returning from England, Diego brought important news. It was hoped that Cromwell would let the Jews establish themselves openly in his country. The question had not yet been settle. Cromwell had shown himself favorable to the Jews, but the merchants of London were opposed to them. In Whitehall it was#murmured that if Jews were admitted they would monopolize all th ebusiness. As for th eclergy, the were of the opinion that no “heretical Jews” should be admitted, as they were dangerous and obstinate eneminies of Christ.
Luckily Manasseh-ben-Israel(“our wise Manasseh,” Diego said with pride) had entered the discussion and had advanced an argument in favour of the Jews which ought to put an end to Cromwell’s hesitation, Cromwellbeing a zealous defenderof the Bible. Manasseh had writen him a letter i which he proved with exactitude that the admissionof Jews to England was necessary for divine reasons. The Jews, said he, are expecing their Messiah, and they are certain the redemption of Israel and the return of the Promised Land are immanent. However, this great event cannot take place until the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world is an accomplished fact. Accordingly, in opposing the entrance of Jews to England, Cromwell is preventing the fulfullment of the Messianic promise of God. The dispersion of Israel cannot be considered an accomplished fact, while there are no Jews on English soil.
Diego explained to Sarah, who questioned him, that Manasseh-ben-Israel was a wise and erudite Jewish doctor of Holland. He also told her that Cromwell was the ruler of a great country beyond the sea, that he was a fearless warrior and a pious man. Although not a Jew, he knew the Bible and the Prophets.
“Better, perhaps, than our little Sarah,” added Diego with a friendly smile.
The young girl blushed and Diego promised her a Dutch Bible, richly bound.
“So it was not a delusion, it was not a phantasm which appeared to me in the convent,”said Sarah that nignt as she tossed sleepless upon her bed. “In the land of Diego and in the land of Cromwell that dream is as real as it was back there, when, to the sound of the convent organ, it appeared to me.”
From then on, the thought of the Messiah, which had almost vanished from her mind, was renewed with greater force. But where was He? Why kid He tarry? Why, during all the past centuries, had so many prayers, so many exhortations been unanswered? Was it because faith, becoming outwoun, had been stratified into a habit of patience and resignation? That prayers, by force of their being endlessly repeated, had lost their power?
It seemed to Sarah that Diego, Rachel and all other Jews she had met in the house of the Portuguese found too ready a consolation in their faith. Even so trivial an allusion to the coming of the Messiah as Manasseh’s letter, had been sufficient to reder diego happy. And Rachel also had become radiant. As if the promise already had been fulfilled!
Sarah believed one should not be lulled so easily by hope. Diego had gone about his business tranquilly, Rachel, untroubled, was admiring the presents her husband had brought her from London.
No! One should not believe, one should not hope and pray so casually. But like a famished man, who cannot appease his huger until he finds bread, even so should one hunger after liberation with all one’s passion, with all one’s will, at every breath adn moment.
Diego had built a firm and magnificent house, had planted a garden around it. Did he not thus deny his faith? Rachel proudly displayed the gorgeous synagoue erected under the direction of Manasseh-ben-Israel himself. What immense blocks of limestone! They seemed laid against all eternity. But where was the Rabbis’ faith in the approaching Exodus?
On the threshold of the Promised land , Moses did not crect temples in the Egyptian descrt; he pitched his tents. God would send no one, no one would come while the outward works of Israel so palpably denied their faith.
Now Sarah became more clearly conscious of a belief which until then had remained confused. It was cecessary that she take a personal part in the noble task of liberating her people. As a neophyte in whom hope had bben created by the dying wouds of her mother , she could no longer rest inactive. She would not clave to the temporal good things of this world, she would not found a firm existence upon the foaming waters of a torrent, but her life must be comparable to the tent in the desert.
She had not rediscovered her people, she had not shuddered at their agony, to be consoled by empty words. She must find the Messiah and crouch in the shadow of His infinite wings.
But who was this Messiah?
As in the distant convent days, shadowy visions appeared to Sarah. Confused shapes, mysterious faces passed befor her. Sometimes she saw the beautiful features of a young boy who wore the austerely noble costume of Holland; sometimes she saw the masculine figure of a warrior drawn in light and shade and resembling a picture she had seen in Diego’s library; sometimes she saw the hoary, majestic head of a pariarchal Rabbi. They appeared before her in her room at evening, and in the green shadows of the garden during the day. But what was He really like? And in what country was He be found?
Sarah’s eyes burned with restlessness. They one again assumed that radiance which, though it frightened Rachel, added a strange poignancy to the girl’s somber loveliness. Young men of Amsterdam began paying court to this magnificent Jewess from Poland, who was being raised and educated by Diego.
One day, jokingly, Rachel spoke to Sarah about marriage. The girl began trembling violently.
“No, no!” she cries, terrorstricken.
Laughingly, Rachel reassured her.
When she was alone later on, Sarah wondered why the idea or marriage hadterrified her . Amourous longings had sometimes filled her body with their mysterious power and amnong the young men of the city she had found many who were attractive to her.
But she knew that all her fellings, every part of hr soul belonged to Him, who was the object of her desires and dreams.
She would not build her house upon the foaming waters of the torent. Her life must be similar to the tent pitched in the desert.