Chapter 2: The Miracle of the Beggar Maid–Part 1
One day, we were teaching and healing in Japha not far from Mt. Tabor. During, my late afternoon sermon, I noticed a young woman standing far back in the crowd with the help of a crutch. She was simply dressed in an old woolen gown and her face was dusty. Her head was covered with a scarf, but I could tell red hair hung down her back.
Sitting next to her was a small, two-wheeled cart with long wooden poles at the front. Two vertical poles were attached to the front side of the cart which most likely served as supports for her when she was moving with the cart. The cart was harnessed to two Egyptian hunting hounds who were well-fed and cared for. The cart was only big enough to hold a wooden chest, a barrel for water, and some provisions.
I could see that her eyes were shut and she was most intent on my words as if she saw both the surface and hidden meanings. My heart felt a deep ache living within her heart and that she was very lonely and sad.
I wanted to go to her, but I knew I should not. So, after my sermon was over and all questions answered, I told my disciple Thomas, “Friend, I am going to learn more about the crippled woman and will not be back until the morning. Go through our exercises with the rest of the disciples, please.”
Thomas replied, “Yes, Rav,” and left to gather up the others.
The young lady said something to her hounds and they stood up. She hobbled to one of the upright poles and off the trio went. As they walked off, I followed her to learn more of who she was.
It is easy for me to disappear, as I can make myself ‘unnoticeable.’ I was soon quite close and I heard her singing an old Egyptian song which was written to praise Hathor. Her voice was soft and its prosody was deferential to the goddess.
Walking for her seemed very painful and so the dogs and she would stop to rest. The cart was designed so she could lean against the sides and support her rear end without placing any weight onto the dogs. She accomplished such by dropping one of the vertical poles to the ground so to counteract for her body wait.
I saw that she was most clever and resourceful.
She stopped at two dwellings on the way to her house. She entered both and as she left gave the elderly wives instructions for their husbands. One of the houses was very small and the old people must have been very poor, as she opened her chest and gave them some bread, cucumbers, and cheese.
After about an hour, she arrived at her modest house. Her house had a big garden in which she grew medicinal plants. Close by was a wooden shed for drying the plants and preparing remedies. Clearly, she was a herbalist.
She released the dogs so they could go to the bathroom. She walked into her house followed by her dogs. I quietly entered after her. She removed her scarf and I saw her red hair. She was actually very beautiful outside being crippled and having a near useless right leg.
I watched her prepare dinner for herself and the hounds. She sang to herself as she toiled over dinner. The three ate bread, cheese, fresh vegetables, and drunk fresh beer. After dinner, she cleaned up, added new sprouting grain and water to her beer barrel, and sat in a chair away from the kitchen.
As she rested in the chair, I saw big tears begin to roll down her cheeks and she began to pray, “Holy Mother, you see my life now and you know how badly I was treated when I was young. I do my best to help the sick and the poor as I know you want. But, Mother, my heart aches for I feel so alone for no man wants to marry me and care for me. Please, Holy Mother give me a good man to love and care for. I promise I shall be a good wife always and teach our children to honor and love You and Father.
“And please remember my Mother whom I miss very much also. Please make sure she forgives herself for what happened to her as it was never her fault. I know she loved me very much and I love her very much also.”
I almost went to comfort her, but again it was not the proper time. I could feel her despair and fear that she would always be alone. My eyes were so wet with tears that I could not even see.
I saw that she was going to bathe and so I left. Her house and yard were spotless. I left and went to pray to Father and Mother so to intercede in her unhappiness. I opened my own heart so that Father and Mother could feel her great despair for I took some of it from her as I could not bear to see her suffer so. I prayed intensely all through the night so her wish would be granted one day.
I did not return to the inn but returned to see what she did in the morning. After some house chores, she restocked her medical box with her remedies, packed lunch for her and the dogs, added food for those who are hungry, and filled a water barrel next to the chest. Last, she attached the cart harness to her dogs.
As she worked, she spoke to the hounds. She said, “Poverty and Humility, I woke up this morning knowing the Holy Mother will provide us with a good and kind man. He will be very smart, generous, and handsome. Really Holy Mother told me such. Holy Mother said that she loves this man very much. So keep your eyes open and ears sharp for we do not want to miss him. I hope he is the Rav, I have been listening too. I think I am in love with him.”
Poverty and Humility seemed to understand her and barked.
My disciples and I spent a week in Japha with daily sermons, teaching dinners, and morning healing. Every day, I saw the young herbalist but did not speak to her. Though, I was most curious as to her feelings about the prayers made by both of us.
We left Japha on Thursday morning for Besara. I noticed that she and her canine friends, Poverty and Humility, were attending my sermon. The medical cart was filled with remedies, a change of dress, dates, bread, and cheese, and the water barrel.
Though she would not come up to speak with me, she followed us around every day, She did not know that every night I found her a safe place to sleep with her dogs. It was not difficult as those I healed were happy to help a crippled devotee. She would buy food and secure water in the morning for herself and her dogs. Sometimes, she would give coins to the disabled and elderly.
She traveled just behind us for the next four weeks, along with some other followers.
One day, concluding my teaching, the crowd dispersed and the young woman slowly and laboriously made her way towards me.
My disciple John said, “Come, Rav. We have a long journey ahead and no time to speak with a crippled lady.”
I turned and rebuked John, “John, have I not taught you that we must never forsake any man or woman we are fortunate to meet. Have I not reminded all of you, again and again, that who be we, if not them? Step back, John, you are not worthy to be with me and this child.”
John stepped back from his rebuke and felt a deep shame within his heart and told himself, “Rav was correct in rebuking me for I did sin because of my pride. His rebukes arise from love and not from pride.”
The young woman finally stopped in front of me. She stood up as straight as she could and lifted her head so I could see her face. Her complexion and eyes were atypical for this country. Her eyes were the deepest of blue and I saw a great determination and genuine love therein. Her cheeks were high and naturally graced with a light redness. Her nose was straight and her lips well-defined. Her hair was a deep red. She was beautiful in my eyes.
I reached out with my right hand and touched her lips most gently. Her eyes began to tear and so I moved towards her and held her in my arms as she sobbed.
When her sobbing stopped, I asked her, “Child, why are you crying?”
She answered, “Rav, no man has ever held me and the last woman was my mother. I miss her so very much that I cry every night. I know my body is deformed and twisted and I wear old clothes and am a cripple. No one has ever been kind to me just for the sake of being kind. My mother cared about me very much, but after she died, I was unprotected from her evil sisters. The abused me and made me serve them. I was not born crippled, but before my mother died she changed me into what I am today.
“Mother was always kind and loving to me. She had been badly abused by her father and made to prostitute herself to demons and wicked men. The only way, she could escape was running away and hiding from them.
“She and I lived alone when she recovered me from my wet nurse at age two until I was almost fifteen when her younger sisters came to live with her as their father had passed. Mother was very rich and was a herbalist like me.
“Her two sisters hated mother and me. They slowly began to poison mother, while pretending to be sweet and kind to both of us. It was much too late to do anything by the time mother discovered their treachery.”
On the night of her death, she and I were in our library bedroom and she said, “Ariel, my beloved. Mommy is going to die soon and I know that your aunties will force you to do filthy acts for the enjoyment of wicked persons. They will make you violate innocent children, fornicate with three men at one time, and allow males of all species to violate your private place.
“I will not allow them to do what father did to me, never. So forgive me, my sweet daughter for making you a cripple and deformed. This way no man nor beast will want you carnally and you will be safe. Escape as soon as you can and move far away and practice medicine.
“Precious, you are the only person I ever loved and I know you love Mommy. It breaks my heart to change, my beautiful angel into something ugly. But, your face shall always be pretty. Please do not hate me for changing you. Please forgive me.
“But, your father, who was a great and loving djinn, gave me one wish which I could only exercise when I was near death. So, my love, I shall make this wish to save you, though perhaps I will be sent to Hell for doing this.”
Mother made her wish and when I awoke in the morning I found I was a cripple and deformed. Mommy was dead. Her sisters were delighted for they inherited all her wealth and broke my right leg and refused to have it set. Thereafter, I was essentially a slave to them.
“It took me three years to escape to Japha. I took as much money as I could so I could buy a house and plant my medicinal plants.
I lowered my arms, stepped back, and replied, “What is your name, child?”
The young lady replied, “My name is Ariel. Will you take me with you? Every day, I fear my aunties will find me and kill my puppies and take me back.”
I thought, “How strange it was that her name was the same as my sister’s. Could she be my sister and spouse?”
I replied, “Yes, Ariel. You may come with me.
I bent down and lifted her up in my arms saying, “I will carry you to the inn and we will stay until tomorrow or the next day. I will build a little cart so it will be easier for you to travel with my friends and I. You may bring Poverty and Humility and your cart of medicines as they will be useful.”
Ariel reached up so to place her arms around my neck so to make it more convenient for me to carry her. She said, “I watched you for many days and walked a long way to see and listen to your sermons and parables. It was only today that I found the courage to show myself to you and come and speak with you. I was so afraid you would reject a crippled young lady. But, I had to speak with you for I love you with all my heart, Rav, for you are pure love.”
“Ariel, I followed you for a few days to see who you were and I saw that you had a heart filled and overflowing with love for others. You were kind and generous and did everything you could to benefit others.”
Ariel looked into my eyes and asked with trepidation, “Is it OK if I love you with all of my heart, Rav? May I pretend that you love me and are as a husband to me? Or will such an idea be repulsive?”
I smiled and Divine Love replied, “Divine Love is blind to imperfections of form and only seeks to find the Eternal Goodness within its lover. Perhaps, one day your body will no longer be crippled and you can dance and jump like most.
“But, such a cure is forbidden to me at the moment, but they are sometimes done by my Father when the time is ripe. It does not matter to me for we will do what is needed for you to birth babies. Crippled or not, you are my beloved.”
I drew her slender and tortured little body a little closer to mine, replying, “Ariel, I will be as you ask. From this moment onward, we are husband and wife, forever. The Eternal Good in my heart already loves the Eternal Good in your heart.
“I will announce such at dinner with my friends. But, you cannot birth a child at this time so any children will wait until you have returned to normal?”
Ariel began to cry with joy as I had granted her greatest wish. Her wish that a man would find her worthy of marriage, love her even crippled, and protect her from the sisters. I bent my head and kissed her on the nose and let her experience tears of joy, and not pain and sorrow, for once in her life.
Thomas had anticipated my change of plans and had secured sufficient rooms at a modest inn nearby.
I carried Ariel to the room Thomas reserved for me and placed her down so she could sit on the side of the bed. I requested that the innkeeper send up several buckets of warm water and soap. I asked one of the maids to buy a pretty linen garment and gave her money to purchase such.
When the water and soap arrived, I helped Ariel move to the bathing area and I removed her dirty gown. At first, she tried to cover herself, not her breasts or pelvis, but her crippleness. I placed her arms to her side saying, “A husband needs see his wife as beautiful in all ways. To my eyes, sweet wife, I only see you as you were before your beloved mother had to change you. The deformity of your body does not distract my desire for my wife.”
Ariel stood there, unable to say anything. In her mind, she heard a voice tell her, “Yes, child, he does not see you as crippled, but he sees your wholeness. He finds you desirable. He loves you for who you are within. Accept what he is giving you with all your heart, child. Let him wash and clean you. Take delight in his touch, as you took delight in Mommy’s touch.”