Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Beautiful (11/07/05)
TITLE: At The Gate Called Beautiful
By Dan Louise Mann
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Gedalya’s father thoroughly instructed him in the ways of God. He was an apt student and a delight to his father. They lived in Jerusalem, not far from Temple, where his father prayed three times daily, but sadly father and son knew that Gedalya’s lameness would prevent him from ever being allowed to do this. His day was instead occupied with the “special” job of begging for alms outside Temple. His father had taught him that alms were actually a gift to the giver, but that did not stop Gedalya from having many days of self-pity. He couldn’t exactly say he was cheerful in his work, but he did force himself to put a smile on his face as he called out to people heading into Temple. And so the years passed with his faithful friends and relatives taking turns carrying him daily to the eastern entrance to Temple, to the gate called Beautiful. While prayers were ongoing, few people passed Gedalya’s location, so his habit during this time was to silently recite the prayers—the Ashrei, the Amidah, the Aleynu--but he knew that his prayers, though heartfelt, were not considered “legitimate,” for the law required one to pray in God’s presence standing, something he would never be able to do.
Through the years Gedalya came to recognize the “regulars” who worshipped at Temple daily. One afternoon he saw two men he had seen many times before. He remembered they used to attend with a Rabbi, but Gedalya had heard rumors this Rabbi had been executed, and for a while he hadn’t seen these men at Temple. Now they were back, and there seemed to be a new confidence in their stride. Confidence might translate into generosity, he thought, so he called out to them. They turned and stopped directly in front of him.
“Look at us!” one said. Gedalya locked eyes with the man who had spoken. “I have no money,” he began, “but what I DO have, I will give to you.”
Gedalya almost shut his mind off from listening when “no money” was mentioned, but now his curiosity was piqued. If not money, what could he mean?
With authority in his voice, the man said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
This was unexpected! No one had offered him healing before! Wait a minute…wasn’t that the Rabbi’s name? Why call on that name? Who were these men? While these thoughts and questions were zipping through his head, the man reached out and pulled Gedalya to his feet. It took his brain a moment to process that something was very different. Then he had it! He was standing…on his own! Daring to look down at his feet, he gasped, and tears sprang to his eyes. His feet and ankles were strong and healthy looking!
The first words from Gedalya’s lips were praises to God. Loud praises! He couldn’t contain his excitement as he hopped first on one foot, then the other. The two men laughed with him as he strode back and forth, testing new stability and strength. Then they gestured for him to come with them into Temple. And now another realization hit him. He could actually…go…into…Temple! Not wanting to let his new friends out of his site, he clung to them as they made their way into Temple. He wanted to know more about this Jesus of Nazareth, but first…FIRST…he wanted to pray the Mincha, the afternoon prayers, in Temple.
For the first time in his life he actually stood in Temple praying with his fellow Jews. Simple movements--the ritual three small steps forward before beginning the recitations, the bending of knees, the bowing--were each overwhelming small miracles for Gedalya! Tears streaming down his cheeks, he recited aloud the prayers he had so often said in silence. Coming to the last prayer, the Amidah, he practically sang the opening words, “Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare thy praise!” Hallelujah, he thought, God IS great!
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