Khane un ire zibn zin

[Hannah and Her Seven Sons]


The play is set in the throne room of the tyrant Antiochus, which has many images of idols. Antiochus sits on a golden chair. Soldiers enter and tell how Hannah refuses to worship the idols. Antiochus orders them to fetch Hannah and her seven sons, and they do so, commenting on the stubbornness of this woman from the people of Israel. Antiochus tells the first son that the silver idol is, according to law, his god, but Hannah’s son piously cites the Torah and says he will only worship the creator of the world; even if the king decides to roast or burn him, he will not worship an idol. “G-d’s commands are holy to me –– foolish –– your idol.” Antiochus vows to put an end to the stubbornness of the people of Israel, and to kill countless Jewish children without mercy. He orders the soldiers to take the first son out and brutally execute him, and they take him away. Antiochus then turns to the second son, and each younger son in turn. Each boy remains true to his faith, and is taken away to be executed in a different manner. Even though Antiochus tries to trick the youngest son by telling him to pick up a ring from the ground in front of the idol, but he refuses to do so, saying that people will assume he is bowing to the idol. Antiochus asks why God did not save Hannah’s six eldest sons from dying as martyrs, when they could have been kept alive like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the fiery furnace (as recounted in the Book of Daniel). The boy says Antiochus is not worthy of witnessing such miracles––he is descended from shoe shiners! Antiochus orders that he be thrown to the dogs. Hannah blocks the soldiers and proclaims her piety, saying her youngest son is her last comfort. She tells Antiochus to kill her, but begs him not to make her witness the death of her last son. He tells her the Torah forbids killing a mother together with her child. She addresses Abraham, who was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, and says that she has sacrificed seven sons, but says a mother whose children are martyrs is happy. She exits, and offstage screams the shema prayer, which martyrs recite before their deaths. A voice proclaims that Hannah and her sons will be welcomed into paradise.