22

On the Streets of Jerusalem

Several months had passed since Malchus' forced departure. In an attempt to lift Rachel's downcast spirits, Ruth was talking with her about her sixteenth birthday, and they were making plans to have a grand celebration by inviting both friends and relatives to share in the festivities.

As they were talking about the party, someone knocked on the doorpost. Ruth got up to see who it could be and was surprised to see one of Caiaphas's guards standing stiffly at the door. "Ruth," he said, "your presence is requested by the high priest. He would like for you to come immediately."

Ruth, wondering what this could possibly be about, pulled a shawl off of the wooden peg by the doorway. Wrapping it around her shoulders, she told Rachel that she would soon return. As she passed the doorpost, she kissed the tips of her fingers and touched the mezuzah. Within the small container attached to the doorpost were parchments filled with special scriptures. As Ruth walked down the path she recited in her mind her favorite one, "Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Then she prayed, "God be with me as I stand before Caiaphas."

As Ruth entered the small anteroom, Caiaphas stood up and cordially greeted her, offering her a chair. He seemed in an unexpectedly pleasant mood as he began, "How have you and Rachel been lately?"

Ruth, waiting to see what he was leading up to, answered slowly, "All things considered, Jehovah has been generous to us."

"I'm glad to hear that," he said most calmly.

Rising from his chair, he walked over to a long, but narrow, window and began to talk as he peered out over the compound, "Of course, you do understand that it is my bounden duty to act on my brother's behalf when it comes to Rachel's affairs."

"Yes, I am aware of what the law says," said Ruth firmly.

"Well, it has been brought to my attention of late that our dear Rachel will be turning sixteen and becoming a woman. Therefore, I believe that she should be properly wedded, and to that end, I have made a search for a man that I feel would be a suitable match for her. I have selected the son of a fellow Pharisee who has been quite prosperous in all that he has attempted. Of course, I expect you, as a good Jewish mother, to inform your daughter of the decision that has been made and to begin making preparations for the wedding scheduled to be held on her sixteenth birthday. Now, if there are no further questions, you are dismissed."

"Dismissed!" Ruth exclaimed as she stood to her feet. "I will not yet be dismissed. You have said your piece, and now I will say mine. I don't know what your idea of a good Jewish mother is, but your idea and my idea definitely do not agree. First of all, I have absolutely no intention of leaving here and telling our dear Rachel that she must marry your friend's son. She has never even met him, and I don't even know his name!

"Besides that, Rachel cares for another, and I, as her good Jewish mother, will honor her feelings. Furthermore, I want it understood, my good Jewish brother-in-law, that I in no way approve of the way that you have gone about this matter and that under no circumstances will I make preparations for such a wedding. As far as I'm concerned, it would be sacrilege!" Then, in utter disgust, she headed toward the doorway.

Caiaphas, not willing to let a woman have the last word, raised his voice and said in a commanding but deliberate tone, "Rachel shall prepare for this marriage, or I will have her moved into the streets where she can fend for herself."

Ruth, exasperated with his stubbornness, threw her head back and marched through the doorway without a backwards glance. The guard, unsure whether or not he should restrain her, read in Caiaphas's glance that he was to let her go. Caiaphas, unruffled by her flurry of fury, simply placed one hand over his mouth and chin and watched Ruth out the window as she hurried back to her room on the compound.

Rachel, wondering what Caiaphas had wanted to talk with her mother about, paced back and forth in the room. After a little while, she heard her mother's footsteps quickly approaching. She moved toward the door to greet her, but before she could get there, her mother had already flung back the sheepskin covering the entranceway.

"Mother, what happened?" Rachel cried when she saw the angry flush on her mother's face. "What did Caiaphas say?"

"Pack up your belongings. We will be leaving this compound before sunrise."

"What? What do you mean leaving this compound? This is our home. We can't leave here."

"Oh, yes, we can. Now, get busy and gather up your things."

"But, mother, I don't want to leave!"

"Listen, Caiaphas has selected a husband for you and is planning for you to be married on your sixteenth birthday."

"What? I can't believe that! Who does he think he is? My father?"

"That is exactly who he thinks he is. Now, if you want to stay behind and marry one of his friend's sons, you can. Otherwise, start packing because we're leaving."

"But, mother, what will become of us?"

"I don't know. All I know is that we can't stay here."

"But where will we go?"

"We'll go where the Spirit of Jehovah leads us."

"How can you be so sure that He will lead us?"

"I know He will lead us because I know that it isn't the plan of Jehovah for you to marry the son of one of those narrow-minded Pharisees. That plan is Caiaphas's alone."

"Mother, how can you have such great faith in Jehovah?"

"Since your father's death, I have had to depend more and more upon Him. I have found that Jehovah has always given me faith in accordance with my need. He hasn't failed me yet. Now letís start packing."

"Yes, mother, Iíll begin."

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