“Go, and sin no more.”
That’s what he told me. Amazing words.
They call me Moriah (God teaches). When I finally met our Teacher face-to-face, I can’t say it was the best meeting. But before I get into that, let me tell you a little about myself.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful to Shem. He was very dutiful and I am grateful that he took me in when Rei was killed. I know he married me out of obligation, and I am grateful for that. He wasn’t unkind. He was a good provider.
He was just a little rough around the edges. Maybe that was why he was so good working with metals. Shem was very good with his hands and working with inanimate metals. His work was in high demand and he was always in his shop working on something for a wealthy customer. But he was awkward at home and didn’t like to talk. He provided everything I needed: a home, food, clothing. He filled our house with scrolls even though he didn’t read — I alone read. But some of my needs remained unfulfilled.
And then I met Jabin. Jabin was a shepherd who sang to his sheep. He had a beautiful voice and often when he sang, he would end up with a larger audience: children and adults alike were drawn to him. I had heard rumours about his lyrical voice — it was legendary — and one day I finally heard it. And the stories paled against the truth. I was shopping in the shuk, the market, and noticed a crowd gathering. And then I heard it–a smooth, comforting melody.
I plied my way through the crowd, weaving carefully until I caught a glimpse. What a blending of beauty and sorrow! He was cradling a lamb that looked broken, and as he sang, he wept, with tears streaming down his cheeks and dripping on the lamb’s face. The lamb looked pained yet calm and, when it let out its last bleat, the shepherd tilted his head back and let out an anguished howl. The crowd froze in awe and, as he scooped up the still lamb, a path parted. He passed near me and I saw the most tender expression on his rugged visage. Our eyes connected. I nearly swooned! His blue eyes pooled with tears. I felt torn, frozen in place yet yearning to wipe his tears. I hadn’t felt that way since Rei died.
I tried to push the thought of him out of my mind. I was a married woman! My husband was a respected member of the community! But little things would bring the thought of him to my mind–the touch of wool, the warmth of the sun peaking through the window. A gentle breeze on my cheek became his hand’s caress. I tried to focus on Shem as I knew I ought. But he had just been hired to craft a soldier’s breastplate. When he wasn’t working late in the shop, he was drawing designs or talking about his work. And so I had more idle time.
The next time I saw the shepherd was also by happenstance. I was delivering Shem his dinner — he was working late again on the breastplate. On my way, I heard that familiar voice in song. I followed the sound and came across Jabin and his flock returning from the fields. This time, his song was joyful and my heart lifted. Others on his route would pause to listen, lingering in the streets or stopping their chores. Some even began to follow him. Again, he passed by me and our eyes caught. This time he smiled and paused in his song. He almost seemed to be studying my as I was him. My breath caught– and then he let out a laugh, took up his song and continued on his way.
I was smitten! From that day, I started finding excuses to be exactly on his path, either in the morning as he drove his flock out or in the evening when he returned. Eventually, I found myself briefly following. First, just a few steps. Then a couple of streets. One day I learned which field he favored. It wasn’t too far off my usual routes and paths, and I found large chunks of the day passed quickly under the spell of his voice.
There really was no danger for me or him. I was one of a large assembly of admirers. I blended in well with the other young women. There really was no danger of scandal, and yet I felt my conscience tug, a shadow of guilt, in part because the object of my affection seemed almost to reciprocate. As he kept watch on his sheep, scanning the edges of the flock, his eyes would almost snag on mine momentarily, and then continue their rounds. My heart would skip each time, and I grew to anticipate his watchful gaze. I felt a warmth of acceptance (and, admittedly, more) that I never felt in the presence of Shem.
I felt a similar sensation in the presence of the Teacher, yet somehow free of the guilt. When I first saw the Teacher, he was speaking at the Mount of Abami. I first noticed his hands–so strong and callused, and yet so gentle. His voice, like Jabin’s, was soothing, yet strong. His words gave hope yet challenged each of us. But then, the Teacher always seemed to be giving aspirations that were impossible to reach. “Love your enemies.” Who loves their enemies? “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Ouch! I wondered if I failed in this regard.
Like Jabin, the Teacher also observed me in the crowd, even though I was always on the perimeter, peeking around heads. I noticed that he observed everyone in the crowd, eyes settling briefly on each of us, but that did not diminish the warmth of the attention or the feeling of acceptance he radiated. And each time I saw him teaching, I resolved to focus my emotions and efforts on Shem, to quit with the dalliances. But then I would stray again to the fields of Jabin’s flocks.