by Luise Rinser
The next day was Shabbat and Yeshua went with us to the synagogue, he kept to the rules of the Law.
As is customary, they handed the scroll to the guest and showed him where they had already read and where he was to continue, and Yeshua read. They were the words of the prophet Yeshayahu.
ďThe spirit of the Almighty rests upon me, the Lord has anointed me. It is He who has sent me to bring a glad message to the poor, to loosen the bonds, to comfort the mourners and to proclaim a Year of Rejoicing.Ē
He read no farther. He returned the scroll. Now it was his turn to interpret the words.
He sat quietly for a while, and all eyes were upon him. Then he began to speak. What did he say? He only repeated Yeshayahuís words:
I am sent to proclaim a Year of Rejoicing.
Why did that sentence suddenly sound so different, as though an even older manuscript had shone through an old one? ďI am sent.Ē That ďIĒ, what did it mean? The scribes looked nervously at each other. He left them time to think. Then he said for the third time: I am sent to proclaim a Year of Rejoicing.
Now they heard that ďIĒ even more.
And then another pause.
One of the scribes said: You talk of a Year of Rejoicing. But it is no Year of rejoicing now, not even twenty years have passed since the last one, the next one wonít be for another thirty years.
Hear what I say. There are Years of Rejoicing which you reckon, and Years of Rejoicing which escape your reckoning.††††††††††††††
They shook their heads.
And who determines such a Year of Rejoicing, when not the Law of Numbers?
Yeshua said: Laws donít decide, but the peopleís need.
One of the scribes said: Explain yourself better. Didnít you say that you are the one who proclaims the Year of Rejoicing? Must we not understand it so? But who are you, that you could do that?
Who I am you will know later. What I am proclaiming is the Year of Grace. A question for you: what happens during a Year of Rejoicing?
When they didnít answer right away, in order not to fall into a trap, he gave the answer himself:
The Year of Rejoicing is the year of the freeing of the slaves, forgiveness of debts, the return of bought or expropriated land, the restoration of justice.
We know that, they cried, but this is no Year of Rejoicing.
You are right: it is no Year of Rejoicing, injustice reigns, stolen property is not restored, expropriated land not returned, debts are not forgiven, the slaves are not freed, property is not shared. Not a Year of Rejoicing!†††††††††††
Why do you reproach us? Is it our fault that itís not a Year of Rejoicing? Is it our fault that everything is going so badly? Go to Herod, go to Pilate, go to the High Council! And anyway, why do you appear here as if you were who knows what, you son of a carpenter? Does it amuse you to play the prophet? Or even the Messiah?
They yelled such things in confusion.
Then Yeshua stood up, and something went out from him that silenced them. He let them wait a while. They didnít know what to do, they stepped from one foot to the other. Suddenly one of them, who was very old and whose voice trembled, said: Tell us who you are.
Yeshua said: I am he who fulfills the scripture, and it is fulfilled now.
I was shocked. What did he mean? What did that ďnowĒ mean? This hour, or this episode of our history, or an eon-long now? And if now is now: what is fulfilled?
They were furious at what he said and they cried: He applies Jeshayahuís words to himself! We heard right: I, the Lordís anointed one, I, who fulfil the scripture. Outrageous words.
One went up to Yeshua and screamed in his face: Say openly who you claim to be! Say: I, the Messiah, Say: I, the Son of Man!
They all pushed against him and threatened him and shoved him out of the synagogue. To the rock! they cried. Previously blasphemers were thrown from the rock. When we realized that we threw ourselves between Yeshua and his persecutors. Yehuda especially screamed and cursed and manhandled them. Then Yeshua turned around and suddenly it was quiet and we heard him say in a calm voice: What you wanted to do others will do at the appointed time. You, though, should thank the Almighty that he spared you from the guilt of shedding blood.
He wrapped his cloak tightly around him and walked through them and out of the town. No one followed us.†††††††††
We left the town embittered, and not only against the scribes. Only why had Yeshua provoked them in the way he did? Was that necessary? What was the result? How were those provincial teachers expected to understand him? Nevertheless: that they wanted to kill him, that was incomprehensible. Furthermore, they had no authority to do so. In the occupied country only the Romans could give it. And on what did they base their judgment? On his words? What had they heard to make them so furious? ďI am he who fulfils the scripture.Ē† Did he claim to be the Messiah? And even if he had: death is not the penalty. Many wandered around the country and acted like and declared themselves to be the Messiah, and no one even threw a stone at them. What had really happened then? The scene was dark, the attack and the defense. A glance from him and they were defanged. They stood there like beaten dogs. And he simply walked away. But his words, those dark words: What you wanted to do others will do at the appointed time. What did he foresee? What was he conjuring up?
The only satisfied one, more than satisfied, was Yehuda. Rabbi, you spoke wonderfully. It was a great speech. The Year of Rejoicing! Thatís it. The abolishment of wage slavery, the return of expropriated land, land reform, equal distribution of property. Back to the life of our forefathers, where everything belonged to all before they came to Canaan and set up Baal over Adonai. Back to a time of justice. Forward to it! And you, Rabbi, you are the one who will lead us to it. You are the envoy, the anointed one!
What had come over Yehuda? His own words frightened him, as though another had spoken them. But he allowed himself no retreat. What has been said has been said. The anointed one, the envoy. Whatever his words were, he meant the revolt; it and only it could bring about a just situation for Yisrael, the old-new social order, and he meant Yeshuaís leading role.
Yeshua listened to Yehudaís long speech while walking and said nothing, so that Yehuda was also silent.
So we went silently on our way and didnít even ask where to, until Yeshua said: To Kerfarnachum.†††††††††††††††††††††
But we never got there.
Bad news held us up: Herod had succumbed to insanity after he had the Baptist killed. He no longer slept, wandered around the palace crying: The Baptist isnít dead, he has returned from the kingdom of the dead, kill him or he will kill me!
And he gave orders to kill the new Baptist. Everyone knew that his insanity was speaking. However, who could know if willing hands would not be found.
We must flee, Rabbi!
And we fled. Long wanderings by night, sleeping by day in hiding. We always found an empty sheep stall, a cave, a hearth, and always a well, a cistern, dates and wild berries and herbs, and the flight became a time of joy. No scribes, no sick people, no demands and the rabbi alone with us and we discovered what we had forgotten: that we were all young and could make jokes, even Yehuda. We had never seen him that way, and would never again. Once we organized a race, and he won. We forgot that we were fugitives being chased by secret bloodhounds. We crossed the Syro-Phoenician border at Tyros on the ocean. We were inland folks and never seen the ocean. We jumped in and were like children and splashed each other and dived under, almost all of us had grown up near the sea, we swam like fish. We were happy, simply happy, also Yeshua, and, happily exhausted, we slept on the beach.
But peace didnít last long. As we rested on the beach a woman saw us, and that was no accident, she had heard, who knows from whom, that the miracle rabbi, the great doctor, had come, and she appealed to him: My daughter is possessed, Rabbi, drive out the demon!
Leave the rabbi alone, Yehuda said, and stop talking about demons, she is sick, find a doctor.
The woman said: I had three doctors and none cured her, for itís no illness, itís a demon, drive him out, Rabbi!
She was so stubborn, so wildly believing, that Yeshua yielded. He said: Youíre Greek, arenít you? Why donít you appeal to your priests and your gods? Am I a Greek? I am a Jew, woman!
She said: Jew or Greek: you are one who can cure like Asculap, but Asculap is dead.
Yeshua smiled, but he didnít offer to help her, on the contrary, he said: To whom does one give bread: to oneís own children or to the stray dogs?
The woman was Greek and had the Greek sense of humor: Yes, she said, to the children of course, but crumbs fall from the table for the dogs.
Yeshua laughed. The woman was not diverted. She stood her ground and stared at him.
Yehuda said in Aramaic: Sheíll stand there until she gets him to do what she wants; we wonít get rid of her; she wants her miracle, and if we know the rabbiÖ
No miracles, only no miracles!
Shimon said: But her faith, her hope! How can he disappoint her.
Yeshua said nothing, he looked at the woman and she at him; it was obvious that she wanted to squeeze the miracle out of him, cost what it may. Drops of sweat broke out on his forehead. Finally he said: Go home, woman. Your daughter is healthy.
What was that supposed to mean? Didnít he believe in the illness? Or was it like with that Captain to whom he attributed healing power? Did it mean: Go and heal the child yourself?
However the woman understood it, she gave a cry of joy and ran off.
Thatís the end of our peace, I said. Now all the misery of Sidon will be at your heels, Rabbi! And it will be the same here as there: they demand miracles.
Let them come. They demand outer signs because their inner eyes are blind. Some among them will become seeing.
What about the girl, Rabbi?
She is cured.
Nothing more.† She is cured. Holding her mothersí hand, she ran to us and laughed.
The mother fell at Yeshuaís feet: Rabbi, during the time I was with you my daughter had a powerful attack, but then she suddenly lay still. And that was the moment when you said: the girl is healthy.
Stand up, woman! Yeshua said, and donít say anything about it, I beg you.
Too late: the city knew about it already and the army of the sick was on its way; all the misery descended on us. I was superfluous to that scene and thought: Itís a beautiful day, Yeshua doesnít need me, Iíll go to the ocean.
Miryam! Are you fleeing?
Denial didnít help with him, and all my escape routes were blocked.
We stayed a whole week in Tyros and surroundings. Then we went south along the beach to Ptolemais. There we received news from home: all was calm. So we dared to cross the border and make our way home. For a short while we stayed hidden on the north shore of the Kineret Sea. Shimon and Andrew had reliable friends there. Yehuda, who wasnít known there, acted as scout.
Itís calm, he said. Come out of your caves, desert foxes! And you wild pigeons: fly away! Itís springtime!
You are in such a good mood, Yehuda. Seeing you like this, rubbing your hands, makes me nervous. You donít have the smell of burning in your beard again, do you? What have you cut with your dagger? Grass and reeds?
You live in your fancies, Miryam. My dagger is rusty and my beard fusty, so what do you want?
Whatís the cause of your good mood?
Do I please you more when I grumble and gnash my teeth and yell dark prophesies?
Frankly, Yes, Yehuda. Cheerfulness doesnít fit you.
Youíre right, itís not my way. I stole it. It belongs to the favorite, the half-Greek, the philosopher. He only needs to talk nicely. He doesnít have to dirty his hands. He doesnít smell of smoke. He floats above it all. But one day it will be clear who loves Yisrael more, he or I.
What are you talking about? Why this anger from out of a blue sky? Did something happen between Yochanan and you?
Did it? It does and will, and it is not only between him and me. But what do you know? he sobbed.
Yehuda, donít run away. Sit down. Letís talk this over reasonably.
Reasonably? Iím the only reasonable one here. I am the one who sees Yisraelís condition, and I am the one who acts. The rest of you also see it, but all you do is talk and deplore.
You act, Yehuda? How?
Figure it out for yourself. Do you think I go around gathering news and informing people and forming groups and finding meeting place for fun? Thatís what I call acting, and that is reasonable, and necessary. How else will freedom and change come about?
Yehuda, the rabbi thinks otherwise: nothing outer changes, rather the inner man changes.
Yes, yes, Iíve heard him say it. Sounds nice. Iíve had it up to here though. People change? Push a millstone up a mountain. Itís possible. Oh sure. It only takes time, and thatís just what we donít have. The opposite must be done: we must change the situation and the people with adapt to it, voluntarily or by force. Donít you know our peopleís history? Donít you celebrate Chanukah with us? What are you celebrating? The memory of the Maccabeesí resistance. Arenít you a daughter of Maccabees?
Yehuda, here was a time when I was willing to fight. But then I threw my dagger away.
And if I bring you a new one? You donít want that? No? You give up? You desert me? So thatís the way it is.
He jumped up and walked into the night, mute with anger. He didnít scream. Why then do I still hear his scream? Is it our fault that he felt himself betrayed? That he felt that the one he loved so much had given up on him? That he saw himself as he unloved? And wasnít he right? Didnít we let him fall?†††††
Even beyond his death he remained the unloved, the lost. Only I saw that glance with which Yeshua looked at him during the arrest: it was the glance of love, and it gave him the deathblow.
The rabbi couldnít hear our conversation, but on the same night, when Yehuda returned, late, he called us to him.
Those of you who are fishermen know that a thrown out net does not only find good fish, but also all kinds of others. What do you do with them? You throw them back into the water. Is it not so? Listen: a farmer planted wheat, it grew nicely but there were many weeds. The harvest was free of weeds though. How did the weeds get there? Let us pull them out, said the workers. But the farmer said: Leave both to grow until the harvest. If you do the weeding now the danger exists that you will not only pull out the weeds, but the wheat sprouts as well.
What did the rabbi mean to accomplish with this story?
Philippos, the strict Baptist disciple, said: Yes, Rabbi, but when a tree bears bad fruit, one cuts it down. Didnít you once curse a fig tree because it bore no fruit in winter?
What are you talking about, Philippos! Youíre talking nonsense. Who told you that? And you believed it?
Whether it happened of not, cursed or not, Rabbi: you expect too much.
Do I demand figs from you in winter? Didnít the farmer have indulgence with the weeds? Doesnít the housewife wait patiently until the dough is leavened? And doesnít the shepherd look for every lost sheep? Why do you speak then of cursing? I donít want damning and destruction, but life. I have come to bring peace. But before peace exists, rupture arises.
Yehuda threw me a triumphant glance. Water for his mill, as he understood it. He understood wrongly.
Yeshua went on: Not that I want rupture. I want nothing but peace. Nevertheless peace comes only through determination. Truth is a sharp knife. One cannot serve two masters or fight in two camps at the same time. You cannot enter a house and give the greeting: Peace be with you! if you carry a dagger under your cloak. You cannot fill old skins with new wine without breaking them. You cannot say: I keep the commandment of love if you only love your friends and hate the others. Decide! You are free to leave me and go to those who think they can bring about peace through violence. I say to you though: if Yisrael chooses violence it will perish through violence, and no stone of Yerushalayim will stand on the other, and foxes and owls will reside in the templeís ruins.
I slept badly that night. We all slept badly. Finally I got up and crept out. A stoneís throw away I saw a brightness, as if the moon had fallen on a rock. But the moon had set long ago and the night was dark. It wasnít a fire either. It was a constant white light. I went a few steps closer, but then something stopped me as though I shouldnít cross a border.
But I saw that the brightness was a person.
His voice. At the same time the brightness went out and I could cross the border.
Come here, Miryam! Closer. Sit down. You have cold hands.
Yours are warm, Rabbi.
Why are you shaking, Miryam?
The Light, Rabbi! What was it?
You saw that? Itís nothing special.
I didnít dare to ask more, but I longed to lay my head on his knee, and I did it. But he pushed me gently off.
Not that, Miryam. Break the cord before it becomes a chain.
Hard words for one who loves, Rabbi.
He stroked my hair. Go and sleep, Miryam, itís getting cool.
I went. He demanded so much of me!
But I slept dreamlessly till morning. He woke me himself. Wake up, night wanderer. Weíre heading south!
His hair was damp with dew.
You havenít slept, Rabbi.††††††††††
The day became hot and there was a lot of dust in the air, but we walked steadily on. If the rabbi wasnít tired, we werenít either.
He was so far from tired that he preached that night in a small town. I however fell asleep while he was talking. I woke to childrenís cries and scolding by our people: Leave him alone, heís dead tired. Donít you understand that even he must sleep?
And then his voice: Come, come!
A group of children crowded around him, and those who could not yet walk were brought by their mothers. The blessing, Rabbi, the prophetís blessing!
How they pressed against him, and how he liked everything they did. They became bold and climbed onto his knees and kissed him, and he joked with them.
It was a very pretty picture, and new to us: the rabbi with children.
Yochana said: Look at that. The rabbi as father.
Suddenly she began to cry.
Would you like to return to your children, I asked her.
Canít I cry and be with the rabbi anyway?
Then Shoshana, who had no children, cried, and Shulamit cried because her sons, though always near, had so obstinately withdrawn from her, and I cried because they did.
Yochana misunderstood my tears. When you see that, Miryam, donít you wish to have children?†††††
No, I said. And with whom? And now enough of such talk. We have chosen, once and for all. Not halfway.
Finally the mothers left with their children, the cries and twittering were lost n the distance.
Yeshua watched the children leave, then said: Whoever does not become a child will not find the father.
At least that what I understood him to say. The others heard differently. As so often happened, each one heard his own voice: If you do not become like these children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Or: Only children find the kingdom of heaven. Or: Children live in the kingdom of heaven. Or: These children will experience the kingdom of heaven.
We puzzled over it.
Only Yehuda thought he understood: It clearly means that this generation will know the kingdom of peace.
You hear what you want to hear. He didnít say that.
Shimon said: What the rabbi means is that we should be so full of trust, so unaffected before Adonai as children before their father.
Yeah, yeah, said Yehuda, and believe that this father feeds and clothes us and corrects all the mischief weíve done and forgives us seven times seventy times. Thatís what you mean.
Shimon didnít hear the mockery. Yes, thatís what I mean, thatís what he meant.
Philippos said: There is a rejection of grownups in the rabbiís talk, that is, the clever, the suspicious, the profiteers and the powerful. To be a child means to be without property and power and to let yourself be led.†
Thomas said: Led by whom? Trust whom? Overly trusting children are good for nothing. Sheep who donít smell the wolf are torn apart.
Yochanan said: You must think higher. What Shimon said is correct, only I will say it differently: To be a child means to feel, or better still be certain that an primal harmony exists into which everything fits.
Thatís too high for me, Yehuda said. Too much dissonance pricks my ear for me to believe in this harmony.
I said: Yehuda, what are you working for?
For the liberation of Yisrael of course.
That means that you want happiness and peace for Yisrael. But that is harmony. How do you know anything about harmony? You remember only dissonance. You also have your dream, Yehuda. Perhaps it means: To be a child means to have a grand dream? Who gives up dreaming gives himself up.
Shimon said: Josephís dreams in Egypt.
Yes, I said, but not only Joseph was a dreamer. All Yisrael dreamed, and of what? Of Canaan, the land where milk and honey flows. And they followed the dream, and as in a dream they went through the sea and the desert, and whenever they stopped dreaming the dream and gave up hope, disaster struck, in order that they could continue to follow the grand dream that led them. If Yisrael hadnít dreamt we wouldnít be here.††††††††††††
Yochanan then asked: Has Yisrael arrived? Is this the dreamed of Promised Land? If it were, Yehuda wouldnít be still dreaming. We never have anything but our dreams, and they are our reality.
Thatís how you see it, Yehuda said. I see it differently. My dreams are quite a bit closer to reality than yours.
The talk of becoming a child still ran through my head the next day, and finally I asked Yeshua himself, and told him our solutions to the puzzle.
Tell me yours, Rabbi!
Answer me this: Where is the child you once were, Miryam?
I grew from it. It is in me. I was it and am it and always will be.
What is it then, that was and remains?
Just that: I
What is it? Donít you know? Iíll ask you another way: Where does what you call ďIĒ come from?
From my parents and grandparents.
Wrong. From them comes the form in which your I appears on this earth. Your I and every I is older than all ancestry. It is as old as the primal light. You are a spark from that light. The human being is light from light, spirit from spirit, child of the Eternal One.†††††††††††††
But didnít you say that one must BECOME a child? Now you say that one is a child at all times.
What one is, one must become. The divine child must always be born anew. Divine birth occurs unceasingly.
Rabbi, you give man a high rank. Why, then, is man so ungodly small and evil?
His rank will not be taken from him as long as the divine child in him cries for the Father.
Children cry for the Mother, Rabbi!
The Eternal One is Father and Mother.
And if man smothers the divine childís cry?
The divine is immortal. Miryam: you still think in years and centuries. The divine is measured otherwise, and everything reaches its goal. Each child finds its home. Read the prophet Yeshayahu. There is written: You come from nothing. But also: You are gods. Try to understand that, Miryam.
A few days later the question of immortality came from a completely different side and in a different way Ė from scribes who had come from Yerushalayim to speak with Yeshua. They were Sadducees and wasted no time.
Rabbi, we have a point of contention with the Pharisees. It is an old argument, as you know. Tell us your opinion. We value it. Tell us. Do you really believe, and is it to be believed, that a person who dies rises again to a new life?
It was clear to him what they were aiming at: they wanted to know on which side he stood, on theirs or that of the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection, which they denied. To believe in it or not determined how one stood politically. In fact, though, the idea of life after death was completely alien and without interest to them. They did not come for instruction, not at all. Therefore you could call their question a trap. So he answered them, as they deserved, with a counter-question:
What does the scripture say?
In Psalm 49 is written: ďTheir graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places for all generations. They run to the underworld like sheep and their form shall waste away. Humans are like animals that perish, and none sees again the light.Ē
I wanted to say: You donít think sharply enough when you opine that with the decay of the form the spirit also decays. I would have liked to tell them what Yeshua had taught me about immortality. What would he say to them?
He said: Explain yourselves!
All right, Rabbi, listen: Moshe wrote, and our law has remained so: If a man dies and leaves behind a wife, but no child, the dead manís brother must marry the widow. Right? Good, now listen further: There were seven brothers. The first one died and left a childless wife. The dead manís brother married her. But he died and left the same childless wife. The third brother married her, but he also died, childless. The fourth acted according to the law, but he also died and finally all seven died and, last of all, the wife died.
I couldnít hold back my laughter. I laughed and laughed.
Why is the woman laughing? One of the Sadducees asked. It is improper.
I said: Iím laughing because I like your story. Itís as funny as the one about the farmer who sends his servant to cut the wheat, and when he doesnít come back the farmer sends another to find him, but he doesnít return either, and so on with no end. Itís lucky there were only seven brothers and not twelve or twenty.
The Sadducees were angry. One said: Rabbi, send this woman away. What have women to say here?
Yeshua ignored their anger. He said: What do you want with that story? Speak!
Rabbi, the Pharisees believe in the resurrection of the dead. Tell us, if there is a resurrection of the dead, to which of the seven men does the one wife belong?
I thought: All seven.
But Yeshua said: None.
Why not? Because marriage and procreation belong to the transitory in time and space. In the great cosmic Shabbat nothing more will be begun and nothing ended.
They were silent and pensive. Yeshua continued: Donít you know the place in the Scripture when the Almighty speaks to Moshe from the burning bush: I am the god of Avraham, the god of Yisrael, the god of Jaíakov? My question to you: Is the Almighty a god of the dead? Does he tend to the dead in the underworld, does he reign over dust or over an unthinkable nothing? I tell you: He is a god of the living Ė or he is nothing. But if he is, then those who go to him live again. Doesnít that seem logical to you?
They were silent, thinking.
He went on: You await the Messiah and say he is the son of David. Do you know the Psalm in which David speaks of the Messiah and calls him his lord? How can he who is still to come be he who, at the same time, according to the Psalm, sits at Davidís right hand?
They had no answer to that. How were they supposed to understand such talk? Of us Yochanan was the first to understand and he translated it into his language: The logos was from the beginning, therefore he is the ever-present and eternal-future.
Yeshua, already leaving, turned around and said: Well said, Yochanan. I say to you all: before Avraham was, I am.
With that he left us. The sentence should have been: Before Avraham was, am I. But the I was emphasized in a terrible way, as though there were no other I but him.††
There were times when Yeshua seemed overwhelmingly great, especially to me. But he always quickly backed off like someone who shows something, then immediately covers it before you can see what it is and later you donít even know if you saw anything.
I was interested in the question whether all people were brought back to life again.
All! The Rabbi answered.
But will they all continue to live in the same way: the just and the unjust? Is there a judge who decides that?
He said: Arenít you able to free yourself from earthly ideas? Didnít I tell you about the divine child?
I didnít understand him. That high knowledge was swept away from me. As so often happened, I got the answer the next day when Yeshua made my question the theme of his sermon. We went over that sermon a hundred times, until finally no one knew the exact words. But the essence remained and lost none of its power.
This was the story:
At the end of time all the peoples of the earth will gather and there will be great confusion and fear. Then one appears and sits on the judgeís bench. With a single motion of his hand he divides the human throng and indicates to each his place, to the right or to the left. But no one knows why he or she is here and not there. The confusion doesnít last long and the judge speaks, he says to those on the right: ďYou gave me food when I was hungry; you bandaged my wounds and gave me medicine; you gave me shelter when I was hounded from my house; you opened your door to me when I was persecuted, homeless, a refugee from the powerful; you helped me obtain justice and freedom when I was thrown into prison because my cry for righteousness was misunderstood; you have worked for peace in my name and have been beaten for it. Come then, friends, into my kingdom.Ē To the other, however: ďYou feasted when I was hungry; you threw me out on the street and took my house; you spit on me because I was humble and from a foreign land; you handed me over to the persecutors when I asked for lodging for a night; you had me work for you and when I became weak you threw me out; you withheld my wages because you bought arms to wage war; You beat and killed me when I argued for peace and righteousness. Get out of my sight.Ē Then the ones so addressed all said: ďWe never encountered you, how could we have done good or evil to you?Ē But he said: ďYou never encountered anyone but me. What you did or denied to a living being you did or denied to me.Ē
The listeners departed silently.
I had questions though, and I didnít find the answers.
Rabbi, help me to understand that story. Who has the authority to judge? Who can accept and reject? Tell me: Who is the judge?
Donít you know? Is the judge another than the one being judged?
Rabbi, I wouldnít know where to put myself through my own insight. I would prefer you to be my judge.
I am it.
Rabbi, you contradict yourself. First you say the person judges himself. Now you say that you are the judge.
Is that a contradiction?
Who can understand that?
One day you will understand it?
Never! I cried and ran off. I felt pursued. He talks nonsense, I thought, and drives me crazy by it.
I stayed away a whole day. Iíll never go back, I thought. Life with him is unbearable. I must save myself.
I returned of course.
He stood at the entrance of the shack in which we were staying for a few nights.
We were worried about you, Miryam. Thomas and Philippos are looking for you.
And you? Werenít you worried? Youíre so sure of me, right?
He looked at me a long time. Scrutinizing. Is it too hard for you with me?
Yes, I screamed. You are unbearable.
Do you want to leave me?
I thought: Where should I go? I live from his presence.
But I said defiantly: Every rope breaks when one stretches it too tautly.
Come now, he said. Supper is ready.
That was all.
There was no longer talk of leaving.
We rested a couple of days.
I wouldnít have been so calm if Iíd known what happened to Thomas and Philippos the day they went looking for me. Mounted police stopped them and searched them for weapons. They had none. They were let go.
When I heard about it I was shocked. Yehuda! I thought, he makes himself and us suspicious, too often he disappeared into the night, too often he came home with an empty purse, too often he rubbed his hands together. And he did it with wrathful satisfaction.
Finally he could no longer keep the news to himself. He took me aside: Miryam, our thing is becoming clear and active.
Our thing? What thing?
What thing? Listen: Thereís a great guy among the rebels. He has a head on his shoulders, I tell you, and he has experience and an exact plan. He has his people in his hand. He decides whoís to be robbed, extorted, kidnapped, killed next. Heís clever: he never letís his people attack the Romans directly, only Jews, only those who give the Romans a hand, or also even a little finger. All Yerushalayim trembles. No matter how much the police search for them, they arenít caught. They work in small groups without a permanent base, sometimes here, sometimes there, sometimes at night, sometimes in broad daylight, and before they are even seen they disappear with money and hostages. Itís all according to the plan this head worked out. And imagine: he never appears himself. Only a few of his people have even seen him. Itís as though he didnít exist. But he does. Iíve met him. His name is Bar Abba.
How you admire him, Yehuda! You admire someone who uses violence. Why donít you desert to him? This Bar Abba is close to your heart! Thatís a man, right? Completely different from our rabbi. Say it openly! Why are you still with us?
Yehuda lowered his head.
Shall I tell you, Yehuda? Because youíve gotten it into your head that the rabbi is Yisraelís liberator, he, and no other. But if itís not that way?
He lifted his head high. Canít you bear to see me happy?
Yehuda! You arenít happy. You are deathly unhappy, and on the false path, and you have blocked the right one. You choose Bar Abba instead of Yeshua. You choose violence and destruction instead of peace.
He stopped listening to me, he walked away. How he fled from his own knowledge! How he fell head over heels into the abyss, which he had dug himself. Should I have spoken to the rabbi about him? Shouldnít he have forced him to decide? I said nothing. Let the weeds grow with the wheat. I had no right to judge.††††††††††††††††††††††
At that time we were on our way south and came to Jericho. A knife seemed the pierce my heart: the balsam forest that belonged to my father and that my brother sold in order to bring the proceeds with him to his desert cloister; the forest was no longer there! Cut down. In its place stood one of Herodís new palaces. As though what he had inherited from his father wasnít enough for him: the villas, baths, palaces, the racetracks, the theater. Another palace then. And on the ground that was so fertile.
Whatís the problem, Miryam? Everything is transient. Does your heart hang on a balsam forest?
Iím not crying because of that.
If Yeshayahu were here he would cry out what he cried out and wrote a thousand years ago: ďWoe to them who place house upon house, until no room is left and are only landlords.Ē
Eight hundred years ago, Miryam, to be exact. But do you know the next verse? ďMany houses will lay in ruins, the others empty of people.Ē Nothing stays as it is. Some day fertile land will be here again, sheep will graze and people full of hope will live in the houses. To weep over the passing of the transient is foolish.
Rabbi, the transient is beautiful and the intransient is invisible, as though it didnít exist.
O relapsed one! Forgetful! Of little faith!
Rabbi, sometime I think: you are only a dream Ė my dream, transient like everything.
But I AM! I am he who IS. I am who stays. I am the intransient dream, which is reality.
The word, not spoken louder than the preceding ones, roared in my ears like the sound of the ram-horn. I was dizzy.†††††
Come now! Yeshua said, now in his normal voice.
Someone in Jericho had announced our arrival. The people were already streaming toward us. There was so much pushing and shoving on the narrow alleys that I was afraid. There couldnít only have been rebels among the crowd, but also informers from Yerushalayim. We were under suspicion. To what extent we would learn later. Nothing happened yet. Nothing, except that Yeshua stood before a mulberry tree and called up into the branches: What are you doing up there? Come down!
The one he addressed called down: I am so short, Rabbi, that if Iím down there I wonít see you.
Yeshua laughed. Come, youíll see me better. Iíll have supper with you if youíll invite me, Zacheus.
Zacheus (where did Yeshua know him from?) slid down the trunk and stood in front of Yeshua. He was really very small and one could have taken him for a child as he now jumped for joy. Rabbi, will you honor my house?
The people around us muttered: He goes to this tax collector, to this chief thief, the swindler; doesnít the Rabbi know anything about him?
Zacheus must have heard them. He hung his head.
Yeshua lifted him by his mop of hair: Is what they say true?
Itís true, Rabbi.
Yeshua laughed again. But to the others he said: And you? Have you never swindled, or taken or given bribes, never overcharged? Are you all just ones? Is this one the only sinner?
The retreated, embarrassed and annoyed.
Zacheus, though, said: Rabbi, you turned my heart inside out like a sack, and look what falls out: a thiefís booty, Rabbi! But I swear to you: today I will give back everything unjustified that I own. Not only that: I will give back fourfold to those I tricked and half of all my possessions to the poor.
Enough, enough! Yehuda murmured, enough contrition.
But Yeshua put his arm around Zacheus and said: I have come to seek lost sheep, and I find them. Come, take me to your house.
Yehuda said: Iím going to eat somewhere else. I canít stand such fuss and blabbing. Giving money to the poor Ė What good is that? They run through it in three days. One must be able to handle money, otherwise it runs through your fingers and then look for it in the sand.
What was awkward with Yehuda was that you could never call him completely right or completely wrong. He was against the rich, but gave great importance to money for, say what you will, money makes you happy, of course only if all have it and all have it equally. Equality meant for him equality of possessions and righteousness meant taking away the possessions of the owners and distributing them to all. Then there will be peace. In his thinking it was all so simple.
We only stayed one day in Jericho because the town was full of soldiers and mounted guards. It was already too close to the capitol and also too close to Alexandrion, where Herod had his treasury and where an important robbery had already taken place. The area was closely guarded.
We stayed overnight outside of Jericho and kept hidden. However, the next morning the word was out: The miracle rabbi is here!
Ever and again the same show!
I walked among the groups of waiting people, pretending that I didnít know the rabbi, and asked them what they thought of him and what they expected.
Why did you come here if you donít who he is? Donít be so curious, Woman!
Another said: Heís a wonder worker. Didnít you hear what he did in Galilee? He touches the sick and they are well.
And how he preaches! We are already better because of his words.
They say heís Elijah, the prophet, who has returned.
Another with his hand before his mouth: Heís on our side against the Romans and the rich. If the people get behind him something can happen. Do you understand?
Another pushed him: Stop blabbing. Thatís dangerous talk. Who knows who she is?
I went further with my question. One said: Donít get involved. Who knows what theyíre cooking up?
This rabbi, he talks piously, and afterwards you notice that youíve heard a call for revolution. He plants poisonous seeds.
A youth who heard that said: He cured me of epilepsy.
Someone took him aside: Who told you to say that? How much did they pay you?
The youth yelled: Iím telling the truth and you know it. What has the good rabbi done to you?
I took the boy with me to Yeshua and told him how he had defended him so courageously. Yeshua put his hand on the youthís head and said: On such as you I build my kingdom.
The youth said: I want to stay with you.
Yeshua said: Youíre too young. In a couple of years you will be one of mine. Whatís your name?
The rabbi said to me: He will share my fate.
What do you mean, Rabbi? Your words are chilling.
That evening when the people had gone, cured or not, in any case comforted, and we were all together alone, Yeshua told the story that caused me to understand in a flash what he meant by what he called his fate, and what the youth would share:
A man planted a vineyard, leased it and left the country. At the appropriate moment he sent a messenger to pick up the contracted amount of grapes and wine. The lessee beat him and sent him away with empty hands. The owner sent another messenger. The same happened as with the first messenger. He sent one after the other. In vain. Several were even beaten to death. Finally he sent his own son. They will recognize my son and wonít dare to lay a hand on him, for he is the heir and their future lord. But the lessee said: If I kill the son, there is no longer an heir and the whole vineyard will be mine, for the owner is far away and will not return. So he killed the son. What will the lord of the vineyard do when he finds out?†
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth: the lord will come and have the lessee and all his helpers and helpersí helpers killed.
Another said: What a foolish lord! He learns nothing from experience.
A poor knower of men, that lord. He should have known beforehand what the lessee was like.
He should have given the messengers armed protection, and especially his own son, after all that happened.
I said: Rabbi, the story is terrible and completely inconceivable. Why did he send his own son to his death? For thatís what he did. Shouldnít he have foreseen that?
But if the son went of his own accord?
The father should have forbidden him to do it.
If the son did not allow himself to be held back?
The father should have locked the doors and gates, installed steel bars. Is the father not lord? Must not the son obey him?
So the father sent him after all?
So is it.
How can you say then that he went of his own accord?
Yeshua didnít answer. That story left me no peace. What did he mean by it? It seemed dark and terrible. I didnít want to understand it.
The next day I held on to Yeshuaís arm: Rabbi, that story! Who is the father, who the son, who are the messengers, what does the whole thing mean?
Youíre usually so clever at solving riddles.
How can you joke? That story makes me afraid.
So you did understand it?
Rabbi, who is the father who sends his son to his death?
Who is father, who son?
At that time I put those words aside. What I understood was this: he spoke of his own death.
Yeshua, I said, your death will be mine.
He hit me on the arm with his open hand. A rectification. Thatís what you think, Miryam? You would desert my cause? Not accept the inheritance?
You are my life, Rabbi, and if you go you take my life with you, even if I stay here as long as you so order.
Why are you speaking of life and of death, unteachable one? I will conquer death through my dying. I am he who remains, I am the living, I am the life. Whoever loves me lives and learns not to know death. With that he left me standing there. I understood nothing of all that. Nothing except that he would die. I wasnít fooled by him speaking of victory. There are victories which are defeats. Now I know better: there are defeats which are victories. The defeats of the divine must always be victories of the divine.
I know that now. But then I went out and wandered through the fields. Heís going to die. One day heíll no longer be here. But when? He didnít speak as though it were very far away. And if he is gone before his work was done? What work though? Deep down didnít I share Yehudaís hopes? Didnít I want the victory of my people over the Romans, a free Yisrael? Wasnít it Yeshua who was giving up?
I threw myself into a thorn bush: let the thorns scratch my face and arms.
I fell asleep.
Yehuda found me. He pushed me with his foot as if I was a cadaver, but there was fear in his eyes. He did it with clumsy care, almost gentleness. But he immediately regretted having shown emotion and he said roughly: Come on! Weíve been waiting for you for hours with supper. Then early to bed and up early. Weíre going to Yerushalayim. Arenít you glad?
O Yehuda: Yerushalayimís ground is hot.
All the better: grapes ripen sooner on hot earth.
Grapes, yes. But weíll burn our feet.
Come, you dark prophetess!
Rabbi, I said that evening, do you really want to go to Yerushalayim. People are waiting for your words in many other places.
Spoken to the wind.
We went carefully though, in small groups. Yeshua took me with him, Yochanan, Shimon, Thomas and Philippos. Peaceful people. Inconspicuous. We thought. Why then those sidelong glances here, joyful greetings there? I would have much preferred that no one notice us. Why then did something have to happen that attracted the glances to us? And whose glances, what glances!
A beggar sat at the cityís gate. He was blind. I said: Yehuda, give him something.
But Yeshua held us back: Patchwork!
The he asked the beggar, whose hand was stretched out to him: How long have you been blind, friend?
Since birth. Why do you ask?
Yeshua pulled his eyelids up and turned his face to the sun.
Heís really blind, Yeshua said.
Of course Iím blind. Are you a physician?
I am one who can heal.
I pulled Yeshuaís arm: Rabbi, no, not here on this hot ground! Nothing that looks like a miracle, I beg of you.
He shook off my hand: Donít you want me to help where I can?
He said to the blind man: Keep still. Iím going to rub something on your eyes, it doesnít hurt. Do you want me to cure you? Do you believe that I can?
Cure me, Lord, whoever you are.
So Yeshua took some earth, mixed it with spittle and applied it to the blind eyes.
That feels cool, the blind man said.
And now, Yeshua said to Shimon, take him to the pool and wash his eyes out.
Rabbi, I said, what should I wish for: that he sees or that the healing fails?
Who asked for your wishes? Be silent and wait.
How strict he could be. He wasnít so strict with anyone else.
So I kept silent and waited. We all sat there silently and waited.
What a scream came from the pool!
I see! I see!††††
Translation: Frank Thomas Smith
Continued in the next issue of Southern Cross Review