EBOOK: THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM sacred representation by Don Massimo Lapponi

(translated from Italian. Original title: «Le figlie di Gerusalemme»)

Tu ne peux trop promettre aux feux de notre amour
la douce liberté de se montrer au jour.

You cannot too much promise the fires of our love
the sweet freedom to show themselves openly.

Pierre Corneille, Le Cid I, 1

NOTE

Between 587 and 586 BC Jerusalem was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar and its inhabitants were deported to Babylon. In 538 the Edict of Cyrus, king of the Persians, gave the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple and the city destroyed.
But the troubles of the exiles back to Jerusalem were just beginning. The construction of the temple and the walls took a long time and was long hampered by the hostility of the local population. Finally, thanks to the work of men like Zerubbabel or the prophet Haggai, the construction of the temple was completed in 515 BC. Even the city and the walls were rebuilt, but the situation of the Jews was very precarious, mainly because of the local population, which incited the Persian central government against Jerusalem, and in the year 446 or 447 they managed to destroy again the city walls . In 445 Nehemiah obtained permission from King Artaxerxes to carry out a mission to Jerusalem with special powers. Probably latermust be placed the mission of Ezra. The two men found the Holy City in a dire situation: material and moral ruin, poverty, oppression by the neighbors, mixed marriages between Jews and pagan populations, resulting in blurring of the Jewish faith.
These events are narrated, not always in order, in the beautiful books of Ezra and Nehemiah, to which this work refers. We point out, however, that we took some liberties with respect to the sacred text. First the Lamentations trace back to the time of the destruction of Nebuchadnezzar, nearly a century and a half before the events represented. Similarly, the Book of Consolation (Isaiah 40, 1 ff) dates back to the time of the edict of Cyrus, almost a hundred years before Nehemiah.
There is also to be noted that when Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, for a few days he prudently kept secret the purpose of his mission. Let us add that it does not seem not to have existed among the Hebrews the use of public and solemn liturgical ceremonies of weddings at appointed time. The issue of mixed marriages, finally, is here reinterpreted in perspective a bit different, more spiritual and less rigidly moral and national, as it appears in the book of Ezra – perspective that, in any case, is no stranger to the Hebrew Bible as shown by the books of Ruth and Tobit.
As a justification of the referred to personal choices, we observe that, at least according to what we have been taught, theater is somehow out of time. Moreover, the long historical period from the exile to the end of the Persian period is, in a sense, a spiritual unity: it is the time of maturation and innerdeepening of the major themes of the Jewish religion, the fascinating period that, although poor of external events, opens the way for a more modern sensibility, religious universalism, a deep spiritualization, and prepares the ground so the advent of Christianity.
We finally remark that not less remarkable freedom is to be found in other notable dramas of biblical inspiration, such as in Saul of Vittorio Alfieri.
The action is freely imagined. Some texts are taken from the Holy Scripture. Some melodic and textual ideas are inspired by ancient Latin liturgy.

CHARACTERS:

SARA, a Jewish girl
ANNA, his mother
AZARIAH Sara’s father
TOBIAS, Jewish renegade governor of Ammon, in the service of Sanballat
NEHEMIAH, faithful Jew, cupbearer of King Artaxerxes
HANANI, a relative of Nehemiah
Caravan of Jews from Susa – Young Jewish boys and girls of Jerusalem

The action takes place in the year 445 BC. The scene represents the country of Judah, near the walls of Jerusalem destroyed.

PROLOGUE

ANNA (offstage):

O you who pass by,
stay longer, see:
can you find on earth
such a pain!?
Oh …

Lying in the groung, prostrate in the dust,
Jerusalem, shout to your Lord!
Ah, like the sea pour out your tears,
let your sad heart rises to the God of heaven.
For your sins implore night and day
grace and forgiveness from his mercy.
Return to your Lord O Zion!
Our homes went to strangers,
our land to a cruel invader.
Jerusalem, humiliated by peoples,
oppressed, guilty, miserable:
beseech, repent,
pray the Holy One of Israel,
hope in his mercy,
in your tears melt your heart.
Lying in the ground, prostrate in the dust,
Jerusalem, shout to your Lord!
Ah, like the sea pour out your tears,
let your sad heart rises to the God of heaven.
For your sins implore night and day
grace and forgiveness from his mercy.
Return to your Lord O Zion!
Weep and trusts in His eternal love.

O you who pass by,
stay longer, see:
can you find on earth
such a pain!?
Oh …

I SCENE
(Anna and Sara)

SARA: Mother, when will my fiancé return?

ANNA: Patience my daughter, even if you have to wait:
the longed time will come
when the merciful Lord of the poor
will turn to us his gaze of love.

SARA: I always remember when, still a child,
I followed in the temple chorus of the virgins.
Even amid the agonies of cruel years,
that nuptial day was a joy for me!
Do you know why
that feast, so dear to my heart,
was no more held?

ANNA: O my daughter, rejoice,
because after much begging
the marriage of the virgins
will be held still.
Ah, how many prayers and supplications
so that the Elders of Zion
wanted faithfully to resume
the holy uses of our fathers!
No, no more weddings with the wicked Edomites!
Secret marriages without holiness!
Without faith or honor! What anguish for us!
How many times I implored from heaven the end of such a grief!
Let the daughters of Zion be wedded to our young boys:
be the weddings solemn, a joy in every heart,
be their love holy, a comfort to Israel,
be it splendor of virtue consecrated to the Lord
and to His faithful people!
Here with the holy nuptial bond
brides and bridegrooms
will be united tomorrow.

SARA: The day will come when, adorned with flowers,
I shall lead to the templethe chorus of the virgins,
full of joy, with my bridegroom:
my shame will finish on that day!
Yes, there will come a day when the Father of Heaven
will turn a sweet look of love to us!

ANNA: Retain these thoughts in your heart
and God will hear you from heaven.

ANNA and SARA: Oh, grant, O Lord,
happy and holy marriages to the daughters of Israel!
Keep away
every dark intrigue,
free Thy children from any pain!
Guide our steps, O Lord,
far from every snare of the infernal spirit.
Let us hear the praise from the brides of Israel again
for Thy great kindness!

(Azariah enters)

AZARIAH: Women what are you doing
outside home at this time without permission?
Already the dark night descends upon Jerusalem:
It is time to go home.
I must always scold you
for this laziness of yours.
Do you not know yet
how many unknown dangers
can be concealed to you?
Is this not a time
of dark menace
for our own lives?

ANNA: But it is not too late yet:
the sun shines above the horizon.
Or do you want to prevent us from speaking of the wedding?

AZARIAH: Shut up. This year the weddings of the daughters of Israel
will not be done yet. But Sarah will be married tomorrow.

ANNA: Azariah! To whom?

AZARlAH: To the son of Tobias.

ANNA: O cowardly traitor of your faith!
With your wicked words you break my heart!
Your daughter to a renegade,
sold for profit
to the wicked and corrupt Edomites!
O cruel father!

AZARlAH: Shut up! Shut up! And do not provoke my anger!

SARA: Look at your daughter, o father,
Look at your child,
that you promised in marriage
to a pious brother of ours!
He left, but he will return.
Be patient: he will not tarry.
How can you give your daughter
as a spouse to an enemy?!
You yourself taught me
to bless God
who chose us as his own people
among the nations out of his eternal love.

AZARIAH: But just this is the misfortune for us!
From all peoples is divided Israel!
Why we may not live and act like the others?
We believe us pure and holy,
but all the others reject us,
our name is an abomination among them.
They only hope that for us
will soon come the ruin.

ANNA and SARA: This blood of ours, Azariah,
we shall shed for the faith of Israel!
Let come death come,
we shall not betray,
we shall never spot our honor!
Alas, O God, assist from heaven
against the threat of an infamous cruelty,
these unfortunate women that rely only on Thee,
out of Thy immense mercy!

(The voice of Tobias is heard from outside)

TOBIAS: Azariah! Where are you?

AZARIAH: (Frightened) Tobias!

(Tobias enters)

TOBIAS: Remember Azariah
that the word
given to Tobias
you canot withdraw!
Be careful therefore,
see to what you do!
Be careful, mind!
Do not hope in your God:
He will not save you!

AZARlA: Do not doubt, brother,
of your servant Azariah,
because the word
given to Tobias
I do not retract.
No, do not fear Tobia …

TOBIA: Beware, Azariah,
do not cheat me!
Do not cheat me!
Beware, Azariah,
see to what you do!
Do not think you betray me!

AZARIAH: Do not be afraid. I’ll keep my word. And you, at home with me!

(Exeunt all)

II SCENE

(It is night. Anna enters alone)

ANNA: Any light of hope
is off for us!
Oppressed by anguish
groan our hearts.
One day Jerusalem
reigned in freedom.
Then the temple shone
of noble holiness,
and the crowds flocked there
their hearts full of love.
But angry for our sins
over us of the sublime God
poured out ruin and pain.
The harsh and cruel misfortune
threatens us,
and our only refuge is crying
for such a great sorrow.

(Sara enters)

SARA: Mother, are you here alone in the dark of the night!
I always want to stay in this anguish close to you.
Oh no, do not cry, do hope still:
perhaps God will hear us from heaven,
and will command his angels
to save us from all evil.
Oh no, do not cry, do hope still!

ANNA: Lost in a limitless desert
of hostile nations unaware
of the God of Israel,
oppressed and humiliated,
scattered in every land!
The sublime glory of Zion
is a dream vanished,
and the temple was abandoned
by ungrateful and unfaithful people.
Oppressed by guilt,
what was left to us?
Only the faith
in the great God of heaven!
Far from any gaze,
or my daughter!
we always shall retain
His memory in our heart.

SARA: O mother! What is most sacred to our hearts,
its comfort, its rest, its greatest joy,
may not be manifested, may not have
its gentle laws of purity, mercy and devotion triumph?
May He not proclaim before all the world:
I am?

ANNA: O Sara, my daughter!

SARA: Mother! The other night, while I was sleeping,
appeared to me in a dream the angel of the Lord shining,
and spoke to me, and told me:
Comfort ye my people for all her sorrow and pain,
comfort my people, saith the Lord.
Ah, talk to the daughter of Zion, ah, talk to her heart:
is gone forever her bondage.
Every sin, every infamy she has atoned
with a long and painful sufferimg.
“In the desert, make straight the way of the Lord of Heaven”
a clear voice is heard from afar cry.
“Every valley, every mountain unfold a smooth path
under the kindly footsteps of the redeeming God.
His glory immortal shall shine
and all flesh everywhere shall see it. ”

ANNA: O daughter, stay alert, do not be deceived
by the evel foe!
Several times the devil has seduced Israel
with his arts.
And wont to disguise his infernal appearance
as an angel of light,
with a sweet face he lures
unwary men
to subdue them to the cruel yoke
of his ungodly power.
O daughter, stay alert, do not be deceived
by the evel foe!

SARA: Mother, why have we to doubt,
trustless,
hopeless?
May not the Lord prevail
against the power of evel?

ANNA: Alas, how many times with false gleams
bold souls
were overwhelmed by the infernal genius
into ruin!
Young people burning with reckless fervor
he seduces
with a deceptive mirage of false beauty
then entraps them with sad thoughts
and chained them to himself.
O daughter, stay alert, do not be deceived
by the evel foe!

SARA: But if a voice spreads in the heart,
without troubling it,
peace and comfort,
it cannot rise from the infernal realm:
certainly it comes from heaven.
The angel shone with a holy light,
and spoke to me, and told me:
A soft voice: “Ah, shout!” whispers to my heart.
I say, “Lord, what must I cry?”
Every man shall wither like the flower of a field,
when a breath from heaven on him will blow.
But the holy word of God,
for ever living, never will fade.
You who bring good tidings to the daughter of Zion,
Ah, boldly proclaims the message of heaven!
Up high in the mountains and proclaim the holy city:
“Here is your sweet Lord to save you .
His arm holds the power:
he descends from heaven for you. ”

ANNA: O Sara, my daughter!

SARA: Listen! I hear a distant murmur!

ANNA: Now the day is near, and already the sky clears.
It will be the morning breeze.

SARA: No! Look over there in the distance. There is a host
of men with their camels. We hear singing.

(The light increases and on the scene appears the caravan of Jews led by Nehemiah)

CHORUS OF THE JEWS:

O my Lord, forgive us from heaven!
O Lord, have mercy on Thy faithful people!

Along the journey, for many days,
the scorching sky on us weighed.
Shines up the sun,
blazes the burning soil.
Oh …

We have marched also in the night:
uncertain is the step, and the dark the sky.
Be careful camel driver!
Do not miss the path!
Oh …

It has been long and heavy for us the journey,
but already close are the homes of Zion.
Ah, spur the camels! Soon will appear to us
the blessed vision of the holy city!

We hear from afar resound
the hostile cry of the marauder.
Shines up the sun,
blazes the burning soil.
Oh …

The gaze always wanders far away
and the desert oppresses my heart.
Be careful camel driver!
Do not miss the path!
Oh …

O my Lord, forgive us from heaven!
O Lord, have mercy on Thy faithful people!
Mercy!

ANNA: Forgive a poor unhappy woman. I see that you are Jews
and pray that the God of our fathers.
Where do you come from to this land of tears and grief?

NEHEMIAH: O woman listen to and not be afraid.
We are Jews, we are your brothers.
We come from Susa, the great city,
by command of the king.
I am Nehemiah, kingly cupbearer.
When I had learned that my people
sill moaned for the oppression
of a faithless or merciless people ,
to my sovereign I confided all the pain of my heart,
and he indulgent listened to me :
“O king, you know that the city
where the remains of my fathers sleep
lies oppressed and afflicted and its walls too
now fall worn to the ground.
O my sovereign, let me go
to save my country by so many evels!
I invoked God in my heart,
and He listened to my prayer:
then the indulgent king asked me
when I thought that I should come back.
And forthwith he commanded me
to set forth on my way,
because from heaven my Lord
put on me His benign hand.
For the salvation of the oppressed Zion
then we set out without delay.
O my Lord, O my Lord,
remember me also for this!

(A group of poorly dressed Jewish girls and boys enter)

CHORUS OF THE BOYS AND THE VIRGINS:

On the holy city
already alights the first ray of the sun.
On this holy day
let us forget our sorrows.
We pray to the God of heaven
ever to protect us.
By the light of the morning
the hope flourishes in the heart.
May our children one day,
protected by the Lord,
see more happy days
without anxiety!
Great God of Israel,
O grant our prayers from heaven
and show your mercy towards thy people.

NEHEMIAH: Who are these young people?
Why have you gathered here together?

CHORUS OF YHE BOYS AND THE VIRGINS:

On this holy day
we want to celebrate together
our weddings
in the joy of the Lord.
But furious with us
the wicked assert that they want to prevent it.
Please, save us and defend our love!

NEHEMIAH: Let us proceed then to the wedding.

HANANI: (He approaches to Anna and Sara)
I ask you forgiveness
if for so long
I’ve been absent.
I was in Susa
at my relative’s,
the cupbearer that Nehemiah,
to ask for his help for the holy city.
If Sara wants to marry me still,
let us join the procession.

SARA: O merciful Lord! Thus my prayer was not useless!
Thou hast not despised Thy servant !
I knew that one day, with a gentle gaze of mercy
Thou wouldst look at Thy children.

NEHEMIAH: Let the parade be arranged and let us invoke the Lord.

FINAL CHORUS (All):

Near the broken walls
of the city of God
our hearts cry
for the shame of our native land.
Thou shalt arise, Lord,
and for the sake of Zion
Thou wilt be graceful to her,
so that, redeemed,
she can revive again.
All the nations shall see, O God, Thy glory
and all the kings shall honor Thy holy name,
when from above
Jerusalem shall shine in its splendor.
Thy name shall be proclaimed, O God, in Thy temple
and the peoples shall sing Thy praise in Zion,
when forever,
gathered together,
they shall rejoice
in Thy splendor.
Look with favor upon the young people
who the flower of their love
want to devote to Thy will
and invoke
Thy mercy, o Lord.
May their offspring
live happier days
and may one day rejoice exultant
for a joy
deep in the heart,
when Thy awaited
redemption shall come.
All the nations shall see, O God, Thy glory
and all the kings shall honor Thy holy name,
when from above
Jerusalem shall shine in its splendor.
Thy name shall be proclaimed, O God, in Thy temple
and the peoples shall sing Thy praise in Zion,
when forever,
gathered together,
they shall celebrate Thy eternal love.
Awake Jerusalem from the sad torpor;
Turn your eyes to the light that comes from heaven,
watch by far the glory ready for you.
Return to your Lord O Zion!
Near the broken walls
of the city of God
our hearts implore
mercy on the native land.
Turn, O God, from heaven
Thy merciful gaze,
and give life to a new people
redeemed of all evil,
out of the immensity of your love!
Lord, have mercy!

END

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