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.
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