The steady rhythm of the music reverberated through the tiny house. Jenani pulled her black widow’s veil closer and curled up in the corner.
“Aunt Jenani? Dad says you’re to join us.”
“I’m fine. Scoot.”
Almighty God, why? The only man I’ve ever loved - gone. We were only kids ourselves. Such hopes for the future – our own home, a farm, children. The first battle he ever fought – a pawn in the hand of some Greater Power.
“Come on sis. Come and join the family.”
Hearing her brother’s voice in the doorway, Jenani spun around, stray wisps of unwashed hair escaping from the veil. Empty eyes gazed at the strong man whose figure was silhouetted against the late summer sunlight.
“Join in the fun, kiddo. You must come.”
The man stepped inside and squatted beside his distraught sister. Jenani recoiled both in body and spirit.
“Hey, Jen, I don’t know how to say this. Nobody expects you to be the life of the party. But … well … you’ve got to try to celebrate.”
Jenani looked at her brother blankly.
He has no idea. His pretty wife and cute kids are with him. What would he know? Anyhow, I’m not going to drag the atmosphere down like a flying duck hit by an arrow. Besides, how can I celebrate without my precious Benjamin?
“Jen, you don’t understand. How could you? You’re a girl. After they found the Book of the Law a while back, we learned what Moses said about the Feast of the Tabernacles. That’s why we’re having this camp-out. It’s not just for fun. It’s in obedience to Jehovah.”
Yeah, fine. Camp if you want. See if I care. Besides, Jehovah doesn’t care about us.
“Jen, listen to me.” David reached out and turned Jenani’s pale face to his own tanned one. “Moses commanded it. We are to celebrate this feast, and we are to be joyful. That command includes the fatherless and the widows. That’s you, princess. For seven days, we’ve got to camp out as a community, focus on who God is and rejoice. I know you can’t smile, but you can at least focus on God. Not because you want to, but because you are a good Hebrew girl.”
If you’re so smart, Mr Know-it-all, explain one thing. Why did God allow this to happen?
Dave pulled his sister up by the hand. Gently, he led her out the door into the harsh sunlight. “Come on, kiddo. We’ve made a fun little lean-to for you and Mother. You’ve got to be a part of the community for the week. That’s the Law. It is designed for our good.”
Several days later, Jenani, the dutiful Hebrew girl, sat outside her hut with her mother, watching a group of young people dance and sing. Their colourful clothes fluttered as they twirled. Rhythmic clapping interspersed the verses.
“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy! How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!**”
Not a lot to clap and shout about. But I guess that doesn’t change who God is….
“He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom He loved**.”
As if. We’re headed the same way the northern tribes went a few years back. To exile. The prophets have been saying that for ages. That’s why we lost the battle.
As the lively music worked its way deep into Jenani’s brain and soul, a miniscule trace of a smile twitched the edge of her mouth. The sun reflected off the brass instruments to her right. The atmosphere of the dancers and indeed, the whole community, was infectious.
Somewhere deep inside her, Jenani’s spirit picked up the song. “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of the trumpets.**”
As he danced in wild celebration, spinning his youngest in the air, David looked across at the shadow that was left of his beautiful sister. He hated to drag her to the celebrations. And yet it was the Law. Moses had commanded the people to shift the focus off themselves and onto their Great King. He even commanded them to be joyful as they did so.
Noticing Jenani’s foot beginning to tap, Dave’s face broke into a huge smile. His family was not exempt from hard times, but God was in His rightful place. They’d be okay.
* Deuteronomy 16:14
**The song is taken directly from Psalm 47:1-5, NIV
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