The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, , at sacred-texts.com
Rabbi Ammon, of Metz.
During the reign of one of the bishops in Metz, there lived a Jew in that city, who was called Rabbi Amnon. He was of illustrious family, of great personal merit, rich and respected by the Bishop and the people. The Bishop frequently pressed him to abjure Judaism and embrace Christianity, but without the slightest avail. It happened, however, upon a certain day, being more closely pressed than usual, and somewhat anxious to be rid of the Bishop's importunities, he said hastily, "I will consider the subject, and give thee an answer in three days."
As soon as he had left the Bishop's presence, however, his heart smote him, and an unquiet conscience blamed him for admitting, even in this manner, a doubt of the true faith. He reached home overwhelmed with grief; meat was set before him, but he refused to eat; and when his friends visited him and ascertained the cause of his low spirits, he refused their proffered consolation, saying, "I shall go down mourning to the grave for these words." On the third day, while he was still lamenting his imprudent concession, the Bishop sent for him, but he refused to answer the call.
Having refused several of the Bishop's messengers, they were finally ordered to seize him, and bring him by force before the prelate.
"Amnon," said the Bishop, "why didst thou not come to nee, according to thy promise, to inform me of thy decision in regard to my request?"
"Let me," answered Amnon, "pronounce my own doom for this neglect. Let my tongue, which uttered those hasty, doubting words, be cut out; a lie I uttered, for I never intended to consider the proposition."
"Nay," said the Bishop, "I will not cut out thy tongue, but thy feet which refused to cone to me, shall be cut off, and the other parts of thy obstinate body shall be also punished and tormented."
Under the Bishop's eye and order, the toes and thumbs of Rabbi Amnon were then cut off, and after having been severely tortured, he was sent home in a carriage, his mangled members beside him.
Rabbi Amnon bore all this with the greatest resignation, firmly hoping and trusting that this earthly torment would plead his pardon with God.
His life after this was of course to be measured only by
days. The Feast of the New Year came .round, while he was living, and he desired to be carried to the synagogue. He was conveyed to the house of God, and during the service he requested to be allowed to utter a prayer. The words, which proved to be his last, were as follows:
"I will declare the mighty holiness of this day, for it is awful and tremendous. Thy kingdom is exalted thereon; Thy throne is established in mercy, and upon it Thou dost rest in truth. Thou art the Judge, who chastiseth, and from Thee naught may be concealed. Thou bearest witness, writest, sealest, recordest, and rememberest all things, aye, those which we imagine long buried in the past. The Book of Records thou openest; the great shophar (cornet) is sounded; even the angels are terrified, and they cry aloud, 'The Day of Judgment dawns upon us,' for in judgment they, the angels, are not faultless.
"All who have entered the world pass before Thee, Even as the shepherd causes the flock he numbers to pass under his crook, so Thou, oh Lord, causest every living soul to pass before Thee. Thou numberest, Thou visitest; appointing the limitations of every creature, Thy judgment and Thy sentence.
"On the New Year it is written, on the Day of Atonement it is sealed. Aye, all Thy decrees are recorded. Who is to live and who to die. The names of those to meet death by fire, by water, or by the sword; through hunger, through thirst, and with the pestilence. All is recorded. Those who are to have tranquillity, those who are to be disturbed. Those who are to be troubled, those who are to be blessed with repose. Those who are to be prosperous, those for whom affliction is in store. Those who are to become rich, who poor; who exalted, who cast down; but penitence, prayer, and charity, oh Lord, may avert all evil decrees."
When he had finished this declaration, in which he designed to acknowledge his sin and the justice of his punishment, Rabbi Amnon expired, dying fitly in God's house, among the assembled sons of Israel.
May the righteousness of Rabbi Amnon be a precious remembrance in Israel, and may we endeavour to emulate the same. Amen.