different men and one can't compare them to the Galacian Hassidim, because amongst them are found wisdom, intelligence and learning."
"Do they not go to the Tzaddik and bring him the fruits of their toil."
"We cannot despise them for this. Can we say about men like these who bring atonement money to the Tzaddik that they are narrow like the Galacian Hassidim? Aren't they just fulfilling the custom of their fathers? But the Galacian Hassidim make their Tzaddik into a god and honor him greatly. They don't say, 'God has made me rich,' regarding the wealth and possessions that they acquire, but attribute the power to their god, the Tzaddik." [Hab. 1:11]
"If that's the case, I have no further business in your house," said Zevchiel, "Because you are speaking heresy against the Galacian Hassidim. I was sent here by the gentleman Zevchiel ben Dalia because he desires your daughter and will take her without a dowry. What do you say about this?"
"I can't answer you right now. I will ask my daughter, and if she wants ben Dalia, she will go after him, and if not, I won't compel her."
"An awful thing! Very terrible!" cried Zevchiel and leapt up from his place. "Have you ever heard of such a thing as a father asking his daughter about a match? Could we say about such a maiden that she is decent?"
The baron laughed inside and said, "Know that the thinking of the men in this country is not like your thinking. After raising a daughter and teaching her wisdom and knowledge, then a father will present a man before her and ask her if she finds him acceptable. Then the father will bless their union, and together they will enjoy a pleasant and pur life to the joy of God and man. But in the land of Galacia, fathers trade in their daughters like horses or asses and do with them what benefits themselves, not their daughters. For a handful of pedigree, a father will deliver his beautiful and gentle daughter to a fool who doesn't even know how to speak, and he will make her wedding palanquin [Cant. 3:9] her grave. If she fears God and respects her father she will see that she is bound in iron manacles and she will bow her shoulders to suffer the hard yoke that her father burdens her with for her whole existence. If she is from the new generation, she will try to beak these bonds in accordance with the law. If this doesn't work, she will break them forcefully like a thread is broken when it touches fire [Ju. 16:9], and her misfortune will lead her to follow after her lover, and finally she will deny her God. Surely I won't do this with my daughter. I will not say to her, 'I have chosen this one for you.' Instead I will say, 'Know, my daughter, that I have found this man to be good and straight according to my understanding. Do as your heart instructs you and I will bless the two of you with the father's blessing.'" Zevchiel said goodbye to the baron and left.