A vitzedek ben Shalom soon discovered that people were much more willing to hear his prophecies when he sang instead of shouting. He’d always had a good voice, so he invested in some singing lessons. Then he bought a darbuka drum at an Arab shop near the Damascus Gate. Now he shared his prophecies in a warm melody, accompanied by drumming and punctuated by shofar blasts. People would crowd around, and the hat lying before him on the pavement filled up with coins and dollar bills.

“But I don’t do it for the money,” he told Miriam one evening, as he placed 977 shekels before her on the kitchen table. “It’s not about the money. If they want to donate, that’s fine. I say the words Hashem puts in my mouth. I sing whatever He tells me to sing.”

Her response was gentle but direct. “When will He tell you to stop?”

“That hasn’t been revealed,” he said.

And so it went. Everyone kept asking her why she stayed with him. He’d clearly gone crazy. Obviously, a woman couldn’t stay married to a man who put on a long white robe tied with a rope, and circled the city walls, eyes aglow, singing, “Od yeishvu zekeinim u’zkeinot b’rechovot Yerushalayim.”

But Tzadok was harmless, a good father who learned with the children, listened to their chatter, and played with them. He told them stories from Tanach, and they loved him very much.

So did Miriam. She surveyed the cruel world around her and knew she wanted to remain at the side of the man who’d married her ten years ago, that gentle young man with a poet’s soul. She had felt that way when he’d gotten fired from a series of jobs, and she felt no different now, even if he heard voices in his head. Yes, even if he wouldn’t go for therapy.

They’d been to a psychiatrist, who examined Tzadok thoroughly and asked a lot of questions, and then read them a paragraph from the British Journal of Psychiatry. He told them that the Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital admits dozens of people with Jerusalem Syndrome every year. “Typically, it happens to people of a very sensitive temperament,” the doctor explained. “The holiness of Jerusalem is too much for them, it overwhelms their emotional defenses and they break down.”

“But nothing in me is broken down,” Tzadok protested. “Far from it. I’ve become a prophet.”

Miriam looked at him sadly, wordlessly.

The psychiatrist said sometimes the syndrome takes a more severe form, and the patient hears voices telling him to harm himself or others. “A well-known case is that of Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian tourist who claimed he heard voices telling him to set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to hasten the Redemption.”

“So you’re saying that… that people with this syndrome can hear voices telling them to hurt someone?” Miriam asked. “What do you do if that happens?”

“In that case, they have to be hospitalized,” the doctor replied. “There’s no other choice. But your husband isn’t in that state, nowhere near it.”

Tzadok asked tentatively, “If I take pills or something, will I stop hearing the voices?”

“Yes, b’ezrat Hashem,” said Miriam. “You’ll be back to normal again.”

The doctor nodded.

“But I don’t want to be ‘back to normal’! ” Tzadok insisted. “I have a mission. I was given a gift! I won’t destroy it with a drug.”

Miriam’s shoulders, draped in a black shal, slumped. She knew there was nobody out there waiting to take her and her five kids. Nobody would offer funds to support them as long as they had two living parents — even if for all intents and purposes they were orphaned. Who else would come home every evening with 977 shekels in a hat?

So she stayed, washed his robes with the rest of the white laundry, and wiped down his darbuka now and then with a damp rag. And sometimes she couldn’t even voice how she felt as she did it.

“Doesn’t she feel like she’s taking part in a fraud?” asked Ari Krinsky, looking on as his wife typed up her impressions of her latest meeting with the Shawl Ladies.

Faigy looked up, her train of thought broken. “It’s not a fraud,” she said. “Why would it be a fraud?”

“Because her husband is presenting himself as a prophet, which he isn’t, and people are giving him money for it.”

“But Ari, he really thinks he is a prophet.” Faigy looked at him pleadingly. “If you gave him a lie detector test, it would show that he’s telling the truth. He really hears those voices in his head.”

“But he’s taking money from people for this meshigas!”

“Yes, they give him money, and he accepts it, but nobody thinks he’s really a messenger of G-d. They feel sorry for him, or they give him a dollar because they enjoy his singing. He does sing very well. For the tourists, he’s one of the quaint sights of Jerusalem. What better souvenir could there be from a trip to the Holy Land than a selfie of you and a ‘prophet’ with a white robe and a shofar, and the ancient city walls in the background? He puts on a good show, so they tip him, but not because they think it’s real. He comes by that money honestly. There’s no fraud in it.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 672)