by Luise Rinser
We began our wanderings again, this time towards the north. It was hot and dusty after a long period of dryness. We longed for the green Galilee and the soft sea. On the way we went through the province of Samaria. Passing through Samaria was always somewhat of an adventure, because hostility existed between Judea and Samaria. An ancient hostility that flared up again and again. The Samaritans had, contrary to the law, intermarried with the uncircumcised, and in order to preserve their peace and unity, had to change much of the old law. They recognized only the book of Moshe from the Holy Book, everything else being for them trimmings and not holy. Therefore the circumcised in Judea forbade them access to the temple. From then on they prayed like the gentiles in the open air on Garizim Hill, their faces turned away from Yerushalayim. One might think they would be on better terms with the Romans. But no, they were the Romanís most vehement enemies, and of all who cooperated with them: the high-ups in Yerushalayim. The hostility was equal on both sides. In Judea Iíd heard it said: to accept a piece of bread from a Samaritan is as bad as eating pork. So the Samaritans were considered unclean. Yeshua was always indignant when the Samaritans were agitated against, and he lost no opportunity to intervene for them and bring about peace.††††††††††††††
Once, when there was strife between the provinces, a scribe asked him: Rabbi, is the commandment from the All-High that one should love oneís neighbor valid for you as well?
What do you mean by this question?
Iím just asking.
You people never just ask. I will answer your question. Listen: Once a merchant of Judea went from Yerushalayim to Jericho. Thieves attacked him there, knocked him down, emptied his pockets and left him lying there. A man from Yerushalayim passed by, a priest. He saw the wounded man lying there, shrugged, and went on. Then a second man came, a Levite, saw the wounded man, and passed him by. Then a merchant of Samaria came, who dismounted from his horse, bandaged the manís wounds, lifted him onto his horse, brought him to the next hostel where he had him attended to. Before he rode on, he gave the innkeeper money and said: Whatever you spend in excess of this, I will pay you when I return. Now tell me, friend from Yerushalayim, which one kept the commandment of love?
To have pitted a Samaritan against a Jewish priest, that was going far. The scribe walked away frowning, and surely he spread the story around, and surely it was exploited: That Nazarene is on the side of he Samaritans, listen, listen!†††
So we entered the unloved province. Halfway between Yerushalayim and Nazareth is the city of Sichar. Not a noteworthy city. But before its walls is the famous well that our forefather Jaíakov had dug at the foot of Mount Garizim, on the land that Jaíakov gave to Josef. The well was deep and still had good water. Surely all Sichar took water there as in the old days. Yeshua sat near the cistern while we went into the city to buy food.
As he sat there, a woman came with a jar. When she noticed from his speech that he was from Galilee, he became like air for her. Whether a Jew from Judea or from Galilee: it made little difference.
This Galilean overlooked her hostility however. He said amiably (and how amiable he could be!): Please give me drink!
The woman said bitingly: You, a Jew from there, ask me for water? Arenít you afraid of becoming unclean?
He didnít react to the sarcasm. He said: If you only knew!
If you knew who it is who asks,
What would happen then?
Then you would ask him to give you water.
Youíre a strange one, you. First you ask me to give you water, now you want to give me water. How then, without a pail?
Again he didnít react to the sarcasm. He said: I can give you the water of life.
She laughed. So youíre one of those from the market who offer the elixir of life that gives eternal youth.
He said: I speak of water of another kind, and of a life of another kind.
You are making me curious, stranger.
Woman, tell me: when you drink the water from this well is your thirst quenched forever?
Of course not. Especially not in this heat.
If there was a water that quenches all thirst forever?
It would be practical. Then I wouldnít have to come here every day dragging this jar. Unfortunately, this fabulous water doesnít exist, or does it?
She was sarcastic, but also curious and miracle addicted as well. Maybe this stranger really had a special kind of water, like a curative water.
Yeshua heard her thoughts and said: I will give you living water, but first go home and bring your husband.
My husband? I have none.
So is it, said he: You have had five husbands, and the one you have now isnít yours.
That hit home.
How do you know that, stranger?
She said: Are you clairvoyant, or what? Maybe even a prophet?
He still smiled.
She was confused. What are you then? Thereís something about you that makes me cold and hot.
Sit here, Samaritan. Tell me, whence comes the hostility between you and us?
Donít you know? Itís an old story. In your eyes we are unfaithful, lawbreakers, outcasts. You have forbidden us the temple. So we pray outdoors.
So it is. My question to you: Is it a sin to pray to the Eternal One outdoors?
You ask me that. You tell me!
Listen, the time will come when we will honor the Eternal One neither there in the temple nor on your mountain, but in spirit. Do you understand that?
Not really. Explain it.
Is the Eternal One the god of the Jews of Judea, or also the god of the Samaritans?
And is he only the god of the Jews?
I think: the Eternal One is the god of all.††††††††
Well said. And where does the Eternal One reside?
He doesnít reside anywhere. Heís too big to reside.
He doesnít reside then in the temple?
No. But where?
Yeshua (she told us this later) pointed to her, then to himself.
Do you mean that he is within the person?
So is it. He is spirit. And when two people are together, he is the what binds them. Do you understand?
I sense what you mean. I have always thought that the right description of the Eternal One is still lacking. But who are you to know the right description?
When he was silent, she insisted: Tell me, who are you, stranger?
Then he looked at her in a way that frightened her, a fright of joy, she said, and suddenly she knew: He is more than a prophet.
This knowledge hit her like lightning and she jumped up and ran into the city as if swept by a storm, and there she cried out: At Jaíakovís well is a prophet, come, see for yourselves! He knows what is hidden and the future, come!
The ran with her back to the well, where the stranger sat playing with a puppy that had come up to him.
We had just returned from the city with bread and wine, which we offered to Yeshua. He gave his bread to the puppy and ate nothing. I have other nourishment, he said. That was puzzling.
The people from the city came running, a great crowd of them, that frightened us, did they intend to attack us? We didnít know what the woman had told them.
They cried: Shalom, Shalom!
That was an offer of peace. We were astonished, and more so when they invited Yeshua to the city to preach.
Yehuda said softly: Donít trust them! It could be a trap.
But Yeshua stood up and went with them to the city.
We stayed there a whole week and Yeshua preached in the synagogue and in the squares and alleys, and the people were insatiable to hear him.
In secret they asked us: This rabbi of yours, is he the Messiah?
We asked back: Who do you think he is?
A dispute broke out: the Baptist returned form the kingdom of death. Elijah. Jeremiah. A new prophet. OrÖ?
When we didnít answer, they said: Itís probably still a secret, who he is, and you may not say, is that so?
I said: He is a great rabbi. Isnít it enough for you to know that?
It wasnít enough, but they came to no end with their thoughts and talk.
Yeshua said:† It is time to leave.
There was no holding him, although the people of Sichar begged him to stay. When he decided to leave, he left. It was as though someone was calling him and he had to follow, whatever the cost.
We had gone a short way when a young man ran after us. I had noticed him during the past week. He was always around Yeshua and hung on his every word. What did he want now?
Rabbi, I want to be your disciple. I want to become perfect. Until now I have complied with everything the law and commandments prescribe. Now I want to do more. Tell me what I must do to be your disciple!
Yeshua looked at him for a long time, then he said: Go home, divide up your land and distribute it so that every worker has a piece large enough so he can live from it, and give away all that you have. Then come!
Divide up the land? Rabbi, you donít know what such an estate is. Dividing it up would make it no longer profitable. Such a property must be held together. And the workers, do you think they have a clear vision of the whole? They could not manage it without me. Furthermore, they donít want a change, they are well off with me. It could not be better for them. If I gave them the land, they would have to work twice or three times as much in order to produce the same harvest, and if the harvest failed they would have nothing. I give them security.
Yeshua listened silently, drawing in the sand, then he said: You have spoken long and reasonably. Go home and take care of your property. Where your treasure is, there also is your heart. You cannot be my disciple.
Rabbi, I will give more alms, and I will raise my workersí pay. Is that nothing?
Yeshua said, turning to us: The reasoning of the children of this world hinders their ascent. See how the bird is stuck to the lime twig!
To the young man he said: Look at these people, my young man. They have given up all they had, and have traded the great freedom for it. Friend: It is easier for a shipís cable to pass through a needleís eye than a property owner into the kingdom of the spirit.†
But Rabbi, IÖ
Yeshua cut him off. Go! Go and learn that your property is consumed by rust and moths, that the roof over your head falls in, that your land will become desert. Perhaps, when your property is taken from you by violence will you realize: it was nothing.
The young man hung his head, then he went away, very slowly at first, then he ran as though chased. He fled from the rabbi, he fled from himself.
Yeshua watched him sadly.
Yehuda said: If it were up to me I wouldnít have let him go. I would have said to him: Lease your property if you donít want to divide it up and give it away, and bring the rent here and stay with us. Now he goes away and accumulates more money and has a half-hearted guilty conscience.
Shimon also had an objection: Rabbi, havenít you denied him the great opportunity to free himself. Werenít you too hard?
And Jochanan said: If property is nothing, then one can have property as though one had nothing. We have nothing and live as though we had property. Arenít both illusions: to have and to have not? All that matters is knowledge.
Yehuda derided him: Tell that to the farmers who have been chased from their land! Say: that is all nothing. You can live from nothing as well as from something. That doesnít work. Share: yes. Dispossess the wealthy: yes. But own absolutely nothing, Rabbi, you canít demand that of the people.
Yeshua said: Who demands it of all? Whoever longs for the eagleís freedom chooses freedom from property. Whoever prefers to stay in the nest chooses property.††
Jochanan said: Rabbi, we, your disciples, have given up everything for this freedom.†
Yeshua said: Do you expect praise for that? And do you think that you have given everything up because you have given up property? There are many kinds of property and many kinds of attachment. Be careful that you are not attached to your thinking! Only he is free who renounces his I. Whoever gives up himself has the fullness of life. Freedom from the I: that is the kingdom of peace. Can you grasp that?
With that he left us standing there.
Yehuda said: I understand that so: whoever gives his life for the liberation of his people liberates himself.
The rest of us were silent.
Shortly thereafter I saw how Yehuda secretly counted the contents of his two purses. He touched the coins with his slender fingers so gently that they could have been a loverís skin. He had never had one. His only love (we thought) was Yisrael. He was ready to die for her.
In the evening Yeshua told the story of the sheep who separated from the flock and was lost. The shepherd left the flock and went to find the sheep. He found it in a thorn-bush, freed it, carried it home on his shoulders, called all the neighbors and rejoiced.
Shimon said: Yes, but what about the other sheep? What if meanwhile the wolf came? The shepherd saved one sheep and abandoned the rest.
I said: The story is nice and comforting, but will every sheep by rescued at the right time by the right shepherd? Wonít many sheep be torn apart by the wolf before the shepherd notices their absence?
Miryam, you are thinking in hours, days, years. We have an śon before us.
All right, but a dead sheep is a dead sheep and stays one, or doesnít it?
There is no dead sheep. There is no death. Only transformation. No sheep is abandoned.
That would be great, said Yehuda. Unfortunately though, I have seen many dead sheep and lambs. And they werenít the only ones Iíve seen perish, ripped apart by the Roman wolf. Where is the shepherd, Rabbi?
Listen to another story, perhaps youíll understand then. A man had two sons. The elder one stayed with his father and helped him with the work. The younger asked for his inheritance and went abroad. There he squandered his inheritance and became as poor as a beggar, to the point where he scraped his food from garbage pails. One day he was so far gone that he told himself: either I die in poverty or I return home. But havenít I lost the right to return home? I will be hounded from the farm. It will be hard. But I must try. Of course I canít expect father to accept me as a son, but maybe he can use me as a stable boy. So he started homeward, his heart full of deep shame and worry. His father saw him at a distance. Now judgment will fall over me, the son thought, and he fell to his knees. The father, however, paid no attention to that, or to the tears of regret, but he lifted him up and embraced him. You are back again, child. Come, we will celebrate your return. The older brother saw this and was angry. All this fuss over a tramp! No embraces for me, who worked so hard for father, no feast, nothing. The father heard his grumbling. My dear, you were always with me and safe, your brother was as good as dead for me though, and now he has come back to life. Shouldnít I be happy?
Yehuda said: Nice justice. One can therefore do no better than run away, squander his inheritance, live a dissolute life and, when thereís no other choice, return home, beg for forgiveness and everything is again in order. What kind of story is that, Rabbi?
Yeshua looked at him in a way that made me shiver. What was going on between the two of them?
Yehuda continued: The story is ambiguous. On one hand: the son is worthless, is nevertheless loved like a Benjamin, very well, maybe the father liked him the way he was, a lover of adventure, maybe the son did what the father would have liked to do, and didnít, and so there was love and understanding. Or did you tell the story in order to emphasize the previous one: the father and the shepherd, they are one and the same. The great charitable one. Also fine. But: who is the lost sheep, who the lost son?
Yeshua was silent and Yehuda went on: This son, is he not a wretch? That he isnít ashamed to beg, and worse still: returning home after the defeat! Was there no other way for him than crawling home to his father? This story, Rabbi, is the story of a manís failure. Doesnít it mean in essence: stay comfortably home, stay in the accustomed, no risks, it will fail anyway if the father doesnít intervene. He doesnít change anything though, he only puts everything in order, in the old, the habitual way. You contradict yourself, Rabbi. Donít you, especially you, always talk about change. New wine belongs in new skins, you said, and one doesnít patch a shredded coat. That is the radical repudiation of the old. And now this story about repentant return to the old. Which is valid?
You see contradiction where there is none. The father is the same, certainly. But the son is transformed, and therefore the father is also transformed. Without departure and homecoming everything would remain the same, the old. But departure and homecoming cause a radical change in the whole. The old becomes the new. What remains is the fatherís love.†††††††††††††††††
I see, said Yehuda, and walked away, and as he went I felt a pain in my heart and didnít know what the hurt was.
Where did Yehuda go when he disappeared so abruptly? He never said and Yeshua didnít ask, he allowed him complete freedom.
Yehuda came back late that night. I was worried and stood on the road to look for him. Finally he came, whistling as he walked, he was unusually cheerful.
Whatís that smell on you, Yehuda? Smoke! The smell of burning!
Where thereís fire, thereís smoke.
You were very close to fire, Yehuda.
Very close. Listen: the people who were driven from their land burned down three estates. As a warning, do you understand?
I understand. But you, why were you so close?
Not to put the fire out. Donít ask more now.
Yehuda, do you want to cast suspicion on us? Doesnít the rabbi already have enough enemies?
Mustnít someone like him have enemies? Or do want him to be everyoneís darling?
After two more days journey we crossed the border into Galilee and came to the town of Nain. We wanted to go around the town, but a funeral procession held us up, weeping and lamenting. A girl was on the bier, or was it a boy, I donít know anymore. I also donít know how it came about that Yeshua asked the bearers to put down the bier, or rather, I didnít know then. So they put the bier down and he lifted the cloth, then he said: But the child is not dead, she is sleeping.
Not dead? Of course she is. She died yesterday and we must bury her soon, for in this heat putrefaction sets in quickly.
I tell you: the child is not dead! Tell me her name!
They told him, I forget it. Yeshua called the child by its name and touched its forehead. Then she opened her eyes and looked around in wonderment. They bearers ran away terrified, the funeral procession broke up, the mother screamed and wrung her hands. They all thought what happened was hallucination or black magic. We too.
But Yeshua took the childís hand and said: You have slept long. What did you dream?
The child smiled at him: Of you! I saw you in my dream, and now you are really here.
Gradually the people dared to come closer. But Yeshua left quickly. We followed feeling numb.
When we were far enough from the town and sat down in the shade, he said: Whatís the matter? What are you so surprised about?
Rabbi, we arenít surprised, we are afraid. Who are you that you waken the dead?
What do you mean? The child wasnít dead.
But how did you know that?
The silver cord was not yet broken, life had not yet escaped. One can feel that when one has learned to heed the signs of nature. You can also learn it. One must only be attentive. Nature teaches us everything, and everything is so simple.
Nothing was simple, everything became more difficult.†
At first it seemed the day would be beautiful and peaceful. The homeland lay green and soft before us, and the sea was still and blue. And the accustomed smell of fish and reeds. And boats out in the water, and the springing of silver fish.
It was Yeshua who had the idea to rent a pair of boats and row across the sea, from the south the whole way to Kefarnachum. Gradually we forget the dead and yet not dead child, and we were merry, Yeshua as well.
No sooner had we reached land on the northern shore than we heard roaring. It wasnít human, but not animal either, and it came from one of the deserted cave-graves. I remembered immediately: that was our childhood terror.† Donít go to the cave-graves, the children were told, the wild man is there, who will grab and eat you, listen, he is rattling his chains!
Sometimes we children really heard it. He had broken the chains again, with which he was bound while in a deep sleep.
The man was sick, an epileptic, raving mad, a violent maniac. He is possessed, it was said, and his strength comes from the demon within him.
Rabbi, where are you going? The man is dangerous.
But Yeshua kept going, right to the cave from which the roaring came.
Rabbi, he will kill you!
Yeshua motioned us back with a firm gesture and went on. We trembled from fright.
But it turned out completely different from what we expected. Incomprehensibly different. As Yeshua stood before the cave, the mad man sprang out. This was no childhood terror, no boogieman; he was as we imagined Beelzebub, the highest demon, to be. Yeshua stood still. The madman also stood still. They stood three paces from each other. Suddenly a scream and the madman fell to the ground. Yeshua knelt over him, touched him gently and spoke to him. We didnít hear what he said. The madman reared up again and struck out about him with hands and feet. Then he lay still. Yeshua continued to stroke his matted hair and speak to him as though to a child to be calmed. After a while he said to us: Now he sleeps. When he wakes up tomorrow morning he will remember nothing, he will be healthy.
We still trembled, and in leaving one or another if us turned to look back.
That evening I dared to ask the question: Rabbi, who are you that you can do such things?
He said: Do you want to know? So listen: First of all you may not have a shred of fear.
The way you say that, Rabbi, is what makes one afraid, why werenít you afraid?
Why should I have been afraid? The man was sick. His body and his soul fought each other, and no one helped him. Everyone was afraid of him, and that made him strong. When he saw that I was without fear he surrendered to the stronger one, and the stronger is always he who desires nothing for himself and fears nothing.
Yes but: he was sick and you cured him. How do you do that? Does the art of healing lay in your hands. Tell us your secret!
You talk as though I were a sorcerer. It is no secret. It is very simple. When does a person become ill? When his juices are out of balance. Why is the balance disturbed? Because he forgets that he is a child of the Eternal One, to whom no harm can be done. Whence comes this forgetting of the exalted protection? From the lack of love. When a person is unloved, he lacks protection. Negative forces attack him and he falls ill. Give him love and trust, and his balance is restored and he is healthy.
We understand, Rabbi, but who can love as you do?
As though the teaching were to be continued and what was said was to be immediately confirmed, we experienced another healing the next day.††††††††††
Just before we reached Kefarnachum, a helmeted rider, a Roman captain, rode up to us, sprang from his horse, saluted the rabbi in a military manner and said: Rabbi, my son, my only son, is dying. Come, help him!
I am not a doctor, nor a magician.
Rabbi, I am a captain and have officers and soldiers under me. When I say to one of them: Come! he comes, and when I say: Go! He goes.
I am not a captain and I have no soldiers.
You have a different power of command. Rabbi: a word from you and the illness leaves my son.
Do you believe that, man?
To us he said: If only Yisrael had such faith!
To the captain he said: Because you have the strength to believe that I can heal, you also have the strength to heal your son yourself. Do you believe yourself capable of such faith?
If you say it is so, then it is so.
Ride home now. You son is healthy.
The captain saluted again, jumped on his horse and rode off.
We were completely confused. Speechless. I was afraid of what could happen if the boy died meanwhile.
But Yeshuaís word: your son IS healthy! Did he really say that? Yes, everyone heard it. There was no doubt. Not: he WILL BE healthy. He IS healthy.
I thought that the illness could have been at its high-point and turned around, so to speak. A crisis, then recovery, very sudden, that happens. Then Yeshua would be a clairvoyant. That also happens. That he heard the unspoken, what was only thought, and in time and space saw what lay distant, that we had often experienced. Why couldnít it be the same now?††
Again I thought: WHO are you, who in fact are you?
Behind me I heard an exchange of words: Yehuda and Jochanan.
Yehuda: Well, thatís something new, a healing at a distance, that is impressive, itís convincing, it can bring in hundreds of followers.
And Jochanan: You always think in numbers! You always have something to count: coins, distances, people.
And you? You leave the numbers to me, itís not worthy of you, but Iím good enough for it. Someone has to dirty his hands counting money, someone has to reckon how long the money will last and how far it is from here to there, someone must keep his feet on the ground so the others can fly. And then look down from above, right?
The argument would have continued if a cry hadnít suddenly come from the direction of the city, a cry of joy, that was soon clear, and through the cityís gates a mob rushed out, led by the captain, on foot now and without a helmet and without attention to military bearing he ran, he tripped, had to be helped up, and he cried: My son lives! My son is healthy!†
Our entrance into the city of Kefarnachum was embarrassingly splendid. They cheered Yeshua like a homecoming hero who had just won a great battle. Meanwhile the news of his healing of the cave dwellers arrived: The rabbi spoke to the demon, to Beelzebub himself, no, there were many demons, and when the rabbi expelled them they rushed into the swine and drowned themselves in the sea.
I laughed out loud. The poor swine. Which swine? Not Jewish ones naturally. We didnít eat pork. They were Greek swine from over there, from Decapolis, and now they are drowned in our Jewish sea. Stupid people, I said, but who heard me in all the jubilation.
And then to top it off the news from Nain: The rabbi awoke a dead child, it lay already in the grave, it stank, and when the rabbi cried: Come out! It came out, jumped around and lived. Go to Nain and see for yourselves!
Rabbi, I said, stop this nonsense, itís bad for your reputation.
Yehuda said: Leave them their belief. The main thing is that they have hope. The lame walk, the blind see, the dead rise, thatís what they heard, thatís in the Holy Writ, it serves them as a sign.
What of, Yehuda, what of?
What of? About whom is it said?
Be quiet, Yehuda, Yeshua said angrily. Weíre not staying here. Leave without drawing attention, a few in this direction, a few in that direction. Weíll meet in Shimonís house.
He drew his cloak tightly around him and left.
Yehuda said: He doesnít want to be it. If only he wanted it!
He ground his teeth.
Jochanan said: That wonít do. Then everything is false. The spirit becomes course material that way. They will never ascend. The kingdom of peace will always be a dreamland for them, flooded with milk and honey. What a foolish people.
Before anyone in the city noticed, we had disappeared. We stayed hidden for a few days in friendsí houses by the sea. Finally, though, they discovered us and called for the rabbi.
Before he showed himself to them, I said: Rabbi, no more miracles, please! Otherwise everything will go wrong. The must learn to see you, you, not miracles, or what to them are miracles. YOU are the miracle, Rabbi! Donít descend to them, lift them up to you!
What a mob of peoples awaited him! They came from everywhere. We heard Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Phoenician, Syrian. Not even the Baptist drew such crowds.†††††††††††††
The people camped on the slopes. There must have been many hundreds. A thousand perhaps, or more. And stragglers kept coming. What did they expect? What dream led them there? What desperate hope? Hope? In what? Foolish people, I had said. In my heart I took it back. Poor people, I said, too long, too harshly tested people. They had always trusted the Eternal One and the holy covenant. That they still hoped, that was a miracle. So much faith, so much hope cannot be frustrated.
The people had sat down and become still. Yeshua sat also. He sat at the foot of the hill. His talk was a masterpiece of openness and revelation. It was such that Jochanan wept from joy and Yehuda enthusiastically rubbed his hands together and said: At last!
But what did the rabbi say? Was it so terribly new? Not really. What he had told us in a small circle during conversations at night, sometimes offhandedly, he now summarized and made into a whole, and he did it publicly before a large crowd, which was in no way completely Jewish. He spoke without barriers. It was what Jochanan understood and was in accord with is higher worldview, and what Yehuda, possessed by the Jewish plight, did not hear. What Yehuda heard was the description of a liberated Yisrael, a foretelling of a radical change in the political situation.
Who today hungers, will be sated. Whose property is now stolen, will receive it a hundredfold. Who is imprisoned will be freed. Who now weeps will laugh. Who is now persecuted will find peace.
The people applauded. Yeshua continued: You who are poor and oppressed, you will find justice. No master will be over you and make you unfree. The debtorís prisons will be opened and the debts erased. The master will embrace the servant and there will be neither master nor servant, neither rich nor poor. Each will have what he needs, and since all will have the same, there will no longer be envy, no thievery, robbing, no murder. The lamb will lay alongside the wolf. Each is brother and servant of the other. The violent will no longer rule, but the peacemakers.
The people jumped up, wept and danced from enthusiasm. In the midst of the giddiness a strong voice called out: But what happens meanwhile? What happens to our oppressed? What about the feudal masters, the rich, the priests? They wonít leave on their own, they must be pushed out! The nest of vipers must be dealt with.
Some shouted: Down with them! Down with the rulers!
Soon many were shouting it. Then Yeshua stood up and raised his hand.
Youíre speaking badly! Youíre thinking falsely! Youíre thinking of violence! The evil wheel keeps turning you. You would make new weapons from ploughshares, daggers from vine-dressing knives. And you believe that improvements will come from that? Drive away violence with violence? Make peace with murder? Build the new house on the field of death? Mix the mortar with blood? That is the renewal you hope for! And I should help you? Fools!††
There was no applause. But no objections either. A great silence.
And once more Yeshua raised his voice: Nothing will change unless you change yourselves! There will be no peace on earth if there is no peace in you. Make peace with your brothers, peace with those youíve declared to be your enemies! The brother-kiss to all!
Yehuda gnashed his teeth, then he murmured: Peace to the Romans. The brother-kiss to Herod. Embrace the priests.
He said out loud and very angrily: I want to love my enemies if there are any left after the purge, then!
A few laughs, but only shortly, then silence again. No one knew what else to say.
It had become dark, for many too late to start the long way home. It became evident that many had not reckoned with not finding a place to sleep and that the shops would be closed. They were hungry.
Yehuda said: Rabbi, the people are hungry!
He said it critically, as if it were Yeshuaís fault, and he said it challengingly. He didnít relent. Whatever the rabbi might say, the task was his. ďThe people are hungry,Ē meant: Give them bread! And that meant: Finally assume your role.
Rabbi, what shall we do? We canít send them home. There are children with them, and they are hungry.
Yeshua said: How much provision have we?
Provisions? What provisions? A basket of flat cakes and another with some dried fish. Just enough for ourselves.
Bring the baskets and distribute the food.
So we distributed: small pieces of cake and small shreds of dried fish. A hopeless task. We kept distributing and distributing. We saw that those who received something shared it with others, and many added something from their own, at first held back provisions, and the sharing continued in that way, nobody received much, but everyone got something, and at the end there was still something left in the baskets for us, we didnít know how that happened.
Once we had all eaten a great restfulness enveloped us. The night was warm and full of stars, and the half-moon gave light. Yeshua slept, like most, on his back with his arms crossed under his head. I couldnít sleep. I looked at him. Without opening his eyes he said: Sleep! You have a long way ahead of you.
What did he mean by that? Why didnít he say: we? But I fell right away into a deep sleep.††††
We woke up very early. The people had to go home to work. The hill emptied out. We were also ready to leave. However, we didnít get far, not even to Chorazin. A whole region was in movement. People followed us, people ran up to us, circled us and pushed against us. And what people they were: all sick. They hobbled along on crutches, they were carried on stretchers, and the whole misery gathered around Yeshua. Like dirty water that foams against a rock. The stink of pus and dried blood, of sweat, of unwashed clothing, of poverty. I never learned to be insensitive to smells and ugliness. How could Yeshua stand it? The sick thronged about him, to touch him. One pushed the other away, many were thrown to the ground.
It was Yehuda who made order. He screamed orders. He made the people line up right and left of the path. Thus Yeshua could walk between them, touch them, speak a few words to them. Yehuda kept them in check, but he was impatient and in conflict with himself, I saw that. He stood on the side of the poor, but what Yeshua did was patchwork for him. A few healings, a hundred healings, a thousand: what meaning did it have when all Yisrael was sick and in misery? Donít heal the sick, donít give alms: pull out the roots!
He grumbled, he growled at the people, but he loved them, because for him they were the exploited, the victims of thievery, those who were tricked out of their first-born rights by the clever, the efficient without scruples, the deal-makers, the friends of the Romans, those who bowed down before priests and bureaucrats.
Not only the poor came, for, as Yehuda happily realized, the rich also got sick, but as soon as they were sick rich, Yehuda stood at their side, for now they were a minority and this minority suffered and must be supported. But he couldnít accept that they be treated as the poor were, that is, without paying. I saw people give him money. For a long while Yeshua didnít notice, but when he did he was furious. I hadnít seen him so angry since the temple scene, and never afterwards either.
Give me the purse, Yehuda!
Yehuda held it tightly with both hands.
Yehuda, the purse!
Yehuda pressed it to his breast. Thereupon Yeshua ripped it away from him and emptied it among the people. Yehuda screamed in anger, then in triumph: the poor fought for the money like dogs for bones.
Yehuda stamped his foot and screamed: Give the money back, immediately!
Shocked, they gave it back and understood nothing. Great confusion.
There you see, Rabbi, Yehuda cried, where alms giving leads! Patchwork!
Yeshua ordered him and all to be silent. He spoke to the people:
What do you want from me? To heal your suffering? This is your suffering: wanting to have!
One cried out: Tell that to the rich! We have nothing.
Do I speak of having? I speak of wanting to have. You have nothing, but you want to have, nothing but to have. And if you had, it would never be enough. Rich or poor: youíre all sick. Your desires are sick, your souls are sick, and therefore your bodies are sick.†††
Another called out: Then heal our souls, Rabbi!
Come here, you, said Yeshua, take that pitcher there, go to the rubbish pile and fill it with sand and stones. Itís heavy now, isnít it? What are you carrying there, friend? Itís filth!
The people laughed.
Yeshua said: Do you want it to be lighter? Well then, empty out the pitcher! Does it seem lighter to you now? And now go to the cistern, wash out the pitcher and scoop up clear water!
And now: drink! How do you feel now, friend?
The people understood and clapped.
But one called out: What you call filth is none. Itís power and whoever has power is master.
Of what power do you speak, friend? Was Herod the Great powerful? Where is his power now? Leprosy has eaten him up, him and his power. Empty your pitchers, friends! Throw out you foolish desires, and you are healthy.
Someone said: You may well speak, your purse is full.
Yeshua said: Havenít you eaten today?
Whoever has not eaten, raise your hand.
Who has a pair of old sandals?
Three or four came forward. Yeshua gave Yehuda the purse: Give them money for new sandals!
Yehuda murmured: You believe anything. Theyíre professional beggars.
Yeshua went on: Do any of you not have sleeping quarters for the night?
Again a few came forward. The purse emptied. When it was empty he showed it to the people and said: I have only one pair of sandals and one cloak. I have no house and no land. I have neither a cow nor a donkey. The foxes have caves, the birds nests. I never know during the day if I will have a roof over my head. And I lack nothing.
A woman called out: You say that because you have no children. If your children are hungry you canít say: Iím not worried, the crows will bring bread and quail will fall before my feet.†
Yeshua said: You are right to remind yourself and us all of what happened to our forefathers in the desert. Bread fell to them from heaven when they were hungry. But why? Because they trusted the Almighty. Do you see the sand lilies over there? Who feeds, who dresses them? When our fathers traveled through the desert they had only one thing in mind: to find the Promised Land. But when Moshe was too long on the Sinai in order to speak with the Almighty, they lost patience and trust, they made the Golden Steer and sacrificed to it and forgot the way and the goal, and the Almighty decided that they should perish. If one individual, Moshe, hadnít been there to placate the Almighty, you wouldnít be here, the bones of your fathers would be strewn in the desert. But they turned over a new leaf, destroyed the idol, purified their hearts and directed their desire once again toward the Promised Land. So they reached it, and you are here. To you also a land is promised: the kingdom of peace. But like your fathers you are careless with your salvation. Like them you have made an idol and sacrificed your lives to it. Donít you see that your idol is made of mud and filth? Donít you see that it has cracks and leaks? A gust of wind and it will turn to dust. A second gust and the dust will become a sand-cloud that will bury you. Destroy the idols before it is too late! Direct your hearts to the only necessity: the kingdom of peace and love. Everything else, friends, will be given to you. If only you would believe me! You live in the middle of the Promised Land, and you donít see it. Open you eyes: the earth is beautiful, and only on thing is needed to make paradise of this earth: Love! Love one another, friends, give the kiss of peace, reconcile your differences, then the Almighty will manifest his love to you. You could be happy, friends, if you only wanted to be!
The people had listened in silence. They forgot that they had come to ask to be healed. I donít know if it happened to some. Something great had happened. The people left silently.
When we were alone Jochanan said: You preached beautifully, Rabbi.
Yehuda said: Beautifully, yes. Beautiful.
Yeshua said: What do you have against me, Yehuda?
What I have against you is that you talk beautifully.
Speak clearly! Let the poison out!
All right, if you want to know. Moshe was on the mountain. He left his people alone much too long. A people without a leader loses its way. Waiting too long blunts hope. How should the people know that Moshe wasnít dead, but would return? Thatís overburdening, Rabbi. And furthermore: that the Almighty didnít think of that, that he kept Moshe with him too long! Shouldnít he have known that the people were desperate? What kind of dangerous game were they playing? And then afterwards: Who was to blame for the aberration with the golden calf? Who then: the people. Not Moshe, not Adonai. The people. Rabbi: Yisraelís waiting is taking too long. Who can blame them, if they give it up?
What do you expect, Yehuda?
What then: Yisraelís savior.
And what does this saving consist of?
What a question! The water is up to our necks. Not a foot of our land belongs to us, the people. Foreign soldiers eat our fields bare and our stalls empty! And our own rulers, what are they? Thieves, usurers, exploiters, thatís what they are. And you ask what the saving consists of!
Yehuda: Would you cure violence with violence?
You are wrong, Yehuda. You think that healing comes from outside. But it comes from within. Donít go, listen to me. You think that liberation lies in reversing the situation: those on top should be toppled, those who are below should rise up. And then, you think, the wheel of time stands still, and everything is good forever. You are thinking too shallow, Yehuda. Much too shallow. Destruction happens quickly. Building up takes time, patience, trust. Does that sound bad in your ears, impatient one?
Bad, very bad. Patience, trust: the virtues of sheep, Rabbi! As if every year didnít count, every month, every day! Time, this is our time, Rabbi, Yisraelís reality is now!
Yehuda, I say to you: Yisraelís time isnít to be counted in years and days. What can be counted and measured perishes. What remains is the bond between the Almighty and Yisrael. But Adonai is no Jewish tribal god, and Yisrael is not Yisrael alone. Yisrael - that is humanityís waiting for the kingdom of peace.
Yehuda said: Who can understand that? Who can understand you at all, Rabbi?
You, Yehuda, you can, but you donít want to. Why do you stay with me anyway?
From obstinacy, Rabbi.
One day, Yehuda, you obstinacy will be broken. You will lose patience and leave me. Where will you go though, friend? Yehuda: My death will also be yours.
Could be, said Yehuda and he walked away. Yeshua watched him for a long time, then he wrapped his cloak tightly around him.
None of us dared to ask anything. I was cold despite the heat.††
That evening Yeshua said: Weíre not going to Chorazin, but to Nazareth. The anniversary of Josephís death nears. I want to go to his grave.
When I was alone with Yeshua I said: Must that be? Your family, Rabbi, you know what they think of you. And anyway: Nazareth. An unfriendly place. Letís rather go to the other side of the sea, to Decapolis, maybe to Hippo. What do you think? A little rest would do you good.
He smiled. You begin cleverly. Why donít you say openly that you donít want to go to Nazareth? What are you afraid of? Meeting the family that you call mine, or what else?
You arenít liked in Nazareth. You know: No prophet is ever respected in his hometown.
We went anyway.
We noticed the attitude towards him by the way they greeted us: with sidelong glances, or not at all, and fleeing into their houses as though we brought leprosy with us. No one of his family had time for us: they all had something else to do. We were barely invited to sit. Finally when all the others had left, his mother brought bread, sheep-cheese and wine and sat with us. We didnít know what to talk about.
Now and then Yeshuaís glance met his motherís, like a fleeting encounter on a high bridge, nothing permanent.
Are you going with us to the grave, I asked her, and she looked at her son questioningly.
As you like, he said.
It pained me that he wasnít friendlier to her; of course he wasnít unfriendly, only distant, terribly distant.
Come! I said, and then she went with us. We went last. The question left her lips with difficulty: Miriam, is it true what theyíre saying, that he brought a dead person to life and cures the sick and drives out demons? Tell me: Is that all true?
Yes and no, I said. He has healing power, many have that. As far as the demons are concerned, itís about sick people, those who have fits, lunatics. He can help them. And the dead ones who he revived, they werenít really dead yet, and he felt it. Of course the fact that he felt it, that means a lot.
So basically itís all natural.
She sounded relieved, and at the same time disappointed. And otherwise? What else does he do? How does he live?
Why are you worried about him?
How can I not worry. He shouldnít make so many enemies. We notice it here already. They tell us we should bring him home and forbid him to rile up the people. Heís said to be either a rebel or a lunatic.
Do you think that, too?
I donít know. He was always close to me and at the same time distant. He was never my child.
What are you saying? You gave birth to him.
I donít know who he is.
Do you know it then, Miryam?
Yes and no. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. What I do know is this: Itís not important what he does, and not even who he is. Whatís important is that he is HERE.
How do you mean that?
Something comes from him, a good force. Even his appearing has an effect.
Hard to say. Maybe itís this: Suddenly thereís hope, and this: one no longer knows whatís important and what isnít. Or perhaps I can say it better this way: He comes and opens a gate, and light comes from out the gate.
You love him, Miryam.
Many love him.
I wish he would start a family and live permanently somewhere.
I had to laugh out loud. He and a family and permanence! I said: You have borne a lion and now you want to make him into a lapdog? That wonít happen.
She smiled, though fleetingly. He is no lion in my dreams, but a lamb, and he is torn apart by wolves. Miryam, I have prophetic dreams.
Your fears become dreams. Donít dream them! What must happen, will happen.
We arrived at the grave. I wondered what Yeshua was thinking and what the dead one under that grave-mound really was to him. I came to no conclusion.
When we were leaving the grave, Yeshua stood for a moment beside his mother, and he put his arm around her shoulders. A fleeting gesture, very seldom, also later. She accepted it calmly, with a little smile which cut my heart. But when we spoke later about having to find quarters for the night she offered us none. So we separated and went to various lodgings in the city. They were not friendly to us there.†††††††
Translated, from the German, by Frank Thomas Smith
Continued in the next issue of Southern Cross review