By Debbonnaire Kovacs, April 8, 2015
The Beautiful Gate. That’s what it’s called, and so it is, with its massive double arches. For me, it’s just a workplace. To put it in a ridiculously positive light.
Today is a day like any other. I am carried, helpless, to my customary begging spot and laid on my mat as comfortably as my helpers can make me. It doesn’t matter. Comfort is a thing of the distant past to me. The stream of people is unending coming in and out of the gate, so I can usually get a few coppers by the end of the day.
It’s better during festivals. A few weeks back, while Passover and Unleavened Bread were on, I put away enough to keep me for a couple of weeks’ worth of cold or rainy days. I even gave some to the Temple. I am, after all, a faithful Jew.
My face twists into a sneer at the thought. A faithful Jew! Sure. One God is faithfully frowning on. What did I do to deserve this? It must have been something…
I shake my cupped hands pleadingly at two men coming toward me. “Alms! Alms for the poor!” I despise the familiar whine in my voice. They glance my way, which gives me hope. Most people studiously avoid looking at me. If they glance my way it might mean they’ll give me something. I raise my voice. “Alms!” I beg hopefully.
They stop and walk over to stand in front of me. “Look at us,” one of them says. This is where I would normally drop my eyes, in part to remain suitably humble and in part because I can’t stand to meet the eyes of people who are still enjoying God’s favor. But this time I can’t wrench my gaze away from the bigger man’s eyes, and my cupped hands drop slowly instead.
His eyes have a look…a familiar look, now what do they remind me of? Oh, I remember! That Man, the one they said was a prophet. I’ve heard he healed a lot of people, but he never healed me. I never got that close to him. But I once saw his eyes from a distance, and this man’s eyes look like that. My heart is beating faster, but I don’t know why.
“I don’t have any money,” the man says to me. And still I can’t look away.
“But I’ll give you what I have.” Oh, food, then, most likely. Lots of people do that. Kind people. This looks like a kind man. He holds out his hand and I look at it, but it’s empty. I don’t understand. He wiggles his fingers as if to invite me to…invite me to what? What kind of cruel joke is this?
“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk!”
My heart is now deafening me. That was his name! I remember now! But they killed him! He isn’t—he doesn’t—
I stare at the hand. Slowly, slowly, I reach out to take it. My feet and ankles feel funny, as if lightning is running through them. My toes twitch. Clinging to that strong, callused hand, I look up at his eyes again, and they shine with humor and understanding and…love. I think it’s love.
And with a sudden lifting rush, like a startled bird rising off her nest, I stand. I stand!!
I start to cry and laugh and shout. Completely undignified, I dance and jump like an idiot. “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu!” I shout.
The two men are laughing too. Everyone else is staring, and pointing, and exclaiming. I just keep praising God. And together, we three whole men walk into the courtyard of the house of God. Well, walk. I’m still dancing like David before the ark.
I can’t believe it. I’m in the Temple. God has smiled on me at last.
What a beautiful gate!