30

Traditions

Before going to work in the vineyards the next morning, Malchus went by the synagogue to look for Seth. He asked a priest in the courtyard if Seth were around. The priest disappeared inside and soon returned with Seth.

"Good morning, Malchus."

"Seth, I need to talk with you about your Jewish traditions surrounding marriage, for you must know that I care a great deal for Rachel."

Seth smiled as he looked into the blue eyes of this handsome young man and said, "Yes, we should talk. Ruth has already shared with me her feelings and those of her daughter for you."

"Is it your tradition that I ask you for the hand of Rachel in marriage?"

"Yes, Malchus, it is. But before we get to that subject, letís talk about religion. Ruth has told me about your platonic friendship with Rachel for two years. So you understood that a Jew canít marry a gentile. By the way, my feelings are the same as Ruthís - that your friendship of the heart was a wholesome thing. I understand Caiaphasís point of view, but Reuben and I were different than our brothers."

"Can I become a Jew? I prayed to Jehovah to protect Rachel and Ruth after our forced separation. For two and a half months, I prayed daily to Rachelís God as I worked in the vineyards, asking Him for a safe return of my parents and Rachel and Ruth."

"Yes, those accepting the Jewish religion include many who are not Hebrew. They are known as proselytes. If you want to come by each day at this early hour before going to work in the vineyards, I can help you prepare for the ritual of acceptance of the faith of Abraham. Ruth has told me you are fluent in Hebrew. That will get us off to a good start. We can begin tomorrow morning."

"Iíll be back tomorrow and for as many more tomorrows as it takes to become a Jew, so I can fully honor Rachel, if you and she should agree to the marriage."

Malchus returned early each morning until the "tomorrows" filled a month. As Seth and Malchus met on one particular crisp fall morning, Seth said, "Malchus, you have been an excellent student. You are now fully prepared to become a proselyte in the Jewish faith. Bring your family with you to the synagogue this Friday night, and Iíll induct you into the fellowship of those believing in Jehovah."

Justin, Brigitte, Ruth, Rachel, and Malchus arrived at the synagogue as the sun was setting. Seth was out front watching for them. He gave a very warm welcome to his favorite niece Rachel. Malchus was moved by the obvious affection Rachel had for her uncle. He wondered if this was how she had been with her father, as well. He felt a pang of sadness as he realized how very much Rachel must miss her father. After Seth and Rachel had finished their affectionate greeting, Seth turned his gaze upon Malchus. From the expression on Sethís face it was evident that he was pleased with his new convert. The weeks together had convinced Seth that Malchus would be a loving husband to Rachel. He thought about his brother Reuben and how proud he would have been of the selection of Malchus as a husband for his daughter.

Seth ushered the party inside and offered them seats on a bench near the front. The synagogue was both the group of believers and the facility where they met. Those making up the synagogue on Patmos included both Hebrews and proselytes. They met together each week for worship and fellowship. Tonight the service would end with the acceptance of a gentile convert into the synagogue.

The formal service came to an end. Seth picked up a scroll and read, "And when foreigners hear of your great name and come from distant lands to worship you (for they shall hear of your great name and mighty miracles) and pray toward this Temple, hear them from heaven and answer their prayers. And all the nations of the earth will know and fear your name just as your own people Israel do (I King 8:41-43)."

Looking out at the rest of the synagogue, Seth explained, "Malchus has studied our scrolls and is fully qualified to become a proselyte and worship Jehovah with our synagogue." Next Seth signaled Malchus to kneel. Seth bowed his head and prayed, "Jehovah, your servant Malchus has studied your Word and committed his life to You. Please help each of us in this synagogue to nurture Malchus as he grows in his faith." Seth poured olive oil on Malchusí head, placed his hands on his head, and said, "I welcome you, Malchus, into this fellowship of Abrahamís children."

All of those present filed by to welcome Malchus into the synagogue. The women had prepared food and the men had brought wine made from the grapes of the Patmos vineyards. The celebration of one of Jehovahís children committing his life to Him continued into the night.

The hour was late when Malchus lay down on his bed. His mind whirled around the events of the day and of recent weeks. He felt grateful that now he could call on Jehovah as his own God. He knew he was ready to ask Seth for Rachelís hand in marriage. He remembered the tug of patience as he had waited through those evenings at the secret rendezvous in Jerusalem when he wanted Rachel, but knew he could not have her. Now, as a Jew, he could ask for her and intended to do just that. His mind finally succumbed to fatigue, and he slept.

With the first light of dawn, Malchus stirred. The thoughts that had been churning through his mind before he went to sleep filled his head once more. As soon as the sun was fully up, he was on the way to search out Seth to ask the question that he had suppressed for so long.

Seth, too, was an early riser. He had had breakfast and was now in the courtyard of the synagogue soaking up the warmth of the early sun. As he visualized his brother Reuben and his new friend Malchus, he thought how pleased each would have been with the other, if only Reuben had not died when he was trapped with his sheep on the mountain in the snow. Seth was startled first by footsteps, then by the voice of Malchus saying, "Shalom."

"Well, good morning, Malchus."

"Seth, now that I am a Jew, I want to ask you for the hand of Rachel in marriage. Let me plead my case." Malchus rushed ahead, afraid that Seth might interrupt before he had a chance to fully explain his commitment to Rachel. "I promise to be a good husband and father to our children. I pledge to care for Ruth, just as for Rachel. As yeoman for the vineyard, I will have financial resources to care for my family. I promise to be faithful to Rachel for as long as we live. In the Jewish tradition, I am planning a personal gift for Rachel. If you and Rachel agree to my request, I shall build Rachel a house onto my fatherís house as is your custom."

"Malchus, I have come to know you as an honorable and industrious man. I also know of the love of Rachel and Ruth for you. Considering all these things, I accept your request for the hand of Rachel."

"Seth, Iím grateful that you came to Patmos as a representative of the family. I would like for you to perform the wedding ceremony when that time arrives. What comes next in planning for a Jewish wedding?"

"Ruth and Rachel will have an engagement party, which, in the Jewish tradition, is at the expense of the brideís family. Your family, in turn, will bear the cost of the wedding. Iíll talk to the mother and daughter and get back to you."

Malchus turned and walked toward the vineyard, barely able to grasp that the moment for which he waited so long was finally upon him. The rest of the day passed quickly, as Malchus planned for his and Rachelís future together. The workers could see something special in Malchusí countenance. When they asked why he seemed so happy, Malchus responded with a smile, "Donít you think it is a beautiful day?"

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