“Ben you’re all bloody, let me clean you off, does it hurt?” Zeporah was a good mother to her friends as well as to her own children.
“Zeporah, I didn’t think I would see the light of day again. It was odd, those men were beating me like they really hated me, what did I do to deserve this? I was screaming for God’s help and they just kept hammering on me. I hurt! Ugh-” Ben was so exhausted that he was a little surprised to hear that he had the energy to speak.
“Ben, do you remember your Father, God rest his soul?”
“Of course I remember my father Zep. So what? Ouch, don’t do that!”
“Did your father give you crutches when you were learning to walk?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, of course not.”
“How to do expect our God to teach us to be strong and faithful if He always rushes to our rescue? Do you think that He wants a nation full of weak puppets for neighbors when we get to our new homeland? Better He should live in a world of puppy-dogs not men. Besides, you’re still alive aren’t you? What happened to the enemy? Don’t tell me. ” Zeporah finished up the bandage and was packing her first aid kit when Ben grabbed her arm.
“Don’t go. I want to tell you about Asa. He accused me of taking the rug he wanted from Uncle Abe’s tent after he died last week. We both were permitted to enter the tent and carry out mementos. I let Asa go first, then I went in after he came out. He waited for me and when he saw me carry out the rug he insisted that I had no right to take it since he was Abe’s oldest nephew. He claimed that I hid it before he entered. Now he says that I am not showing him respect since I won’t let him have it! Respect, how can I respect such a lying fool?”
“Don’t argue with Asa. Ben you two love each other too much for that. Let us go to the Holy Man, Moshua’s, tent of judgment. I will tell Asa to meet us there. Moshua knows God’s will. Will you accept his judgment?”
Ben’s gaze told Zeporah that he had travelled eons away in that moment. Suddenly, a powerful arctic shudder scurried through his body. A quick double shake of his head returned Ben to Zeporah in the present, “You know when we lived in Egypt the court system was so corrupt. The person who found favor with the judge or the lawyers won. No one could even guess the outcome of a case because decisions were always political or subjective. There were no laws, only opinions! Such a court is impossible. Zeporah, I have eaten bitter greens and sour lemons, but no food is as bitter as Egyptian injustice. I will walk over hot coals for a year to flee from such a country.”
“Well, Ben, calm down, that was before. We know that from time to time one person’s will or point of view will conflict with another’s. That is natural. We don’t know instinctively what is right, maybe someday, but not yet. We are still too Egyptian. Two people conflict because each has self centered motives. They need a holy man to unite them.
But Ben, tell me the truth do you think you can you accept God’s judgment if it is different from what you want?”
Instead of answering Zeporah Ben spoke to the wind, “Asa you are a schmuck! You had just as much of a chance for the rug as I.”
Zeporah walked away, leaving Ben alone with his anger. She went to Asa’s tent and found him rubbing his feet. “L’hiam Zeporah, my dear. What brings your lovely face to my humble dwelling?”
“Asa I heard about your troubles with Ben, I have come to tell you what I told him. Do not let the sun go down on your anger; you have a conflict, you also have a just judge. Go to meet Ben at Moshua’s tent at sunset and let the Holy One settle this once and for all. Is peace worth more to you than wool?”
“I will be there, tell that rat to bring my rug. Did Ben tell you that my grandmother, Ashal after whom I was named, wove the rug?”
This evening there was a longer line than usual at Moshua’s tent praying in low voices, Barukh Adonai elohim melekh haolam. God’s will, not mine be done.
These were the preparatory prayers that were required before entering the tent of judgment. Each person was allowed to bring one companion who was familiar with the circumstances and might be able to testify that the truth and only the truth was being spoken.
When it was their turn, Zeporah entered the tent with Ben and Asa. By removing their sandals all three acknowledged that the tent of judgment was holy ground.
Moshua asked each man if he wanted God’s will to be done. Each replied that he did. Then Moshua asked each man if He loved his brother. Asa was quick to reply that he used to.
“Oh,” said Moshua. “Does love tell time that you used to?”
“No.” Asa replied. “Love doesn’t know time Holy One but it knows circumstances. When Ben showed that he cared more about the rug than about me, he lost my love.”
“Where did your love go Asa that Ben should lose it?”
“I suppose it came back to me Holy One. Someday I’ll give it to another more respectful person worthy of my love.”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Moshua. “It went right back to you. You took the love you had for Ben and you gave it to yourself.”
“Now Ben, do you love Asa?”
“Holy One, I took the love I felt for Asa since I was a young child and I gave it to the rug.”
“Yes! Yes! Now, the rug has Ben’s love and Asa loves himself! What a predicament this is!”
“Tell me gentlemen, what kind of world are you creating where love is like a pebble being tossed around?”
“You know Asa that love when turned back upon one’s self become moldier than day old manna. Love by definition is like an arrow that the heart shoots outward. And Ben you must know that love is only meant for humanity, you may not bestow it on inanimate objects or even animals. So you have both broken the laws of love.
“Since love is the fundamental law of God that you must honor, then tell me how this case must be resolved. Ben, you speak first. If what you do with your love is important to God, hence to you, then what must happen with the rug?”
“Holy one, the rug must be given to Asa; that is clear.”
“And Asa, you know the law of love forbids you to keep your love. If manna cannot be kept overnight, I tell you that love kept cannot last for even an hour. What must you do with your love before it poisons you and sends you back to the slavery of Egypt?”
Sheepishly, Asa replied, “Can I give my love to Zeporah? God forbid I should give it to that rug thief.”
“Zeporah, will you accept Asa’s love?”
“No, I will not!” retorted Zeporah. “What he is trying to give me is not true love; it is a false imitation of love because it is egotistical love. Such love is good for nothing at all.”
“Why do you say that?” Moshua asked with a little smirk on his lips and a glisten in his eyes.
“He only gives it to me because his pride will not let him give it to Ben. That is not love, it is pride; it is still self love. What Asa wants to give me is to hide the fact that he is still keeping his self-love. I only get the shadow, a mirage that is not real. I will not entertain that shadow. ”
Smirk and glisten vanished as Moshua now spoke with ominous sternness. “Asa and Ben before you entered this tent, what was your prayer?”
“Holy One, I prayed that God’s will be done.” answered Asa.
“I as well.“ said Ben without being asked.
“Did you mean that or were they empty words, as dead as that rug of yours?”
Asa was quick to say, “I did not want them to be empty words Holy One.”
Ben took his turn. “Nor me, Holy One.”
“Then you both know what you must do. Ben speak.”
“Holy One, love commands me to do God’s will.”
“Love commands me to do God’s will.”
“Pray tell, what is God’s will my sons?”
This time Ben was first to reply. “God wills that I love Asa more than the rug.”
“Asa what does God’s will command you to do?”
“Love commands me to let Ben keep the rug as a symbol, a sacrificial piece of my heart being torn from my own flesh and handed to him.”
“Ben, what does love command of you?”
“Love commands me to give the rug to Zeporah for the sake of my brother’s soul. I loved the rug, but mostly because I wanted to hurt my brother for hurting me. Asa forgive me.”
“Only if you will forgive me, Ben.”
Moshua, took the men’s right hands between his own. The heat that radiated from Moshua’s hands seared their skin. No one flinched. Moshua looked up into the heavens and prayed, “Lord, these men are worthy to enter your holy land. Let them proceed in peace.”
Zeporah was beaming. Gentlemen have you tasted my poached manna burgers, they are out of this world. Come let’s celebrate the triumph of love. Thank you Moshua. The three pilgrims walked backwards to the door lest they turn their backs on the Holy One.