The day is long, the forecast cloudy. Israel lifts a tent flap to let in a ray of golden sun.
A sudden breeze whisks two specks of sand into his eyes. Small seeds of doubt, they blossom into a weed patch of worst case scenarios.
"What is it, Dad?" asks Ben, seeing his father recoil from the door.
"Nothing, son. Just a little sleep dust."
"Oh! cries the boy. "I think I hear them coming!" He ducks beneath Israel's arm to take his own peek. "They're back! All of them. Simeon, Asher, Judah, Naphtali... But where's 'J'?"
Israel gives the youngster's head a pat. "It's a jungle out there. Best let ol' Eagle Eyes scope out the view."
He hobbles from the tent, squinting as he searches the fields for his favorite. His optimism teeters on a cliff's edge. What if...?
Ah, now he sees them. Levi, Dan, Reuben, Gad, Issachar, Zebulun... The entire tribe, minus him who adds.
Uh-oh. What is this blood-stained cloth Simeon said he found in a ravine? It can't be. Yes, the multi-colored coat has been torn to pieces.
"A wild beast must have killed him" is the only conclusion Israel can envision. "A Bashan bull, perhaps, or roaring lion."
He sighs. "I can't believe he's dead! My 'J' is dead!"
"I don't know," says Ben, pausing to examine the stained garment. "I say something's fishy. Betcha it involves a goat."
"Nonsense," interjects Israel, whose rose-colored cataracts have blinded him to the idea of any possible duplicity. "We must face facts. Your brother has died. It's the end of the world."
So dims Israel's once bright outlook. Though all his sons and daughters try to revive him, their efforts are in vain. Refusing to be comforted, he shuns the company of all but this ravenous youth, whom he smothers inside a cage of drapes.
Forget social events. They're eyesores. Every wedding conjures pictures of crows pecking baker's heads and fickle heralds squeezing Jewish grapes into some foreigner's cup. Each new grandchild evokes visions of one whose progeny he'll never hold. Years of abundance pass by him in a blur as famine takes center stage.
Out of the blue, rumors of Egyptian grain shed new light on the situation. Suddenly all sons must sally forth to buy food. Ben, who eats like a wolf, begs to be included in the entourage. But Dad says no, it's far too dangerous for the wee little twenty-something.
"Why, Dad? I don't understand."
"Alas, my son, it grieves me to confess I do not trust your brothers."
"Neither do I. So can I go?"
To make a long story short, the brothers get the food, Simeon lands in jail, and Israel comes face to face with the unthinkable.
"The man says we have to bring Benjamin along this time."
"Yes!" cries the babe in question. "Freed from jail at last!"
"Oh come on," says Israel. "The way you talk, you'd think this tent was some sort of catacomb."
"More like a tomb," says Reuben the would-be life-guard. "Like the one we threw J - I mean, what I meant to say was, 'kill my own two sons with boredom if you want, but let Ben live'!"
"What about the 'J'?" asks Israel, suddenly suspicious.
"Oh, uh, nothing."
Only after much prayer and fasting (mostly fasting) does reluctant Papa cut the apron strings. Can't let the poor boy starve.
All he can do now is watch and wait. He lays his head on a rock and prepares for the worst.
This time they return more quickly, loaded down with lots of stuff, and with very good news. Simeon's out of jail, Benjamin's back safe, and 'J' is alive.
"Whoa, slow down," says Israel. "What do you mean, the 'J' word is alive? I saw the coat. I thought a wild animal killed him."
"You said that, not us. But the important thing is that he's risen - to a place of incredible power. That's why he's sent for us, so we can join him, to be where he is! Isn't that great?"
"It's what I call a new cool point of view," says Ben.
"Well," replies Israel, "it's a darn sight better than the lies certain 'soldiers' have been feeding me over the years."
He shakes his head at their dumbfounded stares. "So what are we waiting for? Let's go see him!"
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