Ze'ev parted the dalet, the curtain hanging over the entrance to the black goat-hair tent. He was damp, dirty, and disgusted. Pausing before entering, he let his eyes adjust to the dimness. The interior reeked of wood-smoke from the fire Ze'ev stepped around as he strode reluctantly toward the figure sitting at the far end.
"So ... evidently you failed," the figure said.
"Yes, elder Jethro, but it changes nothing. I see no reason why I should not ask for the hand of your daughter simply because I cannot uproot a useless tree."
"Ze'ev, do you know what I am?" Jethro asked, motioning for Ze'ev to sit.
Sprawling onto a rug, Ze'ev replied, "A priest."
"That function pales in comparison to what I truly am. I am a remnant, but a remnant not as something that is simply left over, but a remnant specifically isolated for a purpose. Both I and that small tree you tried to pull up are remnants. I, an Ishmaelite remnant, and it a remnant of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil--the fig tree that stood in the Garden."
"That little tree is part of the Great Tree?" asked Ze'ev, impressed. Incredulity had replaced his normal sarcastic smugness.
Jethro nodded. "When Adam and Eve were banished, an angel broke off a branch from it, fashioned a staff, and gave it to Adam as a symbol of God's authority that he would carry throughout his life. It was passed down through Noah and Shem, through Abraham and then to Ishmael. It was buried in a cave, not lost but reserved, and that's where I found it."
"What does all this have to do with Zipporah. It's her I wish to marry, not the staff."
"Your vision is temporally-focused, Ze'ev. At one time, I thought the staff was meant for me. But when it rooted itself one day, I realized I was only the bearer. In my dreams an Angel of God told me that my daughter will marry a man of great consequence to the Hebrews and I will know him by his ability to possess the staff."
"I can be that man. Just allow me to cut it down."
"You don't see. My daughter is incidental to why the staff is rooted in the ground. You're filled only with earthly desire for my daughter, and fail to understand the significance of the staff."
"I desire both," Ze'ev exclaimed in frustration. "I have prepared myself to do the work of God. I have studied the Law. It's true I want Zipporah for my wife, but I also want to do mighty works to please God. You must choose me to be your son-in-law. I will bring you great honor."
By now Ze'ev had risen to his feet. He was shaking with conviction, bordering on anger. He knew in his heart that this is where he was destined to be. To be an important leader in the time of some great crisis was the role in life he was destined to fulfill. Why could Jethro not see that?
Jethro spoke in a soft voice, trying to still the rising tide of heated discourse. "Its not me doing the choosing, Ze'ev. Even now your heart refuses understanding even though the truth is given you. God chooses those he will use for his purposes. I did not plant the staff, nor will I determine who shall receive it. I did not choose my daughter as a channel for that choice. I did not even find the staff of my own accord in the first place. Only God can put the instrument of his choosing into the hands of those he chooses. We are but vessels."
"But why can't I be that vessel? Am I not as righteous as you. Do I not perform the burnt sacrifices as you do? Why am I so unworthy?"
Jethro turned to regard Ze'ev. A look of compassion stole unguarded into his eyes as he gazed into the eyes of the young man. Why indeed? How many times had he asked himself that same question. Only now, after the fullness of life had the answer, the only answer possible, come to him. As he responded to the young man, he realized he was answering himself as well.
"You do not fear the staff, nor the power that created it."
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