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But he beheld the way in which he was drifting. Therefore said he to himself, “No, not that way. There lieth again idolatry.”
He said also, “I see very clearly that I need innumerable little laws which shall be as a hedge about the greater laws of Moses. Parush, I hear, hath made such little laws. Should I ever escape, had I not better become a dyer and dwell beside Parush, and learn, if I may, his multitudes of little laws? Or were it better if I kept on as I started, and became, in the Temple, a priest?”
AMAHNAH, WHICH IS MACHASHEBETHEL In the fields of Cyrenaica, Amahnah, who was also Berith and Leah and Machashebethel, still looked after the sheep of the absent owner, that he might on a day come again into his own.
And much she sorrowed for that Samson did not return, neither sent he unto her any word of commendation or of greeting. Crook in hand, she led the sheep, always by pleasant paths of safety, either up unto the grassy heights or down again to quiet pools the whereunto she had led the waters of the running brooks. And the hirelings watched she also that harm might not be able to come unto any of Samson's sheep.
Now, on a certain day, when her eyes were red with weeping and her heart heavy with the recollection of a shepherd that came not, she tried to forget her olden sorrow in still more gentle and comforting ministrations to the lambs. So she took them softly up into her bosom and petted them. “Leah's precious little Rose and Wool Baby. Come hither, Lily; and thou, Joy of the Wilderness, wilt thou not be fondled too?” Then, seeing that the smallest lamb of the whole flock had strayed and stumbled, and gone down into a ravine, she arose and would have stepped down after the lambling, but that she suddenly heard, though at some great distance, the voice of one who ran. “Leah! Berith! Machashebethel! A letter hath come unto thee from Samson. It hath come!”
She first got up the lamb, and having placed it safely with the others, ran to meet the messenger.
He gave her the letter, and, when he had turned backward on his way, she led her sheep up into a little rocky fold, and there enclosed them. Seeing that all were safe, she sate beneath a shade and looked upon her letter timidly.
Then saw she again in her mind Samson-Solomon of other days, beheld him as plainly as ever she had seen him in the flesh.
He flew with rapture to her side, bent his head before her, and she gazed upon him with immediate forgiveness and also with joy unutterable. “My bride,” said he; and she, “My groom.”
Then, looking upon the missive again, she feared to open it. So she prayed most earnestly, and, when she had finished, brake the seals upon the letter and unfolded it and read. And the letter ran in this wise
Samson-Solomon of Cyrene (once the most miserable of men, but now again free)
unto Amahnah, the Child of God, Most Happy Greeting : Wilt thou ever forgive me that once I did forget thee? Forgive, if thou canst, and then, forgiving, read. My trembling fingers scarce can hold the stylus with which I endeavor to write to thee, but, if thou art able to forgive, then, forgiving, read.
And she kissed the letter many times, and, as is the way of a woman, cried over it. And so she read again.
Behold I have been in many dangers since last I did write to thee, but all of the perils which I have seen, I have brought them on myself.
And he told her of his ways in Egypt and of those in Petra, and again, having come into the Land of the Lord, of those worser ways of wickedness which he held to even in Adonai's country. He told her of his journey upward unto Jerusalem, whenas he was of full intent, having reached the City, to show himself unto the High Priest, to whom he would indeed have delivered his locket. But behold, as he gazed at the very city, he was set upon by thieves, who took him into hiding, and having fetched him by the way both of Jerusalem and Cæsarea, unto their pirate vessel, did make him a galley-slave. He spake of his long, long sorrows in the belly of the Babylonia—that wicked school to righteousness.
But after a time (so ran the letter) when I had prayed exceeding long and was very repentant and downcast, and had seen in my mind much imagery and had forsworn all idols forever, then brought the Lord down unto me in the belly of the ship—who but even Mastix himself? And he, when he bad come anigh unto me, said: “Thou art a Jew. Canst thou get me music out of a harp?”.
I said unto him, “Yea, on a time I might have got thee music either from that or from yet another instrument, but now is all my soul most desolate. To play I cannot."
Gave the man orders that I should be disenchained. As he ordered, so it was done. And I was taken up from out the belly of the ship, and led to the deck.
And there were certain idols there. Mastix said unto me, "Bow thee down unto these idols."
I would not.
Said he, “Knowest thou not that my ery name, interpreted, doth mean 'a scourge'p"
I said unto him, "A scourge thou hast truly been unto me, O Mastix, thou and thy great ship also, yet not in such a wise as to drive me unto idolatry, but, the rather, away therefrom.”
And again I would not worship.
Then he tried me by fire and in many other ways, but I stood all the tests. And he said
"I will use thee as a steward, for I see that I can depend upon thee."
So he made me the steward of his ship, and gave me back the locket which had been found upon my neck. But, not long thereafter, we were suddenly set upon by an enemy ship, itself a pirate, called the “Persia,” and the master thereof “Apodoter”—which, by interpretation, meaneth “restorer.”
And Apodoter prevailed, and the Babylonia was sent to the bottom.
But me Apodoter saved, and, having learned my history, set me safe at Cæsarea.
And now I am in Jerusalem, at an inn, and here have I mine earliest opportunity for to write to thee.
And I must tell thee of a dream which I dreamed about thee last night. I dreamed I was in an unknown country, a wanderer, and separate from thee. And it was night over all that country. But I saw, as it were a great shadow (or concentration of the darkness) which was truly thee, but which, for that it was thee, was very beautiful. And I opened up mine arms, and would have seized upon thee, but that the sun arose, and, as the light came full upon thee, thou didst begin to waver and recede, and at length dissolved into the great light which was there all about.
Would that I had the tongue or pen of Lampadephorus, then would I tell thee of the misery which, at that time, I felt.
Canst thou now forgive me, O Amahnah! I will not wander more, or stray from the ways of the Lord. And even Abaddone, the Syrian, she is gone, as also her brother Shikkuts with her. For they that carried me into captivity, they, the very same, did slay both Shikkuts and his sister. And I will keep the sign of the Covenant, which is our Sabbath, to the finest letter of the Law. And I will learn continually of him with whom I shall later stay, even Parush, and will help him to multiply our laws, that every single law may have yet other laws, and they still others, in greater and greater abundance and profusion, that the laws of Moses may be high-hedged about, and none of the heathen may ever come anigh unto the souls of Jews. May the Lord do thus and more also unto me, if I keep my promise not.
Such, O Child of God, is my history, nor have I shunned in any wise or unto any degree to declare unto thee the whole of it.
Wilt thou suffer me to say more! Be not offended, O Child of God, for thou art very dear unto me, and once the Chazzan, he that dwelt in the synagogue at Cyrene, did say unto me: "Take thou her to wife, so be that she will have thee." But mine eyes were holden, for that I was very young, and did not see thee clearly. Nor did I clearly see thee until that my body was sealed as a slave in the very bowels of the ship. But now I know thee who thou art, as never I did know thee heretofore.
Dost thou remember how, O Amahnah, in days that are gone, we took each other by our tiny hands, both thou and I, and over the hills we rushed with hearts rejoicing, watching our shadows linked together before us in the humble dust, and all the world was God's, and we also? Dost thou remember that, thou who art brighter than the bluest of heavens and far truer and like unto the roses for all sweetness? Dost thou remember? If thou dost remember, and thou canst yet forgive me, after all those my many transgressions, then come thou hither unto me. Come thou unto me, O lily of all loveliness, be thou mine and come.
Come thou unto me in Jerusalem, O Rose of Sharon.
Bring thou with thee the body of Betah. And we will lay it in Jehosaphat, that ever it may be anigh unto us. Would that the spirit of that man might also come.
And we will live, both thou and I, in the House of Bread, which is Bethlehem, and which is anigh unto Jerusalem. And I will watch the sacred sheep which feed round about Migdal Eder, and thou shalt keep the blessing in my house.
Wilt thou come?
I will not go up unto the Temple, there to show me to the High Priest until I know that thou art with me in the Land. But then, if thou comest and consentest, I will go. And I shall then be a priest, and will serve the Lord our God in His holy Temple on the mountain each time whenas my sacred course is called. And on each of my other days I will watch my sheep, which shall be about the tower of Eder.
Wilt thou not come!
And Amahnah ran with gladness, and answered the letter of Samson, which was also Solomon, of Cyrene, on that very night. And she writ full many a pleasant thing unto him.
REJECTED AND DESPISED OF MEN
So Amahnah came to Jerusalem, and brought the dead body of the Chazzan with her, which had been embalmed. And Samson laid the body in the Valley of Jehosaphat, that it might be ever anigh unto them twain.
Then was celebrated the joyful wedding of Samson-Solomon with Amahnah, or Berith, which was also Machashebethel.
And they twain gat them down unto Bethlehem to live.
Then said Samson to his bride, "Now that thou art with me, I have full courage to go up unto the Hall of Polished Stones, there to show my title to the priesthood.” He held his arms out wide to her, and she kissed him and bade him go into peace.
So he went up to Jerusalem, saying to the keeper of the door to the Hall of Polished Stones: “Say thou unto him that is High Priest that one from Cyrenaica, a man of priestly family and a servant of the Lord, is come, and would shew both his credentials and himself, that he which is highest may see whether he be not worthy of admittance unto the priesthood."
Then took the keeper of the door Samson into a little private chamber of the Temple, and said unto him: "Stand and wait."
There awaited Samson many hours, till he feared, on a time, that the great High Priest would never come to him.
But now he heard a quiet, stately step in a nearby corridor. It paused for a moment, hesitant at the door of the little room, and then-Samson saw before him the great High Priest of Jerusalem.
His heart fluttered, and his knees became as water. His head turned round and round, for that now was come the moment unto which he had so long looked forward, and which he had seen so often in delightful dreams.
The High Priest went up upon a dais, which was hedged about with snow-white marble railing. A tall, a lean, a very stately man, with high, white, ample head and face, all dignity and love-yet,
behind the sweet benevolence, an unyielding pride, an inexorable austerity.
The High Priest sate him down on a throne of gold and ivory, which was uplift on the dais, and, taking in his hands a sheaf of parchments, began to peruse them. But after a time he laid these parchments down, and, lifting up his eyes on high, repeated the Shema. When he had done this, then, for a very long time, he sate absorbed in lofty contemplation, his hard-set features frozen (as it seemed to him that waited) in an eternal and uninterruptible repose.
Then would Samson have slipped forth out of the room, for he was throbbing of heart, but the High Priest at length beheld him, and, smiling with a certain sweetness, said unto him: “I crave thy forgiveness: I had completely forgotten thee."
Then Samson of Cyrene could look no more for gladness, but cast down his eyes. And yet he was not, of custom, a fearful man.
“Thou art come from Cyrenaica, and thy name is Solomon and Samson."
"My name is Solomon and Samson, and out of the distant folds of Cyrenaica come I."
"And thou wouldst have admission unto the priesthood ?”
Then slipped Samson-Solomon his trembling fingers up about his neck, fearing that now, at length, the locket would surely be gone. But behold it was present, and he had it firmly in his strong fingers. But ere he had loosed it from around his neck, the High Priest said to him
"Thou art of Levi?"
Then said Annas, “Thou art truly of the same great course as I.” He smiled most delicately upon Samson. “The course of Jedaiah, O my son, as thou must know, is of the house of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak."
"I know, O my father, that that is true. I do surely know it."
But, for all of Samson's great pulling, would neither the locket come from off the chain, nor yet the chain from around his neck.