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- The Valley of Vision - 31/31 -
thing. "You would wash that which needs no washing," he cried, "the Golden Candlestick, one day in every week! Next you will want to wash the sun for fear an unclean ray of light may fall on the altar!"
Other teachers were reciting from the six books of the Talmud which the Pharisees were making to expound the law. Others repeated the histories of Israel, recounted the brave deeds of the Maccabees, or read from the prophecies of Enoch and Daniel. Others still were engaged in political debate: the Zealots talking fiercely of the misdeeds of the house of Herod and the outrages committed by the Romans; the Sadducees contemptuously mocking at the hopes of the revolutionists and showing that the dream of freedom for Judea was foolish. "Freedom," they said, "belongs to those who are well protected. We have the Temple and priesthood because Rome takes care of us." To this the Zealots answered angrily: "Yes, the priesthood belongs to you unbelieving Sadducees; that is why you are content with it. Look, now, at the place where you let Herod hang an accursed eagle of gold on the front of Jehovah's House."
So from group to group the Boy passed, listening intently, but hearing little to his purpose. All day long he listened, now to one, now to another, completely absorbed by what he heard, yet not satisfied. Late in the afternoon he came into the quietest part of Solomon's Porch, where two large companies were seated around their respective teachers, separated from each other by a distance of four or five columns.
As he stood on the edge of the first company, whose rabbi was a lean, dark-bearded, stern little man, the Boy was spoken to by a stranger at his side, who asked him what he sought in the Temple.
"Wisdom," answered the Boy. "I am looking for some one to give a light to my path."
"That is what I am seeking, too," said the stranger, smiling. "I am a Greek, and I desire wisdom. Let us see if we can get it from this teacher. Listen."
He made his way to the centre of the circle and stood before the stern little man.
"Master," said the Greek, "I am willing to become thy disciple if thou wilt teach me the whole law while I stand before thee thus--on one foot."
The rabbi looked at him angrily, and, lifting up his stick, smote him sharply across the leg. "That is the whole law for mockers," he cried. The stranger limped away amid the laughter of the crowd.
"But the little man was too angry; he did not see that I was in earnest," said he, as he came back to the Boy. "Now let us go to the next school and see if the master there is any better."
So they went to the second company, which was gathered around a very old man, with long, snowy beard and a gentle face. The stranger took his place as before, standing on one foot, and made the same request. The rabbi's eyes twinkled and his lips were smiling as he answered promptly:
"Do nothing to thy neighbor that thou wouldst not have him do to thee, this is the whole law; all the rest follows from this."
"Well," said the stranger, returning, "what think you of this teacher and his wisdom? Is it better?"
"It is far better," replied the Boy eagerly: "it is the best of all I have heard to-day. I am coming back to hear him to-morrow. Do you know his name?"
"I think it is Hillel," answered the Greek, "and he is a learned man, the master of the Sanhedrim. You will do well, young Jew, to listen to such a man. Socrates could not have answered me better. But now the sun is near setting. We must go our ways. Farewell."
In the tent of his friends the Boy found welcome and a supper, but no news of his parents. He told his experiences in the Temple, and the friends heard him, wondering at his discernment. They were in doubt whether to let him go again the next day; but he begged so earnestly, arguing that they could tell his parents where he was if they should come to the camp seeking him, that finally he won consent.
HOW THE BOY WAS FOUND
He was in Solomon's Porch long before the schools had begun to assemble. He paced up and down under the triple colonnade, thinking what questions he should ask the master.
The company that gathered around Hillel that day was smaller, but there were more scribes and doctors of the law among them, and they were speaking of the kingdom of the Messiah--the thing that lay nearest to the Boy's heart. He took his place in the midst of them, and they made room for him, for they liked young disciples and encouraged them to ask after knowledge.
It was the prophecy of Daniel that they were discussing, and the question was whether these things were written of the First Messiah or of the Second Messiah; for many of the doctors held that there must be two, and that the first would die in battle, but the second would put down all his enemies and rule over the world.
"Rabbi," asked the Boy, "if the first was really the Messiah, could not God raise him up again and send him back to rule?"
"You ask wisely, son," answered Hillel, "and I think the prophets tell us that we must hope for only one Messiah. This book of Daniel is full of heavenly words, but it is not counted among the prophets whose writings are gathered in the Scripture. Which of them have you read, and which do you love most, my son?"
"Isaiah," said the Boy, "because he says God will have mercy with everlasting-kindness. But I love Daniel, too, because he says they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. But I do not understand what he says about the times and a half-time and the days and the seasons before the coming of Messiah."
With this there rose a dispute among the doctors about the meaning of those sayings, and some explained them one way and some another, but Hillel sat silent. At last he said:
"It is better to hope and to wait patiently for Him than to reckon the day of His coming. For if the reckoning is wrong, and He does not come, then men despair, and no longer make ready for Him."
"How does a man make ready for Him, Rabbi?" asked the Boy.
"By prayer, son, and by study of the law, and by good works, and by sacrifices."
"But when He comes He will rule over the whole world, and how can all the world come to the Temple to sacrifice?"
"A way will be provided," answered the old man, "though I do not know how it will be. And there are offerings of the heart as well as of the altar. It is written, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.'"
"Will His kingdom be for the poor as well as for the rich, and for the ignorant as well as for the wise?"
[Illustration: From a painting by Holman Junt. The Finding of Christ in The Temple]
"Yes, it will be for the poor and for the rich alike. But it will not be for the ignorant, my son. For he who does not know the law cannot be pious."
"But, Rabbi," said the Boy eagerly, "will He not have mercy on them just because they are ignorant? Will He not pity them as a shepherd pities his sheep when they are silly and go astray?"
"He is not only a Shepherd," answered Hillel firmly, "but a great King. They must all keep the law, even as it is written and as the elders have taught it to us. There is no other way."
The Boy was silent for a time, while the others talked of the law, and of the Torah, and of the Talmud in which Hillel in those days was writing down the traditions of the elders. When there was an opportunity he spoke again.
"Rabbi, if most of the people should be both poor and ignorant when the Messiah came, so ignorant that they did not even know Him, wouldn't He save them just because they were poor?"
Hillel looked at the Boy with love, and hesitated before he answered.
At that moment a man and a woman came through the colonnade with hurried steps. The man stopped at the edge of the circle, astonished at what he saw. But the woman came into the centre and put her arm around the Boy.
"My boy," she cried, "why hast thou done this to us? See how sorrowful thou hast made me and thy father, looking everywhere for thee."
"Mother," he answered, "why did you look everywhere for me with sorrow? Did you not know that I would be in my Father's house? Must I not begin to think of the things my Father wants me to do?"
Thus the lost Boy was found again, and went home with, his parents to Nazareth. The old rabbi blessed him as he left the Temple.
But had he really been lost, or was he finding his way?
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