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December 4, 2016 / 4 Kislev, 5777
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The Earthquake (Part III)

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As Zemira threw herself (and her infant), into the path of the king’s carriage, the crowd shrieked. Hastily, the driver reined the horses up sharply, and the hoofs of the lead horse stopped barely inches from where she lay.

The king, seeing the drama unfolding before his very eyes, leaped from the carriage and, in a moment, was at Zemira’s side.

“What is wrong, my daughter? Why did you throw yourself and your child before my horses?’

Zemira raised her tear stained face and looked into the eyes of the king: “Your Majesty, your servants have taken my husband, the gentlest man who ever lived, and brought him to the dungeons. They have accused him of the most terrible of crimes and say that they will sever his head. You must help me to save him.”

When the king learned who her husband was, he looked at her sadly and said: “My dear young maiden, I wish that I could help you, but if your husband is the criminal you speak of there is nothing to do, for he is indeed guilty of all the crimes with which he has been charged.”

“To begin with, his name is not, as you think, Avinadav the son of Uzziel from Hebron, but rather Raamyah, the son of Yaktan. He left his father’s home and joined a band of robbers who plundered and stole….”

But Zemira would not allow the king to finish his words and she interrupted him saying, “Be that as it may, I beg you to allow me to see my husband in his dungeon and comfort him in his last days on this earth before his execution.”

“Your request is granted,” replied the king.

Zemira Sees Her Husband

The day after the festival of Sukkos, Zemira was brought to the dungeons, the last resting place of the condemned man before execution.

She was taken to her husband’s cell. When she saw his gaunt and sad face, she burst into tears.

“Do not weep, Zemira,” he cried. “Forget me for I have shamed you and tricked you and brought disgrace unto you and your father’s house forever.”

“I will not forget you ever, for you are the husband of my youth,” declared Zemira.

The Husband’s Story

When the husband saw that nothing that he could say would shake his wife, he turned to her and said: “Let me tell you the story of my sad life so that it may be a lesson to you so that you may raise our dear child to be a lover of Torah and the way of G-d.

“My father was an officer in the army and he was rarely home. Consequently, he turned me over to my mother to raise me and guide me in life.

“My mother loved me deeply and taught me to walk in the ways of the L-rd. Thus, the first 15 years of my life were spent in joy and tranquility.

“Alas, when I was 15 years old my beloved mother passed away and my father eventually married a second woman who was as evil as my mother was good. She hated me and made my life one of torture and suffering.

“Because of this I wandered about and found friends who also came from unhappy homes and I began to run with them. My stepmother told my father that I was becoming friendly with these boys and he forbade me to see them. I was very frightened of my father and I, of course, obeyed, but this was not enough for my stepmother. She continued to tell my father lies about me until one day she demanded that either she or I leave the house.

“My father was under her influence and so he drove me from my house. Where could I go if not to the friends that I had made?”

The Influence

“My friends were delighted. One day they said, ‘We have heard that there are bands of men who roam the countryside secretly and who fall upon wealthy merchants and take their money and property. Why shouldn’t we do the same?’

“At first I refused to even listen to them and when they saw this they left me and went to join the bandits themselves. I was left alone in the city until the pangs of hunger seized me and I decided that there was nothing left for me but to go join my friends in their fields.

“Many days I wandered through the forests and mountains searching until one day I came across them.

A New Life

“Their shouts of joy when they saw me were genuine and I was initiated into a new life. I was so talented and good at my new occupation that my friends made me their leader. In fact, I hit upon a wonderful idea that enabled me to succeed beyond my wildest dreams.

“I grew a beard and allowed my hair to grow and walked about as a Nazir. Naturally, no one suspected a Nazir so I was able to go from town to town inspecting houses and later I would return to my friends and direct them to the money and wealth. This, my dear Zemira, is how I came to meet you.

The Man At The Grave

“You recall the day that you were at your mother’s grave and you met a Nazir who told you that he was fleeing with his comrades from the king? That Nazir was me. Because of your kindness to me I vowed never to harm you or your father’s household.

“Then, one day, we received word of a caravan on its way to our home. We attacked it and upon questioning them we learned that this was the caravan of your future husband and his parents.

“I was bitterly jealous of your fiancé for I had fallen in love with you. So I took him and his family to the Pilistines and sold them as slaves for life. I then went back to my comrades, divided my fortune among them and told them that I was forever giving up the life that I had been leading.

False Marriage

“I came to your home and introduced myself as your fiancé. After we were married I learned much from you and your father about the goodness and kindness the Torah teaches us, and my heart was stricken for my past evil.

“It was then that I decided to change my life. I fasted and wept; I gave charity to the poor. I began to free slaves from their masters. But my sin was still too great to bear.

“The thought of all the evil that I had done, and especially my terrible sin in selling your fiancé and his family as perpetual slaves, weighed heavily on me and I could not sleep nights. I was tormented by visions of doom and unhappiness and I sought to die.

“Finally, there came the day of reckoning when the soldiers found me and captured me. Now I lie here in the dungeon waiting to die. Leave me, unhappy woman, and let me go to the fate that I so richly deserve, for I have wronged you and not even my death can wipe away my awful sins.”

(To be continued)

Rabbi Sholom Klass

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