I have walked in the way of Truth all my life. Yes, I, Tobias of the tribe of Naphtali. In my young days, when I was still at home in the country of Israel, the whole tribe broke away from the House of David. Thus, Jerusalem was no longer a city at which we were welcome. Yet this was the city in which the Lord God chose to build His temple, where He would accept the offerings of His people. This temple was the Lord God's dwelling on earth. It was built so that all generations to come would have a place to worship Him. Instead, all my brothers of the tribe of Naphtali offered sacrifices to the golden calf that the heretic, King Jeroboam, erected at Dan, on the mountains of Galilee.
Often I made the perilous journey to Jerusalem all alone. Why? Because the Lord God's law is everlasting. It doesn't change with the times. So I would hurry to Jerusalem with my tithes: the first fruits of the harvest and a tenth of the increase in my cattle and sheep. I would present all the animals to the priests, the sons of Aaron, who ministered at the altar of the temple; and the fruit I would distribute to the sons of Levi, who assisted the priests at Jerusalem.
I also gave money, and often shared wine, corn, olives, pomegranates and other fruit with orphans and widows, beggars and foreigners. For good works are second nature to me. I've been doing good all my life. I've given much to my brother tribesmen and fellow countrymen, and I kept right on doing it even when we were all exiled to Nineveh, in the country of Assyria.
When I, my wife, Anna, and my son, Toby, were banished to Assyria, we continued to eat the food prescribed by the law of Moses. My brother tribesmen, on the other hand, ate the food of the heathen. But I refused to break the law. I would not eat such food. And because I kept faith with the Lord God, the Most High granted me a favor. Through His agency, He brought me to the attention of King Shalmaneser, who appointed me Chief Buyer of all his provisions. On the king's business, I would often journey to Media. Once, at the city of Rhages, I deposited ten talents of silver (my own money) at the Bank of Gabael.
When Shalmaneser died, his son, Sennacherib, inherited his throne. He was a weak but blasphemous and vicious ruler. The highways were infested by bandits he was unable to control. He attacked Judea, but he and his army were roundly defeated and he retreated in disorder.
In the days of Shalmaneser, I'd often helped and given alms to my fellow-countrymen. I gave bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked, and buried the bodies of those unfortunates who had been thrown to their deaths over the walls of Nineveh.
I also buried a great number of Israelites whom Sennacherib executed in revenge for his defeat. When Sennacherib's guards looked for the bodies to display them as a warning, they were gone. They reported the matter to the king and he was furious.
Unfortunately, a fellow Israelite had seen me. He went and told the king it was I who had taken the bodies and buried them secretly. A friend at the palace warned me the guards had been ordered to hunt me down and kill me on sight. I fled. All my goods were seized. They were all confiscated by the treasury. This at least appeased Sennacherib. He allowed me, my wife, Anna, and my son, Toby, to return safely. To nothing!
But less than forty days after this, the vicious Sennacherib was slain in a revolt led by his two sons. The eldest, Esarhaddon, succeeded to the throne. My nephew, Ahikar, had actively supported the revolt with men and money. As a reward, he was appointed Treasurer, Administrator, Chief Cup-bearer and Keeper of the Signet. He was second in the kingdom only to Esarhaddon himself. Ahikar interceded for me. My home and an extremely small part of my fortune were restored.
At the feast of Pentecost, my wife, Anna, prepared a good dinner. I took my place for the meal, but before the dishes were served, I said to my son, Toby: "Please go outside into the streets and seek out some poor but loyal-hearted man among our fellow exiles here in Nineveh. Bring him home with you to share our meal."
So Toby went out to find some poor, homeless man who would be glad to celebrate the feast with us. But he soon came back with terrible news: "Father, one of our tribesmen has just been murdered! He's been strangled and his body thrown down in the market-place!"
I sprang up at once. Leaving my dinner untouched, I took the man's body from the market-place and laid it down on the floor of one of my rooms. I waited until sunset and then took the body to a near-by field where I buried it.
My Israelite neighbors saw me, but they did nothing but laugh: "Look at that! There's that old idiot, Tobias, up to his stupid tricks again, burying the dead! The old fool never learns! When he was caught last time, he had to flee for his life. What a shame there's no longer a price on his head! It's not worth a man's time to report him."
When I came home, I washed myself and ate my bread in sorrow, remembering the words of the prophet Amos: "Your feasts will be turned into mourning and all your songs to grief."
I was so upset that I took another bath, then went into the courtyard where I laid myself down by the far wall. It was so hot, I left my face uncovered. I didn't notice the sparrows in the branches above my head. Their hot droppings fell into my eyes. As a result, I became blind. My nephew, Ahikar, the kingdom's Treasurer and Administrator, arranged for the king's own doctors to see me, but they could do nothing.
My neighbors laughed themselves sick at my misfortune. In my grief, I cried out in anguish to the Lord: "Be pleased to take my life from me. I desire to be delivered from earth and to become earth again. It is better for me to die than to live. I have been reviled for keeping Your commandments. I am distressed beyond measure. Lord, I eagerly await your sentence. Deliver me from this affliction. Let me depart to my eternal home. My neighbors show me no pity and I am weary of hearing myself constantly slandered."
The very next day, Tobias suddenly remembered the ten talents of silver [around $20,000] he'd left on deposit with Gabael in the bank at Rhages. He thought to himself: "I've come to the point of praying for death. But before I die, I'd do well to provide for my family. I must remind Anna, and tell my son, Toby, about the money."
So Tobias called Toby and said to him: "Give me a decent burial, son, and take care of your mother. Look after her for the rest of her life. Do whatever she tells you and don't give her cause to worry. Remember what she went through for you when she brought you into the world. When she dies, bury her next to me.
"Take no notice of what other men say or do, son. They may wound you, scorn you and revile you, but don't pay them back in kind. Don't return insult for insult, blow for blow, or mockery for mockery. In fact, don't do to others anything you don't want them to do to you. Scorn brings trouble and clouds the mind. Keep your heart pure and you won't go wrong.
"Don't put off paying your servants their wages, or run up bills with tradesmen. Settle with them on the spot. Be charitable, and give generously. Honor the memory of good men. In fact, always ask wise men for their advice, and never refuse good advice when it's offered.
"Idleness brings poverty. But don't apply this maxim to others, son. God alone is the judge. So be charitable and always give generously. Feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Never let a beggar go away empty-handed from your door. If you don't neglect the poor, God won't neglect you. So give as much as you can afford. If you've got a lot, give a lot. If you've only got a little, don't be afraid to give all you can. In fact, charity is a great investment. It wards off death. The Lord God will keep a charitable man alive as long as possible. He is not only doing God's work but his whole life becomes an offering that is highly pleasing to the Almighty.
"Always remember the Lord God. Don't do wrong or break His commandments. Do what's right all your life. In fact, if you do what God says, you'll be rewarded. Always be careful, son, and try to live decently. Don't drink too much and walk around in a stupor.
"The Lord God rules everything we do. And He alone decides whom to reward and whom to punish. So always bless the Lord, your God. Bless Him in the morning, bless Him at noon-time, and bless Him at day's end. Continually ask Him to give you a good and successful life. This is the most important advice of all, son. Never let it fade from your heart."
"Now, son, I must tell you not to worry any more about our present lack of money. Ten years ago, I left on deposit at Gabael's bank in the city of Rhages, ten talents of silver. You'll find the receipt hidden in the scroll of David at the back of my desk. It is a large document, torn in half. The other half is held at the bank. When the highways are safe, you'll be able to go to Rhages and collect the money. Plus the interest."
"I'll not delay. We could use the money. I'll go to Rhages right now, father."
"It is not safe, my son. Bandits infest every road."
"I'll take Aza with me."
Despite his affliction, Tobias laughed. "That little dog! He'll not be much use!"
"He'll not desert me, father. I've raised him from a pup.'
"Take Aza by all means then. But you'll need a man to go with you. Someone trustworthy who knows the way and who can offer you his protection."
"Where will I find such a man, father? You know what the people are like around here."
"Only too well, my son. But it is in the hands of the Lord God. If you must go to Rhages right now, He will find you a sure companion."
"I'll go to the market-place, father. I'll take Aza with me."
So Toby walked to the market-place to search for a trustworthy man who knew the way to Media. And the little dog went with him.
When they arrived at the stalls, the little dog darted ahead and was soon lost in the crowd. Toby was forced to look for him. But he'd not penetrated far into the throng before he heard the little dog barking. Making his way forward, Toby was surprised to find Aza in the arms of a tall, well-built man with a grizzled face and a scarred cheek. He looked like a soldier. A mercenary perhaps. Or even a robber. And worst of all, he was not Jewish.
"Where are you from?" Toby asked.
"From Rhages. You would not know the city, friend. It's in Media, far away."
Toby found it difficult to contain his surprise. "So you know the way to Media?" he asked.
"What are you doing here then?"
"Looking for work."
Toby stretched out his hands. "You have my dog. I'll take him home."
But Aza, yelping wildly, refused to leave the arms of the stranger. A curious crowd of onlookers began to gather around.
"I'd better come with you," offered the stranger. "We'll both take him home."
When they arrived at the house, Toby left the stranger outside and went in to talk to his father. "Aza will not leave the arms of a stranger," he told him. "And this stranger says he knows the roads to Media."
"Where is he now?"
"Outside. He is not one of our people. He is not an Israelite."
Tobias swallowed hard. "Invite the man in, my son."
The stranger entered the house, still cradling the little dog in his arms. "How do you do, master?" he greeted Tobias.
"What do you mean, how do I do? I am blind, as you can see," Tobias told him. "I can't see the light of day. I sit in darkness like a dead man. I'm dead while I'm still alive. I can hear your voice but I can't see a damn thing! That's why I need a man to accompany my son to Media. He is my only son and I have no servants. Can you go with my son and show him the way? I'll pay you a fair wage."
"How much is fair?"
"How well do you know the roads?"
"I know all the roads to and in Media. All of them. I've often been to Media. I've been all over the plains and all over the mountains. I know all the roads. How much will you pay me?"
"Do you know the city of Rhages?"
"I used often go to Rhages. I was an ever-welcome guest at the home of my cousin, Gabael. He is a banker and will give me a good reference. I am looking for honest work. What's the pay?"
"You've been in the army," accused Toby.
"That is true. In my youth, I was stupid enough to hire myself out as a mercenary for Shalmaneser. But those days have passed."
"So you have fought against Israel?"
"That is true. Those days are yesterdays. Today I will hire myself out to any honest man who is prepared to pay me a fair wage."
"Not only a Gentile, but an enemy!" shouted Toby, trying to wrestle the little dog from the stranger's arms. But every time that Toby managed to pull Aza away and place him on the floor, the little dog jumped back on to the stranger's lap.
The noise and the commotion brought Anna into the room. "What's happening here?" she asked.
"Where is Aza now?" asked the blind man.
"He is sitting in the lap of a stranger," replied Anna in surprise.
"The stupid little dog refuses to leave the stranger!" added Toby.
"My name is Jathan. And I'm no stranger to danger. If you hire me, I'll take you safely to Rhages."
"And back!" snapped Tobias. "I'll pay you when you return my son safely. A quarter of a talent of silver. That is more than fair. More than an honest laborer will earn in two years of hard work."
"Is your only son worth a mere quarter of silver?"
"Half a talent!"
"It is not enough for an only son. If a bandit held your son for ransom, how much would you pay?"
"Half my fortune."
"That is enough! Don't tell me what it is, until we return. If it is but two talents, I will take one. If it is but half, I will settle for a quarter."
"You trust me?" mocked Tobias.
"I am an honest man. I've undertaken to take your son safely to Rhages and back. I expect an honest accounting in return."
Anna burst into tears. "Why are you sending our boy away like this?" she screamed at Tobias. "Our only child! The comfort of our old age!"
"What comfort is old age with no money? Nothing!"
"Forget about the money! It's a small price to pay for our son's life!"
"Don't worry," Tobias answered. "I've entrusted our son to an honest man."
"This man! He doesn't look honest to me. Besides, he's not even of our race."
"Who would you trust? One of our neighbors, one of our fellow Israelites, with our only son?"
"We are just unfortunate. There are more good men in Israel than in all the Gentile nations put together. Who banished us to this cursed city in the first place? Who slew our brothers and sisters?"
I'll come back safe and sound, mother," said Toby. "You'll see. Besides, we'll take Aza with us. He'll keep us from harm."
So Toby set out for Media with the Gentile, and the little dog ran after them. When night fell, they camped by a river. In the morning, Aza ran off and began sniffing around a strange plant with bristly leaves. The plant reached to the top of Toby's knees. Odd, star-shaped, purple flowers brushed against his skin.
"Do you know this plant?" Toby asked.
"It's borage. Remind me to collect some of the leaves on our way back."
"It doesn't look at all good to eat."
"It isn't," Jathan replied.
As suddenly as he'd started sniffing around the borage, the little dog ran off in another direction.
"Ready to go?" asked Jathan.
"I'd intended to take the north route. It's much quicker, but maybe not so safe. Perhaps we'd do better to follow Aza and go west."
"Then west it is," agreed Toby.
The western route proved long and arduous. Nearly a whole month went by before they finally reached Media and were nearing the town of Ecbatana. Toby had a relative in Ecbatana, an uncle named Ananias, who turned out to be a large landowner, living in a magnificent house staffed by numerous servants.
A beautiful girl welcomed the travelers somewhat diffidently. "My name is Sarah," she said. "I had forgotten that I had yet another cousin. So you live in Nineveh? I hope you have not come here to marry me."
Puzzled by the beautiful girl's words, Toby managed to reply that he sought only to pay his respects to her father, Ananias.
"That is good," she replied. "I wish I were dead."
"I'm very glad to see you alive and living, cousin," Toby replied. "With God's help, there is no trouble that cannot be mended."
"Mine is beyond help," she answered.
Just as Toby was about to question her further, Ananias entered the room to welcome his nephew and Jathan most warmly. "Instruct the servants to prepare a feast for our guests," he told the girl. "And how is your dear mother, my sister?" he asked Toby.
Toby quickly brought him up to date with the news of his father's misfortunes.
"That is terrible news!" Ananias agreed. "But I have troubles of my own. I am beside myself with grief and worry. It is my daughter, Sarah, whom you have just met. My only child and the inheritor of all my estate."
"A beautiful girl," murmured Toby.
"I'm afraid she is mad!" exclaimed Ananias. "Hopelessly insane!"
"That cannot be!"
"I agree," came a voice from the rear. "Sarah is as sane as you and I. It's a demon, the Destroyer. He's entirely to blame for these killings. Sarah is completely innocent."
"My steward, Hillel," Ananias introduced. "He's a brave man. I've promised Sarah to him, but I'm afraid he will go the way of her cousins. All three of them dead on her wedding night. Sarah strangled them to death, but she doesn't know it!"
"Know it? Of course I know it!" the girl screamed. (She had entered the room behind Hillel). "Don't your maids keep reminding me of the horror every minute of every day? Don't they accuse me of killing all three of my bridegrooms myself? Of strangling them to death on our wedding night while they slept beside me in our second-storey bedroom? Strangled!"
"How? With your own sweet little hands? Ridiculous!" argued Hillel.
"Behind locked doors! Perhaps my hands have the fury of madness."
"No! It was the demon, I tell you!"
"Yet you are willing to risk his anger?" asked Jathan.
Hillel spread his hands. "I am not a blood relative. The demon has nothing against me. I think I am safe from his wrath. If not, so be it."
"It all seems like a hideous dream," Sarah whispered. "I remember nothing. Nothing at all. Each time, my cousins and I entered the bedroom, I felt strangely tired and exhausted. Each time, I fell into a deep sleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. And when I woke up, I heard my mother screaming. And my husband lay beside me. Dead! Strangled!"
"In fact, all three of them died in the same manner? And no sign of any weapon? A strip of cloth? A scarf?" asked Jathan.
Hillel shook his head. "We searched the room. The servants and I. But there was nothing out of place. The demon took cord or cloth away with him. To use again, if need be."
"I've often thought of killing myself," Sarah continued. "But then I remembered how it would grieve my mother and father, whom I love so much. And now Hillel has rescued me."
"Not so fast!" exclaimed Jathan. "I'm not an Israelite, but is it not a fact that Toby here is your next of kin? And doesn't it follow that you belong to him before anyone else, and that he may claim your father's inheritance?"
Ananias turned to Toby. "If you wish to claim my daughter, you may do so," he agreed. "Your kinship certainly gives you the pre-eminent right. And I am bound by the Law of Moses to give my consent. I have no choice, if you insist. But I dearly wish you would not make such an offer, my boy. Your death would cause your mother and father such grief as would bring them to their graves."
But as he gazed upon Sarah's lovely features, Toby knew he could no longer call his heart his own.
"So be it!" said Ananias. "With reluctance, I will bow to your wish. I have told you truthfully how the situation lies, and I give you this opportunity to withdraw your offer."
But Toby would not withdraw. "I fell in love with your Sarah at first sight," he declared. "She is a beautiful, charming and intelligent girl. I wish to have her for my wife. I want her to be mine forever. I will not eat or drink until you give your consent."
"What you have said, my boy, you have said. You force me to give my consent. Sarah is yours, according to the decree of Moses and the law of heaven. Take her! From now on, you are her brother and she is your sister. She is yours forever. And may the Lord of heaven have mercy upon you, my boy. May He grant you success tonight."
Then Ananias took Sarah by the hand and gave her to Toby. "You have declared before two witnesses that Sarah is your wife," he said. "Take her safely to your father's house, and may the Lord God grant you prosperity and peace."
Ananias called to his wife and all six of them (Ananias, and his wife, Edna; his daughter, Sarah; his chief steward, Hillel; and Toby and Jathan) ate and drank.
After the meal, Ananias said to his wife: "Edna, dearest, get the spare bedroom ready again and take Sarah in."
Edna went up and made the bed and took the girl in. Wiping away her tears, she said: "Be happy, darling. The Lord of heaven has turned your sorrow to joy. Be happy."
Then the whole party escorted Toby to the bedroom. "Don't forget Aza," advised Jathan. "Take him in with you."
The little dog was glad to be allowed into the second-storey bedroom before the door was locked behind the married couple.
Toby asked Sarah to get up from the bed and pray to God to have mercy on them and save them from the Destroyer.
"I feel so weary," she said. "I cannot stir. I feel as if the room were spinning. I am falling into a deep well."
Toby also found it difficult to stay awake. He too had drunk too much wine. But he made the effort to stand. He leaned over and placed his hand on his wife's head. She was already in a deep sleep.
"Thank you, Lord God. Blessed are you, God of our fathers," he prayed. "Blessed is Your name forever and ever. May the heavens bless You. May all Your creation bless You. You made Adam, and You made Eve his wife to help him and sustain him. You said: 'It is not good for man to be alone, so I will make a helper for him.' And now, Lord God, have pity on us both, and let us grow old together."
Hardly had he said Amen, when he too fell into a deep sleep.
Meanwhile, Ananias called his servants together and they went outside to dig a grave.
Back in the bedroom, all was dark and the bridal couple lay fast asleep in each other's arms.
But Aza was awake. The fearless little dog sensed that someone had climbed the wall and entered the room through the open window. He jumped forward towards a vague shape that hovered over the sleeping couple. His teeth sank into a hand of flesh and blood. A hand that carried a knotted, silken cord!
When the servants had finished digging the grave, Ananias went indoors and said to his wife: "Ask one of the servant girls to go to the bedroom to see if he's still alive. If he's dead we can bury him and no-one will be any the wiser. We will put out that robbers waylaid him on the road. It will grieve his mother and father but it is better for them not to know their son died in my house. I cannot live with any more shame. And after all, it was by his own wish that Toby entered into this contract and died. He forced me to abide by the law of Moses. Forced me!"
"What about his companion?"
"He is not one of us. We will buy him off. He will thank us for paying him to keep a secret. Easy money!"
The servants were not anxious to enter the bridal chamber. Finally, Edna offered a bribe sufficiently high to induce one of them to light a lamp and unlock the door of the bedroom. To her surprise, she found the couple fast asleep. To be certain Toby was alive, she crept right up to him and shook him by the shoulder. He stirred. It was then that she heard Aza growling. A knotted cord of red silk lay on the floor. And drops of blood led to the open window.
She raced back to tell Ananias and his wife what she had seen.
"He is alive and well, that is the main thing!" exclaimed Ananias. "As for the blood, perhaps it's the demon who's been defeated. Someone better go and fetch Hillel. I'll ask him to investigate."
"Wasn't he with you?" asked Edna. "Helping dig the grave?"
"That better be filled in, by the way. But no! I thought he was with you."
"I haven't seen him since dinner."
Ananias called the servants to search for his steward. But Hillel was nowhere to be found. His bed had not been slept in, but his possessions were scattered around his room, and a blood-stained rag had fallen to the floor.
Next morning, Ananias rose early, and he himself checked on the bridal pair. They were still sleeping sweetly.
"Blessed are You, Lord God, with purest blessing!" Ananias exclaimed, literally jumping for joy. "May You be blessed forever! Blessed are You, because You have made me so happy. You have turned my grief to joy. You have had pity upon me and upon my house. You have spared a pair of only children and brought gladness to two sets of parents. Look after these children, dear Lord, and fill their lives with happiness and peace."
Then he roused Toby and said: "I swear by the Lord God that you must not leave this house for fourteen days. You will stay here and eat and drink and celebrate and make my daughter happy. On the fifteenth day, you may take half of everything I possess and go home safely to your father. When my wife and I die, the other half is also yours. So be happy, my son. From now on, I am your father and Edna is your mother. Be happy!"
Toby dressed and sought out Jathan. "Ananias has taken an oath. I must stay here fourteen days to celebrate my wedding. So you must select four strong men from his servants. Go to your cousin Gabael's bank at Rhages and present this document. Get the money: ten talents of silver, plus interest. You'll need to take two camels to carry that load. Come back as fast as you can. Invite your cousin Gabael too and bring him here with you."
"I will be sure to bring him back with me, master, come what may."
"My father will be counting the days until I return. Each day over will be agonizing for him. But you heard what Ananias said. He has taken an oath and I can't let him down."
So Jathan journeyed to Rhages with four servants and two camels. They went straight to Gabael's bank and Jathan presented the document to him personally. Gabael counted out the bags of silver, and calculated the interest. And early the next morning, they all set out for the wedding feast. When they arrived, Toby leaped up to greet them, and Gabael embraced him warmly. "You are a good, honest son of a good, honest father!" he declared. "The blessings of heaven on you and your wife, and on your parents and hers. God be praised that I have seen this wonderful day!"
Meanwhile, back in Nineveh, Tobias had counted the days it would take Toby to go Rhages and return home. When the days were up, he began to worry. Perhaps Toby had been detained at Rhages? Perhaps Gabael was dead, or the bank had closed?
Anna was convinced her son had met up with bandits, and was dead. She cried and mourned for him and rued the day she had let him go.
Tobias tried to cheer her up. "Don't worry. Our son's sure to be all right. No doubt he's caught up in business of some sort. Don't cry. He's sure to be home any day now."
But she replied: "Don't try to deceive me. It won't work. I know my child is dead."
Every morning, Anna left the house early and walked to the edge of the city where she spent the whole day watching the road along which her son had left. The guards, the stall-holders, the professional guides, the beggars and the permanent idlers at the city gates tried to console her. But she refused to listen to words of comfort from anyone. When the sun set and the gates were closed, she went back home and spent all night crying.
When the fourteen days of the wedding celebrations were finally at an end and all the guests had departed to their own homes and cities, Toby went up to his father-in-law and said to him: "I too must leave right now. I feel sure my own mother and father have given up all hope of ever seeing me again."
"Please stay here, my boy. I know what I can do: I'll send messengers to your father to let him know where you are."
"Why didn't you do that right from the first? Here I've spent the last fourteen days worrying myself sick!"
"Why didn't you ask me, my boy? Everything I have is yours."
"You gave me no chance to think of it. You and your oath! In any case, it is too late now. I must leave immediately."
So Ananias handed over to Toby half of everything he possessed: man-servants and serving girls, sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, clothes, money and goods. When all was ready, he kissed him and said: "Goodbye, my boy. Have a safe journey. God bless you and Sarah. I hope to see my grandchildren before I die."
And then he kissed Sarah: "Off you go to Tobias and Anna, dearest. From now on, they are your parents and you are their daughter. Goodbye, my love. I hope I'll always hear good news of you."
Edna also kissed them both goodbye. She said to Toby: "I'm trusting my daughter to you, my son. Be good to her always. May we all live happily all our lives."
When they were not far from Nineveh, Jathan said: "Let's not forget the borage leaves when we camp by the river. And now that all is safe, let's go ahead of your wife and the caravan. If we ride fast tomorrow, we can reach the city gates by mid-afternoon."
So the two of them, Toby and Jathan, went on ahead.
As usual, Anna was sitting by the city gates, straining her eyes watching the road. She saw them coming but had been disappointed so many times in the past, she could not believe her eyes until she made out the little dog, running along behind them. She shouted out to the guards and the onlookers. And they too raised a great cheer with shouts of joy that reached to heaven itself!
Anna went running down the road. Toby dismounted and ran to meet her.
Anna threw her arms around her son. "Now that I've seen you, my son," she said, "I can die happy." She burst into tears.
Some of the people at the city gates were crying too. Others were cheering. A great throng soon surrounded Toby and Jathan. The guards were obliged to shelter them from the crowds. Just about everyone at the city gates joined a great, jubilant procession as the guards escorted Toby, Jathan and Anna through the streets.
As they neared Toby's home, his father heard the tumult and came running. He stumbled at the door and fell over the step. Toby rushed up to him and rubbed the fresh leaves of borage into his closed eyes.
Almost instantly the white film surrounding the blind man's eyes came away, and he could see. Tobias put his arms around his son and cried out: "I can see you, my son, even though but dimly. Until this moment, I could not see at all. Blessed is God. Blessed is His great name. He has healed me and let me see my son!"
When Sarah and the caravan arrived, Toby's marriage was celebrated in Nineveh with great festivity. The whole city was invited. The neighbors also, who had reviled Tobias and caused him such great distress. But they were too ashamed to show their faces.
Tobias spent a fortune on food and wine and begrudged not a penny. All the people at the city gates, whether guards or beggars, small merchants or idlers, were honored guests. To each of them, Tobias presented a gift of fifty drachmas (a month's wages for a skilled tradesman). To Jathan, he made a present of five talents of silver, which the old soldier declined. After a great deal of haggling, he reluctantly settled for two. "Is not my son worth more than two talents?" Tobias argued.
"Agreed! But if it were not for faithful Aza, your son would be dead. I would not take more than my due."
"Take everything I possess. My son is worth more than silver. More than gold. Beyond rubies and pearls."
"I'll settle for two talents. More would be a burden. In fact, I'm thinking of going to Ecbatana and taking a job as steward."
Tobias embraced Jathan. "Although you are not of our race, you have proved yourself a worthy friend."
Jathan smiled. "A rich man is never short of friends," he said, indicating the roisterers at the feast. "The whole city blesses the name of Tobias."
"I would rather they blessed the name of the living God. Blessed indeed is He who lives forever, and blessed is His kingdom. If you turn to Him with all your heart and all your soul, then He will turn to you and not hide His face. He will pour out such gifts upon you, you will thank Him with your loudest voice. I was blind and now I see. I was poor and now I am rich. I lost my son, and now he is found. Even in the land of captivity, I exalt my God. I rejoice in His greatness and will praise Him forever."
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