The Story of Onkeles
from royal Roman to righteous convert
A Profitable Venture
Testers raved about Cooking for The King's pareve version of the delicious classic salad we all love, but I could not bring myself to use its familiar name: Caesar. After all, Caesar was the title held by the monarchs of the Roman Empire. This spiritual inheritor of Eisav (see Souped Up on Fast Food ) used brutal, violent means of domination against our People.
One such Caesar was Hadrian who murdered many Jews, suppressed the Bar Kochba Rebellion, murdered tens of thousands of Jews in the city of Beitar without mercy and cruelly executed the greatest leader of the generation, Rabbi Akiva. One ray of comfort pierced these dark times: a holy soul, a light of renewed hope to guide our people.
Onkeles, a True Seeker of Fortune
Hadrian's nephew, Onkeles, was in line to become Caesar. Onkeles was a well-educated young man with lofty wisdom who realized the truth of Torah. Anxious for the opportunity to escape his royal family and live among the Jews, this wise prince hatched a plan. He approached his uncle to ask advice in acquiring wealth. Hadrian recommended that his nephew seek a highly marketable product with few customers. “You will be able to explain its real value and make a nice profit,” he promised.
Armed with Hadrian's "blessing," Onkeles set off to seek his fortune: among the Jews. He immersed himself in learning and was soon able to mine the deepest riches of the Torah. That is how the Caesar-Prince became Onkeles, the Ger-Tzedek, righteous convert. He contributed greatly to our understanding of the Torah. In fact, his enlightening commentary which we simply call Onkeles is included in most chumashim until today.
Advice Well Taken
Of course, the Caesar Hadrian was furious when he heard of his nephew's conversion. He sent three separate delegations charged with returning the prince to Rome in chains, if necessary. Each delegation was so overcome by the Torah wisdom Onkeles shared with them that the all converted! Finally, Hadrian swore his nephew no harm if he would report to Rome voluntarily.
Onkeles returned to stand before his uncle, the butcher of Jews. Hadrian asked why he chose to join the least of nations, a people persecuted by every generation. "I simply took your good advice, uncle. You advised me to seek a viable product for which there are few customers. I traveled throughout the world and found nothing of value so deeply neglected, nothing so precious that is considered lowlier or with fewer customers than the Nation of Israel. I invested heavily in this undertaking, and found that I have made an immensely wise bargain as its value will certainly rise.
The Jewish nation, promise the holy Jewish Prophets, will become a nation of princes. Kings throughout the world will be honored to serve them; and the righteousness of the holy Torah, will be recognized by all nations. Then Jerusalem will be home to our people and a beacon to the world.”
The Investment With Guaranteed Returns
Onkeles was rare in his generation because he recognized our treasure and presented it to a public who did not know its value. If Onkeles were alive today, would he realize a profit on his investment? So many of our fellow Jews are unaware of the royalty they have inherited. Their spiritual potential lies dormant and their share in our precious Torah is hidden.
We still wait for Onkeles' investment to reach its potential. However, everyone of us can reap a dividend now by investing in the Onkeles business plan. How? By modeling the riches of a Torah life, smiling at everyone, judging favorably, speaking kindly, and sharing a Shabbos meal we touch the Jew who has not yet discovered her rightful inheritance. Every one of us can be as shrewd a merchant as the wise Onkeles and make a handsome profit.
Make an investment in the Onkeles business plan. Invite someone unfamiliar with the beauty of Shabbos to join you Friday night. (Serve Cooking for The King's Onkeles Salad and tell this fascinating story!)