I am a respected archaeologist who discovered an ancient scroll from around the period the Jews have dubbed “The Shoftim.” It was discovered on the road from an ancient country known as Moav, to a town, now in modern day Israel, called Beis Lechem.
Once translated, it became evident it was a diary.
Here is a clip from it:
Elimelech squints up at the harsh glare of the sunlight. The sky was clear, with nary a cloud in sight. A few neighbors converge outside.
“This is appaaaaaalling,” drawls one, tapping his foot anxiously. His patched robe lays in sharp contrast to Elimelech’s richly embroidered one. All of his meager funds are used to import food.
The others simultaneously look at their feet. The earth beneath them is dry and cracked, and the few grass blades are withered and parched. The sun beats down relentlessly, and they crave water, but there is none in sight.
“This drought is really taking its toll on the crops,” murmurs another, his eyes trained on the empty fields.
Elimelech clears his throat uncomfortably. “Um, I think that I will be leaving.”
As he expects, the yard erupts in protests. “What, Elimelech?” “You’re a respected leader, you can’t just pick up and leave!” “We need you desperately, Elimelech! You can’t abandon us!”
Elimelech chuckles drily. “I can. Er, the circumstances that have arisen don’t allow us to leave in tranquility here. So we’re moving. Simple.”
“But why?” interjects a young man, genuinely perplexed. “Besides, then who will support the paupers and help them buy food because of the drought?”
The question hung in the air for a long time.
“Well, er, you see, everyone here always nags me for money, so, er, I decided that the only way to live in peace is to move,” Elimelech stammers.
There is silence, just the disapproving stares of our destitute neighbors.
Us four clamber onto the elegant wagon and lounge on the velvet cushions. Elimelech is relieved, but I’m perturbed. I know it’s the wrong thing to do, but Elimelech isn’t listening!
I could sense the neighbors’ eyes boring holes in the retreating carriage. Swiveling my head to see the mansion we’re abandoning, I gauge that the neighbors and community are deeply disappointed in us.
After travelling for a while, we arrive in the spiritually desolate fields of Moav. “Home sweet home,” I mutter bitterly, my voice hollow and dry.
Pretending to not hear, Elimelech busies himself.
A tear slides off the glacier of pain and drops into the sea of despair. I look up, my face tear-streaked, at my sons Machlon and Kilyon. We’re devastated at the death of Elimelech.
In retrospect, I muse, we should’ve known that this was coming. The animals had been dropping dead like flies ever since we had arrived. Perhaps Elimelech caught the virus. I struggle unsuccessfully to shove the niggling thought that maybe it was a punishment from Hashem away.
He did deserve the punishment. Right when we arrived, we went from city to city trying to ensure that we found a place that wasn’t so affiliated with idols. When that attempt flopped, we just settled in a remote village where Elimelech would be free from the pestering of beggars.
Tearing myself back to the present, I see Elimelech’s grave, bringing a fresh stream of tears. It’s a cold day, and I wrap my shawl around tighter. There is no large funeral, no long eulogies, just one lonely wife and two orphans.
Machlon and Kilyon and I sit on plush chairs around a flickering fire.
“I’m going back to Eretz Yisrael,” I state firmly. But really it was a facade to hide my pain. I’m inconsolable after the death of Elimelech.
Kilyon opened his mouth to protest, but Machlon cut him off. “Well, we like the culture, the people; it’s really a pleasant existence. Why return to a land of poverty, of suffering, when we’re well off here?”
My gaze didn’t flicker. “I can’t believe this. When Elimelech was alive” - I gulp back tears - “you would never dream of such a thing. But now that it’s just meek me to contend with, you feel free to do anything. This is-”
“We’re staying, Ma,” interjected Machlon. “Are you?”
Tears prick my eyes. “Yes,” I whispered, hanging my head.
Within a few months, Machlon and Kilyon were both married to princesses, the daughters of King Eglon. I press my lips together, knowing that any pleas would fall on deaf ears.
Sorry, gotta go,
Ten years after I last filled you in...
The scene is remarkably reminiscent of Elimelech’s funeral, but now there are two coffins. I feel as if I’m teetering on the rim of the abyss, the chasm of depression too deep for me to fathom.
Despite the fact that I disowned my sons, I was always a mother at heart, and forged a connection with them and my daughters-in-law. Now I’m crushed, heartbroken, reduced to a mere shadow of my previous exuberant self. I’m devoid of joy, just a broken, lonely woman.
I wallow in self-pity for the full seven days, and then found hidden reservoirs of strength with which to pull together. After deliberating, I decide to return to my native homeland.
What do you think I should do about my daughters-in-law?
Thick cumbersome darkness hangs in the air like a heavy cloak. Warm moist air blows slowly, rustling the brave shoots that already peered up from the ground. Under the cover of darkness, I stride briskly.
I’m adorned in ragged, fraying tatters. Two younger women follow, hot on my heels. They’re Rus and Orpah, my daughters-in-law who caught a whiff of my deceptive ploy to escape after the first seder.
Only one will be the true heroine who joins me.
Who will it be…
I hope you enjoyed this ancient diary.
By Shoshana Glatt,
a 6th grader at Bais Yaakov of Queens