Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reuven's Vow V (End)

The next day, Reuven was summoned before the court. They ordered Reuven to do penance. He was to pay a certain sum to charity. He was to lay on the threshold of the synagogue until each congregant touched him with their shoe, a symbol of his disgrace. All his charms and books of magic were to be collected and burned. Rabbi Simcha of Jerusalem scolded Reuven, and by implication, the Jews of Safed, for their mystical excursions. Such activities, he explained, make a man perform heresy with his body and speak blasphemy with his lips. The court, before they disbanded, ordered that the corpses’ remains be buried according to Jewish law. They commanded the keeper of the graves to sit near the tomb every night for two years and recite psalms, lest the corpse emerge again to make claims on the living.

And Reuven Ben Sosa? He married his betrothed, of course. He no longer made amulets, recited spells, or studied the Cabbala. Considering his experience, this was not surprising. But his penance went even further. He banished all frivolity from his life. For the rest of his days he never smiled, laughed, or told a joke. What can you expect from a man who betrothed a corpse in a moment of jest, and then got out of it on a mere technicality? For Reuven Ben Sosa the earth became but an ante-chamber to the World to Come.

To him, this was no joke.

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