The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat


Confound my enemies, O Lord, and rebuke their counsels.Remember Ruth, I beseech Thee, that she is patient and her heart is humbled.

Give her children of Thy servant, and her first-born shall be sanctified unto Thee.Give her one child, and it shall be Thine--if it is a son, to be a Rabbi in Thy synagogues.Hear me, O Lord, and give heed to my cry, for behold, I swear it before Thee.One child, but one, only one, son or daughter, and all my desire is before Thee.

How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord?"

The message of the Khaleefa which Israel had not answered in his trouble was a request from the Shereef of Wazzan that he should come without delay to that town to count his rent-charges and assess his dues.

This request the Governor had transformed into a command, for the Shereef was a prince of Islam in his own country, and in many provinces the believers paid him tribute.So in three days' time Israel was ready to set out on his journey, with men and mules at his door, and camels packed with tents.He was likely to be some months absent from Tetuan, and it was impossible that Ruth should go with him.

They had never been separated before, and Ruth's concern was that they should be so long parted, but Israel's was a deeper matter.

"Ruth," he said when his time came, "I am going away from you, but my enemies remain.They see evil in all my doings, and in this act also they will find offence.Promise me that if they make a mock at you for your husband's sake you will not see them;if they taunt you that you will not hear them; and if they ask anything concerning me that you will answer them not at all."And Ruth promised him that if his enemies made a mock at her she should be as one that was blind, if they taunted her as one that was deaf, and if they questioned her concerning her husband as one that was dumb.Then they parted with many tears and embraces.

Israel was half a year absent in the town and province of Wazzan, and, having finished the work which he came to do, he was sent back to Tetuan loaded with presents from the Shereef, and surrounded by soldiers and attendants, who did not leave him until they had brought him to the door of his own house.

And there, in her chamber, sat Ruth awaiting him, her eyes dim with tears of joy, her throat throbbing like the throat of a bird, and great news on her tongue.

"Listen," she whispered; "I have something to tell you--""Ah, I know it," he cried; "I know it already.I see it in your eyes.""Only listen," she whispered again, while she toyed with the neck of his kaftan, and coloured deeply, not daring to look into his face.

Their prayer in the synagogue had been heard, and the child they had asked for was to come.

Israel was like a man beside himself with joy.He burst in upon the message of his wife, and caught her to his breast again and again, and kissed her.Long they stood together so, while he told her of the chances which had befallen him during his absence from her, and she told him of her solitude of six long months, unbroken save for the poor company of Fatimah and Habeebah, wherein she had been blind and deaf and dumb to all the world.

During the months thereafter until Ruth's time was full Israel sat with her constantly.He could scarce suffer himself to leave her company.

He covered her chamber with fruits and flowers.There was no desire of her heart but he fulfilled it.And they talked together lovingly of how they would name the child when the time came to name it.

Israel concluded that if it was a son it should be called David, and Ruth decided that if it was a daughter it should be called Naomi.

And Ruth delighted to tell of how when it was weaned she should take it up to the synagogue and say, "O Lord: I am the woman that knelt before Thee praying.For this child I prayed, and Thou hast heard my prayer." And Israel told of how his son should grow up to be a Rabbi to minister before God, and how in those days it should come to pass that the children of his father's enemies should crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread.Thus they built themselves castles in the air for the future of the child that was to come.

Ruth's time came at last, and it was also the time of the Feast of the Passover, being in the month of Nisan.This was a cause of joy to Israel, for he was eager to triumph over his enemies face to face, and he could not wait eight other days for the Feast of the circumcision.

So he set a supper fit for a king: the fore-leg of a sheep and the fore-leg of an ox, the egg roasted in ashes, the balls of Charoseth, the three Mitzvoth, and the wine, And by the time the supper was ready the midwife had been summoned, and it was the day of the night of the Seder.

Then Israel sent messengers round the Mellah to summon his guests.

Only his enemies he invited, his bitterest foes, his unceasing revilers, and among them were the three base usurers, Abraham Pigman, Judah ben Lolo, and Reuben Maliki."They cursed me," he thought, "and I shall look on their confusion." His heart thirsted to summon Rebecca Bensabbot also, but well he knew that her dainty masters would not sit at meat with her.

And when the enemies were bidden, all of them excused themselves and refused, saying it was the Feast of the Passover, when no man should sit save in his own house and at his own table.

But Israel was not to be gainsaid.He went out to them himself, and said, "Come, let bygones be bygones.It is the feast of our nation.

Hall Caine