Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 23
Boaz watched helplessly as Ruth left the assembly. He continued reading from the Torah scroll, pained by the anguish he had inflicted upon Ruth. He paused his reading and closed his eyes, searching for Ruth’s aura. He recognized the shimmering white of Ruth’s purity and nobility, but he saw a black despair penetrate her heart and spread through her aura like a sickly growth. Boaz sensed Ruth’s devastation. The revelation of Moses’ command against Moabites coupled with the antagonism of Ploni and the other Bethlehemites had destroyed Ruth’s hopes for living amongst the Judeans. No! Boaz thought to Ruth’s aura. There is good here in Bethlehem. Don’t let their hatred taint you! But the despair spread quickly until Boaz could barely discern any light left in Ruth’s aura.
Boaz felt his knees wobble. Ruth’s pain and desolation washed over Boaz like the flooding of a wadi. Boaz rolled the scroll closed and handed it to Ehud, who was standing next to him amidst the congregation of Bethlehem that eyed Boaz with sudden concern.
“Hold…” was all Boaz managed to say as he lost his breath. Boaz clutched his chest, thinking his heart would explode. Intense agony radiated throughout his body and then he collapsed, as a puppet whose strings had been cut, to the unified gasp of his audience.
“Boaz,” Vered whispered lovingly. “Boaz, my love. Your time has not come.”
“Vered?” Boaz asked the image of his dead wife. That was all he could see. Everything else was a white haze.
“Boaz, I will see you soon enough, but your work is not done.”
“Vered, I don’t understand.”
“You men are so thick sometimes,” Vered teased. “You need to marry Ruth. She is the one. You have my blessing.”
“Vered, I miss you so,” Boaz responded.
“I know, my love. I miss you too. But do not fear. We will have eternity together.”
“How can I love another?”
“Is your heart so small, that you cannot make room for someone worthy? I know you approve of her. She is a unique woman.”
“I am dead, Boaz. I am no longer amongst the living. It is to your credit that you honor my memory and if time allowed, you could do so longer. But time is running out. The line of Nachshon must continue. It must continue through you and through Ruth. It is the divine plan. But it is up to you, to both of you. God will put the pieces in place, but he does not interfere with free will. Other forces are working against you. You have met some of them. You must persevere, Boaz. For all of us. For our future. You must be strong. Now wake up, you lazy old soldier.”
Vered’s image approached Boaz and kissed him tenderly.
Ruth ran to the assembly and pushed her way through the crowd. People parted to let her through. People in their fine Sabbath garments stood around the prone body of Boaz. Ehud was on his knees, pushing his strong arms down on Boaz’s chest.
“What happened?” Ruth blurted as she got on her knees next to Ehud.
“He gave me the Torah, clutched his chest and then fell,” Ehud answered without looking at her as he rhythmically pushed on Boaz’s chest.
“What are you doing?” Ruth asked.
“Pushing the heart sometimes helps if it has stopped,” Ehud answered.
“What can I do?” Ruth asked.
“Pray,” Ehud said simply.
God, Ruth thought, as she closed her eyes. Don’t take this man away yet. You gave us a mission. I don’t know what it is, but we haven’t completed it yet, I know that much. Bring him back and give me a sign of what I’m meant to do. Give me hope.
Boaz suddenly coughed and opened his eyes. He looked straight at Ruth.
“You didn’t leave,” Boaz whispered hoarsely.
“Not yet.” Ruth smiled, thanking God inwardly.
“Please don’t leave, Ruth.”
“I will stay as long as you want me here,” Ruth responded.
Boaz closed his eyes, relieved. He noted that Ruth’s aura had returned to her natural bright white. The darkness that had engulfed her soul was gone.
“Good. It is good that you stay here with us. Now if someone wouldn’t mind helping me off the floor, I think I would be more comfortable at home.”
Ehud on one side and Garto on the other side lifted Boaz to his feet. They escorted Boaz back to his home. Ruth and Noami accompanied them. The assembly dispersed once the excitement was over. The whole town would talk about that Sabbath gathering for days to come – until the next chaotic incident entered their lives.
“Your agent has not been successful,” the ghost of Dirthamus addressed his old apprentice, Sumahtrid. As usual, young Beor sat in a corner, looking distastefully at the dead sorcerer in the dark smoke-filled room.
“I have given him a sizable sum and promised him much more should he bring Ruth back to us,” Sumahtrid answered, a tentative smile on his face.
“The critical moment is approaching,” Dirthamus croaked. “We cannot risk her being free. If the Israelite does not retrieve her, you will be forced to take direct action again.”
“Ehud protects her. He is powerful,” Sumahtrid whined.
“Your job this time will be simpler,” Dirthamus responded.
“How so?” Sumahtrid asked, one eyebrow arching questioningly.
“You will simply have to kill Ruth the Moabite. If the Hebrews do not let us retrieve her, then she must die.”
“That is much simpler,” Sumahtrid agreed. “Beor can shoot her from a distance with minimal risk. Right, Beor?”
“Yes,” Beor answered with a gleam in his eye. “Killing simple.”
“So am I allowed to be amongst Israelites or not?” Ruth asked as they sat in Boaz’s home. “I don’t understand. Your Moses wrote that we are not allowed. Yet you, Naomi and Ehud seem to be of the opinion that it’s possible.”
Boaz lay in his bed, recovering from his collapse. Ehud sat quietly next to Boaz. Naomi had returned to her own home after seeing that Boaz had made it safely and was being looked after.
“It is not simple, for a variety of reasons,” Boaz explained. “You are the first Moabite that I know of that has attempted to enter a community in Israel. There have been Israelites that have married Moabites before, but they had typically left their home and were frowned upon, to say the least. The text of Moses is of course problematic, but you must realize that there is an oral tradition that accompanies it as well. Naomi mentioned a valid point, that the text is prohibiting Moabite men and not woman, but our sages have not contemplated this subject in many, many years. We shall have to take it up again and I expect it will be a vociferous discussion. The sages as a group will need to rule on this matter.”
“Are you not one of the sages?” Ruth asked.
“And what is your opinion?”
“My opinion is both obvious and biased.”
“Who else is on this council?”
“My uncle, Ploni.”
“His opinion is also well known.”
“What will happen if the ruling goes against me?”
“You will need to leave Bethlehem and you will be forbidden from marrying any man of Israel.”
“Perhaps I should leave and spare everyone the heartache.”
“Your walking away already damaged my heart once, Ruth. I don’t know that I would survive your leaving again. Please stay. Have patience. Have faith. It will end well. It must.”
“I stay for you, Boaz. Though I’m not sure what that means. You know that Garto has been courting me and now this Danite has also proposed to me. I have two Israelites that would marry me, though my heart belongs to a third.” Ruth looked at Boaz meaningfully.
“Ruth,” Boaz shifted uncomfortably in his bed, ignoring Ehud’s smirk. “You have come into my life after the death of my beloved Vered. She came to me in a dream, as I lay unconscious in the town square. She… she said… well, it is not important right now. Give me a little time. I need to get back on my feet again, which I’m confident Ehud here will make sure of. He won’t let an old man die in peace. Know Ruth, that I am committed to your protection, your sustenance and your best interests. Stay in Bethlehem until the matter of your acceptability is resolved. Keep coming to my field where my people can keep an eye on you and where I know that you will be provided with sufficient food for yourself and Naomi. Garto is a good man and I asked of him that he accompany you, for your own protection. Just a little more patience, Ruth. Just a little bit more.”
“I trust you, Boaz,” Ruth said and stood up abruptly. “I think I’ll let you rest now. Feel better.” Ruth turned and left Boaz’s house. Once outside, she started to sob. She wasn’t sure why she cried. All she knew was that her heart was in turmoil, and Boaz was at the center of it.
“Naomi, my dear,” Alron whispered in front of Naomi’s house. “That was some excitement this morning.”
“I can do without such excitement,” Naomi retorted.
“True, too true. But I couldn’t help noticing Ruth’s concern for Boaz. It was quite… loving.”
“Boaz has been a great benefactor to Ruth.”
“It is more than that, Naomi. One would need to be blind not to see it. I think that Ruth has been stringing me along all this time. Me and that poor buffoon, Garto. Boaz has had Ruth’s heart all this time.”
“Then you see more than I do, Master Alron. I expect you will be happy for Ruth whatever her decision may be.”
“Oh no, not at all, my dear. As far as I’m concerned, there is only one right decision for Ruth. In fact, I would be quite distraught were she not to choose to come with me. I am not a pleasant man when I am distraught, Naomi. People have been known to have gotten hurt when I am disappointed. You wouldn’t want any harm to come to Ruth, or to you, would you, my dear?”
“Harm? What harm? See here, young Alron. Are you threatening me? Are you threatening Ruth if she doesn’t give in to your artificial graces? What kind of man are you?”
“I am a man who gets what he wants.” Alron inched his face closer to Naomi. “I get what I want, whatever it takes. I am not afraid to use persuasion, bribery, threats or even violence. That is why I am successful. I am generous to my allies and merciless to anyone who stands in my way. It would be in your own self-interest and that of your daughter-in-law to consider most seriously my offer. I trust you will use your considerable influence to steer her to the right decision. The alternatives, quite frankly, would be devastating. Good day, my dear,” Alron bowed with a smile, turned and left Naomi, leaving her standing in front of her house, mouth wide in shock.
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