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18 H. akham Eliyahu Is Born through the Special Virtues of the Cave of the Prophet Elijah F R I D A H B E N - K I K I In the Ard al-Yahud neighborhood of Haifa there lived a Sephardic family , good Jews. The husband was a scholar and man of good deeds, and his wife was a truly righteous woman. The entire community respected him and asked his advice. The couple dealt mercifully with orphans and widows and the poor. Once a woman came seeking advice. When she entered the house, the man and his wife greeted her cordially. They sat and related all sorts of tales for a number of hours. When the woman rose to leave, the wife asked her: “What do you want, my daughter?” At that, the woman started crying and told all: “Every time I get pregnant , within a few months I miscarry, and the child dies in my womb. What should I do?” She was exhausted and could no longer endure it. In addition, her husband was threatening to divorce her. If she could not have children like every other woman, what good was she? There were constant arguments in her house and shouts loud enough to be heard in Heaven. What would become of her? “I can’t stand these troubles any more. Death is better than a life like this.” And she cried without letup. The man’s wife embraced her and told her to calm down and stop crying . “I have good advice, so relax, my dear. Go home, go to the bathhouse, wash yourself with perfumed soap, and go to the mikveh.* Of course, you will recite all the required benedictions. Then get dressed and go straight to the cave of Elijah the Prophet. “Take candles with you, and light them in his memory. Take blankets *Ritual bath. 129  130  Folktales of the Jews: Volume 1 to sleep on, some cake, a bottle of brandy or wine, and a little money. There are people who sleep there regularly. Go there for three nights, and the Lord will help you.” They kissed each other warmly. Then the woman said good-bye and went home. She did everything the hakham’s* wife had told her to do. Taking what she had been told [to take], she went to Elijah’s cave, where she lit the candles and gave the cake and wine to the men. They drank her health and gave her a blessing that the Lord might assist her through his agent Elijah the Prophet. They prayed until late at night. Finally, they lay down and fell asleep. Utter peace reigned in the cave and outside. The moon, making its circuit in the blue-black sky, peered into the cave at the bitter souls who had come seeking relief through the holy prophet Elijah. The young woman dreamed that a child was crying bitterly next to her, wanting to suckle. She woke up and saw it was only a dream. She fell back asleep—for she was tired—and had the same dream. Three times. Toward morning she awoke and could not fall back to sleep. Bit by bit, all the sleepers got up. She told them her dream, and they interpreted it for her: “You are a happy woman. Now go home, and in another year you’ll have a son. Name him for Elijah the Prophet, and he will help you. Amen. Amen.” She stayed there for three days and three nights, just as the hakham’s wife had instructed her. Then she went home, all radiant and happy. She prepared a festive dinner. Her husband came home from the synagogue after the afternoon and evening prayers. “Good evening, my good wife, how are you? Where have you been these three days and three nights? I looked for you at your parents and your friends but couldn’t find you. Finally I went to sleep alone, tired and worn out from my day’s toil. I fell asleep instantly and dreamed that my wife was embracing a child, in good fortune, and all were extremely happy. I woke up, and it was just a dream. I fell asleep again and had the same dream—three times, one after the other. When I awoke and the sun had already sent forth its first rays, I got up, dressed, and went to look for you, because I wanted to tell you my dream. But I couldn’t find...


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