6

Rachel - The Daughter

Malchus entered his room. He lifted the mat and fluffed the straw. "Not a bad bed," he thought to himself. Walking back outside, Malchus turned to look past the stables to the back of the main house.

It was not long before Malchus could see Ruth returning. "The one with her must be Rachel," he thought. Even though they were a stoneís throw away, Malchus could make out that Rachel had coal-black hair and an olive complexion. The loose purple garment she was wearing clung to her lithe body when the wind blew. She was indeed more beautiful than Malchus had expected even though he thought she would be pretty, since her mother was quite attractive.

Malchus busied himself with arranging the straw and mat as they came closer. Soon he heard footsteps outside his door. It was Ruth who spoke first, "Malchus, I have brought you a cloth cover and a sheepskin that you can use to cover up with at night as well as some of my husbandís clothes which I have saved for just such a need as this. I thought you could use a change of clothes. And as far as your request about seeing the city, I brought my daughter, Rachel. She is familiar with Jerusalem, and can show you around and answer most of your questions."

Malchus looked at Rachel standing beside her mother. Her face was lit with the kind of a smile made with only the lips where one anticipates that the showing of the teeth canít be far behind.

Seemingly oblivious to the exchange between Rachel and Malchus, Ruth went on, "Naturally, you will remember to be back before the evening meal because Rachel directs the slave girls in the distribution and serving of the food. Iíve packed some bread and figs for the two of you to snack on if you get hungry before then. Make sure you see all you want to see because once you become the yeoman you will have little free time. Oh, and one more thing, go out the back way into the crowd as Caiaphas would not approve of Rachel going with you. He follows the Jewish law by the letter and thinks of himself as her father. As far as he is concerned, she is still a little girl."

With that said, Ruth turned to go back down the pathway that led to the kitchen.

"Malchus," Rachel said, "letís be on our way as the time for the evening meal will come quicker than you think."

Malchus agreed and began to follow her as she headed off down an unfamiliar path.

"This path will lead us to the north wall. We can follow the long wall to the Sheep Gate before turning back to the Temple."

They had walked a short distance when Rachel said, "Ahead on our left is the Palace of Herod. He is the Roman ruler of Judea. He built that palace by taxing the Jews, including the poor."

Malchus nodded his head in order to acknowledge all that she had told him and continued to walk beside her on the path.

When they were almost in sight of the north wall, Rachel turned to Malchus and said, "My mother told me you had unending questions. So far you havenít said a word. Donít you like being with me?"

"Oh, that is not it at all. I like being with you very much. I talked with my mother all the time, but I have never really talked to a girl."

"You do talk to boys, do you not?"

"Why, yes."

"Well girls are people just like boys. You can ask me questions if you like."

"My mind has been racing with questions since we began our walk, not about Jerusalem, but about you, your mother, and your father."

"Maybe when we sit down to eat the bread and figs my mother packed, we can talk about my family. Of course, if I talk about my family then that means you will have to tell me about yours.

Malchus nodded in agreement, "Yes, of course."

"Sheep Gate isnít too far ahead. Once we reach there we can go across the temple grounds to the Court of Gentiles and find a place to sit down."

"Oh, may I carry your bundle of food?"

"Well we are almost there now, but yes."

Malchus could see the same mischievous smile that he had seen earlier from her mother. "Why do you and your mother tease me?"

"My mother does because she likes you. Now, come, enough of that nonsense."

Malchus stayed close beside Rachel as she led the way into the temple area. This was different for Malchus, because among his fiends in Barcino, he was always leading. Rachel picked a path through the crowd on Solomonís Porch in order to reach the Court of Gentiles. On the edge of the court Rachel said, "We can sit on this rock," then plopped herself down and motioned for Malchus to sit as well.

"You must be tired from the long walk and from carrying the heavy bundle," said Rachel.

"Are you teasing?"

Rachel merely smiled.

The bread and figs tasted good to Malchus. He could hardly believe that this day had begun in Bethany after being robbed during the night. He remembered the time he had questioned his mother about whether our lives just happen or if the outcome was meant to be. If the latter were true, Malchus wished for a god he could thank for this day.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Rachelís voice, "Do you still want to know about my family?"

"Oh, yes, please. Why donít you begin with your father."

"Even though I was only nine years old when my father died, I remember him well. In some ways you remind me of him. You appear strong yet gentle. He was, as were his brothers, in the Jewish lineage to become a priest. By the time he became of age, he had concluded that the priesthood was more about politics than about worshipping Jehovah."

"What would make your father reach that conclusion?"

"My father, as a youth, had worked with sheep herdsmen. He continued this work because he enjoyed the sheep and the outdoors. My father took me with him a few times into the lower hills to graze our sheep. He explained that when alone with the sheep, under the blue sky by day and the myriad of stars at night, was when he felt closest to Jehovah. The priestly apprentice jobs gave no such feelings."

"Did your father tell you stories?"

"Yes, since he had read the scrolls in the synagogue, he liked to tell me about his favorite people--the prophets. He especially liked Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos because they told the people about a just God who would punish the wrongdoer. At the same time, he told me about David who compared Godís love for his people to that of a shepherdís care for his sheep. David clearly describes a God who loves us."

"Are you saying that your God is both just and loving?"

"Yes, I have thought a great deal about that and have concluded that a wise God would be both just and loving. I think of my own father and mother who loved me unconditionally still they would punish me when I did wrong."

"How did your father die?"

"It was during the fall after an extended summer drought the year that I turned nine. My father had taken his sheep higher and higher into the hills and mountains, seeking green pastures and still waters. Then we had an early heavy snow. Normally a Jewish shepherd would not be so high in the mountains that he couldnít easily get out. But with this snow, no one could get in or out of the highlands for two weeks. Knowing my father as I did, I have always thought he could have walked out if he had been willing to leave his sheep. But knowing what a good shepherd he was, I imagine he refused to desert his sheep."

Rachel paused for a moment then glanced up at the sun, "You have let me talk too long, and you have told me nothing about yourself. The sun is getting lower in the sky, and we must hurry back."

"After I learn my Yeoman job, I should have some time. We can get together and I promise to talk, even though you are a girl."

"I would like that, but we must be careful not to let Caiaphas see us together."

The narrow winding streets back to the compound were filled with people. The pace Rachel kept this time was brisk. Rachel went on ahead so that she could enter from the back by the kitchen entrance. Malchus walked through the courtyard in the front of the compound by himself. He stopped by the kitchen door where a slave girl served him a bowl of food. Malchus carried his bowl to the small table in his room. The quantity of the food was generous and the flavor good.

After the sun had set, the night air cooled. Malchus was glad his new friends had given him covers for his bed. When he lay down, the bed felt good. Tomorrow he would begin his new job and make his father proud.

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