Yoni eased himself gingerly to the divan, bearing his seventy-four years as gently as his weakening joints would permit. Resting on the crimson velvet cushion, he sighed peacefully at the wondrous sight before him. Spanning the breadth of the Hall, over three hundred meters, lay a magnificent feast. For centuries, humble pilgrims had brought an innumerable variety of food from domestic and foreign lands, all offered to the Lord. Vast servings of splendid and simple fare sat before Yoni in honor of the Almighty One.
For over sixty years, Yoni had entered the Hall through its gold laden double doors to encounter the glorifying tribute, and never a day passed when he didn't silently ponder the miracle of how the food remained unspoiled. Decades had been spent listening to his scholarly brethren extol the feast. Such an amazing display of the Lord's blessing brought many to their knees. To the wise, such a testament demanded the feast remain sacrosanct and therefore no one touched the offering. It remained an unwritten law. Yoni nodded. The justification for not violating the feast sat warmly in his mind, and he soaked in that reasoning, like bread in soup.
His frail frame tensed slightly as he looked to the table's end. A young boy sat staring at the offering with hungry eyes. Yoni sighed at the conundrum presented in the boy. Never once did the child reach out for the food. Never once did he even threaten. Nor did he leave.
The boy's peace challenged Yoni. Experience, wisdom, and discussion led to truth, but this youth demonstrated understanding as a master would. The child's patience and passion for the offering astounded Yoni.
"It is food, and its purpose is to nourish. If you are hungry, why not eat?" The young voice had haunted Yoni's thoughts for three days. Unlike his brethren, he had had no questions for the boy. Only Yoni's insecurity wanted to question the wisdom and innocence pouring out of the youth's eyes when they had met Yoni's. The boy's eyes held an invitation to share in the passion for the feast.
Yoni silently shook his head and his white beard swept the cushion. He quietly returned his gaze to the food before him. The temptation to eat had eroded to dust through the years and the real battle facing Yoni arose from the resurrection of that temptation. The gold-streaked red apple sitting before him shone with a delicacy of sweet promise. Yoni knew that the apple was meant for the Lord, and yet he could not deny his own desire for it, drowned previously under a litany of rationalizations.
Whispers arose and Yoni broke away from the apple to witness the boy being led away by a woman. A collective sigh released at the youth's parting. Yoni did not remove his gaze until the child and the woman, possibly his mother, passed into a haze beyond his failing sight.
He turned his attention back towards the apple and then felt a whisper against his arm. To his left, stood a young girl fixated on the apple. As custom, a flood of men came to remove a possible violation of the sacred feast, but Yoni held up his hand as he had done for the boy three days earlier. The men obediently stopped, yet remained close at hand. The young girl turned to look at Yoni. He found a familiar innocence in her simple brown eyes. He also found hunger. His eyes closed.
Practiced serenity hid the struggle beneath. The boy's words and the countless decades of acquired discipline wrestled. Yoni opened his eyes to the inviting apple before him. He felt many eyes upon him.
He knew the truth. He, too, was hungry.
Quivering, his thin arm reached out. Shouts erupted from all over. He grasped the apple with a shaking hand. He then did something he had not done in years. He spoke.
"Are we not hungry?" He paused and looked at the apple. "I accept all responsibility and judgment."
All stood astounded at the elder, some witnessing his voice for the first time. Yoni took the opportunity and gave the apple to the girl. "Eat," he invited.
Each crunch resounded through the Hall. As she ate, Yoni smiled, realizing what he had done. It was much better than eating.
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