The Bearers

The Bearers

More than strong wind from the sea was stirring the village of Capernaum from its normally placid routine. He was coming back. Some of his followers had been seen on the road headed toward the village.

Aaron, who had been out to market, leaving Leah to look after his brother, Yhonatan, burst through the cloth covering of the door. “Yhonatan, Simon and Andrew are coming. Surely he will come too. He will make you well.”

Yhonatan raised himself up on his elbows and looked up at his brother. “No one can make me well. I will lie upon this pallet until God is kind enough to free my soul.”

The words were a sword to Aaron’s heart. If only he had called out sooner when that huge wave approached the boat. If only Yhonatan had not been standing in the way of the swinging boom of the mast. If only …. Yhonatan had never been able to walk since that day and Aaron never free to live without guilt.

“But he is coming and he has healed others.”

“So the rumors say, but you know how many supposed healers roam the land. He is just another charlatan.”

“You may be right, but we are going to the synagogue where he always goes to teach when he is here.”

“And just how am I to get there? On your back?”

Aaron was accustomed to Yhonatan’s sarcasm by now. It was upsetting but Aaron could not imagine what it was like for Yhonatan, his elder brother, paralyzed and helpless at not yet thirty years old. Condemned to having others, even though the others were himself and his wife, Leah. Viewing life from a small window near his pallet was no life at all for him.

He also understood his brother’s lack of faith. Two healers had tried, but not succeeded to help his brother and they were too poor and in too remote a location to obtain the services of a physician. Many of the physicians were slaves and even if they could afford one, Aaron was not sure he trusted their skills.

He might not have had faith in this new healer, but because old friends whose judgement he trusted, Simon and Andrew, had become followers surely this one could help his brother and they were going to go whether Yhonatan wanted to or not.

“We are going. Don’t you want to be well again? To go out on the boat, feel the breath of the sea and the touch of the sun on your face?”

Aaron did not realize what pain his words caused because he had never experienced the depth of despair his brother lived with every moment of every day.

“You are strong, but not strong enough to carry me through the entire village to the synagogue. There is no way to get me there.”

“We will make a litter of your pallet and I will ask Shmuel, Yhoshua, and Avshalom to help us.”

“They are busy with their own affairs.”

“They are friends and they will help. Leah, will you help him bathe and change his clothes?” I am going to ask our friends to help. We want to get to the synagogue before a large crowd gathers.” He lifted a still protesting brother and placed him on his own sleeping pallet. Without waiting for Leah to consent helping, for he knew she would do as he asked, Aaron went to find his friends.

By the time Leah had helped Yhonatan, Aaron returned with his friends. Yhoshua, and Avshalom were each carrying two long, wooden poles. Aaron lifted his brother and placed him on one of the other sleeping pallets. The movement caused Yhonatan to grimace in pain, but he refused to allow himself to cry out. Crippled he might be, but he was also proud. Not only did he not believe this so-called healer could help him, he was worried about his brother’s disappointment when the man turned out to be just another charlatan, especially since he knew that his brother cared for him not just out of love but guilt. The burden placed not only on Aaron but on Leah hurt almost as much as the inability to care for himself. Older brothers should care for the younger.

Yhonatan watched as his brother and friends lifted his pallet on end and slid one pole inside, then repeated the procedure to create a litter.  Then he once again moved Yhonatan to the makeshift litter. Leah parted the door cloth as Aaron and his friends carried Yhonatan out into the street.

The street was rough and it was hard going. The litter swayed badly until the four bearers discovered that walking out of step helped steady it. Well before they reached the large, plain building adorned only by a carved menorah, they had to start weaving in and out of the large crowd already in front of the building. They kept on, determined to get in front where the healer could see them. He had already arrived and most likely due to the crowd, had begun his teaching inside the entrance. Even there, people were crowded right up to the door. Some were silent, some nodding in agreement as he spoke, some muttering angrily among themselves, including some Pharisees who were talking of blasphemy.

Aaron and his friends realized there was no way they could get to the front of so many people. What could they do? They were determined to achieve their goal. To reach the healer.

There were no stairs, no way to get inside and then come out the front. Shmuel had an idea. “Aaron, the roof.” I helped lay the tiles and they are not hard to break. And if they have not moved it, there is a ladder they use to go up and do repairs. Stay here. My house is not far away. I will get rope and a hammer so we can lower him through the roof. He will be right in front of the healer.

It did not take long for Shmuel to return. The men went down a narrow alley behind the building to the rear. They used the rope to secure Yhonatan to the pallet so he would not slide off and struggling for a time managed to get him onto the roof without dropping him. Untying him, fixing the rope to the poles, they broke the tiles until the opening was wide enough for the pallet and lowered it.

The descending pallet caused the crowd in front of the healer to back up in surprise. The healer did not move. He just watched the pallet and the man descend and bump to a halt at his feet. Aaron and his friends watched through the hole above, and were dismayed when there was no laying on of hands, no chanting of prayers as other healers had done. Instead, there were a few words. “Thy sins are forgiven thee”

A Pharisee standing at the front of the crowd turned to two other men, possibly scribes since one of them was holding what might be a copy of the Torah said what Aaron thought aloud. “Blasphemy. He is delusional and thinks he is God”

But the man, who obviously heard them said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Why do you try to reason in your hearts? Is it better to say your sins are forgiven you or to say get up, take your bed, and walk?”

And then, bending over Yhonatan that is exactly what he did. Yhonatan looked into eyes like no others on earth, shakily stood up, grabbed an end of the pallet and as the crowd parted as though witnessing the procession of a king, started to walk away calling to his brother and friends, reciting a psalm of praise, his legs stronger with each step, his body and faith restored.

His brother and friends joined him as they all walked home together.