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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Tie (02/28/13)

TITLE: To Love the Lord
By Myrna Noyes


This sudden, unnatural darkness is disturbing. One minute the sun was shining, and the next a blackness crept over the sky and obliterated all light. Some of the soldiers have lit torches, but the darkness is heavy, almost suffocating. I find it difficult to breathe, as if the air has become denser; and an eerie feeling envelops the atmosphere, making the hairs on my arms raise up--almost like just preceding a storm. I pull my robe tighter and glance at the milling mob. We are a diverse lot--rich, poor, old, young, religious, secular, Jewish, Roman. Our common thread is that morbid curiosity that compels us to watch what should not really be watchable.

There's a restlessness rippling through the observers as we wait for the end. I realize I'm perspiring a bit and reach up to wipe my brow. My hand brushes the side of my phylactery, the square, leather box I strapped, as usual, onto my forehead just before morning prayers. I look at my upper left arm, where a small, intricately decorated leather pouch, is also securely tied in place. These both contain sacred words, carefully written on delicate parchment strips; commands directly from God to us, His chosen people. Inside the special box and bag, four passages from the writings of Moses wait in their own darkness. The teachers of the law, the Pharisees, our elders, and anyone who wants to be known as righteous wear these. They are a sign of our religious purity; a spiritual status symbol, if you will.

My musings are interrupted by the cry of the middle prisoner, the one of the three who is the main attraction at this gruesome sideshow: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

I mumble a response under my breath: "Because you have forsaken the teachings and traditions of our ancestors. You break the Sabbath, preach heresy, and are disrespectful to our priests and leaders. Why, you even consort with prostitutes, tax collectors, Gentiles, and other riff-raff. You are called a rabbi by your motley group, but you neither look nor act the part. You've never bound the phylacteries to your body or decorated your prayer shawl with long tassels to testify to your supposed position. No wonder God has forsaken you, when you ignore the things that are important."

The lovely, almost haunting, words of the Shema, our spiritual confession of faith in God, suddenly fill my thoughts. This is one of the holy passages contained in my box and pouch, and like all devout Jews, I recite it at least twice daily. Now the words flow through every corner of my mind and seem to invade my whole body as well: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

The Shema was the very first section of Scripture I memorized by heart as a young boy. My regular repetition of it has become a rote practice over the years, but now I find myself pondering the words for the first time in a long while. Their importance is clearly shown in the command to impress them upon our children, to talk about them at home and away, at dawn and dusk, and to inscribe them upon our doorframes and gates. I silently congratulate myself upon meticulously fulfilling each of these precepts, but my spirit feels inexplicably uneasy. These lofty words about loving God with our entire being seem incompatible and out of place juxtaposed against the mocking jeers, angry shouts, and hate-fueled fury of the crazed crowd--which includes many men who piously worship with me at the Temple each day. Also, word is that the priests and elders are the main instigators of these awful proceedings.

Now this question begs an honest answer: How does this display of bloody torture, gut-wrenching misery, and death have any connection with loving and serving God?

No longer having the stomach to stay to the bitter end, I turn away and head for home.

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This article has been read 414 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/07/13
Wow. This is spectacular. Not only did it mesmerize me but I learned quite a bit that helps pull things together in my mind. You did a fabulous bit of writing on this intense piece.
Cheryl Harrison03/08/13
Unique take on the topic. If you wrote this in two hours I can't imagine what you might have done with more time. Great job drawing your reader in. You had my attention all the way through.
Danielle King 03/09/13
A compelling read on the scene from a different perspective. Amamzing that you could pen so well in two hours.
Alicia Renkema03/10/13
I know the answer about penning so well in two hours, it was the Holy Spirit writing through you. This was so rich and put me right there with the heart and mind of the MC and all he was observing and thinking. You described so well what one had to do to be a righteous, practicing Jew at the time. I am so glad the MC saw how contradictory the actions of his fellow pharisees were with the practice of a loving God. I loved every minute of this. You paint your character's and describe scene's so well. You also do a great job with the telling of Biblical history. Thanks for this great piece and I am so glad you threw a brick or I might never have found it.
Noel Mitaxa 03/11/13
Great insights into your MC's mind and heart, and good detail for the story's background - without labouring the point.
I like the open-ended close, which softens the harsh judgement in repsonse ot Jesus' prayer from psalm 22. Good work.
Bea Edwards 03/12/13
You stunned me with this testimony from your MC's POV.
I hadn't ever considered the Pharisees and other religious leaders conscience's being pricked...
Well done!
Judith Gayle Smith03/13/13
Wonderful. I love this. Thank you . . .
Alicia Renkema03/17/13
I am so glad this piece took 11th over all and 10th in your level. This is a stunning piece and your talent for Biblical fiction is priceless... Have a glorious Lord's day, Blessings to you...
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/17/13
Congratulations on placing 10 in level four and ranking 11 overall!