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The Old Carpenter
by Julie Michaelson
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she brought
her firstborn
and laid him
in a manger.
[Luke 2:7]
Place: Bethlehem
Time: Several months
before the birth of Christ.
Characters: Menschi,
and his son-in-law, Kvetch'im.,
An Angel of the Most High.
"Father, what are you
DOING? You are up
too LATE!"

Menschi stopped working,
and calmly turned around.
In the shadowy candle light,
Menschi's thin, wrinkled face looked even
more tired in the waning
light of the sunset.
"Ah.....I am almost done,
Kvetch'im. I will come to
sleep, soon."

At the door of the barn,
his son-in-law stood: the
usual scrowl on his tanned
leathery face. Kvetch'im
was a good new husband,
and attentive father-to-be,
but he was of the ornery sort:
in other words.......
Kvetch'im enjoyed complaining.
"Rebecca is WORRIED
about you, Father! You
have not eaten very much
all DAY! And, now.....here
you sit by candle light....
working on that....that
CATTLE feedbox! You
can FINISH it.....tomorrow!
COME! Just LEAVE everything as it is....and
COME back to the house!
We are WORRIED about
you, Menschi!"

Menschi simply turned back around to his task
at hand. He just shook
his head: carpentry tools
surprisingly firm in his
long, bony hands. Menschi
had been holding carpentry
tools since he was old enough to walk......and,
the craft now kept him busy
following the death, just
months ago, of his beloved
wife of thirty-five years.
Even now, tears welled up in Menschi's dark eyes,
as he carefully and purposely
shaved away at the big block of work sitting before him.

Miranah would have just
chuckled, saying;
"Ah! Your father-in-law
will come to bed when he
CHOOSES! You have no
idea how STUBBORN Menschi becomes when he
is finishing on a wooden PIECE!"

Menschi smiled; he could
almost hear his wife's voice in the
small, cluttered, musty barn.
He reached out to stroke
the soft skin of one of the
newborn calves. Behind
the calf, were several sheeps,
and the mother cow which
his son-in-law had taken in for the night.
"Go back to the HOUSE....
Kvetch'im! I am WELL!
I'm just finishing off some
roughened edges.....here,
and there......"

"What is the RUSH? It's
just a FEEDING....trough..
for the BARN! And, it
certainly DOESN'T need
to be PERFECT, Father!
Come to BED, already!"

But Kvetch'im barely heard his son-in-law's whiny voice.
He was deep in thought:
concentrating on shaving off just enough wood to
enhance the lovely shape of the wooden manger....
or feeding trough, as it was
usually called. It was only
in the past several days
that Menschi had come out
of his mourning state: wearing black, torn garments, rough sack cloth, and throwing bits of dirt on his covered head in demonstration of the intense grief for his beloved Miranah.

A roman soldier had stolen
the other feeding trough
that had stood in their
barn for so many years. Instead of being robbed in
the middle of the night, this had taken place right
at midday: the Romans had passed through their
little village, taking news
from their Emporer of the
upcoming census to be
taken, and the soldiers,
talking and laughing loudly,
had simply looked around
and taken whatever they
had wanted: Menschi's family stood helplessly as
one of Romans kicked his
way into their house: taking whatever amused,
or interested him. It was
only the soverence of God
that his young daughter, precious Rebecca, was not
beautiful, and was walking
rather clumsily, her womb
full of rambunctiously growing twins.

If not, the Roman soldier
would have most likely
pushed Kvetch'im aside,
perhaps killing him......and
helped himself to their
precious daughter, and young wife.

Even now, a chill ran down
Menschi's thin bony spine
as he continued his meticulous work over the
block of wood. Thank the
Lord, that his Miranah
had been spared that horrible scene
of such anxious moments, and terror at what the Roman
might have done to their

A flicker of light caught
Menschi's sharp eyes. He
looked up; it was only the
melting flame of the candle.
He nodded to himself, and
drew even closer to his woodwork.
For some reason, Menschi
felt that he must finish
this simple farming trough,
very quickly. It seemed
important, somehow......as
if the Lord was going to take him soon, just as He
had done with his beloved

Menschi stopped shaving
the wood, for one moment,
to cup his thin palm about
the warm stoneware filled
with herb tea that Kvetch'im had hurridly
placed on the little wooden
table beside all his tools.
Rebecca had made it, no doubt.
Menschi smiled as
he pictured his rather plump,
clumsy-looking daughter, at the moment,
standing by the cooking fire and stirring up his
favorite herbal hot tea.
Rebecca didn't have outward beauty, but her
goodness and kindness shone for all who shared
their village life with her.
Rebecca would be spending
the next couple of months
with her in-laws, since her
own mother had deceased,
and it was always tradition
to have the girl's mother
on hand for the birth.

Menschi frowned, and
then chuckled. It was
obvious where Kvetch'im
had inherited his ornery
countenance. His mother
was a good person, though
extremely bossy, and had
insisted on their new daughter-in-law staying at
their house before and after the birth of her
new grandchildren.

Kvetch'im would be handling all the innkeeping
alone, for the next several
months; he would probably
actually enjoy it........being
given more opportunity
to complain and act ornery.

Another hour went by.
The fragrant candle had burnt out, and was refilled
with a little more oil. Menschi was completely
absorbed in his woodworking: shaving,
cutting, smoothing, and polishing.......when all of
a sudden, Menschi heard
a soft, though firm, voice.

beloved one of the Lord,
It is time."

Menschi, startled, dropped
his cutting tool, and slowly
turned around on his little
old stool.

There was an angel....or
what seemed to be:
a strange creature filled with warm, sweet-smelling
Light. Neither man, nor woman: a human, and not
a human. The angel just
stood there as if waiting....
waiting. Then, he smiled
with compassion, and said.
"Your work on this earth
is done, Menschi. The Lord
is calling you. Come!"

Menschi did not feel any
chill down his back, with
fright, or anxiety, or trepidation;
only he felt the warm, glowing light of
the lovely creature reaching out......to touch him. Menschi, who was now
breathing quite raggedly,
managed to speak.
"But.....but.....the MANGER!
It is not yet FINISHED!"

The angel nodded and smiled quietly.
The circle of Light over his head
was beckoning, like a cool blue lake,
to a thirsty man crawling out of a desert.
He did not seem surprised by anything
which Menschi had said.
He reached out his hand,
and spoke, serenely and
"Come, Menschi. The Lord
will make all things good.
You have been a good and
faithful servant. I am a
servant of the Most High,
too, Menschi. Come! Come
with me, child, come!"

Menschi tentatively reached out
his bony, leathery old hand to the
long slender one of the
tall angel. At the moment a warm,
encompassing Light touched the old man, and
for one moment his wrinkled eyes widened, as
if he were seeing for the
very first time.
It was ornery Kvetch'im
who found the old man's cold
body, early the next morning, inside the musty
old shed. After his first
gasp of surprise, Kvetch'im
knelt down beside his father-in-law's still body
and murmured a quick Hebrew prayer for the dead. Then he sighed deeply, and slowly stood up:
thinking of the sad news he was going to give
to his bride, on such a beautiful, lovely morning.

Kvetch'im stood still for
a moment, pausing to gaze
over the big block of wood
that his father-in-law had
been so determined to finish......
even with the sure
pangs of death coming on.

Kvetch'im stared down at
the cumbersome-looking feeding trough:
his young, bushy, dark brows drawn together in puzzlement.
Why in such a terrible hurry to finish the simple
thing? It just didn't make
any sense? It was getting
colder at night, and to be
sure, the animals were spending more time in the
warm barn, but, still.......
there surely wasn't any great urgency to replace
the trough that had been
stolen by the loathesome

Perhaps, his father-in-law
had begun to lose his senses, during those last
few days.....and, that would
explain his almost obsessive urgency
to attend to such a house item of such low estate:
it wasn't as if it would ever
be worth anything......just
a trough smelling of damp
hay, and animal fur.... not worth very much, at all.

Kvetch'im sighed again,
and scratched his head,
as he made his way out of
the small, musty barn.
He would also have to notify the town priest.....
and make preparations....
but, first, he must break
the sad news to his wife...
who would never get to
hold up her babies to her
besotten father.

"I will take care of her...
and the children, Menschi...
it is my promise."
Kvetch'im whispered to the
cool wind that was blowing dirt
and leaves around the old barn.

Kvetch'im had reached
the little wooden door of
their small house, and place of rented rooms for
travelers. He paused for
a moment: his hand on the
doorknob. He didn't want
to go inside; Rebecca would
be sitting on her chair: stirring some more herbal
tea for her beloved, old
father. He grimaced; his
hand still on the doornob.
Kvetch'im whispered to himself,
in his usually whiny voice.
"I don't want to DO this!"

A small, quiet Voice, in the
wind whipping about the
falling leaves in the front
yard of the inn, a Voice
that was neither human nor
angelic, but kind, and firm.
"Go, My child.
For you have important
work to do."

Kvetch'im scrowled, and put
a plump finger to his chest.

The Voice, still low and quiet,
became almost stern.
that time is coming.....
You shall find
the babe
in swaddling
in a
[Luke 2:12]

Copyright 2012.


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Sunny Loomis  28 Dec 2012
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