The Romantic Messiah

The servants brought in the next course. It was only then that Rachel and her guests noticed Sarah’s strange appearance. She was deathly pale. Her eyes, gleaming like the flames of two candles, were fixed hypnotically on Khelebi’s face. It was evi-dent that although he no longer spoke, she still heard his voice.

Frightened, Rachel leaned toward the girl and touched her hand. The contact seemed to bring Sarah back to consciousness; theconsuming fire in her eyes vanished, and as if exhausted, she leaned against Rachel’s chair for support.

“What is the matter, my dear?” Rachel’s soft voice asked the girl. “Come, you are ill.”

“Yes, lead me away,” Sarah weakly replied.

Supporting hersilf on Rachel’s arm, she unsteadily left the room. Everyone was greatly disturbed at the sudden attack the young girl had suffered, but in the presence of a Rabbi eitquette forbade any mention of it.

Rachel returned to the room after a little while and begged her guests to pardon the interruption .

“The girl has suffered so terribly,” she said, turning to Khelebi. “I imagine your story was too much for her to stand, for sche herself was a victim of the Cossack massacres. Indeed, she truly is worthy of a Messiah.;

Rachel’s remarke afforded Khelebi an opportunity to ask the story of this girl whose sudden pallor had made him aware of her striking beauty.

Thereupon the Rabbi repeated all the information about Sarah which his confrere in the Ukraine had written him.

Until the ana of the evening the banker from Alexandria smiled and chatted amiably, but within him he struggled against a revery which possessed his soul. And later, when the banquet had ended, he passed a sleepless night, trying in vain to drive away drive away dreams of the beautiful Polish Jewess which came to assail him with perilous temptations.

Apparently calm, but still extremely pale, Sarah remained in her room. Time fassed without bringing any relief from her anguish. The words of Khelebi’s story had filled her with a burning, ecstatic pain pain which had exhausted her. All her suffering, her solitary dreams, her phantasies, the dark confusion of her desires, were suddenly flooded with a clear and overwhelming light.

Henceforth she would have a definite goal and a wide path to follow. Far off in the distant lands of the East a brave and beautiful young Jew with a voice like honey and with lips of gold wandered from city to city. He was no phantom, he had a name: Sabbatai Zevy!

How firm and sonorous was the word Zevy, which in Hebrw meant the deer. What a fleet and winged word it was! What more magnificent name could be found to designate the Messiah, the Messenger of God?

He was the Messiah, the Messiah!

Enraptured men, rendering up their faithful hearts, followed him from city to city. Against him he had only those who raised transient teples of everlasting stone, those whose prayers were passive, whose faith was too forbearing, whose desire was passionless. Audaciously he branded them as slaves of the Sultan. He called, he disturbed, he awoke the sleeping dead. His was the sacred trumpet which shakes the earth, which awakens gesigned and tranquil men from slumber.

With what fervent and thoughtful sympathy this friend of the Caliph and adviser to kings, Joseph Khelegi, spoke of him. The Deer!

But wanly and with a mortal sluggishness, life like a deep sleep, dragged out in the sumptuous house of Diego. Even in the convent, enclosed by walls of stone, there was wider space. The bells wafted on into distant dreams, the hymns of the organ awoke ane’s soul. Goodness and tanderness resigned here, but death also, death.

Sarah contemplated the delicate objects with which Rachel had adorned her room. Her eyes rested on the crystal flask filled with sweet-smelling oils, on the mirror with its silver frome studded with little pearls, on the cushions embroidered with silk and gold. But before these signs of a touching and tender love, Sarah’s eyes remained cold and hostile. She had no need of them, not a single one

What she ardently desired was to wander through the shadows of night from town to town; to endure the dust of white, burning road; to drink with ecstacy the sweet, audacious words, the fiery words of Sabbatai Zevy, the fleet, the divine deer of God. To fall exhausted and, on in His footsteps. To draw water for Him in summer from cool springs; to gather brach Him in the dry and frosty mornings of autumn. To divine each dawning thought of the messiah. To be beside Him on that great day when He would meet His people, to see from the the height of His mountain all the tombs of the earth open, to see the dead rise and march toward Him under the shadow of His immortality, filling all the roads of the world with the whileness of their cerements, like unshadowed snow. To be His sister, His slave.

Where was He?

Mists still enveloped Sarah’s future road, but the radiant sun which had just risen in her life pierced through these clouds. Following its rays she would find the source of its light: she would find the Deer, the Deer!

Suddenly in these ecstatice dreams a sharp pain assailed her. Rachel! How could she tear herself away from her young guardian whose smile and innocent face had so often quited her paint? How could she openly depart from this peaceful home, how could she leave the sad and upright Diego?

Flight was the sole escape. To depart in any other way would be beyond her strength. She must flee at night, with a feeling of deep shame. She must steal her freedom, soiled with ingratitude and treachery. But it would be for Him, for Him!

Leaping from her bed, Sarah flung a shawl over her shoulders, picked up a pen and wrote repidly:

“Rachel, my darling, my second mother. My eyes are blinded with tears and shame burns in my cheeks, but I can no longer live as I have until now, in your blessed home. The voice of my parents tells me I must abandon a magnificence I am not worthy of. The voice of my martyred sister calls me and commands that I go to those places where in fugitive darkness, the awaited miracle is being brought to birth. I must seek it along dark roads and in unknown countries. My good, my loving mother, you must forgive my cruelty. It is not the temptation of transient pleasures, nor the allurement of worldly goods, this Sarah whom you have covered with blessings, follows. She has gone toward the voice of God, in the footsteps of His Appionted. May God give you His blessing. And may He grant me the joy of seeing you again on that supreme day in the holy city of Jerusalem.”

She ended her letter, and, weeping, collected the jewels Rachel and Diego had given her and laid them she wrapped ip her prayer book and Bible into a small parcel, slipped on a simple dress, took a tortoise shell purse which contained 200 thalers, and blowing out the light, she descended into the perfume-filled garden.

Quickly crossing the main walk, she took a narrow path that led to the gate. She opened it softly, looking back for the last time on the house of Rachel and Diego of Lisbon. Tears filled her eyes again, but brushing them aside, she crossed the threshold.

Far to her right a lantern gleamed and she ran toward it.

It was a sultry and overcast night of summer. One could feel that clouds, rising in the black sky, heralded a storm.

Pausing under the lantern whose flame flickered in the wind, Sarah in sudden despair realized her helplessness. The plan to their very source, which two black alleys lying before her appeared complex and terrible. Which one should she choose? Where should she go?

For the first time in her life she was alone and without a guide. Aone, completey alone in the great universe under an immense and shadowy sky. She realized that she was ignorant of everything. She did not even know where the East lay, toward which she yearned with her whole being. Jerusalem, Smyrna, Alexandria, Cairo, were mere sounds to her, as inaccessible as the stars.

The madness of her venture rose in the form of numberless dngers.What kind of men would she meet at the next crossroad? Drumkards perhaps, or murderers. The face of her sister floated before her.

Terrified, she rushed haphazardly down a dark street. A rising wind tugged at her shawl. She tied it more tightly around her shoulders and quickened her step, pausing only now and then under the infrequent street lights. Their poor and feeble light frightened her even more than the shadows. In the darkness she felt invisible, protected.

A new crossroad; a new street. The more roads she had to choose, the more Sarah felt hopeless and lost. She was overwhelmed with a desire to return to Diego’s home, to climb back into her warm bed, and to awake in the morning to the whispering of the garden. second. There was no return. To be continued tomorrow

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