In the days of Bayis Sheini, the Romans ruled over Eretz Yisrael and chose Hordus, or Herod, to enforce their rule over the Jewish people. Hordus was an evil and ambitious king, and quick to do whatever the Romans requested of him – no matter how terrible the decree.
During this time, Yonadav, a truly righteous and pious man, lived in Yerushalayim. One day he approached Hordus and said: “Why must you be hated by the people? Let me suggest that if only the king would show kindness and compassion to them, the people would surely follow you faithfully.”
The king, however, only grew angry. “I do not need your advice on how to lead the people. Be gone!”
When Yonadav saw the king’s reaction, he decided to move his household out of Yerushalayim in fear that Hordus would make life intolerable for him.
To The Hills Of Lebanon
Since he had land in the foothills of the Levanon, in the north of Eretz Yisrael, Yonadav took his entire family there and began to build a new life. He continued his wonderful ways of charity and goodness, and had enough food for himself and for his family. As for the rest of the food he harvested, he would load it on to his donkeys and camels and send it to Yerushalayim to be distributed to the poor.
Thus the days passed until one day Yonadav’s wife took ill and died. At the end of the days of mourning, the widower built a little rounded tent over the grave and his daughter would go every day to pour out her heart to her mother.
One day as Zemira stood in silent prayer inside the tent, she heard footsteps behind her. Whirling around in fright, she saw before her a tall, young man with long hair falling down to his shoulders. She immediately understood that this was a nazir, who, during his period of vow taking, was forbidden to cut his hair.
“Who are you?” she asked, “and what do you want here?”
“Have mercy on me, young maiden,” the man answered, “and allow me to hide here. The evil Hordus has sent orders that all the Nazirites are to be killed and his troops are already in the neighborhood. Allow me to hide here so that my life will be saved.”
When Zemira beheld the young man’s pleading face, she replied: “I will hide you from those who seek to end your life. Remain here and I will bring you food until it is safe for you to leave.”
Zemira was as good as her word. For three nights, she brought the hidden nazir food until the soldiers had left the area. The final night she brought him food for the road and a sack of gold coins. Then, taking off her golden bracelet, she gave it to him as well, saying: “Take these things and may the Almighty be with you and watch over you.”
“Bless you,” replied the Nazir, and he slipped away.
Yonadav had a very dear friend named Uziel who resided in the holy city of Chevron, and whom Yonadav had not seen for many years. It was a great surprise, therefore, for him to receive a letter from Uziel.
“My dear friend, I know that you have a daughter who is not only wise but G-d fearing. I, too, have a child – a son – who walks in the ways of the Torah and if it is proper in your eyes, give your daughter to him to be his wife.
“If you agree, answer me and I will give to my son a wedding dowry worthy of the new couple, and I will come with my wife to celebrate the wedding and the wedding feast in your home.”
When Yonadav read the letter, he was greatly overjoyed and exclaimed: “This is the fulfillment of my dearest wish to have the son of my good friend marry my daughter.”
And so he sat down to write a letter to his friend Uziel, informing him that he had agrees and looks forward to seeing him once again.
The weeks passed, and one day, as Yonadav and his daughter Zemira sat on their summer porch eating, one of their servants came up and said: “A man has arrived and he says that he is from Chevron.”
“Quickly, send him up,” said Yonadav, “this must be my good friend Uziel.”
When the man arrived, however, Yonadav saw that he was much younger than Uziel.
“Peace be unto you,” exclaimed the stranger. “I am Avinadav, the son of your friend Uziel.”
“Welcome, dear boy,” replied Yonadav. “Where are your parents?”
“My parents are both dead,” replied Avinadav. “Some time after your letter arrived, my father took ill and never recovered, and my mother could not overcome the terrible shock and she, too, took ill and died.”
“Woe to the ears that hear these words,” wailed Yonadav. “I am truly sorry to her such misfortune. But grieve no more, Avinadav, for you have found a second home here with myself and my daughter, who will be your future wife.”
Yonadav was greatly impressed at the vast sums of money the young man had in his possessions.
“I know that your father was a wealthy man insofar as he had many fields. But I had no idea that he had so much money!”
When Avinadav heard these words, a cloud seemed to pass over his countenance. He did not reply and that entire day he ate no food and kept to himself.
Yonadav saw this change in him, but he attributed it to the fact that Avinadav still felt sorrow and pain due to his parents’ death.
At the end of the first week of Avinadav’s arrival, Yonadav called together all his friends and acquaintances, and the wedding of the young couple was celebrated with great gaiety.
All through the wedding feast and into the seven days of feasting the cloud of sorrow never left Avinadav. His bride persistently asked him, “What is troubling you, my husband? Tell me and perhaps I can help.”
“Do not ask me,” replied Avinadav, “for there is no one who can help me in my problem.”
(To be continued)