Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: CHALLENGE (08/17/17)
TITLE: Two Choices
By Elaine Hemingway
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The Shofar blew, its call reaching into the streets and rubble of the newly occupied town. Pebbles scattered as feet rushed to the temple and the dampened dust that was raised had a bitter taste on the tongue. For three days the people had been gathering, knowing an important announcement was to be made. Non-attendance would mean the forfeiture of their property. Jonathan knew what was coming for he had argued against it. He was breathing uneasily, searching in the crowd for the one he loved the most. He had tried unsuccessfully to avert the forthcoming announcement and the hardest task of his life was about to transpire. His thoughts went back to three days before this assembly. Three days when he had had to contemplate the decisions to be made, and the heartbreak that would break up his family, one way or another.
“But Abba,” his son had cried when he told him the verdict brought by Ezra, the High Priest from Babylon. “He was school teacher and guide. I know he did not agree with me when I asked to marry Jerusha but you have all grown to love her.”
“Indeed, my son, but the fact remains that she is not of our faith.”
“Abba, father, she has attended Synagogue, and has allowed our children to be taught at Yeshiva, even though it is the Hebrew school, along with their cousins. Jerusha no longer worships Bel or Ishtar, and acknowledges Yahweh. Surely Ezra cannot mean that she must return to Babylon. I cannot cast her away, give her Get as a divorce certificate“
“We have compromised, tried to ignore the law. We have condoned the practices brought with the foreign wives by allowing them to continue. Now we face the consequences.”
“Is Yahweh really so cruel?” Shimon had cried, his tears flowing in rivulets down his beard.
“I cannot advise you my son. Your children are mine also, but we were warned. From the beginning, Yahweh instructed, ‘Do not intermarry with foreign women,’ and as always we had two choices, to obey or to disobey.”
There they stood, his beloved son with the Babylonian woman he had married. She who had grown under the influence of foreign gods, until Shimon had met her, and introduced her to his God, Yahweh. They stood, waiting, and looking as devastated as he felt.
Ezra stood on the platform at the entrance of the refurbished Temple, all the work having been completed by the number of people who had returned to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile. The people had gathered from a fifty-mile radius to hear the challenge he was about to utter, in spite of the rain which had been falling since the Sabbath. Tall and stately, authority personified, he lifted his voice and the crowds were still.
“You have been unfaithful: you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. Now make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from you foreign wives.”
The silence was tangible.
What would Shimon do? How would the family respond? Two choices; obedience or not!
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