When We are the Lame Beggar

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

A passerby jostled them in his hurry, and the three men lurched to the side. Mosha tightened his grip around his companions' shoulders, holding his breath as they caught their footing. He was carried upright between them, their arms forming a chair as they ascended the wide, stepped road that led the crowds up the slope towards the temple mount. The sun had shifted west, stirring up the dusty breeze that provided little relief for those who went to pray.

“We're a bit late today,” Mosha said, trying to hide the censure in his tone.

“Sorry,” his brother Aaron sighed. “That customer just wouldn't make up her mind.”

black and white image of elderly man begging and the text 'When we are the lame beggar, a short story'
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Mosha grunted. He had watched the slow shopper pursing her lips, lifting one clay pot and then the other, trying to choose between two nearly identical vessels. Both had been crafted by Aaron's skilled hands shaping the clay as he kicked his feet rhythmically to turn the potter's wheel. Aaron and their cousins had hauled the pots outside of the city to be fired in the great, smoking furnaces, then carefully carried the cooled pieces back to the shop to be painted by Mosha. The paint added no real value to the clay cookware, but it was a job Mosha could do with only his hands, and that was important. He glanced down at his twisted legs. They were as curved as a taut bow, his feet as crooked as a gnarled stump.

The only income Mosha brought to the family came through begging at the temple gate while his brother went in to pray. Mosha was not embarrassed to beg. It was all he had ever known. The Lord had commanded His people to open their hands freely to the needy and had promised to bless the undertakings of those who gave generously to beggars. What better time to remind people of this blessed duty than when the peoples' hearts were softened by going up to the temple to pray?

Glancing ahead, he could see the people climbing the steps to funnel into the temple court. 'So many missed opportunities!' he fretted. His brothers would leave him near the gate called Beautiful before they went into the courts to pray. He had never ascended to that courtyard. The people frowned upon the lame or the maimed drawing near to the altar of the Lord, where only whole priests and perfect sacrifices could come before the Holy One.

Mosha tightened his grip as his companions took the last flight of stairs. The thirty steps alternated between a low step and a high one, slowing the progress of the rushing crowd to a respectful pace as they approached the holy temple. At the top of the stairs was a wide street that spanned the massive wall. There was room to stop and visit, or to listen to one of the rabbis that had seated themselves on the steps to teach. Double gates with more steps led the people through the wall and into the temple courtyards.

They had finally reached their goal. With a hard swallow, he noted once again that the other beggars were missing. Mosha remembered the first time he had come to the temple after Passover. Everyone he had been used to sit with was gone. Rumors said that they had all been healed by the prophet. Mosha had sat alone, confused. Was it true? If it was, he had missed his chance. That prophet was dead.