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20 Elul

Joseph walks back to his home. It is nearly dawn and though he should be tired, he is not. He had much to do today: he had to prepare for his nissuin, his marriage ceremony. It would not be the grand thing he had once planned, but the end result would be the same – he was bringing Mary home as his wife.

The thought has him wanting to kick his heels up. Mary, his wife. He liked that, especially now that he knew she had not betrayed him. She had remained loyal to him and more than that, she had forgiven him for not believing her…

“You. Stop.”

Joseph instinctively obeys, all thoughts of elation gone. He doesn’t have to turn around to know it’s a Roman soldier. In his excitement to see Mary, he had forgotten about the dangers of going out late. There was no curfew but because of the unrest in the population, many Jews were stopped and questioned after sunset. Some were merely sent on their way; others, though, were not so fortunate – some were arrested, some were killed, their bodies left for the birds on the side of the road.

Not wanting to provoke the man, Joseph remains still and waits for him to approach, the clanging of metal gear resounding in his ear, growing louder with every step he takes. Joseph prays it was not trouble he wants.

“Who are you?” the man asks, as he circles round Joseph, intimidatingly.

“Joseph ben Jacob. I’m a carpenter.”

“And what is a carpenter doing out this early?

“I…I went to see my betrothed.”

The soldier looks him up and down, his eyebrow arched. The man is older and broad across the shoulders, adding to his menacing appearance.

“I thought you Jews frowned upon such behavior,” he asks, mockingly.

However true his comment, Joseph realizes too late what his response sounds like. He wants to retract his words…this was the last thing he needed to say, for Mary’s sake. But then, he was talking to a Roman – what did it matter what he thought on the subject? It wasn’t as if he had any regard for their laws. The priests and the elders did, though, and if they heard about this…

A second soldier comes running up to them, the clanging of his gear announcing his presence. He greets the first soldier, then turns to Joseph, who eyes him quickly, before dropping his gaze.

“You’re the carpenter, right?”

“Yes.”

“You do good work. You made that chest for me.” Speaking to the first soldier, he adds, “You’ve seen it – the one with the carvings.”

Joseph looks up, recalling now the face. He glances at the first soldier, hopeful the recognition will earn him a pass; and indeed it does, as the second soldier admonishes him, “Go on your way, Carpenter; but next time, conduct your business during the day’s watch.”

With a nod of agreement, Joseph hurries back to his house, his steps fast upon the dirt. He hears laughter from the soldiers, most likely at his expense, but he cares not – it is another day he gets to live.

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