My son Yeshua is making a scandal again.
He just came in the village gate holding the hand of a woman.
That is not done in Israel. It is a big scandal if a man talks with a woman. A bigger scandal to walk with a woman. Bigger yet to hold the hand of a woman.
But my son does all these things.
My Yeshua does not fear to make a scandal.
That is why I love him best of all my sons.
I am sure the woman is a sinful woman. A woman of shame. A zonah.
My son has brought home zonahs before. The village says it is a foolishness. I say it is a kindness.
Yeshua stops inside the gate to greet the village elders who sit all day taking their ease in the cool shade. He talks with the men and smiles kindly on the zonah, both at the same time.
The men do not look on the zonah, but they look on Yeshua and grin on him and slap their fat thighs and make a mighty roar on some jest he makes.
Yeshua turns and smiles on me.
It warms my heart that he smiles on me in the face of the village elders, who hate me. There was some man of HaShem who told me once that a sword would pierce my heart on account of Yeshua. That has not happened yet, and I beg HaShem it never will. When my son smiles on me, I can almost forget the matter of piercing.
Yeshua pulls on the zonah’s hand to come this way.
I am standing outside our house, which is at the south end of the village. Nazareth is long and narrow, one dirt street with stone houses on both sides. The village gate opens into the village square, not far from our house.
Yeshua makes a big smile on me.
He runs at me.
He lifts me in his arms and spins me around and around.
He kisses my left cheek. He kisses my right cheek. He kisses my lips.
A kiss and a kiss and a kiss, in the open street, as I am some man of honor and not the most shamed woman in the village.
My heart wants to break for my joy.
My son kisses me with honor while the village elders scowl on me for scorn.
Yeshua holds me long in his arms, as he is back from some far journey, instead of just gone for the day to Tsipori. He and his brothers must have found a good work there, because he smells like sweat.
At last Yeshua releases me. “HaShem has been smiling on you today, Imma. You look more beautiful than you did even this morning.”
He says that every day, and it gives me a big joy in my heart. But lately, he says it more and there is a new look in his eye, and it makes me afraid.
I think a day is coming when he will leave Nazareth.
HaShem has a mighty thing for Yeshua to do, and he knows it.
Yeshua wishes to do the will of HaShem, but he does not wish to leave me to the hate of the village.
My son loves me, but he loves HaShem more. If he thinks I am more beautiful today, it is not because I am younger. It is because he must leave me soon.
I think he weeps inside to leave me.
But even so, he will leave me.
And I am afraid. On the day he leaves me, I think I will die.
I do not think the village will stone me, but their scorn is sharper than knives. They will find a way to make my life a big agony, more than it is now.
I beg HaShem every day that he will not take away my Yeshua.
But I have forgotten my hospitality. The zonah stands near us, looking on the ground in her shame. Of course she is shamed. She is a sinful woman. Yeshua will find her a new life in the village, but the people will call her zonah until the day she dies. The stain of a zonah never scrubs out.
Yeshua says to me, “Imma, here is my new friend from Tsipori.”
I hate Tsipori. It is the chief city of Galilee and stinks of garbage and piss and many thousand people. Yeshua says it is more than ten thousands, and not all of them are Jews. Some Syrians and Arabians live there, and even Greeks. Also, many zonahs. It is a wicked place. Yeshua goes there often with his brothers so they can find work. My sons know the craft of the tekton, so they can do any kind of stone-work or wood-work or metal-work that builders need. Each day a tekton can earn a silver dinar. We have a good living from Tsipori, but I will never love it.
The zonah stares on me.
She should stare. I am the most fortunate woman in Galilee. I am the most wretched woman in Galilee.
I make a smile on her. “My name is called Miryam.”
She makes a smile back on me. “My name is called Shlomzion.”
I say, “That is a good name,” and it is true. The fourth part of the women in our village are named Shlomzion. There are so many, we give them each a nickname, or else there would be a big confusion.
My youngest daughter is named Shlomzion. We call her Shlomi Dancefeet. She is to be married soon to a man of honor, but not in our village.
Yeshua steps inside our house and calls for my second son, who stayed home today.
A moment later, Yeshua comes out with two pots for water, tugging his brother’s hand and smiling on the zonah. “Friend, this is my brother. His name is called Little Yaakov, and he is my strong right arm.”
The zonah makes a grin, for Little Yaakov is a big man, more mighty than any of his brothers. But his grandfather’s name was also called Yaakov, and so my son has been Little Yaakov from the day he was born.
Little Yaakov looks on the zonah, but he does not smile, and he does not speak to her.
I am glad on that. Little Yaakov’s woman died of the fever last year, and I do not wish him to make a friend on a zonah. One son who makes scandals is enough.
Yeshua smiles on me. “Imma, you will come with me for a walk, yes?”
“Yes.” My heart sings. This is the biggest happiness in my day, to walk with my son to fetch water. It is not done in Israel, for a man to go with a woman to fetch water, but my son does it because he loves me, and he does not care what other men think. My son is a tsaddik—a righteous man, a man of honor. A tsaddik does not make a worry on what is done in Israel and what is not done in Israel.
Yeshua hands the zonah a waterpot and me a waterpot. “Come, Imma. Did I remember to say you are beautiful?”
I smile on him. “No, you are a wicked son to have forgotten.”
Yeshua laughs and kisses me again. In his laughter, I hear a far echo of his fear. And mine.
Just beside our house, a little way back from the street, my three daughters-in-law and my youngest daughter, Shlomi, are gathered around our firepit.
“Yeshua!” Shlomi Dancefeet squeals and runs to hug Yeshua.
She still hugs him as she is some small girl. When she is married, that will stop. The man she marries will not allow it.
“Shlomi!” Yeshua gives her a kiss and a kiss and a kiss. He lifts her up and swings her around many times. She was born a month after my lord Yoseph died, and so she is my last. Yeshua has been like a father to her. I see a big sadness in his eyes, because when she marries, she will leave our village.
Shlomi Dancefeet runs back to help my daughters-in-law with the cooking. They smile on Yeshua, but they do not greet him in public. They love him much, but they do not make a scandal on themselves.
Yeshua takes my hand again. When he holds my hand, I feel safe in this village. The men of the village hate me and their women spit my feet and their sons throw stones and their daughters sing cruel songs. But when Yeshua is with me, they do not. He is a tsaddik and a man of honor, and they fear him more than they hate me.
The spring is far from our house, outside the north end of the village. It is a long way uphill, but when Yeshua is with me, it feels like a short walk.
When Yeshua is not with me, I do not go to the village spring.
We pass through the village square.
Yeshua shouts to Shimon the baker. “Father Shimon! Have you saved some rounds of bread for us?”
Shimon the baker is a fat man of sixty years who smiles much. He never smiles on me, but today he makes a big grin on Yeshua. “For how many mouths, friend?”
“Twelve,” I whisper to Yeshua. Our family is ten adults, and the zonah is a guest, so she must have double. A dinar will buy bread for twelve, so Yeshua has just enough.
Yeshua thinks for a moment. “Four and ten.”
There is a thing in his eyes I do not understand. Fear licks at my heart. Yeshua knows more than he has said.
Yeshua hands a dinar to Shimon the baker. “I will send Little Yaakov with more.”
“You will not. It is an honor to sell you bread. I will send my grandson to your house with the rounds.”
We walk all the length of the village and go out the north end. The wind blows from the east today, and the stink of the leather-man’s piss-pool stings my nose. I wish it was farther from the village.
We reach the narrows and climb the stony path toward the spring of Nazareth. It is a good spring, enough for our village. HaShem, the Lord our God, the God of our fathers, makes water gush out from the ground. Long ago, our fathers built a stone pool to hold the water.
I dip my pot in the water and balance it on my head. The zonah does the same. She is a tall woman, and not young. She is more than twenty or I am a goose. There is a big hurt around her eyes. Tomorrow, Yeshua will find a house in Nazareth or some other village that needs a woman servant. No woman would be a zonah by choice, but a woman without a lord or father or brother or son can be a zonah or she can starve, and that is not a choice. I have five sons and a brother-in-law and a nephew, but sometimes I am afraid I might lose them all, and then what will I do?
Yeshua looks on me, and his eyes sing how he thinks I am more beautiful than I ever was.
Fear stings my heart like a poison. He knows some matter he has not told me yet.
“Come, Imma. Come, little sister.” Yeshua takes my hand and the zonah’s hand and guides us back down the path.
The joy of my son fills my heart. Blessed be HaShem for my son, my greatest gladness and my greatest sorrow.
As we walk back into the village, our neighbor Marta comes out carrying a waterpot.
“Shalom, Marta! Are you well?” Yeshua says.
Marta does not look on him, and she does not speak, but she smiles as she passes by. Every woman smiles when my son greets her. Every old woman wishes he were her son. Every young woman wishes he were her lord.
And yet every woman of Nazareth hates me, because I shamed them all. Every woman wonders which man begat my Yeshua. Every woman wonders if it was her lord I seduced for no reason, when I was betrothed already to a good man. They hate me for a sinful woman. They hate me for a zonah. They hate me because I seduced a man for no cause, when I was not even hungry. They hate me because I refuse to confess my sin. They hate me because I will not tell who I seduced.
I am an evil tale.
I am the biggest evil tale that ever was.
A small village has a long memory. They would forgive, if only I would confess. But I cannot confess because I never seduced. They will never believe I never seduced, so they will never forgive. They have made me like the dust between their toes.
I hate Nazareth.
Every woman in the village has spit my feet. They would tear me to bits with their nails if they caught me alone, but I have always one of my sons by my side to defend.
Behind us, Marta spits the dirt.
Yeshua’s hand tightens on mine.
For many years, I wept every night for saying yes to the Messenger. I could have said no. Then the women would not hate me. But then I would not have my Yeshua. And so, all these years, the women have thrown their scorn on me.
I will never forgive them. Never, ever, ever.
When my son redeems Israel and comes into his power, HaShem will make a justice on me. And he will punish my tormentors. That day is coming. I feel in my heart it is coming soon. For a little while, I must lose my son while he does a big work for HaShem, but then I will have him with me, until forever.
When we reach our house, my daughters-in-law are lifting a great clay cooking pot out of the firepit. I do not know how many mouths it can feed. When we are ten, it feeds ten. When we are twenty, it feeds twenty. This is the best of all times, at the going out of the day, when the women bring in the food and the men return from their work and we eat together and have joy.
We stand back to let the women carry in the food with care. Once, they dropped it, and we ate only bread that night. Only one time, but that was enough.
My three youngest sons are just now coming in through the village gate. They will never tell Yeshua no on the matter of bringing home a zonah. But neither will they walk within sight of her. My sons do not like scandals.
“Yosi! Thin Shimon! Yehuda Dreamhead!” Yeshua shouts to his brothers.
They turn to grin on us, but they do not walk this way yet. After my lord Yoseph died, Yeshua finished training them all in the craft of the tekton, and each of them finds work because of him. He also found men to marry my three daughters. When my youngest is married, I do not know what Yeshua will do, but I am afraid. Afraid and happy, both at the same time. Yeshua must do what HaShem calls him to do.
My sons still stand in the gate, talking with the village elders.
Now I see that some other man came in with them. He wears a worn tunic and carries a sun-faded leather pack on his back.
The elders all rise to greet the traveler.
I hear their excited voices, but I cannot pick out their words. I am old, almost fifty, and my ears are dull.
Yeshua’s face is tight. I never saw such a face on him. A traveler means news and news means change.
I do not want my world to change.
Yeshua looks on me, and his eyes sing that no woman could be more beautiful than I am.
My heart wants to weep.
Yeshua hurries toward the village gate.
We will have an extra mouth for our evening meal. It is an honor to give hospitality to a traveler. Yeshua will ask for the man, and the elders will give him the honor. The village will gather in the square this evening to hear the traveler’s news from the outside world.
It is a warm summer evening, but I never felt such a bitter winter in my heart.