Latest update: July 7th, 2013
A childless man once pleaded to the Almighty, “Creator of the world! Please send me a son so that I may teach him the Torah.”
The Almighty heard the prayer and sent him a son whom the father named Shaul. When Shaul was old enough his father began to teach him Torah and, thus, they continued for many years.
When Shaul was 25 years old he became known as a talmid chacham. A short time later his father passed away, leaving behind a large sum of money. His mother said to him, “My son, your father has left a large sum of money. Take it to the market, perhaps you can find some business to enter.”
Shaul left for the market in search of a livelihood. Once there, he keenly observed what was going on about him. Some of the merchants were stealing and others were swearing falsely. In disgust he left for home without inquiring about any business.
When he arrived home his mother anxiously asked him, “Well, my son, what have you done, have you become a merchant?”
“I don’t really care to be a merchant,” Shaul answered. “It is not a good profession, because most of the merchants cheat and lie.”
Later as he was walking in the street he saw people carrying a bier on its way to the cemetery. Shaul went back into the house and told his mother, “I want to go to this funeral and thereby fulfill a great mitzvah.”
On the way home, Shaul saw a man farming a plot of land that was situated alongside the road. Shaul called to the man, “Peace be with you, my son,” replied the man.
Shaul did not realize it but this man was none other than Eliyahu HaNavi, who had disguised himself as a farmer.
“What kind of work are you doing?” asked Shaul.
“My son,” answered Eliyahu, “I plow this land to secure enough food to sustain myself, my wife, and my children. I also hope to grow enough grain to enable me to support the poor and to be able to give the cattle, the wild animals and the birds something to eat.”
“This is the kind of life that I have been looking for,” said Shaul.
Eliyahu, revealing his true identity, said, “I will give you everything that you need.”
“My master,” answered Shaul, “the Lord has already given me Torah. I now need a wife who will be gentle, good and pious.”
“My son,” Eliyahu replied, “I know of just such a woman. She lives to the west and her name is Chana. She is your predestined wife. If we leave now it will take us three days to reach her place.” Eliyahu and Shaul set out on their journey. Along the way Eliyahu left him and made his way swiftly to Chana. Upon entering her house, he said, “I have a bridegroom for you. Will you take him?”
“If it is so destined I can have nothing against it,” was her reply.
Thereupon, Eliyahu returned to Shaul and brought him to Chana’s house. After taking care of various formalities Eliyahu married the pair. At the wedding’s end they began to celebrate the customary seven days of feasting. Towards the end of the seventh day Eliyahu decided that he would visit them.
Sold For A Slave
Upon entering the house Eliyahu found them sitting, talking and idly passing the time. He angrily said to Shaul, “Is this how you waste your time, after all I have done for you? You have forsaken the study of the Torah and have forgotten the true life. Therefore, since you have wasted the seven days of feasting, your punishment will be to serve as a slave for seven years.”
With these words Eliyahu left, leaving the new bridegroom in great anguish. Chana, who had not heard the prophet’s words, asked her husband, “Why have you suddenly become so sad? Is it that you don’t like me? Perhaps you don’t have any money? Here, take all my money and all my possessions. Or is it that you miss your mother? If so, let us both go and visit her.” Shaul, not wanting to tell Chana what was wrong, agreed to the trip. They saddled their mules, prepared wagons to carry their belongings and took their servants with them.
Along the way they passed a large river. The young wife said to her husband, “Let us stop here and eat.” Before they sat down to eat, the pious Shaul went to the river to wash his feet. Eliyahu immediately approached Shaul, lifted him up and carried him away to a faraway land. There Eliyahu sold him for a slave.
Chana, seeing that her husband did not come back, realized that this was the work of Heaven. She decided not to move along but rather to settle on that spot. She immediately summoned her servants and ordered them to build a large house for her and she told them to farm the land surrounding the house. On this farm they began to grow many different crops.
As time passed, Chana’s farm became well known and merchants traveled from various towns to buy wheat and wool from Chana.
Meets Her Husband
It was now five years since her husband was sold into slavery. One day a merchant came to her farm and Chana noticed that among his slaves was her long-lost husband. Pointing to Shaul, she asked the merchant to let him go with her into the house.
Upon their entry to the house, Chana looked at Shaul and said, “Don’t you recognize me, my husband? Why have you been sold as a slave, my dear husband? What have you done?”
Shaul answered, “I was punished by Eliyahu HaNavi for having neglected my Torah studies after we were married. One day as I went to wash my feet at the lake, Eliyahu lifted me up and carried me to a distant land where he sold me for a slave.”
“Well, now you have nothing to worry about, because I am going to buy your freedom from your master,” Chana said to her husband. “Then you will be able to devote all of your time to the study of the Torah.”
“No!” answered Shaul, explaining, “I was sold by the holy prophet as a slave for seven years. I, therefore, have two more years to serve.”
Chana, sorrowfully, let her husband go to finish his term of punishment. For two more years Chana faithfully but anxiously waited his return. Finally, when the two years were up, Chana went and redeemed Shaul from his slavery. The couple then settled down and lived out their years in comfort and happiness.Rabbi Sholom Klass
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