Mary waits for her mother, Anna, to start the Morning Prayer, while her sisters, Oprah and Kyla*, fidget around. Though young, her brother Nathan joins her father at the synagogue for the Morning Blessing.
“Girls, sit still,” Anna says sternly.
The girls stop moving, recognizing the tone in her voice.
Once she is sure they are ready, Anna begins: “Thank you G-d** for making me according to your will.”
Mary listens as her mother continues. She knows the words by heart; they had been taught to her while she was still small and they offered her comfort in a G-d who made her a woman and gave her greater binah, His idea of spiritual perfection. He also gave her a loving family and a hope for a future; and despite their struggles as a people with the Roman interlopers, she was grateful for her life and everything in it.
Mary realizes she isn’t concentrating.
“Mary,” Anna says, “Finish.”
She straightens up and utters the words she had prayed for years: “I am available to you, G-d, that I might be the mother of your Mashiac, your Messias.”
“So be it,” Anna concludes.
“So be it,” Mary, Oprah and Kyla repeat.
They rise and begin their day. There are chores to be done and the morning meal to prepare, as Joachim and Nathan will be returning soon.
“Mary, run to the well and bring back more water,” Anna says as she brings out the flour.
Mary obliges and grabs her shawl. She covers her hair and picks up the large empty, ceramic pot beside the door before heading outside. Though the day has barely begun, the sun is bright and the air warm. Mary blinks and starts towards the well. It’s a fifteen-minute walk past the homes and neighbors she had known her whole life. She wonders who she will see at the well this morning. Probably her mother’s friends; there aren’t too many girls her age in this side of Nazareth and while she likes to think Joseph is marrying her because he cares for her, it is more likely she is his only choice.
Still that is better than nothing, she reminds herself. She is almost thirteen years of age. Not old by any standards, but she didn’t want to take the chance of ending up alone.
Mary continues walking past a goat farm and into a field, where the well is located. It has been dug in her grandparent’s generation, but it still flowed with water. She comes to the stony exterior of the well and sets her pot down. She is alone; perhaps the other women had already drawn their water.
Her thoughts on the task-at-hand, she proceeds to draw enough water to fill her pot. She would have to come back later on in the day when the sun wasn’t so high, but she doesn’t mind.
“Hail, Mary, full of grace. The L-rd is with you.”
Mary stops at the mention of her name, but she doesn’t recognize the voice. It is distinctly male, deep and beautiful. She turns around; before her stands a tall man – a very tall man. She cranes her neck to look up at him. His hair is the color of the sun and his skin as iridescent as jewels. He is dressed in a white robe and smiling at her. She thinks for a moment she should fear his presence but she doesn’t – until he says, “You are blessed among all women.”
*Though there are no specific references to Mary having brothers and sisters, I found one legend that equated her mother, Anna, to the Old Testament heroine, Hannah, who bore three additional sons and two daughters after Samuel was dedicated to the Lord. I took the liberty of adding three to Anna’s nest – one boy and two girls – and given that Mary was only about twelve when she became betrothed to Joseph, it wouldn’t be strange for Anna to bear more children.
**The custom of substituting the word “God” with G-d in English is based on the traditional practice in Jewish law of giving God’s Hebrew name a high degree of respect and reverence. When written or printed, God’s Hebrew name (and many of the stand-in names used to refer to God) cannot be erased or destroyed. (AboutJudaism)