Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is available in paperback and on kindle and is being reprinted on Catholic News Agency with author’s permission. Cheryl’s non-fiction book is called Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past.Chapter Twenty-Nine
And not forget the works of God, keeping his commandments. Psalm 78:7
The women sat at the table and enjoyed the lavish meal that Rachel and Miriam had gone to great lengths to prepare. There were eggs and fish, fresh fruit, and fresh baked rolls that released steam when they were pulled apart. It was a feast for a queen and they made sure that was how Beth felt.
After they finished their meal, Rachel walked over to a small desk that sat off to the side of the couch. On it was a magenta gift bag with a silver ribbon tying the handles together while also cascading down the sides of the bag. Back at the table, Rachel gave the bag to Beth. “I’m not sure I’m emotionally up to receiving another gift,” Beth announced, thinking of Ayala’s tea set.
“I only hope this will be as special to you as was the Goldfarb gift. This is actually from myself and Sipporah, who is saddened that she could not spend this day with us.”
Beth tugged on one end of the ribbon and it easily slipped out of its knot. Pulling the ribbon through the handles, Beth placed it on the table. When she opened the bag she saw two books inside. Intrigued, she looked at Rachel and then at Miriam. Both women smiled as they knew more about Beth than Beth realized. Picking up both books at once, Beth withdrew them from the bag. Each was no larger than the book of Psalms that Beth had brought with her but had never really had a chance to read.
The first book was leather bound and had a ribbon marker attached to the inside that could be moved and placed on any page that Beth was reading. The cover had an inscription that was in Hebrew. Beth looked up at Rachel who said, “This book has all the names of God. It is very popular among Messianic Jews.”
Beth carefully thumbed through the pages. It wasn’t a thick book but each page was like a work of art with a heading in Hebrew and then the text in English. Beth put the book on her lap and picked up the second book. It was smaller than the first and was a book about Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. Beth was more than intrigued, she was downright anxious to read about these special women. “You already know how much these mean to me and I thank you for these. I will treasure them always!”
The women moved from the table to the living room. The windows were open and Beth enjoyed the sounds of the city below. It was just one more thing that she would miss when she was home. Miriam helped Rachel make a tray with coffee and also brought the remaining breakfast rolls. Beth settled in on a large chair while Rachel and Miriam shared the couch. Miriam tucked her legs up under herself in a way that showed her comfort in her friend’s home. Beth had carried the books to the chair and placed them on the end table.
Their conversation continued and they shared some of their innermost feelings. Beth was both comforted and amazed that, no matter where a woman lived, her life was filled with demands and required perseverance and diligence. Neither Rachel nor Miriam had children but seemed to have their hands full with other things that Beth did not. Listening to them, Beth felt that she could never have handled the stress placed upon them in their respective careers. She also wondered how they coped with the loneliness to which they both alluded.
“Why do you think all women have some sense of loneliness? I would have guessed that you were both so fulfilled with your careers and good friends that you wouldn’t feel lonely,” Beth hoped neither one was offended by her frankness but Rachel did say this was pajama party time.
Miriam was the first to answer. “I believe St. Augustine said it best when he said that, and I’m paraphrasing here, we are restless until we rest in the Lord. I have met women from all over the world and am always taken aback by what you just observed. When it comes right down to it, there is a restlessness stirring in each and every one of us. It sends us on our journeys, searching to fill the void, so to speak, in our hearts and in our souls. For many of us it is a physical aching, knowing we are somewhat empty, no matter what our life holds; marriages, careers, children, health, and even prosperity.
None of these things fill that place within us that God has created for His own indwelling. Yes, people try many ways to fill it, to stop the ache, but nothing is able to do the trick. That is because it can only be filled by God Himself. And even then, as St. Augustine had said, we are still somewhat restless because our final destiny is to be with God.”
As they continued talking they reflected on their many different friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers. The common denominator did, indeed, seem to be that regardless of station in life or personal circumstances, all the women they knew, collectively and individually, were in one way or another restless. For many it only became apparent, after certain goals were attained in which the restlessness did not cease, that their need was for something far greater than the earth provided. Their need, each and every one of them, was their Lord.
Like a river that snakes through hills and valleys on its way to a mighty river, so too, was their conversation. Everything seemed to lead up to the books that had been given to Beth. “Now why does God have more than one name?”
Rachel, who had studied the names of God in great depth, was more than willing to share her knowledge. “Although there is some debate among scholars as to the impetus behind the many names of God, it can be said that all Jews revere His name so completely because they believe it is a revelation of His nature. Thousands of years ago, before scribes would copy His name from one manuscript to the next, they would bathe and pray to be worthy of such an honor!”
Beth was dumbstruck by such an idea. Not because she, too, didn’t revere the very nature and essence of God, but because she thought of the carelessness with which people threw around His holy name.
“In fact,” Rachel continued, “Judaism avoids uttering God’s name outside of temple and the original use in Genesis is without vowels, which leaves current scholars debating whether or not anyone really even knows the correct pronunciation anymore. Although a very common accepted pronunciation is ‘Yahweh’ which is made up of the Hebrew letters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. This name is often called ‘The Unutterable Name.’ Since a name reflects a person’s being, and should be treated as respectfully as the person himself, the name for the magnificent and blessed Creator would be beyond uttering for mere man. Of course Christ crosses those barriers for us, and yet the beauty of such worship is undeniable.”
Beth picked up her leather book with the names of God revealed on the interior pages, and gently flipped through, admiring each of the names, honoring them as Rachel was suggesting. She had always found great beauty in the Hebrew alphabet and already knew that these books would become her favorites at home. Now, thinking that they held the revered name of God, their importance was beyond compare. Not only did they reveal knowledge about the many different attributes of God and His people, but they were given to her with love and affection.
Beth stopped on the page with the name El Shaddai. Rachel noticed Beth’s interest remain on the page and quietly let Beth read that El Shaddai was translated into God Almighty and that this name was in many places throughout Scripture but most interesting to Beth was that it was in the first book of the bible, Genesis, and in the last book of the bible, Revelation.
Beth looked up at Miriam and Rachel and apologized, “I’m sorry! But you can see that this was the perfect gift! I will use my tea service to make myself tea and sit and enjoy these books.” Both Miriam and Rachel were honored to have given Beth something that she already envisioned using together. “Please, go on,” Beth insisted.
“Well, let’s consider the name you were just reading about: Shaddai. Some scholars, and I’m sure regular people like me who are simply interested in learning all they can about God, understand that at the root of Shaddai is a word which also means ‘to overpower’ or ‘to destroy.’ Can you see how that is connected to the title ‘Almighty,’ because it is God Almighty who has the final ability to overwhelm or obliterate anything He so chooses?”
Miriam added, “It was El Shaddai who said, in Genesis, to be fruitful and multiply.”
Beth turned to another page and holding it up for Rachel to see, asked, “Tell me about Ehyeh asher ehyeh.”
“Well, this is from the most ‘famous’ verses in the Hebrew bible. It is God’s answer to Moses when Moses asks for God’s name. God answers Moses by saying ‘I will be what I will be’ or some translate His answer as, ‘I am that I am.’ Regardless, they are powerful words. They convey His essence and nature of eternal existence and of the fact that He was the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”
All three women sat in silence as they tried to grasp the implication of what God shared with Moses. Finally, Miriam broke the silence and suggested they warm up the coffee in their cups and sit on the balcony. Beth considered bringing the book outdoors but decided against it, as she wanted it kept safe inside.
Rachel had two pairs of wicker chairs facing each other on her balcony with a small wicker table in between each pair. In the middle of the group was a low wicker cocktail table with a glass top. Rachel sat next to Beth and Miriam took a seat opposite of them. They each put down their cups and simply enjoyed the day’s breeze and sounds of activity floating up from the street. Beth had never been to pajama parties when she was young, and Sophia had always shied away from such parties, but Beth could now see why they were so popular!
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