Prelude - Italy

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

I will take you, honorable reader, to a fine and pleasant country, a land of green and plenty. The skies and earth appear brand new to the people there. She is blessed from ancient times (the blessing of Yitzchak to his first born - "From the fat of the land will be your dwelling." Genesis 27:39 and our wise ones of blessed memory said "This is Italy." Breshit Raba 80:67 and Yalkut Shimoni). Is this not Italy, delicate and beautiful? You will go with me to Milano, the praiseworthy city, and there your eyes will behold every precious thing. The walls surrounding her are built of white marble, four thousand five hundred different statues encircle her like a crown, adding even more to her glamour and splendor. When you first step over the portal of the city, she will draw you in after her with the strength of her beauty, like an electrical force. Now imagine for yourself the beauty around the inside of the city. Every place your eye alights you see luxurious adornments, the tips of her towers and spires reach to the sky, her streets are splendid with pleasure palaces that the eye is not satisfied with seeing [Ec. 1,8]. Throngs of people from every land flow to her, until each man is pressed against his neighbor. She is the richest of the cities of Italy from the trade of many nations. The inhabitants found in her and her suburbs number around four hundred thousand. All of them make up her mix and do her work, going about with happy hearts and cheerful faces seeing the majesty and splendor that is within her. Even the sun there is noteworthy in its beauty, shining and beaming as if making an effort to add more to the loveliness of the city. The violet sky spreads over the heads of the crowds, and from morning to evening their tumult is like the crashing waves of the ocean. Finally, the time for rest arrives for those laboring within her, to relax from the noise and commotion of the day in order to regenerate the strength to greet tomorrow.

But imagine not, reader, on seeing the beauty of the city with her riches and good fortune, that the sun of fortune shines on every street and corner. Know that even there are found dark places where a ray of light doesn't enter (they cover and bolt the doors). Although in a glance we can see the beauty of the enchanting city, we move on, because this isn't the aim of our story. Only the places from which light is absent will we attend. There we will find pleasures and delights for our spirits for we won't be sitting in darkness. Because the light of Torah, wisdom, Haskalah, kindness, beauty and uprightness [Pr 13:6] are found there, those are our treasured possessions. There I will guide you and bring you in order to meet and esteem as I do the worthy family that live there. You will also say that all that glitters is not gold and not all that is earth is to plow, because also gold from dust will be taken.

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