Monday, April 8, 2013

The Tale of Raphi and the Lost Wedding Ring

My husband Manny actually lost his wedding ring on our honeymoon. It's true. We were swimming in the Dead Sea in Israel, which has such a high salt content that you can almost float sitting up. A little wave passed by, as Manny explains it, and plucked the ring right off his finger. Down, down to the bottom of the Dead Sea. Someone was snorkeling nearby and offered to search underwater for the lost ring. The salty water made it hard to stay submerged for any length of time, and he ultimately searched without success. "I have many rings in my tent," the snorkeler offered, but my husband turned down his offer and left the ocean discouraged.

Sinking down onto our towel on the sand, Manny told me what had happened. After finally being convinced that my husband was not playing a practical joke on me, I urged him to seek out the snorkeler. The snorkeler introduced himself to us as Raphi. He lived on the beach, he said, and made money by finding what people had lost in the sea. One bus of Christians drove up and threw every bit of  their jewelry into the Dead Sea before continuing on their journey, Raphi explained. He lived off of that for months. His dream was to one day join his friend who lived on a beach in California.

After entertaining us with his stories, Raphi once again invited us back to his tent. "I have many wedding rings in my tent. Would you like to look at them?" he asked. We assented. In his tent, Raphi opened up a little box filled with gold wedding rings of every size, shape, and design. Most of them had inscriptions from other brides to other grooms or from other grooms to other brides. But there was one wedding ring that fit my husband's finger perfectly. 24 karat gold, no design, no inscription. Since Manny's original wedding ring was only 18 karat gold, this ring was even better than he had before.

We asked Raphi how much he would be willing to sell the ring for, but Raphi turned the question back on us. My husband thought deeply, pondering for what seemed an inordinate amount of time. He told me later that he felt he was being asked to place a value on what our entire marriage meant to him. By far the more practical one, I blurted out, "100 shekels!" which was worth about 25 U.S. dollars. "I cannot say no to 100 shekels," Raphi replied, and the deal was done.

When my husband and I returned to the United States after our honeymoon ended, we had his new ring blessed by a priest, who delighted in our story. And when Manny's co-worker took a trip to Israel and the Dead Sea, we asked him to look for Raphi on the beach. Manny's co-worker found no sign of Raphi there. Manny and I wondered if Raphi had finally followed his dream to California.

Then it struck us that Raphi was a common nickname for Raphael, the patron saint of marriage. The Archangel Raphael gained his reputation as a defender of marriage through a well-beloved story in the Old Testament Book of Tobit. In this story, the angel Raphael disguised himself as a human in order to convince Tobias to marry Sarah and help defeat the demon who had killed all seven of Sarah's previous husbands on their respective wedding nights. Was Raphi really only a beach bum? We'll never know. But it's awfully fun to wonder.

Readers:  Do you have a story about your wedding ring?  Share it in the comments!

Photo 1 Credit: Jeff_Werner via Compfight cc; Photo 2 Credit: Boby Dimitrov via Compfight cc; Photo 3 Credit: Tobias and the Archangel Raphael by Jean Charles Cazin


  1. That is a great story! Reality is truly the most creative storyteller.
    My ring is a family heirloom; my great grandparents lived into their eighties; one was deaf one was blind near the end of their lives and they depended on each other for their existence. They died within one week of each other. My ring was lost three times: once in a garbage can wrapped in glove at work, once on a beach, and once in my office. All three times, it was found against all odds. The third time was the most peculiar. I used to wear it on a gold chain with a medal of Mary. One day the chain broke without me knowing; I was devastated by the loss. I had no idea where it was. Exhausting searches were unsuccessful. I thought it was gone forever. My mother told me to pray to St. Anthony, so I did, not expecting much. A week later I was crawling around on the floor looking for something else and found it: the ring was there in the middle of the floor all by itself with no sign of my chain or the Miraculous Medal.I just decided that it was a sign, God wanted the chain and medal but I needed to have the ring since I was not done using it yet. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of my ring according to the inscription. As an object, it is simply a hunk of precious metal. As a symbol, is a physical manifestation of the bond between a married couple; several married couples actually, one that promotes life and love as higher level goal. During marriage we may lose that symbol every once in a while; inherently it is a difficult situation to meld two individuals into a partnership as one. If the spirit lives on so will the union, and what was lost will be found.

    Much love

    Sharon G.

    1. Sharon, thanks for your awesome story! Truly beautiful.