Kfar-Nachum, in Galilee, is one of the those quaint fishing villages
that ring the shore of Lake Kinneret. Located on the northwest end of
the Lake, its sits on the Via Maris which leads from Damascus to the Sea
of the western coast. The Romans use it as a tolling place, and here,
once upon a time, a man named Matthew entered history. The Galileans do
not prefer to think of it as a place of tax collection but rather as a
pefect place from which to cast off in their boats, heading east, to
fill their nets.
Here lives one Simon, called BARYON (the Zealot). He is like most of
his fellow Galileans, the most fiercely nationalistic minded men of the
Land of Israel, a passionate yearner after freedom; freedom from
oppression for his people at the hands of the hated enemy which they
call "Edom" - whose root is in the land of Italy, and who perceive
themselves as eagles swooping down upon all nations that their false
gods have delivered to them as prey. Simon has seen much pain and
suffering of his people at their hands. Long ago, he joined the BARYONIM
in their fight against the Romans; he watched many die on crosses which
the Romans errected throughout Galilee. He earnestly yearns for the day
in which the Holy One of Israel shall avenge their blood. On that day,
the Son of Man shall leap down out of heaven and lead the hosts of the
children of Israel to victory over the impius uncircumcized, he
reflects. Yes, Simon sees him very clearly in the words of a popular
apocalyptic writing of the day:
"Behold a white horse; and he that sitteth upon it shall judge and
make war. His eyes are as a flame of fire, and he is clothed with a
vesture dipped in blood: and the armies which are in heaven follow
him upon white horses. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword,
that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them
with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness
and wrath of Almighty G-d."
But now, he is a mature man and leaves the actions of zealousness to
younger men than he, and he contents himself with his good wife and
his good house and his good boat. He sails Kinneret daily, except when
it is blown with storms, and of course never on the holy Sabbath.
Simon came home at evening and ate a good meal with his family. Good
fish, lovingly prepared by his saintly wife, a simple woman of Galilee
whom HASHEM saw fit to bless him with. His children are all healthy,
thanks to G-d, and they learn with the other children of the Kfar-Nachum
at the village synagogue, - the holy language, the scriptures, the
Mishnah. Perhaps one day, they will not be as him, an AM-HA'ARETS, an
unlearned man - but will be great rabbis in Israel. Yes, despite the
fact that Israel now lives under the heal of the heathen, life in his
village is good, and the fish in the Lake plentifull.
So when the meal is over and the children are put to bed, SImon and his
wife retire to their own bed. He is weary, having been out on the Lake
all day with his fellow fishermen, heaving the nets out and pulling them
in, laden with fish that the L--d, in His mercifull generosity, delivers
to them. Now he wishes to retire and his wife wishes him to be kind to
her. This is the wife of his youth whom he has ever loved and he cannot
refuse her wishes. She remembers that ever since their youth, Simon has
been a passionate man, and he brings to their marriage bed that same
passion that spurred him on to join the ranks of the BARYONIM at the
cost of danger to his own life. For the Romans are unmercifull to those
they find who belong to the outlaw organization. Not only they, but
their loved ones as well are in danger when they are discovered - for
the Romans care nothing about even the softnes of gentleness of women or
the innocence of children. Their major concern is the well
oiled machinery of the administration of their budding new Empire and
the revenues gained from their subjects' tribute.
He is physically a big man while his wife is petite, and he always tries
to love her with gentleness. He has not ever learned Mishnah but he
knows that there are prescribed rules for the way a man and wife conduct
themselves in their private time, and he can only hope that his kind
ways with her are fullfilling that which the TORAH wishes from her
children within both the letter and the spirit.
So he gives her his passion as always, and she, now abandons her public
modesty, and returns the passion, fire for fire. And as she embraces
him, she remembers his zeal for HASHEM and His people, and she loves him
all the more, and she so demonstrates it in bed.
Now their love expressed, they begin to drift to sleep. And Simon
recalls the words of KOHELET:
"Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the
life of thy vanity, which He hath given thee under the sun, all the
days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy
labour which thou takest under the sun."
and the words also of David the psalmist:
"For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be,
and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine
by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round
about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that
feareth the HASHEM. HASHEM shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou
shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou
shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel."
Then they sleep.
And Simon dreams:
In the dream, he is sitting by the shore of Kinneret, mending his nets.
It is early morning and he is alone. He looks up, and in the distance,
he sees approaching, a man walking along the water's edge. The man draws
near and Simon realizes that he is a stranger. Simon raises his hand
in greeting. "SHALOM ALECHEM", he says. "VA-ALECHEM SHALOM", the man
answers. Simon hears and recognizes the comfortingly homey accent of
Galilee. He is a brother. Simon motions to the man to sit. The stranger
smiles a benevolent smile and lowers himself to the sand to sit beside
Simon. "You are a stranger around here, no?", SImon asks. The man
replies, "I have been to Kfar-Nachum before. There are not many towns
and villages of fair Galilee that I have not been to." Simon senses an
absolute good will about the stranger, and all his natural inclination
to cautiousness quickly disapates. The man speaks. "Please allow me to
help you mend the net." "Are you then a fishermen as well?", Simon asks.
The man smiles and shakes his head. "No, not a fisherman but I have
experience with nets as I have experience with many things."
Simon nods. "So not a fisherman", he repeats, "then what is your
The man answers very gravely. "I am a king." Simon can bearly believe
his ears, and bursts out laughing. "Please excuse me, sir", he quickly
says, "I mean no disrespect - but do my ears deceive me or did you say
that you are a king?"
Now the man nods. "I am", he says simply.
Simon does not wish to offend the stranger but he cannot help but smile.
"And where, pray tell, good sir, is your kingdom?"
The man takes a corner of the net into his strong hands and begins to
help Simon with the mending. He says, "My kingdom is not in this world
but my subjects shall be the men of the nations of this world, and you
shall be the foundation upon which I build my palace."
Simon raises his eyebrow. "Oh? So your throne is not yet established?"
The man continues to mend the mesh. He speaks. "No, not yet. But what
would you say, Simon, if I were to offer to make you a fisher of men
as well as of fish?"
Simon looks at him sharply. "You know my name?"
The stranger nods. "Who in all of Kfar-Nachum does not know of Simon the
Simon stares at him and his caution begins to return. "You are not a spy
for the Romans, are you?"
The man shakes his head and calmly says. "I am no spy. I have told you
that I am a king, and I need a man like you, a man of strength and
passion, to be the foundation of my palace that shall be built."
Simon's pulse is racing. "If you are a Zealot who has pretensions to set
up a kingdom here, you must be aware that you must conquer the Romans.
If you are seeking soldiers and wish me to be some sort of lieutenant in
your crew, you must know that I am now too old for that sort of thing.
But in my day, I, along with my good companions, led many a surprise
attack against Roman scouting parties. Yes, I will even boast that my
own good blade dispatched some and sent them to hell. Yet, we are here
alone, and if you should repeat what I have told you, I shall deny it,
and I shall know that you are indeed a spy for the Romans, and a
traitorous Galilean. Where do you say you are from."
The man's hands continued working all the while that he spoke. "I am
"Ah, I know it well", Simon said. "A good town with good people. But
now, what of this kingdom you speak about? Do you intend to conquer the
Romans, oh great king?", Simon laughed.
The man returned Simon's laughter with a warm smile of his own. "Oh yes,
I shall conquer them but not in the way that you are thinking."
"Not in a holy war?", Simon asked. "How then?"
The man looked up from the net and said, "They shall come to me and
Simon dropped the net. His mouth was agape. He did not know whether to
continue laughing at this stranger's apparent madness or whether to
become angry. Surely the stranger was jesting with him.
Yet before he could speak, the man began to speak again.
"Simon, hear me well. I have CHOSEN you to be a fisher of men, and to
bring them into my kingdom. You are already the foundation of my palace
whether you will or not. It has been ordained from Above."
Simon asked the man, "To what end can I, a simple fisherman, be
the foundation of your palace?"
The man replied, "Simon, are you not called BARYON, and have you not that
zeal for HASHEM that we Galileans are noted for?"
Simon nodded, "Yes, I have zeal, but my zealousness is
to destroy the uncircumcized occupiers of our Land who blaspheme the
The man reflected a moment, and added, "Simon, is it not
better to bring the Romans into the House of HASHEM, that they may know
His greatness and understand that they are not the lords of creation?"
Simon twisted his face in disgust. "The Romans are unclean. They would
pollute His House."
The man smiled. "But if the G-d of Israel should
bring them close to His service and clean them, you could no more call
Simon looked out upon Lake Kinneret. It was calm ... so calm that it
appeared to be a paved way that one might even walk upon. He had no
ready answer now. This was not his way of thinking. Too many crosses had
been set up in Galilee; too much Jewish blood spilled by them. He turned
to the stranger who waited silently for his reply.
Simon spoke. "Can one walk upon water? Can the Romans ever be cleaned from all their
bloodshed? The MESHIACH will come before that happens."
The man smiled and remained silent. Clouds floated in the sky above Kinneret.
Simon awoke from his dream.
He rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The sun began to rise, and the
morning rays to stream in through the window which over looked the Lake.
His wife still slept and he did not wish to awaken her. She smiled in
her sleep, and he felt happy.
Soon he was dressed and walking along the
lakeshore. He heard the cry of the gulls above. It would be a good day
for casting out. He remembered his dream only vaguely. Something about
someone telling him that he would be fishing for men he mused. After a
few moments, he completely forgot that he had dreamed at all.
The sun was now fully risen, and shone behind him over Kinneret. Simon
placed his right hand over his eyes while with his left he gathered
together the TSITSIOT of the four corners of his shirt, and he began to
recite the morning SHEMA.
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