English Translation of the First Hebrew Novel by a Woman
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 have observed many of the things that are done under the sun and I have seen that this is a cruel time, with every calamity and trouble. This period has conceived and given birth to evil episodes and terrible incidents, a rod of punishment to those who pass under it.
As I stand frightened and horrified by this awful vision, I am yet astonished at this great wonder: That people boast about their kindness and compassion, but stand ready to support these goings-on and enjoy the sight that is before them, like the Spanish when they put a man on the rack.
I approached to see, "What is this?" I cried, "What is the name of this play before me? Is there also religious fanaticism in this praiseworthy country, where every man walks safely in his path without anyone able to discern nation from nation? Why does a man pursue his neighbor in unremitting hot anger? The wails of the oppressed and the screams of the broken are heard on every street and corner. Is there no salvation from the hand of hard-hearted oppressors? When I examined the doings of these people I found that it wasn't religious fanaticism doing this, but intellectual jealousy and hatred which also underlie every calamity and trouble. The jealousy and hatred that are established between knowledge and stupidity are greater than that of religious fanaticism. The [foolish] angrily pursue [the wise] and proudly crush them underfoot. With zealous fire they burn all those who gather wisdom and knowledge, never sparing them, never satisfied with their blood.
But the person who collects knowledge and understanding cannot look upon the excitement of evildoers and the conduct of a fool without admonishing them on their ways. The fool who hates knowledge and truth is wroth with all who love them. When he realizes he cannot speak out in public [Pr 24:7] and his neighbor is praised there by the mouths of all, his hatred grows and he cannot be attentive, and at that moment he will be enjoying himself at a splendid banquet. The wise man will sacrifice his time and his moments of rest on the altar of knowledge. And when the fool lies stretched on his couch [Am 6:4] with eyes closed so as not to see the light, the other will give no rest to his eyelids until the morning light. He will be watching over the doors of wisdom in order that he may later be able to disperse the clouds of darkness and lift the black veil that covers the eye of the land.
While the fool supports the hand of fate for the sake of tormenting a tortured soul, a considerate man applies himself to rescue the suffering and save them from distress.
How can one not praise a man like that? But for this the fool will burn with hatred, the utmost hatred, and pursue him with all his strength.
As all this passed through my thoughts I said, "Who knows whose hand will be the upper and triumph, the hand of knowledge and truth or the hand of stupidity and lies?"
There were many times when it seemed that the magnificence of impudent stupidity and the might of lies would conquer.
But knowledge and truth destroyed and broke in the wink of an eye all the fortresses and towers that have been built and prepared over many days by the forces of lies and stupidity.
Therefore I decided to try my strength and the strength of my pen, meager and weak though it is. I will bring together a collection of all those souls that I saw as they passed before me in my imagination. I will stand them on the parade ground and dress them up according to their worth and their actions, and I will set each one in the place that befits him. I will place words in their mouths in order to show their conception. The plot of the story I have dressed in garments of love, as it is love along with peace and tranquility that is the objective of every person and the desire of every human, and without them there is no joy in the land.
When I stood all of these souls in their places as on the theatre stage and I saw that they were in my hand, I judged each one according to his actions and I hope that I haven't err in my judgement. As a man works so shall he be paid and by the path of a man will he be requited [Job 34:11]. I have called this story "The Love of the Righteous" or "The Hunted Family." By means of their upright love and the wholeness and truth that was between them, this hunted and smitten family returned to their place from which they have been driven and chased from in hot anger. Set in the days of Napoleon the Third and the Pius IX in the years 1851 to 1870.
The novel Ahavat Yesharim - The Love of the Righteous