Soul Journey
Soul Journey
by Rosally Saltsman

Troyes, France in the late 11th century was a port in the storm of Jewish expulsion and oppression. And along with this respite came scholarly acquisition and financial and spiritual wealth, which for many Jews was a delicate balance precariously resting on the whims of the crown of their host country. Elinor Levy had every advantage a girl of her time, or indeed any time could possess: Beauty, lineage, wealth and charm. Her father was a landowner, the landlord of several farms and vineyards. He was, more importantly, also a scholar and delegated most of his responsibility so he could learn and oversee his charitable affairs. Elinor’s mother was an olive-skinned black-haired beauty whom her father had tempted away from the sun-laced shores of Spain to the colder clime of Northern France. She was never sorry. As her father was originally from England, Elinor spoke all three languages, French, English and Spanish, fluently, though she found Spanish served her best when she was emotional, English when she was being philosophical and French the rest of the time. She also knew some Hebrew and Ladino and, in her quest to pick up even more linguistic variety, she would sit and sew when her father was engaged in Talmudic discourse with his chavruta thus gleaning a harvest of Aramaic terms on dark winter evenings. She thought she would have preferred to be a man, engaging in intellectual pursuits which, she was sure, would have pleased her more than sewing, embroidery and gardening. But one makes do. Besides being beautiful and intelligent, too intelligent her father would say, Elinor was even-tempered and sweet and had a winning sense of humor. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that she would make a superb match. This was at the forefront of everybody’s thoughts as her birthday approached, not least of all her father’s. Though Elinor was in no hurry to get married, she had no opposition to it. She knew that her generous dowry would mean that changing her marital status would not have too marked an effect on her lifestyle. However, being industrious, she hoped it would keep her a little more occupied, at least when she began having children. She wanted as many as possible. Daniel Doré, a native of Troyes, was a young man full of promise. He was handsome, rich and charismatic. He was everyone’s friend and confidante, both Jew and non-Jew, which the Jewish community saw as a great advantage - someone who straddled both sides of the fence so to speak. He was also very learned, but his aspirations were more of a political nature. He hoped to achieve great political influence, both with the monarchy and church, become indispensable to both and then secure his future and those of his countrymen and co-religionists. His personal attributes provided all the resources he needed. What was lacking was a helpmate, a soulmate, a wife.

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