4185

 

Miryam

 

by Luise Rinser

 

Part 4

 

That was when that Councilor Gamaliel, who had spoken in favor of both accused, came to me as leader of one of the groups we called communities. I seemed to him competent to answer his question and he came right to the point: You were Rabbi Yeshuaís companion and are initiated in his teaching, and knew him from close up. Tell me: Who was he?

 

You know that.

 

You understand me; why donít you answer my question?

 

What should I tell you? He was a person the likes of whom can only exist once on our earth.

 

There have already been great ones on this earth, great prophets, great saints too. What was special about your rabbi?

 

Special about him is that you have come and asked me what was special about him. Why do you want to know that?

 

Because of him I have slept badly for many nights.

 

Special about him was not ABOUT him, but HE was what was special, and one became different and special alongside him and saw the world in a special way.

 

Say it more clearly.

 

More clearly? I can only say it differently: He was the word of eternal love become flesh.

 

So you say. But how does that fit with him cursing us? ďMy blood be upon you and your children.Ē Is that love?

 

He never said that. Your guilty conscience heard that, or one of ours, a bad reporter, who didnít understand Yeshua.

 

If I can believe you, Miryam, and that was not true, then perhaps the other is also untrue: that he said on the cross that he forgives all who are guilty of his death.

 

No: Father, forgive them, is what he said. But he himself had already forgiven. His death was a complete forgiveness.

 

Gamaliel covered his face and left.

 

However: many in the Council were afraid. That crucified one, who they thought finished once and for all along with his teaching, proved himself highly dangerous alive, and some said: We made a mistake, his death makes him a great martyr; and now you see it, they are already inventing legends about him and making him into some kind of god and us their godís murderers, it will cost us dearly. Just look at this young Stephanos, how heís acting, he, Gamalielís student, who could have dreamed that he would go over to that Galilean. Did you hear that Stephanos said that the rabbi Yeshua, though dead, could rebuild the temple in three days? Outrageous talk. Didnít we hear it from the Nazarene himself? Destroy the temple: what does that mean except destroy Jewish tradition and introduce another. And his followers believe that, dangerous fools just as he was. So it still goes on. What should we do?

 

They arrested Stephanos and interrogated him. His defense speech was a masterpiece. It betrayed Gamalielís school. The speech: a resume of Yisraelís history until the construction of the Davidic temple. Before that, Stephanos said, the Eternal One lived with his people without a temple, for it is written that the Eternal One said: Heaven is my throne, the earth my footstool. And he asked his people: What kind of house will you build for me with human hands? Was it not my hand that created everything? Therefore the Eternal One lives not in the temple but in the spirit, and the Eternal One allowed the temple to be built only in order to indulge King Solomon, and not as a dwelling place for Himself. His place is everywhere and forever. You, however, think of stones instead of spirit.

 

They ejected him from the city, and though Gamaliel tried to defend his student, Stephanos was stoned to death.

 

One who was looking on was Saul. It is hard for me to talk about him. I will delay it as much as possible. I canít avoid it, because he cannot be ignored in respect to our history, Jewish and ďChristianĒ, as our movement was later called.†††††††††††††

I would rather speak of Jochanan, who was Yeshuaís and my friend. Our conversations were eaglesí flights when we spoke of Yeshuaís teaching. We called these conversations thought-games, but they were much more than that - our struggle to understand what Yeshua called FATHER but was no father as Zeus was, but pure spirit. For Jochanan, Greek educated and Greek thinking, it was difficult to bring his philosophy in harmony with our Jewish conception of the Highest.

 

For us Jews God, though inconceivable and infinitely exalted, was nevertheless made according to human measure: he loved and raged, rewarded, punished, took and gave, gave orders, made the testament with his people. It was almost juridical: I offer you loyalty and help, you obey the commandments that I gave you through Moshe. He was OUR God. A Jewish God. At first a tribal god of the of the original natives; then, with the growing knowledge of the wise among our people, the One and Only, inconceivably great, yet one person, whom one spoke to as Thou, and with whom one could converse, argue, bargain. Infinitely distant and very close. Both in One. We could not name him by his real name. He had many names. They were names for his characteristics, not for him.

 

Nevertheless: He was PRESENT, he was our contractual partner, and he was our father. The father of all fathers and primeval fathers. We could not conceive of him differently, for we had lived a thousand years under the rule of the fathers.

 

But Jochanan sprang cleverly over the merely juridical.

 

We spoke of it often, just the two of us in the night, without witnesses, shocked by our own thoughts.

 

God is spirit, said Jochanan, and spirit is the same as love.

 

Or, more mysterious and cleverer: God is THE WORD. He said that in Greek, because he couldnít find the appropriate word in Hebrew: Logos.

 

In the beginning was the Word. God himself was the logos, and the logos became flesh and was the Son of the Father and was the light of the world.††

 

That the logos was in the beginning didnít seem unfamiliar. My Greek friend had told me that before something existed, something was already there: the idea of it, and the idea was spiritual, and the idea took matter to itself and became thing-reality. That in the beginning someone existed in whom all ideas were, also seemed to make sense. Instead of idea, logos. Instead of thing-becoming, creation. But then the thing about the son. Maybe thus: The Highest, logos of all logoi, Jochanan said, wanted a Thou. Every father wants a son, every person a vis-ŗ-vis. The son always existed as idea in the father. And one day the father spoke the word, and from out of the word the son became. Perhaps.

 

I didnít take it so seriously, more as a thought-game. But the thing dug deeper marks in me that I thought. Who was this son?

 

If the logos took on matter, then the word of the son must also appear as earthly matter. It must become human. Human like us.

 

Jochanan also tormented himself with this question, though neither of us quite understood why it was so important for us.

 

Didnít we have anything else to think about?

 

One day Jochanan drew in the sand. He was imitating the Rabbi, who often did that. What was it that Jochanan drew?

 

A triangle with the base on the earth, and a second one pointing downwards and meeting the head of the one underneath it.

 

Jochanan indicated the point where both apexes met: Here HE stands. Here above is the godly domain, here below the human one. No separation, but different domains. HE is the bridge. HE belongs to both domains. Son of God. Son of Man. The logos, which introduces the upper domain into the lower. One day both domains will coincide, and that will be the kingdom of peace, the kingdom of the spirit.

 

And this HE, do you mean our rabbi Yeshua? Do you mean this seriously, or is it another thought-game?

 

I donít know.

 

Letís keep playing: How did this HE come from his spirit-domain into that of matter?

 

By conception and birth. How else?

 

That what you say. Donít you know, you half-Greek, the story of the goddess Athena, whom the highest god, Zeus, conceived with himself and carried in his head until she, motherless, sprang from his head as a full grown woman?

 

Thatís a heathen belief.

 

Everything heathen isnít false.

 

Itís different.

 

But how?

 

Havenít you noticed that when Yeshua speaks of his father he doesnít mean Josef the carpenter, who is long dead?

 

Yes, I have. And that he looks at his mother like a stranger and calls her madam, not mother. Who is his father, who his mother?

 

Did you know that his mother grew up in the temple, one of the many chosen daughters of Yisrael, one who, more than any other, met the conditions of the prophesy about the Messiahís mother?

 

Did she?

 

It seems so. And then they looked for a suitable husband for her.

 

Who did the choosing?

 

Temple priests with special powers. Wise ones. Initiates.

 

Do you believe that?

 

I donít know. I know such stories from other religions.

 

For example?

 

They lead the chosen ones into the temple. Put them into a deep sleep and order them to bed together. Still asleep, they are separated and they remember nothing of what happened, at most a dream of winged beings and spears of light.

 

But then, when the conceived child comes?

 

Then it is divinely conceived, fatherless.

 

And whatís it all for?

 

In order to be able to declare a man to be God.

 

Nobody thinks to declare Yeshua God. What are you talking about?

 

Youíre talking about him, not me. Iím only telling what is thought in other religions.

 

Figments of the imagination, I said and left.

 

But the whole thing gave me no rest. I secretly watched Yeshua to see if I could perceive his origin. I saw nothing like that. But I thought, it could well be that he came from the spirit-domain to that of matter in an unusual way. This idea of winged beings and spear of light. The spirit who travels into matter and conceives. The logos, which becomes a human child. If this child is a human only in accordance with love and a god in accordance with spirit? Thatís an idea which is not absurd. But why does Jochanan apply it to our rabbi? For he does, even though he denies it. I talk to him.

 

What do you know of Yeshuaís birth?

 

Nothing.

 

Tell me what you know!

 

Very well: The astrologers had calculated that at a certain point in time there was a very unusual constellation in the sky: a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.

 

What does that mean?

 

Jupiter is the kingís star.

 

And Saturn?

 

Every people has a planet attributed to it. Yisraelís star is Saturn.

 

That means that in Yisrael a king will be born, and a special meaning is attached to him. And where is this king, please? We have only one, Herod, and he is miserable.

 

Jochanan walked away, as though I had insulted him.

 

Then something occurred to me for the first time, something which shocked me as though it were blasphemy. Why, I thought, did the astrologers assume with such certainty that the foreseen child would be masculine? Why must the Messiah be a man? Why should the Highest be a man? Of course no one said so, for no one could say anything about the Highest that counted. But does even one Jew imagine that this eternal HE could be a woman?

 

It even seemed ridiculous to me. Not a woman, no, but not a man either. The unnamable, the EVERYTHING, was man and woman.

 

But the Messiah, couldnít it be a woman? Arenít there great women among our people, prophetesses, wise ones, saints and also those who guided their peopleís destiny: JaŽl, Esther, Jehudit. And werenít women more suited to bring peace and care for life?

 

Jochanan, why is man worth more than woman, why this silent agreement that the Highest is a man?

 

Because the spirit is masculine.

 

You fool. As if the spirit, although masculine, were bound to the man![1]

 

This time it was I who walked away offended.

 

Now I reacted to Jochanan the same way that Shimon did. When he was a witness to one of our talks, one of the more harmless ones, that is, he shook his head: That you always fly around so high! Who can understand that? Whatís it good for? And all those questions about who the rabbi is. Whoís he supposed to be then? He is he. You must love him, then youíll know who he is.

 

That Shimon. He was so simple. A fisherman who knew nothing except what heíd heard in the synagogue, and accepted it without thinking. But when Yeshua bent his finger and said: Come! He left everything behind, the boat and the net, and said to his wife: Wait for me, I have something important to do. She waited. Later she also left her home and accompanied Shimon to Yerushalayim, and then farther, to Rome. I donít know if she witnessed his death, but I have reliable information that they crucified Shimon, like the Master, but differently: with his head pointing downward. I can imagine how willingly and as a matter of course he accepted that. He was always ready to throw himself off a cliff, naturally, we said amongst ourselves, as long as the rabbi grabbed the edge of his coat at the last moment and was satisfied with the good intention, as the Highest was satisfied that Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and nothing more was expected. Jaíakob told me that Shimon had seen the rabbi, after his death and return from the kingdom of the dead, walk on the water of the sea as though on dry land. Then he jumped out of the boat and ran after the rabbi, thinking that he had called him, but halfway across he lost his nerve and sank. Just in time for the rabbi to pull him out. Shimon was very ashamed. I donít know whether the story is true or not, probably one of us invented it. But it shows how Shimon was: a child, very lovable in his humble zeal.††††††††††††††

 

Once I asked him: You are married, have a family and responsibilities. How could you simply walk away? And the rabbi, how could he have wanted that? What if everyone did that?

 

Thatís the way it was. He said come and I came. And you, you also did it!

 

Iím independent, thatís a difference, or not?

 

He hung his head. You couldnít ask him such things. He couldnít answer. He himself was the answer to such questions.

 

Once I noticed that he carried a dagger under his cloak.

 

You, Shimon, are you with the Zealots?

 

His face went red. You never know, he said.

 

What?

 

If youíll need it some day.

 

You would kill, Shimon? Or do you carry the thing to cut twigs?

 

He was stubbornly silent.

 

Once, however, he pulled the knife in earnest: when Yeshua was arrested, and he cut off one of the guardís ears; it could just as well have been his head.

 

Who was Yeshua to him though? Did he take him for the Messiah? I donít know.

 

The flash of knowledge that once let him see the divine in Yeshua had gone out, and he walked in darkness until that day when the flash touched him a second time, fifty days after Yeshuaís death. Under the impact of the great light the trembling earth steadied: kefa. rock. Later they called him by the Latin name Petrus, which also means: the rock.

 

The rabbi loved him very much. Jochanan saw it with restrained jealousy, he was a jealous one. As though he were never sure if the rabbi loved him, he felt it necessary to continuously reconfirm it: ďThe disciple whom the master loved.Ē Oh Jochanan, no one denied you your place on his breast, and also not under the cross. Both of us stood there, you and I, and held out until the end.

 

But we didnít always agree. There were two points of contention. One belonged to our thought-games, the other to hard reality.††††††

 

The thought-game, which was played for high stakes, our understanding of Yeshuaís teaching, never ended.

 

The impulse was a parable that Yeshua told. A farmer sowed wheat. A part of the seeds fell along the way and was trampled and eaten by birds. Another part fell on hard ground and dried out. A part fell into a thorn bush, grew, but was smothered by the underbrush. A small portion fell on good earth and produced rich fruit.

 

Naturally we understood the point. The seeds were his words. But: what kind of farmer is it that sows so sloppily? He must know his own land. Really: who sows in thorns, who sows on rock! Is it the seedsí fault if they canít grow?

 

Rabbi, either you chose a bad example, or wanted to tell us a terrible truth.

 

He said: Youíre not thinking it through. There is not only one time for sowing and one summer for reaping. The great offer is repeated. The possibility for the ascension of man is endless.

 

Fine, but that doesnít explain why the farmer is so foolish. Can he waste his seed that way? Or is his faith in the harvest so great that he trusts even the rock to be fruitful.

 

Yeshua said: No seed is lost.

 

With that we were satisfied for the moment, even Jochanan and I.†††††

 

But already on the next evening Yeshua rolled another stone in the way.

 

A man, he said, wanted to have a feast and sent messengers to invite friends and neighbors. But they came back with only excuses. One would marry the next day and had no time or desire. Another had to buy a piece of land on that day. A third had to pick up a pair of oxen he had bought. They all had something more important to do than attend the feast. The host said to the messengers: Bring me all those who no one invites, those who hang out in the alleys, the beggars, the landless, the sick, the girls for sale. They are to be my guests. They all came. It was a beautiful feast.

 

Mathaios said: The story is different, I know it from the Persians. The invitees didnít want to come because they mistrusted the host, who knows why, maybe they smelled a trap. In any case, they beat up the messengers. And then, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, the host sent out other messengers and they beat up the one who had beaten the first messengers.

 

That, said Yeshua, is not my story.

 

Yehuda said: I donít understand why the man invites people he knows wonít come. He is as foolish as the farmer who sows wheat on stone. Youíve got to know people, youíve got to reckon with their badness. The earth is no paradise where the lamb sleeps with the lion.

 

Yes, Yeshua said, you have to know people, you are right, Yehuda. But what does ďknow a personĒ mean. He looked at Yehuda in a way that sent shivers down my spine and we all felt an oppression like a loss of breath.

 

Only Yehuda didnít seem to feel anything. He said dryly: I would like to know how the story really ended. Probably it has no end. The people from the street, the poor, the despised, had a nice evening because of a rich manís mood, they filled themselves, drank wine instead of water. Good. And then? Then they were sent outside and everything stayed the same for them. The landless stayed without land, the sick stayed sick, the beggars poor. What I would like to know is: what did the rich man do after the feast? Thatís the main thing. Did he repeat it, did he keep his house open for the poor, did he do anything to alleviate poverty? Your story makes me uneasy, Rabbi. Should we praise this rich man because he was good once? And his goodness isnít even good. Itís nothing more than disappointment and revenge.

 

Yehuda, Yeshua said, you are missing the point, and you know it.

 

Yehuda was stubbornly silent.

 

But Yeshua kept it up. It was obvious that he wanted to pound the truth into us. But which truth?

 

The next night he came with another story, one that tasted bitter to us all this time.†††††††††

 

There was supposed to be a wedding, everything was ready, only the bridegroom was missing. Evening came, then night, the guests became nervous, the bride began to fear that he would not came or had lost his way. So she called ten girls, had them fill their oil lamps and place them along the way. They stood there and waited hour after hour. They were tired and fell asleep. At midnight they heard the call: the bridegroom is coming. But they sat in the dark, for the lamps had gone out. Five of the girls had brought an oil supply with them, and they filled their lamps. The others had to go into town first to get oil. Meanwhile, however, the bridegroom arrived and took the girls whose lamps were burning into the hall and closed the doors. When the others came, no one let them in no matter how much they called out and knocked.

 

What a terrible story, I said. What kind of bridegroom is that who makes everyone wait so long for him? Thereís no more oil, the food gets cold, the guests mistrustful, the bride is worried to death, and no one knows if this bridegroom will come and if he even exists and if the wedding will take place. And who knows if he who finally arrives is really the bridegroom. Maybe the bride is still waiting. And those who were shut out. They stand outside, having arrived a little late, and they let them knock and call out, although their lamps are lit again. What a hard man is that bridegroom. Rabbi, your story is a bad one. What does it have to do with you? Wouldnít you, in case you were the bridegroom, wouldnít you leave all the doors open? Could you happily celebrate the wedding when there are those who are shut out? Shouldnít you have rebuked the girls who didnít share their oil? Listen, Rabbi, I will share my oil and I will take those who are shut out with me into the hall, or I will stay with them outside.

 

Yeshua said: You are right.

 

How can you say, Rabbi, that I am right when your story is quite different? Or you arenít telling the real ending, and its ending isnít its ending, and no one know the ending. The bride is still waiting.

 

Yes, she is waiting, she is always waiting, and her waiting is her wedding.

 

Whoever can understand that, let them, I said, and left.

 

But that evening Jochanan and I returned to the subject of course, and our thought-game was harsh. Always this talk about the chosen, I said; itís too much like the Essenes for me. The pure, the select, the saved, the grain of wheat that remains in the sieve when the chaff has been sifted.

 

But how can it be otherwise? Salvation in mass without paying attention to how one lives? Mustnít the person choose himself? Isnít he free?

 

Free? Does the seed choose itís soil? Itís sowed whether it wants to be or not. Check out the soil and put forth roots. Itís up to you. One receives knowledge, the other doesnít. And whoever doesnít receive it, then nothing can be demanded of him, and he canít be punished because he doesnít have it.

 

How can you say that there are people who arenít given knowledge? Donít we all come from the same fatherís house? Arenít we all children of love? Does the father send any of his children into the desert without an inheritance? Is it the fatherís fault if the children waste the inheritance?

 

The question remains, Jochanan: How is it that one child wastes the inheritance and the other multiplies it? Thatís the real question and it always comes down to the same thing: there are chosen and not chosen. And that Yeshua confirms that doesnít agree with me, because it doesnít agree with him.

 

But if the person is so free that he chooses his own rejection?

 

Who would be so impudent or foolish to do such a thing?

 

Do you know the saga of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods in order to bring it to men although he knew that it was forbidden and the punishment would be terrible? One must think of the greatness of man and his freedom.

 

That was one of our thought-games, and playing it was a compulsion and agonized us and led to nothing. That story was one of our points of conflict. The other was palpable, but no less difficult and painful. It had to do with the story about the wedding. We couldnít get over it. WHO was the bridegroom? WHO the bride?

 

Did it mean the Messiah? Was Yisrael the waiting bride?

 

Yehuda, who intervened in this discussion because he considered himself competent, said: The thing is clear. The bride waits for the bridegroom. She has waited so long that she already doubts if he will ever come, or even if he exists. And then he comes after all, at midnight, that is when itís darkest and no one expects him. Well, do you understand? When Yisrael is in deepest misery, he comes.

 

With burning eyes, but softly, he added: Maybe heís already here.

 

We didnít take up the point. That was the forbidden question.

 

But I asked this: And the girls who wait, some with burning lamps and others without?

 

Simple. Those without oil are those among us who think that liberation will fall into their laps like manna and the quails in the desert. Like those back there in the caves. Like all who donít want to get their hands dirty. Eat the lamb, yes, but others must slaughter it.

 

What are you saying, Yehuda? You mean violence.

 

Did I say that? You dreamt it. But you donít dare to think clearly. You, Jochanan, you talk of love. The rabbi talks of love and peace. So: what is love for Yisrael? What then? To watch while itís destroyed? Or doesnít love for Yisrael mean to fight for its liberation? Who fights, kills. To love Yisrael means to kill several thousand Romans. How else should it happen? Tell me, you wise, you pious ones!†††††††††††††††

 

What he said was so reasonable, and so terrible. But didnít he have the correct view of the reality? And we others: werenít we dreamers?

 

When I was alone with Jochanan, I said: Yehuda confuses me. Something in me says he is right. At one time, before I met the group, I also had a dagger, and if I hadnít met you, but a group of rebels, I would have gone with them.

 

And you would have killed.

 

And perhaps have been killed.

 

And nothing would have changed.

 

Death for a great cause is not in vain.

 

Then go and kill and let yourself be killed! This half-heartedness isnít worthy of you.

 

Half-heartedness? Am I not with the rabbi with all my heart? What can I do if my Maccabee blood stirs? What can I do if Iím not like you?

 

What am I like? Thereís mockery in your voice.

 

What are you like? Sometimes you seem like a little lamb, sometimes like an eagle. What you really are isnít yet defined.

 

Youíll find out. There are times when people consider him a hero who kills many foes, and there are times when the hero is he who offers the other cheek when heís hit in the face. Thatís what the rabbi says. The one who hits back doesnít realize that heís hitting himself.

 

That is very nicely said. But then Yisraelís whole history would be wrong. We were hit, and we hit back.

 

Yes, and what was the result? We lost everything.

 

Now keep your feet on the ground, Jochanan: according to you we must silently tolerate the Romans and that pack of friends and profiteers. Donít give me that, please! And donít say now whatís on the tip of your tongue.

 

What then?

 

The thing with the coin. Must we pay taxes to the Romans, Rabbi? I wasnít there so I didnít hear his answer. But you spread it around: Whose likeness is on the coin? The emperorís. So, give to the Emperor what is due to him, and to the Eternal One what is his. That really makes me angry.

 

Now YOU keep your feet on the ground! Could he have said: deny Rome the taxes? Donít you understand what he meant? Not that we should humble ourselves before the Romans. He meant something completely different. What is money? Nothing. What you give to the emperor is nothing. Let him have it.

 

You say that money is nothing. Tell that to the people! Tell the farmers: pay taxes willingly, for that which you pay is nothing. The money they must pay is another word for wheat and wine and freedom! Now donít start with the Essene teaching: the end of time nears, you donít need money and property anymore. Donít tell me that.

 

If you donít want to hear it, Iíll be silent.

 

So be silent.

 

Again we parted arguing. Of course: he was right, but Yehuda was also right. Each spoke in his own language. I began to understand: each spoke of a different reality. However: are there two realities? Does a kingdom exist in which the law of violence counts, and one in which it does not? One in which you defeat the enemy with weapons, and one in which you disarm him before he attacks by throwing away your own weapon and approaching him and giving him the fraternal kiss? Does that exist? What enemy would not think such a person a fool or a turncoat, a despicable coward? No, that wonít work. But how then? Always attack and counter-attack? And so on forever? To keep spinning the black wheel?††††††††††

 

It was good that in those days something new was introduced, something unexpected: two women came, Yochana, the wife of Chuza, Herodís finance minister, and a court-lady by the name of Shoshana.

 

My jaw dropped. Iíd known them for a long time. Yochana had been one of my fatherís best customers, she came often to Magdala representing Herod. She came with great pomp and ordered the best oils and aromatic waters and ointments, She was rich herself and well married, it seemed, and had three children. Now she came on foot, she and her serving lady, and they were dusty and without make-up.

 

What do you want here?

 

To live with you.

 

Do you spoiled women have any idea of how we live?

 

We do have an idea, and thatís why weíre here, Yochana said.

 

Whatís happened to you? What changed you so much? Is this a joke or are you in earnest?

 

I am very much in earnest. I have burnt all bridges behind me.

 

Why?

 

Life at the court has bored me for a long time now, or rather it sickened me. But I accepted it. Until that happened, I mean the Baptist. When Princess Shulamit brought the silver tray with the Baptistís severed head on it as though it were a calfís head, disgust overcame me. The dead eyes stared at me. I went out and vomited. In the evening I said to my husband: can you stand that? He said: What can I do? Iím a minister, Herod is the sovereign. So, I said, you agree with this murder and all the whoring at court? What does agree mean, he said, I must close my eyes to it. Then keep them closed, I said, but mine have been opened, once and for all, and Iím leaving. Youíre leaving? Where to? Away. And then I said something I wouldnít have said an instant before, I said: Iím going to look for the one the Baptist spoke of. Chuza said: Youíre crazy, as crazy as the Baptist. Then Iím crazy, I said, and you can be glad to be rid of me. I want to be free. It was as if Chuza had been struck on the head. You want to be free, arenít you free now? No, said I, I am not free. He asked: Am I perhaps the cause of your not being free? Do you want a divorce? Is there another man? I said: No other man, but maybe something else. He said: Are you unsatisfied? Do you want more money, more jewelry, more servants? Or am I no longer good in bed? I said: You donít understand, itís something completely different. What then? We waste our lives here eating, drinking, gambling, whoring. He was shocked at his wifeís, the court ladyís, words. I didnít spare him. I said: Weíre rich, but where does our wealth come from? We donít work. Someone works so that we have money to gorge ourselves and whore around. Who works? The people. They work for us and we suck it up. Come, letís go, letís lead a different life. But, said he, I am a minister, I swore an oath to the king. Listen: this king has the right to expect loyalty. He is miserable, a fool, a prophet murderer, you manage blood money, Chuza! Come! He was impressed. He said: But what would we do, what would we live from? And our children? I said: Weíll take them with us. He wavered. But then he secretly sent the children away, gave me a purse full of money and traveled to Greece. And here I am. Here, take my purse, itís all I have, but itís enough.

 

Yeshua accepted them without many questions. The men however put their heads together and discussed it and came to no conclusion. Yeshua hadnít asked them, but what would they have said if he had asked them? They sighed. Three women. They were used to me, I was already one of them. But now two more: what were they good for?††††††††††

 

But Yehuda said: Itís not so bad, they brought money, quite a bit.

 

It this horse-trading? Does one pay in order to accompany the rabbi?

 

Shimon said: Life with us will soon be too hard for them; let them stay until they leave on their own; such as they donít last long, itís a whim.

 

But how they lasted! They put their hands to the plow and didnít look back once, and only that moment when our old sailboat in Yafo left Yisrael did Yochana weep. She wept for her children. She never saw them again.

 

We didnít stay three women for long, a fourth came: Shulamit, Jaíakovís and the elder Jochananís mother. She didnít come because of conviction but because she missed hers sons, she was very close to them. She said it openly. Yeshua didnít want family ties. With reason, as it turned out. She wasnít with us more than a few days when she demanded privileges, though not for herself, but for her sons. The rabbi wanted to give us an example of the kingdom of peace: a feast of peace, a feast of love. At that Shulamit threw herself to the ground.

 

What do you want? Get up.

 

The scene was embarrassing.

 

Rabbi, my sons have given up everything for you. How will you reward them? Let them sit next to you at that feast, one on the right, the other on the left!

 

I laughed at such lack of understanding. Yeshua rebuked me and said: She is such a short time with us, how should she have knowledge? But even you, who have been with me a long time, all of you have not understood that in the kingdom of the spirit no one is master and no one servant, there are only brothers, each of whom is the servant of the other. You want a reward for following me? Fools. Isnít it enough that you have found the drachma which your ancestors have sought for a thousand years?

 

They were both ashamed because of their mother.

 

To Shulamit he said: Do you tie birds with ship ropes?

 

Yeshua was right to reject family ties, for himself, for us. His own family made trouble for him. I met them at a wedding in Cana. The bride was a relative of Yeshuaís and she invited him and us. A humble wedding of poor people. They were all poor, also Yeshuaís brothers, the sons from Josephís first marriage. They werenít happy to see their brother. Sidelong glances, short, cold greetings, distrust. Only the mother was friendly, but it seemed to me that she was shy of showing that she loved her son Yeshua, in her way. She wanted to speak to me.

 

So itís you! She said.

 

That was puzzling.

 

You are together with my son?

 

Together? How do you mean that? I am one of his pupils. He also has others.

 

Yes, but you have been longest with him. Tell me, what do you think of him?

 

Would I be with him if I didnít consider him to be a great rabbi?

 

I must admit that I wasnít very friendly to her. I didnít like her asking me, a stranger, about her son. She noticed, and quietly withdrew.

 

So that was his mother. Was she really? Was she the one who grew up in the temple, about whom Jochanan and I spun such dreams? If she was, then she had forgotten her past. It seemed to me that she didnít realize whom she gave birth to. But then: the thing with the wine. There was none left and the party was far from over. Great embarrassment. I saw how is mother went up to him and spoke to him. He stepped back, she pressed, he was unwilling, but she followed him, she almost stepped on his heels. What did she want from him?

 

It was obvious: she wanted him to help the poor newly married couple, who were ashamed because there was no more wine. I wanted to say: we still have money in the purse, one of us should go and buy wine.

 

But something had already happened:suddenly there was wine again, great flasks full. It was simply accepted, no one gave it much thought.

 

Someone had brought wine, why not? A late guest with a wedding present.

 

His mother, though, wore a triumphant smile, as one who has accomplished what she wanted.

 

Did she now have the answer to her question?

 

I went up to Jochanan. Did you see that?

 

He didnít ask: What?

 

I said: Does he do such things often? Does one learn that down there in the desert? Is that what they call dominating the force of nature?

 

He said: It can be learned, certainly, but that she challenged him to do it, that was wrong. He shouldnít do such things. When they find out that he can do such things, they will spread it around and demand that he change stones to bread and scorpions to fish and the earth to paradise, and if he doesnít do it they will revile and kill him.

 

How did his mother know that he could do something like that?

 

She had her dreams about him being special, and now she has a proof. She will want another, then another, and will never be certain.

 

What does she want to test for?

 

For that for which there is no test. For what HE HIMSELF is the test.

 

Yeshua didnít wait for the party to end. He left. He left without saying goodbye to his mother. For her part, she stood aside.

 

But I understood Yeshuaís conduct when some time later in another place he was told that his mother and his brothers had arrived. He said: Who is my mother, brother, sister? The one who is related to me not by blood, but by the spirit.

 

Why had they come? They said it: to take him home. They thought him mad, and in his madness dangerous. The way he talked against the priests no reasonable person talked. It was naked defiance, it was madness that would end badly and cast suspicion and discredit on the whole family.

 

Yeshua refused to see them. The family turned up again and again in order to take him home. We protected him.

 

His mother had a long way to go before she knew who he was. She knew it in itís full meaning when she stood under the cross on which he died. The hour of his defeat, which she had feared all her life, brought her the great knowledge.

 

We were four women when we first went together to the Pesach feast in Yerushalayim: Yochana, Shoshana, I, and Shulamit. The men: Shimon and Andreas, Jaíakov and Jochanan, Philippos and Bartolomaios, both pupils of the Baptist, as well as Matthaios the tax collector, Thomas and two other Galileans: the other Shimon, who was from Cana, and the young Jochanan, my comrade at thought games, and the latest arrivals: Yehuda and Carioth. A large group, not to be ignored.

 

We werenít ignored, oh no, there was a lot of talk: a rabbi and, even including Shimon, a bunch of young men, together with those women who appear with their rabbi in public. What if it spreads? If more and more women join them?

 

You take them too seriously, itís a vogue, itíll disappear as it came.

 

What do the people see in this Galilean? With the best will I see nothing special about him.

 

I heard that they live like the Essenes, they donít touch each other.

 

Oh sure. They are all young. And that one from Magdala with her snake-hair, she and her rabbi! Donít tell me that.

 

Iíd like to know what the rabbi offers the women to make them run after him like that.

 

Women always run after men. Nothing occurs to them by themselves. We males beget children and ideas, the females do the rest.†††

 

We were told that one of them said: Is it true that they run after a man? Isnít it more likely that they follow a person who doesnít take them for women, but as human beings? They are seeking something that, they say, we donít give them. But what?

 

Spirit!

 

Women and spirit! Contradiction.

 

What do women need spirit for? They should stay home and not wander all over the country. They should bear children. They should work, and those young men too, instead of standing around the squares and giving rebellious speeches in the synagogues and tempting young people out of their homes. There are always more of them. Something like this spreads like wildfire.

 

This and much more was rumored about us, but far from Roman ears: What if it was completely different? If it was preparation for revolt? Look where this rabbi gets his followers from: the landless, the poor, the unsatisfied. Night after night he sits together with such types in notorious taverns The people are in ferment and he takes advantage of it.

 

But against the Romans he says not a word. Havenít you heard how the scribes asked him about paying taxes to the Romans? Give to Caesar what you must give.

 

Youíre telling only the half of it: and give to the All High what he is due.

 

Whatís that supposed to mean?

 

Itís supposed to mean that we shouldnít occupy ourselves with worldly questions. The Essenes also say that. It doesnít matter if we have an emperor or not, if we have property or not, for soon there will be no emperor or property, the end of time is near and sweeps everything away, kings and emperors and Romans.

 

And Jews also?

 

The question remained open, it was too difficult. All the questions about the rabbi remained open.

 

There were always new ones. For example the thing with the adulteress. What did she have to do with Yeshua? It was supposed to be a test. The scribes wanted to know how this rabbi kept to the law. He spoke of love and tolerance. Fine. He also said he didnít want to change the law. Letís lay a trap for him.

 

They brought a woman before him who had been caught in bed with her lover. According to Jewish law she must be stoned to death. If Yeshua was against the stoning, he was against the law. But if he was for the law, he would be contradicting himself: hadnít he said that one should not judge others, for that is against the law of love and one is then judging oneís self?

 

The woman wasnít stoned to death and Yeshua wasnít accused of being a lawbreaker. His cleverness was greater than that of those who had laid the trap.

 

I wasnít a witness to the scene, I shuddered at the stoning, but when I heard that the woman was alive, I ran to her. She was still trembling all over. How did it happen? Why wasnít the punishment carried out?

 

She told me: Those who brought me before the rabbi stood in a half-circle around me and him, and each one had his stone in hand and a pile of stones alongside him. Why didnít they throw them? They were waiting for the rabbiís word. But he sat there and drew with his finger in the sand. Complete silence. It wouldnít have taken much longer and I would have died of fright without being stoned. The waiting was terrible. And then the rabbiís voice: He among you, you men, who is without guilt, throw the first stone. Now. I crouched down. It wouldnít have helped, but I crouched anyway and closed my eyes. But no stone came. Imagine: one after the other dropped his stone and left. It was wonderful how the rabbi brought them to it. They could have considered themselves righteous, compared to me. But to be sure, Miryam: one of them had already lain in my arms, he couldnít very well have thrown at me. And the others: nothing but sinners. They are also adulterers, or cheaters, whatever. And then I was alone with the rabbi. Now he would say hard things and despise me. What do you think he said, and very mildly he said it: No one threw a stone at you, although are also not without guilt. Go home now and change your life. That was all. Then I wept, and how I wept! How good he was to me, your rabbi!

 

And now, what will you do?

 

Never again, Miryam, never again forbidden love.

 

And he who slept with you? Why didnít they bring him also to be stoned? The law says that the man must also be punished with death.

 

Oh, you know, men amongst themselves. They let him go. He was one of them, you understand. The worst of it is: we are in love. I have a hard husband who beats me, and he has a viper for a wife. He and I, we were comfort and support for each other. But now? It is no longer possible. We donít want to separate because of the punishment, not because of that. Itís your rabbiís word: Change you life! How he looked at me! It went through my whole body. It hit its mark. He is one who has power. Perhaps a prophet. Surely a saint.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

The scribes, however, neither forgot nor forgave Yeshua that he had forced them to humble themselves. Afterwards, they didnít understand themselves how it had come about. Compared to that adulteress they Ė some of them at least Ė could have considered themselves righteous and thrown the first stone. Too late now. Theyíd have to set another trap for him.

 

Rabbi, how is it with the divorce law?

 

Arenít you scribes? Donít you know?

 

Of course, of course. But thereís a problem. Moshe allowed divorce, but the All Mighty created humanity as man and women, who become one flesh when they marry. How can flesh be separated from flesh?

 

If Moshe nevertheless allowed divorce, he had a reason. You know it, or donít you?

 

We know it: The man can give the woman a divorce-letter if she has leprosy or is unfaithful to him or has mismanaged his belongings or if she is sterile for ten years.

 

And the woman: can she also give a divorce letter?

 

She can demand one.††

 

According to the law. What happens to the divorced woman though? She goes back to her family, no man wants her anymore, she ages joylessly. But the man takes a young wife, for thatís what he really wanted: to get rid of his wife because he is sick of her.

 

Rabbi, they say you are unmarried, you donít know what a burden a shrewish wife can be, especially when she ages. All the wounds on earth are not as bad as that which a shrewish wife inflicts on a man, and no serpent has more spiteful venom than a female tongue. Better to live with a lion than with an angry old woman.

 

Yeshua said: You have learned Yeshua Ben Siraīs sayings well. He was also a man, and the holy scripts all originate from men. What would happen if there was a script written by a clever woman? What would she have to say on this subject? Perhaps this: No ox can kick harder than an angry man, and no dog pounces more greedily on a bitch than a lustful man on his wife.

 

But they like us the way we are: so manly.

 

You just said that they are nagging and spiteful. A question for you: were they nagging and spiteful when you married them? If yes, why didnít you choose better? If no, then marriage has made them sulky and bitter and nagging. Is it their fault, or also yours?

 

One of them said: One time so strict, Rabbi, another time so lenient; how can they go together?

 

One of them is the law, the other the lenience of the judge.

 

Behind his back they said: How he plays the judge and at the same time says that one shouldnít judge. A scatterbrain who is also dangerously clever.

 

One of them, however, asked Yeshua: If you think so highly of marriage, Rabbi, why are you unmarried?

 

He said: Some there are who are incapable of consummating marriage due to a birth defect. Others because of castration. Still others, however, live unmarried for the sake of the spirit. He who can grasp it, let him grasp it.

 

They didnít grasp it.

 

They knew about the Essenesí unmarried life, but they lived in communities in the desert, and only men lived together. But every Essene follower who lived in the tent camps was married and had children. Rabbi Yeshuaís followers were neither one nor the other. What to think about them? Would it would go well in the long run? They would have to be watched.

 

In fact, this group with the Nazarene must be kept under secret control, especially since the scandalous events in the temple. How could he have dared to act as he did if he didnít have powerful people behind him who protect him? Who was behind him? The Pharisees? Or perhaps the Sadducees? Give to Caesar that which is Caesarís: is he a friend of the Romans? Or does he speak with a snakeís forked tongue?

 

He came into the temple. He hadnít been there in a long time and didnít know that the merchants and money changers carried out their business in Salomonís court, naturally with the priestsí permission, how else. It was like the market there: they yelled, haggled, fought, the sacrificial animals bleated and roared, it stank of urine and excrement. Yeshua stood there stiffly for a moment, then he dove in, a storm, among the merchants, overturned their tables and cried: Is this a den of thieves or a house of prayer? Out with you!

He was like a madman, but one with authority. Nobody stopped him, that was strange, no one laid a hand on him. The merchants caught their animals, the money-changers knelt on the floor and picked up their coins, the animals were driven out and suddenly the court was empty.

 

Then the priests came: What do you think youíre doing?

 

And he: And what do you think youíre doing? You should have done what I did.

 

Who are you, that you do this? Do you have a mandate and from whom? Show us a document that identifies you.

 

He said: You must know me, you heard me preach in the synagogue and here in the temple. Why do you ask?

 

We are asking for your mandate!

 

He looked at them one after the other, then he said: Iíll give you a sign, pay attention to my words, listen: Tear this temple down, and in three days I will rebuild it.

 

Words of a madman. In three days you would build what it took our fathers a half a century to do?

 

One said softly: Is he a magician?

 

Another: He canít mean that literally. What is the meaning behind it?

 

They said: Explain yourself!

 

But he didnít answer, he pulled his cloak close around him and walked through all of them and out of the temple. We followed him and he was uncanny to us. Was there some craziness in him after all?

 

We stayed no longer in Yerushalayim.†††††

 

 

Part 1††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† Next >


[1] Translatorís note: The word spirit (Geist) is masculine in German, probably also in Aramaic.