Category Archives: Paintings

The Pain of Uncertainty (Vayishlach)

The Pain of Uncertainty (Vayishlach)

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. -Kahlil Gibran

Jacob had escaped from the land of Canaan and his brother Esau’s murderous wrath, to spend 20 years with his uncle Lavan (who would later become his father-in-law as well). Now that Jacob is returning to Canaan, he’s not sure if his hot-headed brother still wants to kill him or not.

The Bechor Shor on Genesis Chapter 32 analyses Jacob’s predicament and how he navigates the dilemma. Verse 8 states that Jacob was very afraid and it pained him. The Bechor Shor explains that what pained Jacob was the uncertainty. The best scenario, would of course be if Esau had forgiven him, allowing Jacob an amicable return to Canaan. The second-best scenario would be to know if Esau still meant to kill him and Jacob could prepare himself accordingly, either running away from Esau or finding a fortified city where he can get out of reach of Esau and his warriors. However, not knowing Esau’s intentions kept Jacob in a fearful and painful state of uncertainty. Not knowing can be psychologically more distressful than knowing a certain negative outcome. When one knows the facts, one can start to deal with the situation. But a cloud of doubt and uncertainty can be painfully paralyzing.

On one hand, Jacob would love to have a peaceful resolution to the ill will Jacob had generated 20 years earlier by stealing Esau’s blessings. On the other hand, he wanted to protect himself and his large clan which included four wives, twelve children (eleven sons and one daughter, at that point), many servants, and significant flocks and herds.

If there was a chance for reconciliation, Jacob wanted to do whatever he could to make that happen. Jacob sends messengers ahead to Esau to inform him of his return to Canaan, and to try to gauge Esau’s state of mind. However, the messengers return with inconclusive reports: Esau is coming to meet Jacob, together with 400 of his men. It’s not clear if this is a war outing or the entourage that would normally accompany Esau. It could be that Esau was coming to honor his long-absent brother. If Jacob would choose to run away, Esau may interpret that negatively and perhaps pursue and attack as opposed to having a warm brotherly reunion. If Jacob runs, he may ruin any chance of reconciliation. Yet, if he meets Esau, he may be opening himself up to the death and destruction of himself and his entire family.

Jacob sends multiple deliveries of his flocks and herds as gifts, in the hopes that it will soften Esau’s heart as well as to see if Esau lashes out against Jacob’s gifts. However, until the very last moment, Jacob has no idea if the reunion will be bloody or friendly. Upon seeing Esau, Jacob bows profusely, demonstrating his subservience. In the end, Esau proves to be peaceful and Jacob is surely relieved by both the warm reunion and the resolution of the uncertainty.

May we often know the joy of the resolution of doubts.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the men and women responsible for the removal of our enemies.

Misunderstanding God (Vayetze)

Misunderstanding God (Vayetze)

The business of a seer is to see; and if he involves himself in the kind of God-eclipsing activities which make seeing impossible, he betrays the trust which his fellows have tacitly placed in him. -Aldous Huxley

Jacob arrives in the town of Haran and falls in love at first sight with his cousin Rachel. He offers Rachel’s father, Lavan, to work for him for seven years to marry Rachel. Lavan sort of agrees. On the wedding night, seven years later, Lavan switches Rachel for her older sister, Leah, which somehow Jacob only realizes the morning after. Infuriated, Jacob confronts Lavan. Lavan tells him that in his town they don’t marry the younger one before the older one, but if he wants, after the week of the wedding celebration, he can have Rachel – but for an additional seven years of work. Jacob agrees.

Now, after fourteen years of working for his father-in-law, where Jacob was extremely productive and made Lavan into a wealthy man, Jacob wants to earn something for himself. He comes to a new agreement with Lavan as to what his compensation will be. Jacob is successful, but Lavan keeps changing the terms of the deal. Finally, God reveals himself to Jacob and tells him to leave Lavan and head back home to his father, Isaac, in Canaan.

Fearful that Lavan, the proven swindler, would hamper his departure, Jacob leaves with his wives, children, and all his possessions, without informing Lavan. Lavan eventually is notified of Jacob’s escape and pursues him. The night before Lavan is about to encounter Jacob, God comes to Lavan in his dream and warns him: “Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad.”

Now a prophetic vision of God talking to us might typically make us awestruck and even humble. A warning from God might even make us cautious. However, it seems Lavan misunderstands God and the divine communication doesn’t seem to have reduced his arrogance or ego.

The next morning Lavan catches up with Jacob and berates him for his hasty departure. He tells Jacob that he would have a mind to hurt him in some way for this offense, but that God Himself told him not to.

The Bechor Shor on Genesis 31:29 interprets Lavan as saying that “I really could have done serious damage to you and that my power to hurt you is so great that even God himself was worried and therefore came to me in a prophetic vision to ask me not to harm you in any way.” Lavan further uses God’s intervention as proof that Jacob was wrong in leaving without informing him.

But Lavan was wrong on both counts. He didn’t realize that he could not harm Jacob if God wouldn’t allow it, nor did he realize that Jacob had departed based on God’s direct command. God’s warning was likely more for Lavan’s benefit than for Jacob’s.

But humans continually prove that often, we hear what we want to hear, even if it’s God Himself talking.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

On the 57th anniversary of Doctor Who.

A Tale of Bitter Rivalry (Toldot)

A Tale of Bitter Rivalry (Toldot)

Enemies’ promises were made to be broken. -Aesop

Isaac and Rebecca have twin sons: Esau and Jacob. They’re very different physically and in temperament. Esau is a hairy hunter. Jacob is a smooth-skinned dweller of tents. Isaac loves Esau. Rebecca loves Jacob. The Bechor Shor in the Torah portion of Toldot gives a somewhat different reading of events than what many might be familiar with, from the more popular commentaries.

According to the Bechor Shor, Esau, the eldest, shows up at Jacob’s tent after an unsuccessful hunt, literally starving to death. He is so weak he can’t even feed himself. Jacob sees his brother, his bitter rival, and says to himself: if I do nothing, he dies of his own fault, my rival will be gone by his own doing and I will inherit everything. Esau understands well his predicament. Jacob offers Esau a deal: I’ll feed you and save you in exchange for the eldest’s part of our inheritance. Esau accepts, but in the back of his mind, counting on being his father’s favorite, he expects Isaac to gift him his portion before he dies. Once Isaac would die, a legal inheritance would then be in force and Esau would need to abide by his agreement with Jacob, and let Jacob get the major portion of their father’s wealth (a wealth that we are told previously is vast).

True to Esau’s instinct, Isaac, as he approaches old age, informs Esau that he wants to bless him, which the Bechor Shor understands to mean, to bestow the majority of his wealth as well as leadership of the family upon Esau BEFORE his death. Isaac is willing to do this despite the fact that it will contravene the agreement Esau hade made with Jacob.

Isaac informs Esau of his decision and sends him to hunt for some food and prepare a celebratory meal to seal the deal. Rebecca, wanting to sabotage Isaac’s and Esau’s workaround of the firstborn sale, suggests Jacob present himself to blind Isaac in Esau’s place. Isaac is fooled and bequeaths his possessions as well as the family leadership upon Jacob (the ultimate rightful recipient, based on his agreement with Esau) in an irrevocable form.

Esau, understandably furious that his treachery was neutralized, plans to kill Jacob at his earliest opportunity, BEFORE his father dies, thereby getting that entire inheritance. Jacob, under the legitimate pretense of going to find a bride from Rebecca’s family in Haran, escapes, taking nothing with him, to travel quickly and lightly, and so Esau won’t suspect his prey is planning an escape.

More than two decades later, the brothers meet briefly, each prepared for war. Battle is averted. The brothers are affectionate and civil to each other and then part ways never to meet again, with Esau renouncing his claim to the inheritance of Isaac and leaving the land of Canaan permanently. However, the descendants of these two brothers, who would go on to form two different nations, would rarely know peace between them.

Some rivalries are not so easy to overcome.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

On the engagement of our niece, Leora Spitz, to Sammy Landesman. Mazal Tov!

No Foul Play (Chaye Sara)

No Foul Play (Chaye Sara)

Simplicity is natures first step, and the last of art. -Philip James Bailey

Abraham sends his servant, who the Midrash names as Eliezer, to the city of Haran, to Abraham’s family, to find a wife for his son Isaac. Eliezer is instantly successful, meeting beautiful, kind Rebecca at the well. Eliezer determined that a suitable bride would be one that offers to water his camels. Rebecca does so, demonstrating her kindness. He is greeted warmly by the rest of the family, including Rebecca’s father Betuel, and her brother Lavan. They agree to the marriage of Rebecca to Isaac. However, just a few verses later, Betuel disappears from the text, never to be mentioned again. The narrative continues with Rebecca’s brother and mother receiving gifts and then handling the negotiations the following morning.

The prime biblical commentator, Rashi, famously quotes the Midrash which gives a dramatic explanation for Betuel’s absence. He died that very night! He was apparently really opposed to this divinely orchestrated marriage, so an angel comes in the night and kills Betuel (though the Biblical text doesn’t mention anything of the sort). Another Midrash in that vein is even more interesting, which claims Betuel intended to poison Eliezer, thereby sabotaging the mission of the matchmaker. Eliezer, sensing some foul play abstains from initially eating the food (that is mentioned in the Biblical text), the food gets cold, and Betuel ends up accidentally eating the poisoned food himself – God, as seen in this Midrash, is not without a sense of irony.

However, the Bechor Shor on Genesis 24:55 breaks ranks with Rashi and the Midrash and gives a diametrically opposed explanation. He claims that Betuel was alive and well throughout the rest of the story. So why then the notable absence from the rest of the text? He explains that Betuel was Abraham’s nephew (making Isaac and Rebecca first cousins once-removed) and immediately understood that this was a fantastic, heavenly match for his daughter. After he gives his initial approval, Betuel no longer needs to either receive gifts from Eliezer to be assuaged or to be part of further deliberations or wedding planning. Rebecca’s mother and brother on the other hand still needed to be persuaded that this match and Eliezer’s insistence on immediate departure was indeed ideal for Rebecca.

Finally, they ask Rebecca herself if she agrees to the wedding and the immediate departure with Eliezer, to which she responds, “let’s go!”

May we always find simple answers when they are there.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the memory of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”tl.

Self-inflicted Escalating Punishments (Bo)

Self-inflicted Escalating Punishments

Every guilty person is his own hangman. -Seneca the Elder

                                                                     John Martin, The Seventh Plague, 1823

God pours his wrath over the people of Egypt. Plagues of blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, boils, hail, locust and more devastate the mightiest empire on the planet for refusing to let the People of Israel go. Pharaoh stands firm against this onslaught, consistently denying the Hebrew nation its freedom. He insists on keeping them enslaved, not allowing them their requested three-day journey to worship God.

In the end, it is Pharaoh’s stubbornness (which at some point may have been augmented by God) that dooms Egypt. Had he let the Jews go at the first request, he and his country would have been spared from all the pain, death and destruction.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 12:33 (Bo) explains that Pharaoh’s thick-headedness, his denial of God and his refusal to send the Jews as requested were reciprocated in the harshest terms in a way that he would irrefutably acknowledge God, by being on the receiving end of the plagues, and he would ultimately be forced to send the Jews out of Egypt.

Rabbeinu Bechaye gives an example of a minister who asked his servant to buy him some fish; the servant went and bought him a putrid piece of fish. The minister, as punishment, gives the servant three options:  “eat the fish yourself, get one hundred lashes, or pay one hundred pieces.” The servant says: “I’ll eat the fish,” but halfway through it he says, “I can’t eat anymore, I’d rather get the lashes.” They lash him, but halfway through he says, “I can’t handle it, I’d rather pay the one hundred pieces.” The servant ended up inflicting on himself all three punishments.

So to it was with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They were lashed with all the plagues, they sent the Jews out, and they also sent them with gold and riches.

May today’s stubborn enemies of Israel receive their comeuppance speedily and in our days.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Judge Mchaim Lieberman on his 50th birthday. May he continue to mete out justice when he can.

Punishment for Undue Credit

Punishment for Undue Credit

A man’s pride will humiliate him, but a humble man will obtain honor. -Proverbs 29:23

Anonymous – Camille Flammarion, L’Atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), pp. 163

Many of us may have experienced the annoyance of a friend, a sibling or a colleague, taking credit for something we did, a brilliant idea that we actually suggested first, a beneficial act that we initiated or some other effort where we should really have gotten credit. Conversely, we may have inadvertently taken credit ourselves in such cases, when in truth it was somebody else who was responsible.

Rabbeinu Bechaye in Genesis 19:13 suggests that such crimes stem from undue pride and arrogance, that God doesn’t take kindly to the stealing of “credit,” and that he will punish such wrongdoers by humbling them and thereby teach them some needed humility.

Perhaps surprisingly, he learns this lesson from a poorly phrased comment by God’s angels. The angels were coming to destroy Sodom. They stated “we’re destroying;” when they should have said “God is destroying.” Their initial punishment was that they were not able to leave the place until they admitted that “God sent us to destroy.” Their further punishment was that they were banished from God’s presence for 138 years, for we only see these angels again generations later with the patriarch Jacob.

Even the greatest personalities were guilty of such missteps of arrogance, including Moses, Samuel and Deborah:

  • Moses said: “Whatever is too hard for you to judge, you’ll bring to me.” Punishment: Didn’t know answer to question of the daughters of Zlofhad.
  • Samuel said: “I’m the seer.” Punishment: When came time to anoint the next king, he thought it was Eliav (David’s brother); God reprimands him, saying he’s wrong, that man “sees the eyes, but God sees the heart.”
  • Deborah said: “Until I, Deborah, arose.” Punishment: The divine spirit left her.

Rabbeinu Bechaye concludes that there is a particular danger for anyone who attributes any divine credit and honor to themselves. When we delude ourselves into thinking that we are due honor, when in fact it is God moving the pieces behind the scenes, we are liable to set ourselves up to being humbled in order to correct our mistaken notions.

May we retain our humility and always give credit where credit is due.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Yoni Tocker on his Bar-Mitzvah and all those who deserve the credit for such a beautiful event.

 

 

The Creation of Hell

The Creation of Hell

So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the burning marl. Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is – other people! -Jean-Paul Sartre

                                                                  Chart of Hell, Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485.

According to ancient Jewish sources, Hell was created on the second day of creation. The plain text narrates how on the second day of creation, God creates the firmament which separates between the upper waters and the lower waters. Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 1:4 wonders why the second day of creation doesn’t end with the characteristic phrase “and it was good,” which other days mention. He quotes the creation of Hell as a reason; however, he adds that something else was created on that same unfortunate day: quarrelling.

The term for second in Hebrew, “Sheni,” already hints at the unlucky nature of the number two. “Sheni” is related to the word “Shinui” which means difference or change. There is something negative and even dangerous when there are unwarranted differences between things and people or even to just being the second and being compared to what came before. It sets the stage for quarrelling. Even nature itself seems to quarrel with God from the second day and onwards. None of God’s further commands to the inanimate world were correctly implemented. For example, on the third day, God commanded that the earth produce fruit trees, meaning trees whose bark would be savory and could be eaten, however, the land decided to produce only fruit-bearing trees, with inedible bark.

The concern with the number two was serious enough that even the Talmud mentions a superstition about bad luck in eating pairs of a food or drinking pairs of drinks. Nonetheless, Rabbeinu Bechaye’s main point is that whoever instigates a quarrel will be judged in Hell. There is a direct correlation between creating anguish, controversy and clashes between people, and experiencing Hell.

However, we also know that arguments for the sake of Heaven, which are handled with sensitivity, intelligence and respect, will eventually be settled well.

May we avoid unnecessary quarrels and stick to Heavenly arguments.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the beginning of a new year of commentary. May it lead us on peaceful ways.

Unappreciated Gifts

Unappreciated Gifts 

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. -G. K. Chesterton

The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1777.

From the moment we are born, we get used to breathing, eating, walking, moving, thinking and to the daily miracles that we’ve come to expect. However, the truth is that our life is a gift. We didn’t deserve life. We didn’t earn life. Life is not some reward for a job well done in a previous incarnation. The opposite is true. Our life is given to us unearned.

We come into this world with a debt to God. He has created us with our health, with our faculties and with our families. Our life’s circumstances are purely based on His benevolence for which we will always be in His debt and will never be able to fully repay.

Unfortunately, we often make the mistake of taking life for granted. Not only are we not appreciative of this divine gift, we even start complaining, or resenting the circumstances of our life if they aren’t to our liking. An idyllic, unperturbed life wasn’t part of the deal. Rabbi Hirsch on Deuteronomy 32:4 states:

“No creature of God has a claim to existence on its own merits or the right to expect that its aspirations will be fulfilled. For all of its existence is a free gift of God’s creative love. Nevertheless, God treats it as if indeed it had a personal right to existence and welfare.”

God doesn’t owe us anything, not even the breath we take. Nonetheless, God does look out for us. However, He is likely to be kinder if we demonstrated both appreciation and good use of the gifts He has provided us so far.

May we use those gifts to good effect and may we be blessed with good life, health, joy and success in the coming year.

Shana Tova and Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To my family. I’m immensely grateful to be celebrating Rosh Hashana together, after several years of being on duty.

Delayed Punishments

 

 Whenever a human being, through the commission of a crime, has become exiled from good, he needs to be reintegrated with it through suffering. The suffering should be inflicted with the aim of bringing the soul to recognize freely some day that its infliction was just. -Simone Weil

Joseph_and_Potiphar's_Wife

The Torah believes in punishment, either divine or court-inflicted. However, it generally comes from either a sense of justice and creating balance, or in somehow rehabilitating the evil-doer. It is interesting to note that the concept of a jail is almost completely absent from the Jewish legal code. There was either financial compensation, corporal punishment or the death penalty.

The Sfat Emet in 5637 (1876) asks how did God allow Joseph to be punished and placed in prison after he withstood the seduction of Potiphar’s wife, when according to the sages, it was a divine test greater than all the tests the Patriarchs endured. He answers that it was punishment for an earlier sin.

According to the Midrash, the ancient oral tradition that accompanied the written Torah, Joseph sinned when as a youth of seventeen he slandered his brothers to their father Jacob. But God postponed that punishment to a better time. That time is exactly after Joseph had performed an act of moral courage that transforms him and places him at a higher spiritual level. Now that Joseph is more righteous, two things happen. He somehow has greater strength and capacity to bear the punishment, but now, God is also more exacting with him and so the punishment must be meted out. In a way, Joseph’s newly acquired righteousness now forces him to confront and seek atonement for his earlier sins.

The Sfat Emet warns based on this episode, that if a person performs some great act or avoids serious sin, he shouldn’t be so quick to congratulate himself; as such pride may invite a closer examination of his past and bring down punishment for previous sins.

May we realize our mistakes and repent for them and so reach those higher ethical levels without paying a painful price for previous indiscretions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication,

To Nobel Laureate Professor Dan Shechtman of Israel on his inspirational visit to Uruguay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presagio de luz

ficción bíblica: Éxodo Shmot

Traducido del inglés y editado por Caro Cynovich carocynovich@gmail.com

­pharaohs-daughterPresagio de luz

­—Seiscientos treinta y ocho bebés varones se han lanzado en el Nilo —el capitán leyó de su rollo de papiro—. Dieciocho bebés varones han sido evacuados por sus familias a otros distritos, y un bebé de sexo masculino está desaparecido.

—¿Qué significa “desaparecido”? —Faraón preguntó con irritación desde su trono.

—Hemos buscado por todos los rincones de la casa de la familia —explicó el capitán en tono de disculpa—, y la de sus vecinos, familiares y cualquier persona que están en contacto regular con ellos. Hemos buscado detrás de cada arbusto y debajo de cada piedra, pero el bebé no está en ninguna parte.

—¿Qué dice la familia? —Faraón demandó—. ¿Qué es lo que dicen que pasó con el bebé?

—Afirman que el bebé ya fue tirado en el Nilo, pero no hay mención de esto en nuestros registros.

—¿Está seguro?

—Estamos seguros, oh Faraón. Nuestros registros son impecables. Nuestras fuerzas no han supervisado el lanzamiento del niño Amram en el Nilo.

—Amram, usted dice —Faraón asintió pensativamente—. De seguro que es su hijo. Él es el líder de los hebreos. Su hijo sería sin duda un candidato para ser el Redentor destinado. ¿Dónde puede estar?

—Yo puedo responder a eso, Padre —una sorprendente mujer joven declaró mientras entraba en la sala de audiencias del Faraón.

—Hija, ¿qué significa esta interrupción? —Faraón preguntó con sorpresa y disgusto.

—Puedo informar acerca del niño desaparecido no han logrado ahogar.

—Hija, yo sé que no apruebas nuestras acciones. Sin embargo, debes tener en cuenta que esto es por el bien de Egipto.

—Pfah  —la hija hizo un gesto de escupir—. Sacrificas criaturas inocentes, ¿y aún así te llamas un héroe? Pones demasiada fe en los augurios de tus astrólogos.

—Hija, ten cuidado con esa lengua o puede que ese órgano ofensor sea extraído. Te puede pasar incluso a ti, mi preciosa joya.

—¿Se podría silenciar a la única persona que te dice la verdad? Tú estás rodeado de estos aduladores que han torcido tu mente con la superstición y verdades a medias. Ellos conducirán a Egipto a nada más que miseria.

—Capitán  —el Faraón dio la espalda a su hija—, puede retirarse, y al salir, llame al Verdugo Real y a mis consejeros.

La hija dio un paso atrás ante la mención del verdugo.

—Hija —Faraón le devolvió la mirada—, no debes discutir conmigo en ese tono, y ciertamente no en frente de mis subordinados. Creo que tal vez una lección de respeto sea necesaria.

—¿Cómo puedo respetar a un asesino a sangre fría?

—Yo te mostraré.

Momentos más tarde, el Verdugo Real entró, seguido por los asesores de Faraón, Jeinis y Jimbrei.

—Verdugo, ¿qué formas temporales tiene usted para silenciar a una persona? —Faraón miró significativamente a su hija—: Yo sé que las lenguas no vuelven a crecer, pero ¿hay algo que se pueda hacer a corto plazo que pueda enseñarle una lección permanente a mi hija, acerca de los modales que debe tener una Princesa?

—Hierros, Faraón. Los hierros son la solución.

—¿Se podría cerrar su boca con hierros? A pesar de estar tentado con la idea, me gustaría algo menos indecoroso.

—No, Faraón. Me refería a los hierros calientes. Si tocamos su lengua o la parte interna de la boca con hierros candentes, ella no hablará por un tiempo, y con el tiempo sanará.

—¿Por cuánto tiempo estará ella en silencio?

—No estoy seguro. Las pocas veces que lo intentaron, los sujetos murieron a causa de sus heridas, pero me gustaría tener mucho cuidado con la princesa. Haría falta quizás varios meses para sanar, tal vez incluso un año.

—Un año es muy bueno entonces. Tenga cuidado de no estropear sus hermosas facciones. Y si ella no habla de nuevo en un año, Verdugo, usted perderá más que solo la lengua.

—Pero, Padre —exclamó la hija alarmada— : ¡Pensé que querías saber sobre el niño desaparecido!

—Sí, pues. Dime.

—Sólo si no le permites al Verdugo lastimarme.

—Eso, querida, dependerá de la naturaleza de la respuesta.

—Tengo el bebé.

—¿En serio? Buen trabajo. Entrégalo al Verdugo y podremos deshacernos de él ahora mismo.

—No.

—¿Qué quiere decir ‘No’ ?

—No lo entregaré. Él es mi hijo.

—¿Tu hijo ? ¿Tu hijo? —Faraón bajó de su trono y comenzó a gritar—. ¡En el nombre de Ra! ¿De qué estás hablando?

—Lo encontré en el río. Yo lo he adoptado como mi hijo. De acuerdo con todas las leyes antiguas, él es mío. No puedes tenerlo.

—¿Tenerlo? No quiero tenerlo. ¡Quiero matarlo! Él puede ser la cosa más peligrosa para el Imperio Egipcio, ¿y tú lo estás protegiendo?

—Sí. Y si pudiera, me gustaría proteger a todos y cada uno de esos bebés inocentes que tú crees que son tan peligrosos.

—¡Hija! ¡Estás yendo demasiado lejos!

—¡No! ¡Yo no voy lo suficientemente lejos! Nunca lo entregaré. Si puedo salvar aunque sea un niño, habré cumplido con mi deber.

—¿Te atreverías? ¿Te atreverías a rebelarte contra el mandato de tu padre? Esto es traición. No te liberarás de mi castigo.

—Me atrevo. Debería haber hecho esto hace mucho tiempo.

—Que así sea. ¡Verdugo! Vamos a ejecutar la princesa, aquí y ahora, sin demora. No puedo soportar ni un momento más con esta niña rebelde. ¡Hazlo ahora!

El Verdugo cogió a toda prisa a la princesa y un banco acolchado y se preparó para decapitarla. La obligó a arrodillarse en el suelo y ató firmemente su torso al banquillo, dejando espacio para que la cabeza quede a un lado. Ató las manos de la princesa a su espalda y colocó una bandeja en el suelo donde su cabeza caería. Faraón iba y venía hirviendo de rabia, pero conteniendo las lágrimas. Entonces el Verdugo desenfundó la espada y pasó una uña sobre su borde para comprobar su filo. Abrió las piernas y levantó la espada. La bajó lentamente hasta el cuello de la princesa para verificar el ángulo y la distancia necesaria para hacer un rápido y limpio corte. Luego levantó la espada de nuevo y tensó fuerte sus músculos, a punto de dejarla caer, a punto de hacerla caer a la princesa, rápido y fuerte.

—O Faraón —Jeinis hizo una reverencia–, ¿puedo ser tan atrevido como para interrumpir?

—Procede, Jeinis —Faraón levantó la mano al Verdugo para que se detuviera, agradecido por el alivio y la esperanza de que Jeinis proporcionaría una solución diferente. Mientras tanto, el Verdugo bajó lentamente la espada, decepcionado.

—De acuerdo con los signos más recientes, parece que la crisis ha terminado –continuó Jeinis.

—¿Qué quieres decir?

—Lo que quiere decir, oh Faraón —Jimbrei intervino—, que de acuerdo a las estrellas, el Redentor ya ha sido lanzado al Nilo.

—¿Ya lanzado? Eso es un alivio. ¿Estamos fuera de peligro entonces?

—Um, no exactamente —Jeinis murmuró.

—Entonces, ¿hay peligro o no?

—Faraón sabe lo difícil que es leer las estrellas —Jimbrei entonó—.Parece que la necesidad de tirar a los niños en el Nilo ha pasado. El peligro del Redentor destinado aún está por ahí, pero es vago y difícil de leer. Debemos permanecer a la escucha.

—¿Pero ya puede parar el ahogamiento de niños? —la princesa intervino desde su posición, atada y de rodillas sobre el banco.

—Sí, princesa —Jimbrei respondió de mala gana.

—Entonces no hay razón por la que no puedo mantener a mi hijo, padre.

—Si eso hará que se detenga tus incesantes quejas, blasfemias y rebeldía, pues puedes mantener a este niño – con una condición.

—¿Y cuál sería esa condición?

—No adoptarás otro de los hebreos de nuevo. Este será su primer y único hijo de ese pueblo. No les deberá ofrecer una protección de esta manera. Y si tengo la sensación de que este niño es una amenaza en cualquier forma, irá con los Verdugos.

—De acuerdo. Felicitaciones, Padre, ahora eres un abuelo.

—Ahórrate el melodrama. Suelte a la princesa —el Faraón hizo señas al Verdugo—. Vamos a examinar este niño.

—Oh, Padre, lo amarás. Es un niño precioso —la princesa cantó mientras el Verdugo la desató y la ayudó a levantarse.

—Yo decidiré eso.

—Traeré el bebé —dijo la princesa mientras salía orgullosamente al pasillo.

Faraón se sentó en su trono, aliviado. ¿Cómo fue que merecí una hija tan difícil? Aunque me gustaría que mis soldados fueran al menos la mitad de valientes que ella – entonces el mundo entero estaría aterrado de nosotros, pensó con orgullo paternal.

—¿Es prudente dejar que se quede con el niño? —Jeinis preguntó a Faraón.

—Si eso apaciguará a mi hija y dejará de juzgarme, entonces valdrá la pena.

—Si este es el hijo de Amram —Jimbrei añadió—, podría tener ramificaciones curiosas.

—Hmm. ¿Quiero tener al hijo de mis enemigos en mi casa? Si fuera un rehén sería una cosa, pero como hijo adoptivo no estoy tan seguro.

—Es bueno tener a los amigos cerca, Faraón —Jimbrei citó—, pero es mejor mantener a los enemigos más cerca.

—Sí, vamos a mantener una estrecha vigilancia sobre el hijo de Amram. Él todavía puede ser de utilidad para nosotros.

La hija de Faraón, radiante de alegría, volvió a entrar en la sala con un bebé en sus brazos.

—Aquí Padre, éste es mi hijo.

—Él… ¡es hermoso! —Faraón tartamudeó.

—Te dije que era especial.

—¿Qué hay en su piel? Parece que está brillando. ¿Es esto brujería?

Jeinis y Jimbrei se asomaron sobre el bebé e hicieron varios movimientos arcanos con sus manos.

—¡Saquen sus garras de mi bebé! —la princesa abrazó al bebé, defensiva.

—Nosotros no sentimos ningún tipo de magia que rodea al bebé – él es realmente un espécimen sorprendente —Jimbrei concluyó.

—Déjame darle otra mirada, hija.

—Solo si les ordenas a tus secuaces que se alejen.

—Jeinis, Jimbrei, por favor, dejen que la princesa tenga un poco de espacio  —los asesores retrocedieron obedientemente, aunque todavía mirando al niño con abierta curiosidad.

La princesa volvió a mostrarle el bebé a Faraón. Faraón disfrutó de la visión del bebé, pareció calmarse de a poco e incluso alegrarse de mirarlo.

—Es verdaderamente hermoso. ¿Cuál es su nombre?

—Yo lo he llamado Moisés, porque desde el agua lo saqué.

Moisés. Un escalofrío recorrió la espalda de Faraón ante la mención de ese nombre. Egipto aún puede que lamente este día, el Faraón pensó para sí mismo. El día que dejemos a Moisés con vida y lo introdujimos en nuestra casa.