Excerpt from Forever Changed, A Journey in Jericho
Chapter Four - I SHOULD HAVE BEEN A PRIEST
I would have been a priest.
I could have been a priest.
And I regret not continuing my education.
Father let me return to Bet-Talmud the year after my Bar Mitzvah.
I begged him every day.
This was a must before becoming a Talmidim for any rabbi.
It was a safe environment.
It would distance me from being known as the tax collector’s son.
I was enchanted by everything.
My own world.
Soon I had students of my own as they began Bet-Sefer, as I had when I was six years old.
To them I was ancient when I celebrated my fourteenth birthday.
I was a man at school. The big man at school.
And loved to teach.
The first day was the best.
They would come in and sit quietly, not knowing what to expect.
This was a special day and a well-kept secret.
I will never forget my first day in school,
and would make sure they could not forget
I would stand just inside the door of our little schoolroom as each little one skittered by.
Many would try slipping in.
Startled to find me standing there, peering down in my full regalia. They did not have their prayer shawls as yet. Not until their Bar Mitzvah. And at their age, just as I was at their age,
intrigued at its beauty and meaning.
As they took their seats in a semi-circle two rows deep, I would imitate Rabbi Shatim.
Walking ever so slowly by the first row, looking down my prominent nose.
I towered over these little ones and had my strut.
They would become perfectly still.
Not at ease.
And they were mine for the next five hours to teach and to tease.
I would turn my back and walk away—glance quickly back to their giggly response.
Then the moment began.
Just inside a small cupboard was the magical jar. I would open the door and reach in ever so carefully, slowly.
Holding the suspense.
Holding the prize.
I cloaked the jar under my tallit.
As I reached the first student on the first row, I unveiled the well-known vessel.
The well-known treasure.
I had their attention now. Everyone knew what was in this jar.
It was reserved for very special occasions.
They could not believe their eyes.
I remembered well, for I could not believe mine on my first day.
All Jewish children know they would enter schooling.
This was not an option.
None expected to like it.
None expected such a treat the very first day.
I peeled back the wax seal.
The aroma escaped.
It filled the room and the little noses.
The back row, standing by this time and all their little necks stretched to the fullest in hopes that their noses were not lying to their eyes.
“Yes, Rabbi.” I had to laugh; I was a long way from being a rabbi. But they would flatter me because of the treat I held in my hands.
“Not a rabbi, my little ones, just your teacher for now. Take your slate.”
They scurried to sit and reach under their little benches and grab their slates.
There was urgency.
I looked carefully at each to see if there was but a hint any one of them knew what was coming.
The secret was secure.
Would you like some honey?”
It was a beautiful chorus. I would be their best friend today, if not for a long time.
“Dip your finger into the jar.”
My last three classes were all the same, for I was holding a true treasure, and they would be very obedient until they had the honey on their tongue.
That was the point after all.
“Now, spread the honey on your slate.”
Honey to my ears.
“Now lick the honey from your slate.”
Not a sound.
They looked to see if I had lost my mind.
But only for a moment, then they were at it.
Slurping every last remnant of honey.
I watched with such joy.
They would lick the slate with such joy.
They licked their hands,
then the slate,
then their lips.
And then they looked to see if there was more.
Then they rested their little slates on their little laps and looked at me. Hoping against hope that I had another wonderful surprise for them their first day of school.
More wonderful than honey, only they may not realize it at the time.
Anticipation swept their faces and spread their eyes.
I reached for a scroll.
The only sound was the beautiful rustle of the ancient parchment as I unrolled to the prophet’s words and told them;
“Remember the words of the prophet Ezekiel,
‘Then He said to me, Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.
So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.’”1