I come to the synagogue every week - I pray, I hear the Torah read, I feel comforted by the women of my community. I leave bent.
I have been afflicted with this crippling pain in my back that has ravaged my body for the last 18 years or so. I have no husband, no children, just this pain and the kindness of the women of my community. I have not held my face to the sky and felt the warmth of the sun in years. I have not been able to feel the warm evening breeze that often turns cold as the evening wears on. My robe is dusty and withered - I only have this one and this was a castoff from another woman who died giving birth. I live with the pitying eyes of those around me, the women who think Satan has bound me with this disease. I hear them sometimes wondering what I did to bring the wrath of God on myself.
Others dutifully help me. They share their bread with me, they bring water for me from the well. Often I hear their complaints of having to draw two jugs from the well. The children laugh and I hear their taunts. Rarely are they shushed by their mothers. But every week I come to the synagogue - I pray, I hear the Torah, I share in the community of these Jewish women and I leave bent.
I come today, to pray, to hear, to be cared for and we have a new Rabbi teacher. I will just take my place with the women on the far side of the synagogue.
“Woman, come here.”
Is he talking to me? I shuffle my way past the other women to take my place on the men’s side of the synagogue.
“Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”
Is he really talking to me? What is he doing? He is touching me. I pull back in fear. A man, not of my own kin is touching me. I will be stoned. But there is something in his touch. Something firm but yet gentle. A fire….but still comforting. He is telling me to stand up. Now I’m being mocked. I thought the synagogue was a place where I could feel safe from the taunts and pitifulness. I can feel the eyes of every person here almost as if they were burning through my skin.
Stand up? The pain is not as intense as it has been. Stand up!? Well let me try. Here I go. One smooth motion and I’m standing. I’m standing. I’m standing straight. I am upright. I look this Rabbi in the eyes (I can look in his eyes!) and I see that same fire that just coursed through my back at his touch. Praise Abba! Praise Yahweh! I can look him in the eyes. I can look around the room! Praise God in the Highest! I can hear the gasps. I can see the smiles. I want to dance!
But this is the synagogue. I must remember my rightful place.
The leader of the Synagogue is saying something. He is trying to hush the gasps and whispers and the pointing. He has a tone to his voice - is he angry... incensed. He is trying to maintain order.
Praise God I can see all around and I can move!
He is saying something about this Rabbi who has given me cause to rejoice. He doesn’t like that this Rabbi has healed me on the Sabbath. Obviously he wasn’t the one in pain! “There are six days on which work can be done...”
I really want to speak up. I want to say “You have had 18 years to heal me. But I have come and have left bent……Another day, and this healer, this Rabbi would be gone. And you would still have me bent and in pain!” But no, this is the synagogue and I am but a woman. I dare not speak.
Maybe this Rabbi does not know the laws of our faith? Oh he must! He is a Rabbi after all! This Rabbi is calling the leader a hypocrite! He counters by telling us that when we lead animals to water on the Sabbath we are working. Oh I am reminded of that passage from Leviticus….
And anyone who does any work during that entire day, such a one I will destroy from the midst of the people. You shall do no work: it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your settlements.
Will he be destroyed? Will the Leader?
Has my healing caused division? I am almost afraid of what might happen to me next. But this Rabbi - I think they call him Jesus - has just given me my name. He has called me “Daughter of Abraham.” He has invoked the name of our great ancestor. Yes, I am a daughter of Abraham. A descendent of faith. Thank you God of Abraham for setting me free!
The women around me are touching my robe and smoothing my hair. Their pitifulness has turned to amazement. I remain standing tall. Watching these two men, surely I am seeing the Kingdom of God unfolding before my eyes.
I am a daughter of Abraham! What say you, leader of the synagogue. Could he be at a loss for words. All the leaders now look a bit sheepish. They have been put in their place. I am beaming. This smile, this joy, this new life I have been granted, just makes me want to sing praises to the Almighty God.
Those around me too, they have seen the kingdom of God and are praising Abba.
Maybe you come bent, and in pain - carrying immeasurable burdens in your body or your heart or your soul.
Is he calling out to you to ease that pain?
Are you able to bring yourself before him and let his healing love and care course through you? Or has he already healed you and you still need to sing praises.
I have come for 18 years and I have left bent. Today I leave singing “My life flows on in endless song.”