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 Thirty
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful deeds. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may all the earth be filled with the Lord’s glory. Psalm 72:19
Just as the morning gave way to afternoon, so, too, their conversation gave way from the names of God to the matriarchs of the faith: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. Both Miriam and Rachel were quite animated as they shared some of the teachings of these women who were referred to as ‘Imahot.’ Between the two of them, Beth heard how the Sabbath blessings in a Jewish home included specific blessings for a daughter, May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
“What is a parent actually asking or saying in that blessing?” Beth asked.
“When we look at the lives of these women we see how God’s hand was clearly with them,” began Miriam. “Remember, Sarah, in her old age, was blessed with the birth of a beloved son and that her whole life she was considered a beautiful woman. Like Sarah, Rebekah was also beautiful. In addition, she was a kind, loving, and caring woman from whom God promised that nations would rise.
Rachel was the first in the line of matriarchs to herself approach God with her request for children and He answered her prayers with the birth of Jacob. Until that point, the men, Abraham and then Isaac, had interceded on behalf of their wives. Finally, Leah was blessed by God to give birth to so many of the tribes of Israel. All these women had God’s promise, something that every mother wants for her daughter.”
By late afternoon their conversation had taken another turn. Each was recalling her own special memories of Ayala, with Beth sharing her belief that God have granted her a special blessing to have known Ayala. Miriam cried in a way that seemed almost healing. She shared her inability to break down in front of her father because he very much needed her to be strong. Both Rachel and Beth understood and felt humbled that they could help their friend in such an intimate way.
At some point in the afternoon Rachel brought out a tray filled with cheeses, fruits, flat breads, and an assortment of nuts and olives. “Why don’t you each go to the fridge and grab an iced tea or lemonade and I’m going to get a few light sweaters. There’s a slight chill in the evening air. Unless, of course, you would rather go back inside.”
“No, this is wonderful and a sweater would be perfect,” Beth said. Miriam agreed and all three went into the apartment. Miriam and Beth walked to the fridge with Miriam selecting a raspberry iced tea and Beth settling on a lemonade.
“This should fit fine,” Rachel said as she returned and offered a cozy, oversized zippered sweater to Miriam. “And here’s one for you,” she said to Beth.
The women stood and put on their sweaters. One was a light pink and the other a light purple. Rachel’s was a light green. They all looked at each other and laughed. “I have to get a camera!”
Rachel went back inside and opened a few cupboards and then shouted, “Got it!” and returned to the balcony. After a minute or two she had the camera set up on a plant stand in the corner and had positioned everyone to the best of her ability. She pushed down the automatic feature that would take the picture and ran to where she had placed Miriam and Beth. “Cheese!”
“Cheese!” the girls said as they waited with smiles on their faces. Then, when nothing happened, Rachel made a move towards the camera, at which point it flashed. Laughing hysterically, they did their best to reset both the camera and themselves. After another minute or two they were able to take a picture.
Miriam suggested a third for good measure and before long they were taking pictures of one another as well as pairs; first Beth and Miriam and then Beth and Rachel, then Rachel and Miriam. They took pictures of Beth holding her books and of Miriam hugging Rachel. They finished and Rachel promised to send copies to Beth and Miriam. Beth was glad because she hadn’t spent too much time taking pictures during her trip and didn’t want the entire experience to fade with time. She had purchased dozens of post-card type memorabilia but none of those had her two special friends.
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