Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Joseph whistled as he went entered the workshop he shared with his father, thinking to himself what a fine day it was. The temperature was unseasonably mild and there was an unmistakable scent of spices in the air as people made preparations for Sabbath. Today would be a good day – he could just feel it! Sitting down at his Carpenter’s bench, he carefully examined the selection of tools that were neatly laid out in front of him, deciding on what he needed to bring the piece of wood he now held in his hands to life. He didn’t hear his father, Jacob, enter the small room until he cleared his throat for the third time. “Someone is happy about something”, Jacob smiled indulgently at his son as he teased gently. Joseph tried to hide a grin as he said “I don’t know what you mean, Abba. Can’t a man just whistle for the sake of it? Whistling while you work is supposed to make your work go faster”. Jacob laughed, his white curly hair gently bouncing. “Sure it does… I don’t suppose this sudden burst of good humour has anything to do with a certain young damsel returning to Nazareth today?" This time Joseph couldn’t hide his grin. Putting down the chisel in his hand, he said “Really Abba, I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! I had only just begun to discover her, and then all of a sudden, she was going away to visit her cousin. I didn’t think I would miss her so much, but she’s all I can think of each day...” his voice trailed off as Joseph realised how much he had said to his father and flushed with embarrassment. Jacob’s eyes twinkled, “Well, maybe you should put down those tools before you hurt yourself, son. A carpenter needs his wits about him when he’s working, and your wits have clearly deserted you today”, he said, nodding at the lump of wood in Joseph’s hands, which was looking rather like a heart. “I’m pretty sure Adir had a sturdier piece of furniture when he ordered his stool.” Joseph looked down at the piece of wood in his hands “You’re right”, he said, abandoning all pretence of work, “I think I’ll take a walk to the market place”. Grabbing a handful of grapes from a wooden bowl on the table by the door as he left, he made his way towards the centre of the town. His mother always left some grapes or dates in the bowl by the door. That was her favourite bowl, she always said, because it was made by her only son. Joseph used to tease her by saying “but you only have one son”, but it was a bit of a sore point for Rebekah that Adonai had not seen it fit to bless her with another male child. Rebekah said she could never question the Most High, but Joseph knew that it sometimes made her sad. As he walked through the busy streets, Joseph realised he was doing a bit more than looking forward to seeing his betrothed. He found himself day-dreaming about their future together. Even though they had been betrothed for nearly ten months now, he had never really thought about the day they would start to live together as man and wife. He hoped that Adonai would bless them with many strong sons to fill his house and make Rebekah happy in her old age. He was a devout Jew, and he had followed the teachings of the Torah all his life. His father was a well-respected member of the community – a righteous man, and he had taught Joseph the ways of Ha’Shem from his childhood. Joseph believed that if he worshipped Ha’Shem faithfully, and went to temple sacrifice daily, Adonai would bless him and his family. “Shalom, Joseph!” Ari, his best friend from boyhood gave his back a friendly, if boisterous slap, breaking his reprieve. “Today is the day, my friend. Your betrothed is coming home, and before you know it, the period of ‘Kiddushin’ will be over and you can get fat on Mary’s cooking”, he joked. Whispering conspiratorially, he continued, “You know, my sister Rachel says that Mary is a fantastic cook and she has been working hard to prepare for life as your wife”. Joseph smiled, but Ariel could see he was lost in thought. The men walked through the town and sat together in companionable silence at Ari’s market stall. Ari was a fabric trader, and from his stall, they could see all the comings and goings in Nazareth. The sound of every arriving caravan or cart caused Joseph’s heart to race, until at last there was the face that he had been waiting for all these months. His throat was dry, and he swallowed several times while trying to dry his now damp hands on his cloak. “She’s here”, he whispered. He did not smile as his feet carried him towards Mary; before he knew it, he had broken into a jog. Not caring who was watching, he ran to the cart that was offloading its passengers and goods, his face now split in a smile that lit him up from the inside.