The sixth day of the month of Sivan.
Eighteenth year in the life of Lily.
Outcast. Tsara. Rejected. Chadel.
Lily, leper of the Valley of Mak'ob.
It was Shavuot. Pentecost. The feast was held each year on the
anniversary of the giving of Torah on Mount Sinai. This was the night in
which every generation of Jews since that day stayed awake to pray and
await the descending to earth of Messiah, Israel's heavenly Bridegroom.
The moon had set behind the canyon wall hours ago, leaving the
mist of the Milky Way as a bright streak across the sky.
Lily and Cantor sat shoulder to shoulder on the big boulder overlooking
Far below them, in the center of the colony, a light burned in the
hut of Rabbi Ahava.
"Look," Lily said. "It glows like lantern, that house. Light beaming
from every crack. Rabbi's awake."
"All scholars in Israel stay awake on Shavuot," Cantor replied.
"Reading Torah. Studying. Praying for Messiah to come."
Lily hugged her knees and threw her head back to search the stars.
"Wouldn't it be . something? Wouldn't it, Cantor?"
I'm praying again, heavenly Bridegroom. Are you on your angel horse?
Galloping through the sky to gather your people? Scoop us up and fly away?
Will you come tonight? Tonight? You know, of all your people . all . we
here in Mak'ob have no hope but you. We're hoping you'll come! To save us.
We're watching for you to come!
Her gaze shifted from constellation to constellation as she scanned
the cold heavens for a sign of Messiah's approaching glory.
But stars were stars.
Cantor rattled off their names as if they were old friends. "Arcturus
directly above us. Vega. Deneb. There's The Lion. There, The Bear.
See them, Lily?"
"I wish I knew as much as you, Cantor."
"Learned the names when I was boy. The old man who tended the
goats taught us young ones. I'm the only one left alive of those boys. I
was thinking, you know, maybe I should teach the little ones now. The
star names. Like he taught me. Children in Mak'ob might forget stars
have names when I die."
Lily frowned. "Don't talk like that, Cantor. Don't tempt the evil
eye by speaking aloud such a thing. You're hardly sick."
Cantor laughed. "Impossible to avoid the subject in this Valley, I'm
"Yes. But no . but . don't. Not tonight, eh? You'll spoil it if you
do. Keep watching."
There was a poignant pause.
Cantor spoke first. "What do you suppose it'll look like when Messiah
"Clear sky. No clouds. Crickets in the brush and then-"
"Lightning! Thunder! Maybe tonight." Lily dreamed. "Maybe tonight
it'll really happen. He's supposed to come on Shavuot! Descend
with mighty power. Like when the Lord descended to the mountain
and gave Mosheh the laws! Wouldn't it be something if . if we were
the first to see the flash!" A shiver of expectation passed through her.
Cantor hummed with pleasure. "Yes. It would be. Really something."
"Not impossible, eh? That the Son of David would stop in Mak'ob
and gather us lost sheep up on his way to Yerushalayim? No place in all
Eretz-Israel needs a visit from Messiah as bad as Mak'ob."
For a while the two sat imagining what it would be like. If He came.
Lily wondered what Scriptures the rabbi was reading.
She thought about her friend Deborah and the baby in Deborah's
womb. Would the baby be instantly born if Messiah came tonight? Lily
considered that this was question worthy of discussing with Rabbi
At last Cantor spoke. "There's Dubhe. Alkaid."
"You know so much. Everything. I just thought they were stars,
"The old man who taught us? He said King David learned the
names of the stars when he was shepherd boy. David found this Valley
when he was searching for lost lamb. Years after that he took refuge in
one of our caves when Saul was trying to kill him."
"Imagine. One of our caves! Maybe where I live."
"When he became king, David returned to Mak'ob. His refuge. He
set the Valley aside as city of refuge for the lepers of his kingdom. His
lost sheep, he called us."
"Imagine! Him . here."
"Ah, look, Lily. There's Antares. Spica."
"Which direction of the sky will Messiah come from, you think?"
"All the light from unseen stars will arrive with him when he comes
to Yerushalayim! Blast the earth at once! Light! No north, south, east,
or west anymore. Just light. Angel armies filling the sky everywhere we
look! Singing! Singing."
Lily imagined it. Smiled. "And you'll sing with them."
"Yes. Yes. I'll sing." Cantor clasped her right hand in his. "You too."
"Yes. Wouldn't it be something if it was tonight?"
I'm praying again, Lord of the Angel Armies! Do the prayers of this Valley
reach your home in heaven? If only . come tonight! Hear our prayers and
gather us in! Don't forget your lost sheep! There are more of us than usual in
the dying cave. My heart is shouting to you, Lord of all the Angel Armies.
Here I am! Lily, leper of Mak'ob! Do you hear my prayers from where you sit?
Don't forget your lost sheep in Mak'ob! We're here because everyone else wants
to forget about us. But you! You! Son of David! Don't forget us, Lord. We're
all waiting. Hoping! And we who live here and die here . we need you more
* * *
What was the time?
The great city of Jerusalem was only just stirring. A merchant leading
a donkey out to water passed by the gardenia bush where seventeen-year-old
Peniel, the potter's son, and Yeshua of Nazareth sat together.
Unnoticed. Unremarkable. Ordinary.
Yet Peniel knew the truth.
All who sought Yeshua tested Him. When they found Him they
sized Him up, trimmed Him to fit their expectations, and tried to force
His image into a puzzle of their own making.
But Yeshua did not fit.
Peniel knew Yeshua did not fit.
Peniel needed no miracles in order to believe He Was and He Is
and He Will Be and He Can and He Wants To!
Nothing is impossible with God!
Peniel sensed the stars glistening on the night wind when the city
was silent, and he knew.
Peniel heard the echo of creation in his heart and he knew.
The Great Timekeeper lived outside of time. Stepped into time.
Just for a moment. Dwelt in our time! And Peniel knew!
Peniel needed no miracle in order to believe these things. And so,
like an unbidden wind, the great miracle had caressed him, stirred him,
root and branch, and he knew!
Now Peniel had seen The Face and he knew the certainty of what
had been unknowable before!
The Great Potter!
He who made eyes had seen!
He who made ears had heard!
Wonder Worker. Origin of First Light. Knower of Secrets. He
who sang galaxies and crickets into existence with equal delight!
Yeshua! He had stepped from eternity into time and stooped to
make Peniel's eyes out of red clay! Paused to finish the creation of an
unfinished life! To show one born blind . The Face!
And Peniel knew.
Yeshua clasped Peniel's hand in friendship. "This is the first light of
a new day, and life will never be the same."
Never the same! Peniel grinned up at the colors of the morning sky.
Never the same! Peniel-no longer beggar, but man of Isra'el-stood
and walked at Yeshua's side.
They passed slowly through the early-morning shadows of the city.
Yeshua rested His hand on Peniel's shoulder as Gershon, Peniel's elder
brother, had done long ago when they had walked together toward the
Pool of Siloam.
Peniel took in the sights with wonder. He said without regret,
"You've changed everything in my life, Lord. I'm cast out of the synagogue
for giving true testimony of what you've done for me. Rejected
by my parents. Now the religious rulers will kill you if they can. For
giving me sight on the Sabbath, you know? I'm glad you did it. But they
want you dead. Healing on the Sabbath and all."
Yeshua smiled, sharing His secret with Peniel. "They've missed
finding the pearl because they stoop to grasp a copper, eh, Peniel?"
"Sure. I see what you mean. Yes. Point is, I was blind and now I see.
No matter what day of the week it was, you healed me. It's the best day
of my life so far."
"What's the best day to show mercy, Peniel?"
"Every day, I think, Rabbi."
"You know what I think. I'm glad you didn't turn away from my affliction
because I'm poor and it was Shabbat."
"Not poor, Peniel. Just without . things."
"I live among the broken people, Lord. Castaways. Waiting without
hope. They're left to pick through the rubbish heap beneath the
"Who will care for them?"
"I asked myself that same thing. But . nobody. Nobody."
Yeshua gave Peniel an enigmatic smile, then abruptly changed the
subject. "Today is Shavuot." Yeshua glanced up toward the light
gleaming on the golden peaks of the Temple. "Today the heavenly
Bridegroom comes to Yerushalayim. What do you think? Would you
like to hear story about mighty king who prepared wonderful banquet
for his son's wedding?"
"You know me. I'm Peniel. I love a good story."
"So. The king sent his servant to the prominent men in his kingdom
to tell them that everything was ready. They should come to the
wedding feast. But all those important fellows were too busy. One had
bought field and sent back the message that he had to go see it. The
other had new yoke of oxen to try out. Another had just got married
and so sent his apologies. But apologies were not enough to the good
king. He told his servant, 'Hurry up! Go out into the streets and alleys
of the city! Bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame! Carry
them on your back if you have to, but bring them!' When this was done
there was still room in the palace so the good king sent his servant out
again. 'Go out to the country roads and lanes. Make them come in so
that my house will be full! I tell you, not one of those important men
who were too busy to come will get a taste of my banquet.'"
A few paces more.
Peniel digested the meaning. "Point taken. Well spoken."
"Who will go out? tell them? carry those who can't walk? bring
them in? fill my Father's house?"
"But, Lord, the rulers. They'll try to kill you, Lord, and yes .
maybe kill me too. Though I'm not so worried about myself as you.
They'll try to put out the light. But why?"
"They prefer the darkness to light, Peniel."
They walked in silence for time as Peniel wondered how anyone
could choose blindness over sight.
"Morning has broken." Yeshua spoke at last.
"Yes. I feel it. I hear it! Listen! Listen to the cock crow!" Then Peniel
followed Yeshua's gaze to ragged beggar sleeping in deserted doorway.
A leper, judging by the stink. What was such an outcast doing here?
Was he dead? "So . this is what the world looks like in the light."
"Darkness is comfortable place. The candle of Adonai illuminates
suffering which most would rather not see."
A chill of apprehension coursed through Peniel. "Beneath the viaduct
where the paupers take shelter, I heard their moans. I smelled the
lepers outside the camp. So hungry. So alone. I dreamed dream that
Mosheh, the lawgiver, spoke to me. He said I would be sent to tell
them . tell them . something. It's not clear to me now. I always try
to remember my dreams. But then I wake up and they fade away."
"The answer will come back to you. When you need to know."
"My ears saw their misery. Oh!" Peniel thumped his hand against
his chest to indicate his pain. "I'm afraid, Lord. Afraid of what my
heart'll feel now that I have eyes."
Yeshua paused and searched Peniel's face. Sad smile. Yeshua, like
father seeing himself in the expression of son. "You have my eyes,
"Who am I to do anything?"
"It's not who you are."
"So many, as you say. All around, I mean." Peniel shook his head.
"Yes. Seeing requires something, eh? That's all the Law and the
Prophets. Summed up."
"So many men know the Scriptures. And still there's the viaduct.
The rubbish heap. People who exist in the long, dreary waiting, like animals
locked up and forgotten." How well Peniel knew this truth.
"Easy not to be bothered. Easy to follow the letter of the Law.
Make great show of keeping the Law. But men forget the true intention
of the Law." Yeshua did not avert His eyes from the bundle of rags
in the alcove, but neither did He slow His pace as they strode toward
the Pool of Siloam. "And by turning away from those who suffer, they
miss great blessings from heaven. Maybe the one they refused to help
was an angel in disguise. Thus ends the lesson. Now, Peniel, practice
what you've learned."
Why, Peniel wondered, did Yeshua not stop and heal the ragged
man? He could have done so in an instant. Yet Yeshua walked on. The
leper would never know how close he had been to his salvation.
Yeshua said, "There's much you won't understand until all things
are complete, Peniel. The road ahead isn't easy."
They walked on, unspeaking, as Peniel attempted to reason out all
that Yeshua had told him.
There were few other travelers abroad. Shops were mostly shuttered;
the Lower City at the foot of the Temple Mount slumbered in
the embrace of its shadow. Pentecost morning, the sixth day of the
month of Sivan, in the seventeenth year of the Roman emperor
Tiberius, was thus far serene.
Peniel shut his eyes and listened to the creak of hinges, the clatter
of breakfast plates within still-barred doors. The trumpets of the morning
sacrifice had not yet sounded, nor had he heard the Levite-led
psalms ring down from the Temple Mount.
From first light until now? Such tiny fraction of life, and yet
fuller in the company of Yeshua than any span in Peniel's memory. Had
less than two hours passed? It was inconceivable.
Peniel opened his eyes again, reveling in his view of the translucent,
pale blue sky and the glistening white marble of the Temple
framed by it. It was as if the pillar of shimmering cloud by which the
Almighty led His people in bygone times rested again atop the Holy
Peniel's gaze darted everywhere, eagerly sorting and cataloging.
The dark green leaves of an orange tree hung over garden wall. Its
verdant foliage cooled the warm honey tones of the sandstone blocks.
A shaft of light lanced through gap in the Temple structures overhead.
The beam caromed off bright brass candle sconce in second-story
window, ricocheting to dazzle Peniel's sight.
More people emerged from their homes; the city came to life as
Peniel watched. Today was holy day when no unnecessary work was
to be done.