The Story of the Desert
The trip to Damascus
I sat on the camel, and a wagon passed in front of the camel (you wanted to go to work in Damascus?) yes. I sat on the camel and a wagon passed in front of it, and it got very frightened, so it rose with great agitation, it got up and I didn't support myself, and it threw me to the sky! They all said, “he's dead! There's no hope that he's alive. How did he die? He received a blow, a deathly blow!” H”Y made a miracle that I fell on a mountain of straw, I remained alive. This was in the summer time, in the season when they cut the harvest of the wheat, so there was a mountain with straw, I fell on the mountain of straw. Afterwards (you received a malady on your eyes?) oy vay! Such a malady! It's a miracle that I was able to see the rest of my life after such an occurrence to the eyes, (three days, you didn't see, correct?), yes, there was more, I didn't see, the eyes – there was an inflammation, I didn't see anything with my eyes. My father was blind, so/then I saw that I had become blind like my father. I became very weak, and I such pain, such pain in the eyes, that it was impossible to live, to bear. In any event, a few days went by, and it got a little better for me... a little. But I didn't have strength, I didn't see with my eyes. They told me that there was a group of twenty men that were traveling to Tiberius. I said, good, I want to return to Rabbi Yisroel, I want to return in repentance, nu, but I didn't have strength. I didn't have... I didn't eat and didn't... and didn't drink, the pain....
I wasn't a person, just a dead person, that's how I went with them, and they went, and there was one there who was a Sephardic Jew that had a store in the village, yes. And I was, in the time that I had the pain in my eyes, I was next to him, and he had a donkey and he went with them to Tiberius. I said, I also want Tiberius, I don't want to work, I want to return in repentance, I want to return to Rabbi Yisroel, good. They went, but I wasn't able to continue, I wasn't able to go, I didn't have shoes, I didn't have clothing, I was sick, and the feet? The feet and the eyes and the... and the hunger and the pain.
In any event I remained, they went and I remained. Who can recount? I remained without bread, without water, without anything, yes. Nu? What could be from this? I saw where I was (found – predicament), what could become of me, in the night the lions would eat me, the wild animals, and no one would know. And I pictured in my mind, they will eat me, I am living, I will live, and they... they will eat me alive, and they will eat the hands and the feet, and they will eat me. I thought, “What? What type of pain will I have? I want to see the death. From where does one see?... I will not even come to a Jewish grave G-d forbid. Who will know from me? I don't have water, I don't have bread, I don't have anything, what can be?...” They all went, there were twenty men, they all went and abandoned me, and I was unable to continue to go on, so what was there to do? I asked the owner of the donkey to give me the donkey to ride on, so he told me, “I have wheat, I have on the donkey, I can not, I can't...” So bandits came and took the donkey with the wheat! Yes. I remained like that. So/then I saw that I was in dire straights, so I said, here there is no one that can hear, I will scream till the sky, till the heart of the sky, I will scream with all my might until I die. I screamed such screams to H”Y! I told Him, “You see my predicament? What could be of me? I want to repent! I want to live!” So I said, “Master of the World, Your are able to everything, You can help me. If You help me get out of here alive, so/then I sanctify all the days of my life, just for devotion to H”Y!”
I accepted upon myself a vow that I could not revoke! There is such a vow, a vow upon the resolve of many. There is such a vow that is impossible to revoke. I accepted upon myself such a vow! “Master of the World, I see that here I am far from living, but if You help me, I sanctify all the days of my life, just for the devotion of H”Y...” Nu, nu... I screamed with all my might. In the forest they go, sounds are heard from very far. So/then I heard the sounds of horses, that horses are going, going with irons... (before the horses, you forgot, some arab said to you from afar, come to me, there was an arab on the hill, and wanted to take your money) Is it necessary to recount everything? (Yes, tell over everything!) Good! I went with whatever garment, so the arab searched and didn't find money, so he left me naked, he took the clothing and left... (he left you without clothing?) yes, so/then I screamed with such shouting! Then I heard the sound of the horses that go with irons. So/then I said, maybe this is the salvation? And so it was, this was the salvation! Two horses with their riders came and saw me, that I, from the tears of my eyes, my clothes were damp (translators note, apparently the arab left Saba with at least an undergarment), such a long time I went (?) and they had compassion on my plight/ I said, “What can I ask from them? That they should get down, and I will go on the horses?...” So/then they said to me, “What can we do for you?” I told them that they should go and inform the village that I was alive. They said that they would go to the village, and there they will reveal that I am deserting the army, and they searched for me, it is necessary to bring him to the village. Yes! They went! I didn't see them, nu? They grabbed me, they didn't want to leave me. But the officers? They... we didn't see them, the went....
I saw the horses, they said to me, they rode on the horses, and they said to me that I should follow them. I said, “What? Horses!” I went on four, I didn't go on two, on hands and feet! Nu? I can go after horses? What is this? So they sat on the horses, and they said to me such, that I should go with them. Nu, I went on four, and they sat on the horses, I saw the horses and I went after the horses. Afterwards I stopped seeing the horses. But I had a path, so I went with this path until I came to a place of pasture for animals, goats, who can recount all of this.... (it was good fortune, that they gave you to drink cream) yes, yes! I … I came, so I asked that they give me water to drink. They brought me a wooden box, such a big box with curd, and cream (translator's note: these are common Israeli foods, variation of sour cream and yogurt: Leben and Shammenet), so I had a miracle. If not for this I would have died, I didn't need, not to eat and not to drink (?). Yes! And an arab came with a horse. This horse was full of bruises, the arab was poor, he didn't have a good horse, so I asked him that I should ride. He said to me, “What will you give me?” I said to him, “You will come to Tzemach, there I have wealthy family, they will give you a lot of money if you take me.” So he took me. Afterwards he had regret, oy, he wants money! Now maybe they won't give him? Maybe only I want?.... In any event, they... they took me to Tiberius by was of the Sea of Kinneret. I came home, and there in Tiberius, there was over there, that those who went by foot, they told over that bandits came and took from them everything they had. So they said, because they had left me, so they received a punishment from Heaven. They told my family that I had remained, they don't know where. I came and I had wounds on my feet... I went in the mire on stones, until my feet were full of blood and the stones took the flesh of my feet and hands. The doctors examined me, my feet, and they said to me, “It is forbidden, the mikva (ritual immersion) is forbidden! It is forbidden to go to the mikva! If you go to the mikva you will die!” I didn't listen! Me without a mikva? So I went to the mikva, and the smell was like a carcass, yes, of the feet. H”Y helped me. I suffered and suffered and suffered, until the malady transpired, until I remained alive.
My predicament? Where I was to be found? A person, a sick person? Can not go without water without bread? Without anything. So, what? What will be from this? And also my life? What type of life is this? This, this? This is life? But I did such screaming, until the heart of the heavens... yes. I said, I don't have anyone here to be embarrassed from, here I can scream as much as I want. Yes. So? So I screamed, until... until the heavens! I had already given up, but I said, “Master of the World, you are able to do everything, if You get me out of here alive, from here, then I sanctify all the days of my life, just for the devotion of H”Y.” And I did not merit to fulfill the vow, I did not merit. There was famine, there was... there was livelihood? It was a very severe test, not like today, yes. But the Rav Werner, the Rav Werner, I was with him, he saw what I suffered, so he revoked the vow, together with other rabbis. Yes. I told him, so he said, “it is possible to revoke!”