Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Breaking the Rules (08/16/04)
TITLE: Stirring the Pot
By Lynne Gaunt
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“Ah, welcome Samuel! Come in! What brings you to my home this fine day? Can I bring you a drink? Do you need to wash up?” Joseph put his tools on the workbench and busied himself making the older man comfortable.
Samuel held up a hand and shook his head. “No. Nothing is needed, thank you. My visit will be short.” He accepted the seat offered to him and motioned for Joseph to sit.
“What is it, Samuel? My boys aren’t causing trouble in school, I trust?” Joseph asked with mild concern. He knew his children were well behaved and respectful, so he expected another reason for the call. The old man’s response caught him by surprise.
“As a matter of fact, I have come to speak to you about your boys – about your oldest to be specific, although I wouldn’t have used the phrase ‘causing trouble.’” The old man seemed to be enjoying stringing this concerned father along, holding him in suspense, but the look of alarm in Joseph’s face made Samuel get to his point.
“Your son does very well in his studies, and he shows the utmost respect for his elders and fellow students alike. His behavior is exemplary.” The old man put a reassuring hand on Joseph’s shoulder.
“If things are going so well, what is the problem?”
Samuel shifted uncomfortably in his seat and cleared his throat. “You see, my friend, there is a long-standing tradition for our people – rules and laws that we all must live by. These are diligently studied and taught in our school so that the boys will learn to be faithful to them as grown men. Surely you remember your own schooling, Joseph.”
“Yes, of course. Our laws are very important.”
“So, you’ll understand that our teachers are not accustomed to being questioned. Several of them have come to me quite rattled by the questions and debate that has come from your son. He has actually advocated that many of our laws and our traditions are wrong! You can imagine the reaction this has provoked in his teachers.”
Samuel paused, and continued with a smile, “I don’t mean to alarm you. Just because some stuffy teachers are up-in-arms about your son doesn’t mean they are right. Personally, I think it’s healthy to re-examine our beliefs now and then. Your son is extremely bright, and his questions and ideas are radical and thought provoking. He just has a way of stirring the pot.”
“Tell me Rabbi, are you asking me to quiet my son during class? Shall I discipline him for this behavior?” Joseph’s concern was genuine. He wanted so much to do the right thing, but there was also a knowing smile on his lips that told the Rabbi that Joseph was not as surprised at this news as he had expected.
“No, my friend. It is not my place to squelch such a fascinating and eager student. He is most extraordinary – kind and helpful, encouraging and challenging at the same time. No. Do not stop him. I believe there are great things in store for that son of yours, if he keeps himself out of trouble, that is. I wanted you to know what was happening at school.”
Joseph walked the old man to the door. “Thank you for coming, Rabbi.”
After Samuel left, Joseph resumed work on the table he was building. Soon he heard the familiar sound of his oldest son arriving home.
“I’m home father! Can I help you with your work?” A tall boy of about 12 years came grinning into the workshop.
“It’s good to see you son. Yes, I’d love some help.” Joseph said as he warmly clasped the boy’s shoulder and paused to look into his brown eyes.
“You are an amazing wonder to your mother and me, Jesus. You are full of wisdom beyond your years, and I thank God every day for enabling me to be your parent. I just wanted you to know that.”
Jesus looked up at Joseph and said, “God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew just what he was doing when he picked you and Mother.”
They laughed as Joseph threw an arm around his son’s neck and playfully tousled his hair.
“Help me turn this table over. Your mother will have the meal ready soon.” Joseph tossed his mallet onto the workbench.
“Great!” Jesus said, grasping the edge of the table and lifting. “I’m starved!”