Biblical Fiction: Cold Heart, Warm Wood

She felt her sides being embraced lovingly. Two strong Levites picked her up. The one in the front was middle-aged with a spirit that soared. Through the contact with her wooden face, Northern Beam Three could feel her carrier’s life-energy. She exulted in his touch on her freshly sanded surface. She could feel the calluses of his skin and the wisdom of his hands.

The young man in the back was another matter. His big strong hands radiated arrogance and mischief. This one will be trouble, she thought.

The two men carried her twenty-foot length across the dusty plain of the Sinai desert. The remainder of the Northern Beams lay in the ox-drawn Levite wagon behind them. She would soon join her sisters in forming the outer wall of the Tabernacle.

“I can walk faster if you’d like, old Yedidyah,” she overheard the younger chuckle to the older.

“This pace is fitting, Beryah.” The older one answered. “We would not want to drop these precious beams.” Northern Beam Three smiled inwardly at the affectionate regard.

“Precious? These are just wood. The gold –  those are the precious items,” Beryah answered.

Young weed, Northern Beam Three thought, you do not have the proper attitude. Every piece is integral. Where would the Tabernacle be without us acacias?

“Beryah, you don’t understand,” Yedidyah lectured. “Each component of the Tabernacle was crafted with loving attention. From the inner vessels to the outer beams, to the sockets and the simple bars. Artisans put their energy, their craft and their love into each part of this Sanctuary of God.”

You are so correct, Yedidyah, Northern Beam Three thought. I love you. I wouldn’t mind if you would be the one to hold me whenever I’m not in the Tabernacle.

“It’s just a piece of wood,” Beryah sneered. “You make too much of it. Though they have honored us to carry the biggest and heaviest pieces. Anyway, we’re almost there.”

A few feet away, Northern Beam Three noted her sisters, Northern Beam One and Northern Beam Two, held upright, their carriers waiting for the base sockets. Dozens of feet behind them, the Southern Beams were all in place. Twenty of her sisters stood majestically, secure in their sockets.

Northern Beam Three felt a quick, rhythmic pounding through the feet of her carriers. A breathless, wheezing noise approached from behind. She saw a young man running, carrying the copper sockets that she and her sisters would rest in. They looked like head-sized pyramids with their tops cut off. There was a groove in the socket that the base of the beam sat in. Beryah also noticed the young man approaching. An evil smile spread along his face.

As the young man came within striking distance, Beryah put out his leg. The young man tripped on the leg. He and his armful of sockets went flying across the desert floor. The young man fell hard on his knee. Beryah laughed. “Pater, you clumsy oaf, don’t you watch where you’re walking? Don’t you see the others waiting for the sockets? How long do you think they can hold up their beams without the sockets? Hurry up, boy.”

Pater limped to his feet and quickly gathered the strewn sockets.

This Beryah needs a lesson, Northern Beam Three thought.

“Beryah, we’re here.” Yedidya gingerly placed his end of Northern Beam Three on the ground. “Let’s stand up the beam quickly so that you can help Pater gather the rest of the sockets. I’m concerned the other Levites will tire from continuing to hold the heavy beams without the sockets.”

“But Yedidyah, how will you hold the beam on your own? Pater dropped the sockets; he should pick them up again.”

“Don’t argue. I can balance the beam well enough for a few moments. The others look like they can’t wait longer. Hurry up.”

Beryah angled the beam up, made sure Yedidyah held it securely, and then collected nearby sockets. Pater noticed Northern Beam One starting to wobble. “Here,” he called out, throwing the heavy copper socket to the carriers a dozen feet away. The socket landed right in front of the beam. The relieved carriers raised the beam and sank it into the socket.

Bright boy, that one, Northern Beam Three thought, but this Beryah will receive his comeuppance.

Northern Beam Three shifted its center of gravity. Yedidyah struggled to seize it, but he couldn’t hold back the massive weight.

“Watch out!” Yedidyah yelled.

Northern Beam Three crashed down right onto Beryah. She aimed for his leg, just above the knee.

Northern Beam Three heard a satisfying ‘crunch’ as she broke the femur. A clean break, she thought. We won’t let just any depraved sapling carry us.

Pater was the first to reach Beryah and remove the beam off his leg.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“That damned beam just broke my leg. I won’t be able to be a carrier anymore. Curse that wretched piece of wood, and curse you, you clumsy old relic,” he shot at the approaching Yedidyah. “And curse you Pater, for being the cause of it all.”

“I’m sorry Beryah, it was an accident. We do need to be more careful. Come Yedidyah, let’s put the beam in its socket and then we can take care of Beryah properly.”

Pater placed the copper socket in line with Northern Beams One and Two. He grabbed the bottom of the beam and lifted it into the socket, while Yedidyah, from the other end, angled the beam to its vertical position.

As Pater secured the beam, he commented to Yedidyah, “what a beautiful piece of wood.”

Northern Beam Three smiled, happy with her new carrier.

* * * * * *


Sources for the names:

Yedidyah: Friend of God. Also includes ‘Yad’, hand.

Beryah: Based on ‘biryon’, thug.

Pater: Based on ‘patur’, innocent, blameless.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and a candidate for the Knesset for the Zehut party. He is the author of three books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.