Man With the Donkey:
I am a simple man. For 20 years I have been bringing my fruit and vegetables to market along with my silver work. I set stones in silver wire and the women seem to like to wear it. I usually set up my trades at Beth fa-jah to the north of Olivet. It is so shady there and the big olive trees are fragrant and beautiful. And what a view of Jerusalem and the Temple.
Business is unpredictable, but I get by in spite of these Roman oppressors and their ungodly taxes. It's not easy to be a Jew living under tyranny in our own land, the land Ha Shem gave to Avraham. We should be able to live in David's city in peace, but we seem to go from one oppressor to the next. I am just glad to be in the Land. My ancestors were in captivity in Babylonia and returned home with Ezra and Nehemiah. My great ancestor, Malchiyah, helped rebuild the temple. So, I am very proud of our holy city and the temple. I would say I am devout.
But I digress. This story is not about me, but about an event so wonderful that, perhaps, it overshadows even my ancestor, Malchiyah, who was a goldsmith and who made repairs on the Fountain Gate.
We, the descendants of the temple workers, have much to boast about. After all, they completed the work on the temple and on the walls in 52 days to the complete amazement of our surrounding enemies!
But No! It is what happened a few days ago that shook me to my very depths, and as I have told it to my wife over and over again, so now–I tell you! She thinks I drank too much wine and just shakes her head. But you will listen, won't you?
It was the first day of the week. Business had been robust as it always is this time of year as many gather in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. The day was glorious! Glorious, I tell you. The sky was a soft blue and Jerusalem glimmered whitely in the sunlight. The air was perfumed with flowering Hyssop and Oleanders.
My wares were set out early and I had no sooner arranged everything as a feast to the eyes when my first customers arrived. I recognized two of the talmudim who traveled with that controversial Rabbi from Nazaret. The one thing I want to avoid is controversy. It's bad for business. They were boldly approaching me.
“We will take your colt now,” one said and he reached over and began to untether my little donkey.
“What are you doing?” I protest.
“The Lord has need of it,” was the reply.
I was frozen. My heart was thumping through my ribs. I could have plucked it out with my hands. I wanted to shout, “Stop Thief,” but I couldn't speak. My tongue was trapped and my mouth filled with dust.
Wordlessly, I helped them untie the beast letting it go with them at once. I wanted to shout after them,
“But it has not been broken for riding. No man has ever sat upon it.”
But no words came forth.
had to know where they were taking my beast. So, I leave my wares untended
and follow them a few paces behind.
My heart still pumping, my knees weak, I follow them to the base of Olivet. And there is the Nazarine! His disciples are spreading cloaks over my beast and that rabbi, who has had the whole country buzzing, sits on it and the beast does not protest; it obeys!
Surely this is a sign and a wonder!
It is not long before I am engulfed in a crowd that is gathering around him. The people are throwing costly garments down and palm fronds and branches and my beast is treading upon them with the Nazarine astride. I am angry but helpless to do anything about it. How dare they tell me the Lord as need of it! Who do they think they are? Instinctively I make a fist, still wanting to take a poke at that big guy--yet something is happening, something confusing.
You see, it is our custom to throw down garments only on the path of a king. Who is this man, I wonder?
And the people are pressing around him shouting:
“Ho Sha nah ! Ho Sha nah! Ho Sha nah!” which means “Please save us! Please save us! Please save us!”
my tongue is loosed and I am shouting:
Then someone shouts above the noise and the clamor:
“Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
“Blessed be the Kingdom of our father David, that comes in the name of the Lord.
Ho Sha Nah in the highest!”
I brush away tears that have salted my face and beard. A grown man! Embarrassed at my behavior, I hear my voice with the rest: “Ho sha nah! Please save me!”
What am I saying? Yet my voice blends with with the crowd. “Ho sha nah!”
Well, then, the Pharisees arrive. I knew this would not bode well.
would disperse the crowd.
“Rebuke your disciples. Tell them to shut up!” They say.
And then He answers with great clarity and authority:
“I tell you that if these should hold their peace (He motions to the crowd), the stones would immediately cry out.”
The stones cry out. The stones cry out. These words reverberate in my head. And then, the Rabbi's demeanor changes. By this time we have climbed the Mount of Olives. We are in full view of the Temple and the Eastern Gate. Sorrow clouds his face. He weeps and with each word a sword pierces my heart.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem–the one who kills the prophets and stones those which are sent to her! How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you were not willing. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!
If you only knew today what is needed for your peace.
For the days will come when your enemies will build a fortress around you, surround you, and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children with you, to the ground. And not one stone will they leave standing- because you knew not the hour of your visitation!
For I say unto you, You shall not see me henceforth till you shall say 'Baruch Habah, B'shem Adonai. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the LORD.'”
The Rabbi’s heart seemed broken beyond repair. His words kept echoing in my mind: your house desolate–Not one stone remain. And, I think of Malchiyah and all of his work in stone and in gold. Somehow, I knew this Nazarine was speaking of the Temple. Not one stone remain? This temple was the life of our people and the pride of our family!
Then the Rabbi continued his way down the Mount of Olives toward the temple. The people still clamored and shouted, “Ho Sha nah! Ho Sha Nah!” And he would stop occasionally and lay hands on people who pressed against him. So, the rumors were true. I saw lame men leap and blind men shouting “I can see!”
Soon, I was too far behind as the crowd closed in around him. So, some sense returned to me. I made haste back to my wares. Nothing had been taken, no surprise, the entire city was following him.
I was still shaking; I walked and talked and conducted a little business as one in a dream. Mostly, I passed the rest of the day as one deaf and dumb.
Finally, the purple shadows of evening began to gather with a cooling breeze. And, then, out of no where, his two men returned with my donkey.
curtly, they left without a word. But that unreal sensation came upon
me again. Had I left my senses? Couldn’t they see what I saw?
I couldn’t take my eyes off my little beast. This morning her
coat was brown and now it was white and shining, haloed in light.
And, suddenly I remembered a verse from the prophet Zachariah:
greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout O daughter of Jerusalem:
My throat constricted. My eyes burned. Again, I tasted salt.
Was He was the King? the Messiah? the one foretold by Moses and the prophets?
Had God had ridden upon my colt?