Chapter Six - An Evil Conspiracy
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
"What news have you brought me today, Zevchiel?" The questioner was a man of around thirty years, tall of stature and healthy of flesh, but his heart was full of fraud and deceit [Ps. 10:7]. His eyes sparkled as he sought out any lies or deception, "Truly it seems you have been backsliding [Jer. 31:21]. You took the money I gave you and put it in your pocket, but your hands have made no progress [Job. 5:12]. Know that money means nothing to me when it comes to her. I will give all of my fortune and possessions for her if she will only be mine."
"Be easy," said the man, "Be easy, Yechidiel, my dear. We will certainly accomplish this and will be able to overcome her [Nu. 13:30]."
"But when? Didn't you prophesize her to me long ago? Do you imagine I will wait as days become years?"
"Don't be dismayed," said Zevchiel. "Our wise men of blessed memory said 'Patience is worth 400 Zoozim' [A zooz is a Babylonian coin - this expression was the 1st Millennium equivalent of "Slow and steady wins the race."].
"I'll am afflicted [Ps. 88:16] if even in this matter they would prescribe patience, for how can I answer![Job. 9:14]" said Yechidiel.
"If so, jump in a canal, but know that you won't obtain her by rushing."
"So what should I do, Zevchiel, my dear," said Yechidiel. "Advise me what to do, and if I succeed, then I will parade all my goodness before you." As he spoke he opened up his money box, took some money from it, and gave it to him. Then he said, "Know that if you do your job with diligence and alacrity, you will receive much more from me."
Zevchiel took the money from the proffered hand with disguised joy, in order that Yechidiel not see how great was his lust for money. And he said in his heart, "Aha! A deep gold mine [Is. 14:4] has opened before me, one I will mine the rest of my days. Even from The Good (many of the Galacian Hassidim call the Tzadik "The Good") I won't withhold good. After placing the money in his pocket he turned back to Yechidiel and said, "Be sure that I will serve you with every bit of my strength. Everything you tell me to do I will do, that we will be successful."
"My thanks for that," said Yechidiel, "Although I already knew this, because a bribe is a precious stone in the eyes of its owner [Pr. 17:8]."
Zevchiel pretended that he didn't hear, and said, "What would you have me do now?"
"Wait a bit, and I will teach you wisdom [Pr. 17:8]. But due to the great burning within me, I forgot to ask if you went to the baron's house yesterday."
"I was there this morning."
"And how did he answer you?"
"He said that his daughter told him that she esteemed Yechidiel greatly, but she didn't want to speak further for the time being."
"This is what the baron answered you?"
"And what do you say now?"
"I don't know."
"'I didn't hear' isn't evidence and 'I don't know' isn't an answer," replied Yechidiel in complaint to his neighbor. Zevchiel looked at the new master he had acquired for himself but could find no answer in his mouth. Yechidiel continued speaking, "Know that his words are not without significance. By the answer of the baron I think he wishes to reject my suit, but do you imagine I will stand with my hands in my pockets?" [Pr. 19:24].
"And what will you do to the father if he doesn't wish to give you his daughter?"
"Not from him, but from her I will take revenge, because she despised me. Know, pray, what I will do, because I will scatter all of my fortune about until she is mine. Then I will take her to my land, to the place the Tzaddik has desired for his habitation [Ps. 132:24 - original quote is "For the Lord has chosen Zion, he desired it for his habitation]. This will be for her a consternation because she hates the Tzaddik to her core."
"How do you know this? Have you met her?"
"I know her."
"Where did you see her?"
"She frequently comes to the house of Reb Yediya Goldberg to speak with his daughter, Henrietta. The two of them are like sisters in beauty in wisdom, and both of them make jest of Hassidim and the Tzaddik."
"Henrietta also makes jest of Hassidim? And what about her father?"
"She even laughs at her father because this is the instruction of Finalia, and Henrietta is like a monkey imitating her."
"And what is this strange name Henrietta?" said Zevchiel. "To my ears it sounds like the name of a daughter of Israel which has been changed to a foreign name in order that she not be recognized as a Jew, even though she is the daughter of a Hassid."
"Her father doesn't call her by this name, but only by her Hebrew name, Henka. She is enraged by this, but what can she do to her father? Know now that also through her the cup will pass [Lam. 4:21 - quote continues "and she will be made drunken and naked."], because yesterday I told her father that she was meeting one of young sparks of Milano. The fool was stunned, and he said, 'I won't wait any longer. Now I know why she always laughs at the men of Galacia, because she is making contracts with the young men of Milano, who reject the word of the Lord and are distant from faith in the Tzaddik. Know what I will do to her. I will bind her as with rope, whether she likes it or not, and she will be the wife of the man I choose for her." Thus spoke the father in his fury, and it's certain that he will carry out his words. Now picture to yourself if she is given to one of the Galacian Hassids whom she loathes in her soul. Will she not then be paid in full?"
"Hearken me now," said Zevchiel. "Maybe Finalia is also making promises to the young men of Milano, and due to this she told her father that she doesn't want to talk about it."
"You're right, my friend, you're right," said Yechidiel. "I ask you now to watch her always, and if you see it is so, go to her father and tell him."
"Can you know that the baron doesn't already have this information? Or what if I told him that his daughter was making promises with one of the young men of Milano, and then he commanded her to present the youth before him? If he favored him he would say, 'Cleave well to him,' and bless them."
"If that's the case," said Yechidiel, "If you should see something then tell me, and I will know what to do."
"And what would you do?" Zevchiel asked him cunningly, in order that Yechidiel make known all the hidden secrets of his heart and be delivered into his hand, but Zevchiel couldn't conceal the crafty deception of his own heart.
"And what would you do if you were in my place," Yechidiel countered. Zevchiel saw that he was caught in a trap of his own slyness, because it hadn't occurred to him that such a young man could be greater then he in cunning, and he remained silent.
Yechidiel understood his embarrassment and said, "Why are you mute, my friend? Is it for this I opened my treasury to you? Speak as your intelligence instructs you, and don't withhold your goodness from me. You are always saying that you only seek my benefit." As he spoke he took a jar of strong vodka and poured a large glass, commonly know as 'a Hassid's quarter measure,' raised it to his mouth and emptied it. He poured another for Zevchiel and he said, "Drink now, my dear, because this liquor will cause you to forget all sorrows and turn the heart of a rabbit into the heart of a lion or a leopard."
Zevchiel took the glass from his hand, made the 'she-ha-kol' blessing in a loud voice, and tasted a little. Then he turned his face to Yechidiel and said, "L'chaim. May the Lord grant that we carry out our heart's purpose [Jer. 23:20]."
"We will carry it out,' said Yechidiel, as Zevchiel drained it to the bottom. "We will carry it out, because who will dare to set up a barrier against us. But you still haven't answered my question."
"I'll answer you," said Zevchiel in the heat of liquor. "If I was in your place, then anybody who interfered and barred the way for me would no longer glow with the light of life for setting roadblocks in my path."
Yechidiel saw that he hadn't missed the target in choosing this man to be his helper. He said, "I'm very pleased with you because you are a wise man and you watch your step [Pr. 14:15]. From now on, my treasury will always be open before you, but show me your great strength and stand on watch. Neither will I sit with my arms folded. Today I will send one thousand in silver to the Tzaddik as redemption for our souls, because we have done business without asking the Tzaddik." (The custom in Galacia is that they will not carry out any matter of business, exchange or trade, without revealing their secret to the Tzaddik, so that he not withhold his light from them.)
"Do so, my friend," said Zevchiel, "And it will be guaranteed that you will succeed in your path. Pray don't forget to mention my name to the Tzaddik," and he parted in great spirits because well of salvation [Is. 12:3] had opened before him, from which he could constantly draw as he pleased.
Such is the way with every covetous person. When he knows he has found a source of money, he will close his eyes from seeing evil and stop his ears from hearing the cries of the oppressed. Thus he will pervert every wholesome thing [Mic. 3:9]. His eyes will not be satisfied with gathering the wages of sin, and his mouth will not weary of saying, "Give, give,"[Pr. 30:15] until he persuades himself to spill the blood of an innocent with no reason other than to fill sacks with money.