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43 There Is No Escaping Heaven’s Decree T O L D B Y A H A R O N B E N AV R A H A M M I Z R A H. I T O M O S H E AT T I A S Once there was a king, and God had blessed him in all things.* He had large flocks and herds; gardens, orchards, and fields; and houses and palaces filled with every excellent thing. But all this did not make him content, because his beautiful wife had borne him only daughters. Anxiety gnawed at his heart and robbed him of sleep: Without an heir, who would sit on his throne after him? Year after year, the king concealed his distress and apprehension and did not speak about it. Finally, when he could endure it no longer, he summoned his court astrologers. “Will the queen ever give birth to a male heir?” he asked them. His astrologers returned several days later. “Your Majesty,” they told him, “we have observed the stars and discovered that a great disaster is about to strike you. The queen will bear four more daughters, in addition to the three she already has. After that, she will have a son, but he will not live long: His sisters will kill him. If you have the best interests of the kingdom in mind, we recommend that you have your three daughters killed and instruct the queen’s midwife to strangle any newborn daughter. If you do not do this, your end will be bitter, and your kingdom will fall.” The king’s heart was filled with foreboding. He gave immediate orders for his daughters to be sent to a remote spot and killed. A year later, the queen gave birth to a daughter. The midwife, following the king’s orders, strangled the newborn child. She did the same to the fifth and sixth daughters. The unfortunate queen cried her eyes out and lapsed into profound melancholy. When she was about to give birth to her seventh daughter, she summoned the midwife. “I have already lost six daughters and will soon bear a seventh. Look how much I’m suffering. Please, take pity on her life and spare her. If you heed my request, I will 339 * Genesis 24:1, referring to Abraham. shower wealth on you and make it possible for you to live the rest of your life in comfort and contentment.” Her avidity for riches, on the one hand, and the queen’s tears, on the other, softened the midwife’s heart. She promised to do as the queen asked. And she kept her promise. The day the queen gave birth, the midwife soaked the baby’s diapers in the blood of a young lamb, to show the king that she had fulfilled his commission. Then she took the live infant home with her to raise, as she had promised the queen. Another year passed and the queen gave birth to a handsome and wellformed baby boy,* just as the astrologers had foreseen. The king’s joy knew no bounds. At last he had an heir to follow him on his throne! To mark the event, the king held a gala celebration for all his subjects, lasting seven days and seven nights. Food and drink were served as befits a king.** The whole kingdom rang with joyful cries.§ The days passed and turned into years. The boy grew up in wealth and comfort, as befits a prince. When he reached the age of eighteen, all acclaimed his beauty and stature. One day, the prince was walking in the palace grounds, as he did frequently. This time, he penetrated far into the large and broad park, which seemed to be limitless. To his astonishment, he suddenly found himself standing in front of a high wall and realized that he had reached the other edge of the park. Driven by curiosity, he scaled the wall and jumped down on the other side. He found himself standing in another beautiful and well-tended park. He strolled through it for a while. Then, from a distance, he spied a pool with a jet of water spouting from it to a great height. The young man approached the pool, where an enchanting sight awaited his eyes: there was a beautiful girl bathing in the pool, with milk white cheeks, ruby red lips, and coal black eyes. Golden tresses fell from her head onto her alabaster...


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