Continuing from the previous post, where we began taking an imaginative look at the Book of Tobit through the eyes of his wife Anna.
Once Tobit decided that it would be better for him to die, there was no shaking him from his depression. He lectured Tobiah day and night about the need to be virtuous, the need to keep the Torah, the need to marry within our tradition. All good advice, to be sure, but he was hardly a shining example of the blessings such a life would bring. Finally, he offered a bit of practical advice. He told Tobiah about the money he had left in Media, back before the roads became too dangerous for travel. He sent our son to find a trustworthy companion. Azariah is not the man I would have picked. I thought he seems a little too slick. How convenient that he happened to be loitering near by, that he happened to be related to us. But Tobit had no such concerns. He can be so gullible at times. Let the man mention a name or two and Tobit was willing to let our only son go off with him on a long and dangerous journey.
Is it any wonder I began to despair of ever seeing Tobiah again? Day after day I watched the road for his return, while Tobit stayed inside and made excuses: Maybe something unexpected came up, maybe Gabael is dead, maybe they couldn’t find the money…. Through it all he said over and over, “Anna, don’t worry. The man he went with is trustworthy.” But I want to know how he could be so sure. As I sat there looking down the road, I had visions of the man doing away with our son and leaving him in a shallow grave.
Little did I know that while I was fretting about Tobiah’s safety, his future in-laws were digging him a grave on his wedding night. And why? So that their neighbors wouldn’t ridicule them for their daughter’s misfortune. Why do we worry so much about honor and shame? Why do we spend so much time and energy trying to keep up appearances? When Tobiah told me the whole story, my heart went out to Sarah’s mother. She wasn’t trying to cover up the shame. She was weeping for her daughter and trying to encourage her to persevere. That’s what mothers do.
And now here I am at Tobit’s grave. He’s finally being buried with all the honor he gave to so many of our countrymen. He rejoiced when our son returned, and his good spirits returned with his sight. It turned out I was wrong about Azariah. He was trustworthy after all. And more than that, he tells us he was a messenger sent by God. And indeed, he did bring us blessings in abundance. Sarah and Tobiah had a good marriage, blessed with seven sons. Tobit continued to live a virtuous life but he was less boastful about it. He learned that the praise for his blessings belonged to God and not to his own good works. It made him easier to live with, and we settled into a comfortable old age. He made Tobiah promise to bury me with him, so as I look into his grace, I know that I am also looking into my own. But I don’t feel afraid, for I know that I will live on through Tobiah and Sarah and their children and their children’s children. It’s been a difficult life with Tobit and his virtue, but it’s been a good life. Praise be to God.