The days between ROSH HA-SHANNAH and YOM KIPPUR are called the ASERET YEMEI TESHUVAH, the Ten Days of Repentence, and it is during these days that Jews take inventory of their sins and try to do all in their power to ammend their ways, and face their G-d on YOM KIPPUR in a state of purity. To this end, they immerse themselves in the MIKVAH (especially the men) to wash away the TUMAH, that ritual impurity and defilement that adheres to the soul when it has not kept itself pure, and what man or woman is there that lives life and does not become TAMEI? And so it was that Simon came down to Judea from Galilee to perform his service on YOM KIPPUR in the House of the L--d at Jerusalem, and he would go to immerse himself, for no one may ascend the Mountain of G-d in a state of TAMEI. And Yochanan the Immerser was teaching by the River Jordan then, and the people of Jerusalem went out to hear him teach and to be immersed by him, for his fame spread out all over the Land of Israel, and beyond. (Who has not heard of Yochanan HA-MATBIL? Is he not even spoken of in the pages of the Talmud?). So Simon went out with them to see the great man and to be immersed by him in the Jordan.
Yochanan gathered the people to him and taught them to be cleansed in preparation of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. For on ROSH HASHANNAH, they say HEAR OH ISRAEL, HASHEM IS OUR G-D, HASHEM IS ONE. And Yochanan taught them the tradition of the Sages - namely HASHEM IS OUR G-d, today He is the G-d of Israel and its King, HASHEM IS ONE, but on that day, soon, He would be G-d and King of all the nations. For, he said,now he immersed them in water but soon the Son of Man would descend and immerse all of creation in the Holy Spirit. So Simon was filled with passionate longing for his G-d and allowed Yochanan to immerse him. And he came out of the water and sat down under a palm tree to dry himself and to watch the children of Israel be purified from their TUMAH in the waters of the very River that Joshua had commanded to be divided that his people might cross over dryfoot.
Shortly there appeared a man whose appearence was familiar to Simon. Where had he seen him before, he wondered. Indeed, he could not remember if he had ever really seen him somewhere or if he had dreamed him sometime once. The man stood in the water a few moments and spoke with Yochanan. Then both men embraced and Yochanan immersed him. The man rose up out of the water, and a strange thing occurred. As he emerged on the shore, a dove appeared suddenly, from where Simon could not determine. The dove flew down and rested on the shoulder of the man who had just been immersed. Simon could not surpress a laugh of surprise at such a thing. He saw the man approach him. Soon the he stood above Simon and said, "SHALOM brother, may I sit here beside you and dry myself?" "Of course", Simon motioned for him to sit and moved a bit to give the man a space to lean against the tree. The man lowered himself and sat.
Simon smiled. "I hear by your accent, brother, that you are also a Galilean. Wherefrom, if I may ask?" The man answered, "Nazareth". "Ah", Simon smiled, "a good town with good people. I know it well. I am Simon, called BARYON, from Kfar-Nachum." The Nazarethite smiled. "So you are a Zealot, brother." Simon nodded. "I have always strived to be zealous for HASHEM and His TORAH but now I am quite non-political. Too old for that sort of thing." Simon pointed to Yochanan. "Now there is a man who has the zeal of an Elijah. I could follow such a man if he were the one."
Simon turned to the man. "I am sorry, brother. How are you called?" "Jesus", the man said. "Well then, brother Jesus, do you think that he might be the one?" The Nazarethite shook his head. "No Simon, he himself says that he immerses with water, but that shortly the Son of Man is to come and immerse the creation in the Holy Spirit."
Simon faced the man. His thoughts were immediately distracted when he noticed that the dove which had landed on Jesus' shoulder perched there still." "I am amazed, sir", he said. "That bird sits on you unafraid. I have not seen the like. What do you make of it?" Jesus smiled, and Simon could not help but notice that his smile was very warm, and that feeling of having seen this man before returned, but he could not remember where that might have been.
Jesus spoke. "I believe that this bird has no fear of me because he considers me his friend." Simon also smiled. Adoni, do you believe that this is some sign? For as soon as you emerged from the water, he alit upon you, and has remained there since." Jesus asked, "What might be that sign, Simon BARYON?" "I do not know, sir", Simon answered.
Jesus replied, "Do not our Sages say that a dove is the symbol of many things? He is the bird of peace and those who love peace and make peace are called the sons of G-d, are they not?" Simon nodded. "Then if I am for peace, may this dove not say to you that I am a son of G-d?" "Quite so, my lord", Simon smiled, "for our Sages say 'Be as the disciples of Aaron, loving peace, pursuing peace, loving humanity, and bringing them close to the TORAH.'"
Jesus continued. "But Simon, it is given to all to be the sons of their heavenly Father if they but wish it." "Aye", Simon asnwered. "We Jews do call Him ABBA." Jesus smiled again. "Exactly so." Then he continued, "Well Simon, you asked if Yochanan might be the one. So you seek him?"
Simon let his gaze wander to the Jordan where the multitudes were being immersed. He answered, "I seek one whom I would follow if I knew that he would rid us of our enemies and bring Heaven's Kingdom swiftly." "And would you follow such a man faithfully?", Jesus asked. Simon replied, "I would follow him faithfully as any faithfull servant follows his master." The Nazartethite folded his hands together and let them rest on his outstretched legs. He continued. "And if you knew that this master would pay the ultimate price to accomplish his end, would you still follow?" "What would be the ultimate price, Adoni?", Simon asked.
"How should a man show his love for his friend if need be?", Jesus returned his question. "Why to lay down his life for him", SImon answered. "So now I ask you, Simon, what if this master's end were the cross?" Simon turned his face to the man who sat beside him and said, "You mean KIDDUSH HASHEM, martyrdom for the Sanctification of His Name? There is no doubt that such a one would be worthy to be followed. Have not our Sages said that there is no greater love a Jew may show to G-d and to his people than to die AL KIDDUSH HASHEM?"
"Now answer me this, Simon", Jesus continued. "What if you knew that you yourself must partake of the same cup as he whom you followed? Would you still be willing to follow him as a faiuthful servant?" Simon smiled, but it was a bitter smile. "Sir", he said, "You yourself are a Galilean. How many valiant Jews of Galilee have the Romans so dispatched? We have been born into a world of crosses, raised in that world of crosses, the bodies of our brothers have hung from them since the devil sons of Edom came to our Land. Why should I believe myself above my brothers given over to destruction by the enemy. Yea, if I myself were to be so delivered up to death for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, I would not turn away from what must needs be."
Now Jesus' face turned grave. "Simon, I will ask you one more thing. Would you follow a master whom you believed to be the one sent by HASHEM with such fast faith that you would stand strong always and never deny him?" Simon shook his head. "No, I would never deny such a master." Jesus continued. "You know, Simon, G-d has many creations and they never deny Him; they always do His will as faithfull servants. For He has appointed the moon and the stars to illuminate the night, and to give light to the world of men, and they do His will and deny Him not." Simon replied, "Then, sir, I vow that I would be as faithfull to that master as the moon and the stars in the sky, and never deny him." Jesus continued. "He has made the sun to give light also when the night is done. It rises each day to do His will. It never denies Him." Simon replied, "Then, sir, I vow that I would be as faithfull to that master as the sun in the sky that rises daily, and never deny him." Jesus continued, and tears now came to his eyes. "He has given the rooster wisdom to know the dawn so that he may, by crowing, announce the new day. The rooster does not deny Him but follows the will of Him who gave him life." Simon replied, "Then, sir, I vow that I would be as faithfull to that master as the rooster is faithful to crow at dawn. I would not deny him."
Then the Nazarethite wiped the tears from his face and said, "Simon, mark well and remember that you have this day vowed three times that you would not deny him who you would follow. You have heard our rabbis say, Do not swear; AND I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is the throne of HASHEM; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of HASHEM; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the City of HASHEM; nor by your head, because you can not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea or Nay, for whatever is more than these comes of evil." Then Simon answered and said, "Then if indeed I may not swear, let me now retract my words and make them null, and say that I would promise to try never to deny him." Jesus replied, "Now you speak well, for a man can do no more than promise to try to do what is right."
And so saying, he arose to go. Simon also rose and offered his hand in farewell. Jesus took his hand in his and held it close to him. Then he embraced Simon and kissed him upon the face. And Simon returned the embrace and the kiss, and said, "Sir I know you less than the space of an hour and yet I do perceive that you love me." Jesus' smile beamed, and he replied, "It is my nature to love people."
"Adoni, where are you going?", Simon asked. Jesus turned and pointed to the wilderness. "To the dessert." Simon said with alarm, "My lord, you are going to the dessert alone? But for what purpose?" "So that I may know myself and my strength." "But sir", Simon insisted, "you must not go; for the dessert is an unholy place where demons wait to find a solitary man, and there they contaminate him. It is a place of Satan. There a man alone shall be tempted by the Adversary, and destroyed. Oh sir, I beg you, do not go."
Jesus placed his hand upon Simon's arm and said, "Why Simon. I am surprised that you speak so. Do you not remember that the dessert was the place in which HASHEM chose to appear to our ancestors and give the TORAH of life? How do you say then that it is an unholy place?" Simon held up his hand in a gesture of explanation. "My lord, in that dessert was gathered the hundreds of thousands of the children of Israel together - to receive the holiness of HASHEM. It was made holy by Him. But where you go, you go solitary, and who can say what Evil awaits you there?"
Jesus moved his hand up to Simon's shoulder and said, "Walk a little way with me so that we may speak for just a bit longer. I shall make the matter clear to you." The began to walk together. Jesus asked, "Tell me Simon BARYON, what is the job of the carpenter?" Simon looked a bit astonished at the suddenness of the question out of context, yet he did not wish to appear impolite, and so he answered, "Why to take raw wood and to build with it, here a chair, now a table, there an infant's crib, and even a house." "Then the carpenter serves his fellow men in making vessels, and what for, Simon?" "Why to be of benefit to him, Adoni, that his fellow may use these constructed vessels", said Simon. "Yes", said Jesus animatedly. "Now tell me, good Simon, do you know what the Mishnah says about things that are MIKABEL TUMAH, those things which may and may not become infected with impurity and defilement?" Simon shook his head. "I am an AM-HA'ARETS, Adoni, an ignorant man, unlearned in Mishnah. I do not know." "Then I shall teach you if you permit", Jesus answered. Simon replied, "Well then, you shall be my master if you so teach me, for our Sages say, 'Whosoever teaches his fellow one law, one verse, one word, even so much as one letter of the holy alphabet, the one who has been taught must call him who taught him, 'rabbi', 'master'."
Jesus smiled and continued. "So it says, Whatsoever is attached to the ground or in a pure (or raw) state cannot receive to itself any ritual impurity or defilement. Therefore a tree or raw wood cut from it does not become MIKABEL TUMAH. They remain pure and undefiled. Now when this raw wood is made into a finished vessel of some sort, that vessel immediately becomes MIKABEL TUMAH, it may then become ritually defiled. Now tell me, Simon, should the carpenter then shirk his job and for fear that his work will become TAMEI, leave the wood alone in its pure state?" Simon shook his head. "Certainly not, sir, for then mankind should not have chairs, or tables, or beds, or even houses. He must use his skill and make the wood of some use to benefit his fellows." "Even knowing that if his fellow is not carefull, the finished vessel may become contaminated?", Jesus asked. "Yes, definitely, Adoni. For man has the responsibility to take care that his vessels do not become contaminated", Simon answered without the slightest hesitation. Jesus stopped walking and Simon stood still, to hear his words.
"Well then, Simon, shall *I* remain as pure wood, to no effect, or shall I allow the Grand Carpenter which is my heavenly Father to so fashion me into a vessel whereby humanity may benefit?" "Why what would that vessel be that you should become? How then would mankind benefit?", asked Simon puzzled. Jesus answered, "That I might be a vessel to receieve the defilement and impurities of others, and thereby relieve them of impurity's burden." Simon smiled. "Why sir, if you could do that, then surely you MUST do that, and deliver yourself into your Creator's hands so that he might work you into such a vessel."
Jesus' smile broadened evermore as he spoke, seeing Simon's encouragement. "Well then, brother Simon, hear me well. If He indeed would make me such a vessel, then I would be subject to the defilemnent of Satan himself. Should he best me, I would be a most unworthy vessel. But should *I* prove to be stronger than the devil, then think what benefit that vessel would become to the benefit of the children of man."
Simon then opened up his arms in a gesture of beseeching. "Then, my lord, I earnestly pray that you will overcome whatever temptation Satan may use to defile you." "And I must say Amen to your prayer, good Simon", the Nazarethite answered solemnly. "Now I must go, and and see whether I shall be that strong vessel or no." "Then G-d speed you, sir, and may He bless you in your day of trial", Simon said. "And you shall have my most fervent prayers."
"Thank you, Simon BARYON", Jesus answered. "For you have shown yourself a worthy servant of him whom you call your teacher. And in the day of your servitude, you shall no more be called BARYON, but KEFA, for yours is the strength of the dessert rock, and upon you I shall establish my following. Now I go. And whither I go, you cannot follow. For I must face the dessert alone, and him who awaits me there, alone. SHALOM, my brother." "SHALOM", Simon responded as he watched Jesus walk on alone. "I hope that we shall meet again", he whispered to himself.
The road before them, leading to the wilderness, rose slightly to a small hill and then dipped down abruptly. He watched Jesus ascend the rise and then disappear beneath the grade. But just before Jesus was completely out of his sight, Simon saw the dove spread its wings and fly from Jesus' shoulder. He thought it would soar and return to its hidden nest. Instead, it came to him and rested on his own shoulder. Simon laughed out loud at the bird's temerity. He raised his hand slowly in farewell to the figure already gone, and with it, he stroked the bird's head. "So now am I also to be given the power to be a son of
G-d?", he asked it. Then he turned away from the direction of the wilderness, and still bearing the bird upon his person, he made his way back to the world of people.
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