A Messianic Parable
Short Story by Israeli Believer
“How the Good Samaritan Turned
This is a new parable, drawn from my own imagination.
might say that it bears a remarkable resemblance to some real
events over the last few years.
Some might vaguely remember a cry of pain from believers in Yeshua
who were being abused by other believers, and a call to leadership
to confront the abusers and bring the abuse to a halt. A call
goes out to leaders, gets noted, filed... and forgotten.
The story is not unique. Abuses involving other believers have
occurred, and are occurring, which remain off the radar for everyone
except the perpetrators, their targets, a handful of mute bystanders...
and the Lord of Hosts.
The similarity between the different characters in Yeshua's parable
and their modern counterparts is so compelling, it is not hard
to imagine what the Good Samaritan might have faced in trying
to put "love your neighbor" into action, under the prevailing
conditions in the Body of Messiah today.
Therefore, this fictional extension of Yeshua's original parable
was written to draw the Body's attention to a trend rather than
a particular case. Any resemblance to real people or events, and
any actual statements that are reprinted verbatim, are used for
illustrative purposes only (all names are withheld to protect
the privacy of the innocent and to prevent legal harassment from
I've been asked why the abuser in the story is named Tsavuah.
It literally means "colored" or "painted over".
It's the Hebrew word for "hypocrite". The name is also
very close to a predator that is particularly fond of devouring
sheep: "Tsavoah" (a species of hyena native to Israel).
"From the mouth of two or three witnesses".... I'll
close with some advice from other ministers who are familiar with
spiritual abuse among the Lord's people:
""The most powerful of all unspoken rules in the abusive
system is what we have already termed the 'can't-talk'
rule.... If you speak about the problem out loud, you
are the problem.... If noticing problems is labeled disloyalty,
lack of submission, divisiveness, and a challenge to authority,
then there is only a facade of peace and unity. It is
impossible for wounds to be healed, and abuse will one day escalate."
–David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen, The
Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, p. 68-9.
"Rebuilding trust for the victim of spiritual abuse
is no easy thing. I don't mean to offend anyone here
-- and please don't take this personally -- but Christians who
like to spout out facile 'answers' to victims about how they should
just learn from the experience, and move on with their lives,
really ought to consider sticking a sock in their mouths when
that temptation comes over them." –Ron
Henzel, former victim of spiritual abuse, founder of REST Ministries
(Recovering from Experiences of Spiritual Tyranny), "Characteristics
of Spiritual Abuse: Manipulation"
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather expose them.... All things become
visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything
that becomes visible is light." –The
apostle Paul, Eph.5:11-13
"How the Good Samaritan Turned Bad"
The Good Samaritan trudged down the steep road leading from the
east side of Jerusalem, keeping to the smooth parts so that his
donkey wouldn't lose its footing. It was only the third hour,
and the intense dry heat was already rising up from the Jordan
Valley. Another one of those draining summer treks that GS had
resigned himself to making.
The occasional passerby eyed him suspiciously, and GS was resigned
to that too. They were Judeans. His face and clothing proclaimed
that his home was in the other direction, far to the north. If
he were a Smart Samaritan, he thought wryly, he would be there
now, on his hill overlooking Shechem, cooling off - and minding
his own business. But chance (or was it God?) and a sense of conscience
had sent him in a different direction, on different business.
He knew this road better than most... more than he wanted to.
The number of attacks on it had increased since the spring. And
for some reason, he always seemed to be the first to find the
victims. He had put his merchant business on hold and postponed
his homeward trip for the last month, trying to get to the bottom
of the mysterious beatings.
He thought back to the first victim he had rescued. It was a Jewish
priest, of all people, and that encounter had been a life-changing
experience for both the Samaritan and the Jew. But what a strange
story the beaten man had told....
For one thing, he claimed that other priests had passed him before
GS arrived, but when he called out for help, they pretended not
to see or hear. One actually yelled back a rebuke, something about
"negative confession", before hurrying over to the other
side of the road.
Even more disturbing was his claim that he knew his attacker.
It was no ordinary robber of the hills, but a maverick priest
by the name of Tsavuah bar Maimon, who lived just off the Jericho
Road. Apparently this Tsavuah was regarded as a great servant
of God by many Jews. He and the injured man had been entrusted
with some of the Temple offerings, part of a priestly team appointed
to oversee distribution to the poor. But Tsavuah decided to carry
out the project on his own, and then refused to give his team
a clear accounting of exactly how the money had been used. When
his brother-priest exposed the lack of accounting and appealed
to the Sanhedrin to investigate the matter, they briefly spoke
with Tsavuah and then ruled that it was "a personal dispute
that should be settled privately". Tsavuah's way of "settling
it" was to lay an ambush for his opponent on the Jericho
Road and beat him almost to death.
The disabled man then went into some strange doctrine taught by
Tsavuah, who was telling one and all that his unconventional teaching
was the real reason for the "unsubstantiated and blatantly
false claims about Temple violations and Sanhedrin inquiries".
GS, not being a Jew, couldn't follow the theological arguments.
But he doubted that any doctrinal differences could justify the
gashes and bruises on his patient.
The weirdest part of the man's story, however, was his claim that
Tsavuah had carried out such ambushes before... and with the blessing
of other priests. These supporters were convinced that Tsavuah's
victims were thugs and idolaters who had attacked him... in spite
of the fact that the unarmed "attackers" came out of
the confrontation bloodied and paralyzed with terror, while Tsavuah
returned claiming severe injury but not even limping.
When GS asked his patient why the victims didn't band together,
tell their side to the Sanhedrin, and demand a full investigation
of the whole mess, the man just sighed. "It won't help. Nothing
to do but move on," he said, and then turned his face to
That had been the first rescue. Then two weeks later, the Samaritan's
business affairs took him back down the Jericho Road, and that's
when he stumbled upon two more beating victims - in the same day.
Both were (again) priests, left at different places on the road.
They told him a tale like the first beating, but with a new twist.
Together they had tried to confront Tsavuah face-to-face in the
Temple, only to be chased out by the Temple guards, who reprimanded
them for "slandering a brother and bringing shame on the
priesthood". They were later waylaid by Tsavuah... but this
time a few other priests actually came along to help. Two held
the victims down while Tsavuah pummeled them, and a third (being
a lawyer as well as a priest) read out a statement declaring the
mobbing an act of righteous discipline: "We as Tsavuah's
elders have advised him that he should use all means at his disposal
to attain full compensation for the damage you have caused him,
his family and his priestly work...." The declaration ended
with an admonition to the prostrate, bleeding man to repent.
While these two casualties were struggling back to health, they
spoke haltingly to the Samaritan about earlier victims of Tsavuah's
roadside attacks. Not knowing what to make of this tale of serial
bullying, GS decided to track down some of them to check out the
stories... and if necessary to turn the whole affair over to the
Roman authorities. After all, GS was a regular traveler on that
road, and it was in his own interest to put an end to the attacks.
He soon found he was opening a big, ugly can of worms.
There was a roomful of individuals willing to talk to him, but
none were willing to give their names. To the last man (or woman),
they repeated the same thing: "Don't ask me to identify myself.
Tsavuah will know it's me and he'll come after me for telling
what I know. I don't need to go through that -- again." Whatever
they had "gone through", it convinced them that just
to identify themselves would invite retaliation. Some had kept
silent for years.
One of them told him of abandonment by those who witnessed the
abuse: "This has been a very lonely walk we have been on.
Very few have had encouragement for us. Most of the Jews disappeared
once the trouble started."
The Samaritan had studied Torah; he knew these people should be
going to the judges for justice. And he said so.
One of the circle confessed: "I am way too scared to even
tell what he's done to me, plus I don't trust anyone to hold him
accountable. Too many of the leaders have an interest in letting
him go on unchallenged."
But others claimed to have confronted Tsavuah before judges. The
results, they said, were the same each time: Tsavuah declared
it to be a big misunderstanding, the judges urged the two sides
to reconcile, and a few weeks later Tsavuah sent messengers with
quiet threats of what would happen if they persisted in "attacking"
"If anyone wants to stand up to Tsavuah, he finds a way to
shut them up," a scarred Levite tried to explain to GS. "One
witness standing alone is not credible, so he works to isolate
each one and brand him or her as 'the only one' with a complaint
GS was amazed to find even former friends of Tsavuah among the
victims. Said one: "I once supported him, but I now have
no respect or trust for Tsavuah professionally, ethically or financially."
Another was more aggressive: "It's totally unfair for anyone
to treat those who have helped him as long and as much as we have
done, that he would choose to try and destroy us as he did."
This last speaker, a Temple servant, told how Tsavuah had dragged
him before a Roman magistrate, demanding a criminal trial and
flogging... apparently without taking into account that the Roman
justice system required proof of wrongdoing before pronouncing
sentence. After questioning Tsavuah and finding the evidence to
consist of an old wineskin that had been "stolen" and
later returned, the Roman had given him a disgusted look and ordered
the accused to be released. Tsavuah then returned to the Temple,
announcing that a Roman cohort was on its way to kick in the door
of the "criminal" and throw him into prison... and since
the Temple servant was never seen in Jerusalem again, most who
heard the story assumed he had indeed been tried, found guilty
and sent to the Roman galleys for his crime.
GS asked him what had provoked Tsavuah to do this. "I complained
about his habit of taking things from the Temple treasury without
going through the proper channels," answered the servant
simply. "We couldn't keep a clear record, the funds were
moving too fast. He was furious with me for my 'betrayal' as he
called it. Later, he told everyone I was getting revenge for some
doctrinal disagreement. The accusation of theft came a little
while after that." Others in the room exchanged looks and
"I've been in hiding ever since," he went on. "I
can't bring myself to have anything to do with the Temple service
anymore. I personally feel violated by him and his associates
who support him."
"Thanks for meeting with us," said one sad-eyed Jew
as he got up to leave, "but for some reason none of it seems
to matter anymore. I don't understand the evil dynamic that is
going on here at all."
GS was still a bit skeptical about the number of victims at the
hands of the same person. Who ever heard of one man being able
to cause so much wreckage without being challenged? he wondered.
And yet the injuries sustained by each one in that room were not
fabricated. He decided to see if it were possible to cross-check
He approached Jerusalem, determined to ignore any hostility he
might encounter in this city that despised Samaritans. Reminding
himself of his reason for being there, he gathered the courage
to ask the Jewish dignitaries sitting in the gate about the growing
number of Jewish priests injured on the Jericho Road.
To his surprise, he found that the gate judges were not skeptical
or shocked at his question. They seemed to already be familiar
with "the string of incidents" as they put it. But they
were unwilling to talk of what was known about the attacker(s).
They advised him to take his inquiries to the Temple court itself.
GS was not about to set foot on the Temple Mount. He refused on
principle; like all devout Samaritans, he considered the place
a seat of false religion. Hadn't God already chosen Mount Gerizim
at the time of the holy teacher Moses, by commanding Israel to
place His blessings on it? And hadn't their forefather Abraham
offered his son on that very same Mount overlooking Shechem? Let
no one in Judea sneer at the Samaritans as "idolaters"
-- hadn't Jerusalem lost God's favor and been razed to the ground
because of the blatant idol worship practiced in their house of
No way am I going to lend credibility to that worship system by
entering its gates, he resolved. Not even to find a reputable
judge who could set things right for his Jewish friends. Anyway,
the Jews would probably say he had no right to be there. But he
had to find out what, if anything, the Temple authorities knew
about the abusive priest who worked in its shadow.
GS finally spotted a couple of Judean judges, whose clothing identified
them as part of the Pharisee sect. Well, he thought, they're more
faithful to the Law than the priestly caste, or so I've heard.
They were coming down from the Temple Mount, and he asked to have
a word with them. They looked at him warily, but they motioned
for him to speak.
The minute they heard the name of Tsavuah, they shook their heads
and launched into a passionate warning against his teaching, which
they judged to be dangerous "even for the Samaritans."
When GS mentioned the beatings, however, their eyes glazed over
with an unreadable, guarded expression. They brushed past him,
continuing the argument with each other: how much of Tsavuah's
teaching actually qualified as heresy?
GS stared after them. The words of one victimized Levite (now
permanently crippled) echoed in his mind: "The truth has
to come into the light... but it can only happen if leaders decide
to care. Unfortunately it's too late for me - I was the perfect
target. And I let Tsavuah destroy me."
"How did you 'let' him?" GS had asked.
"I tried to be a friend to him. I figured he was just reacting
from hurt and fear, and if he had some strong unconditional support,
he would quit attacking others. I didn't hold him accountable
for his history. I guess that's what gave him a green light to
add me to his list of victims."
Something strange and ugly was in the air around the Temple, unseen
but sensed... one could almost say "smelled". It reminded
GS of an incident in Samaria years ago, when a homeless beggar
had died without anyone noticing, until his putrefying body had
carried the news through town on the wind. Even so, it was another
week before the townspeople took the time to track down the source
of the stench. Amazing what people are willing to ignore when
they are busy, he mused, or when they are resentful of something
that invades their comfort zones.
GS searched for another Jewish authority who might be willing
to talk about the incriminating smell among the priests. The first
leader he approached referred him to a second one; that one conferred
briefly in undertones with a few colleagues standing behind him,
and then turned back to GS:
"Yes, it's important that this abuse problem be investigated,
brought out in the open and resolved. But we can't be involved
in any way. We've tangled with this priest before over his doctrinal
errors, and one confrontation was more than enough. Our decision
is unanimous on that."
After more persistence, GS was finally referred to one of the
most prominent community elders, who agreed to speak with him
privately at his home in the city's affluent quarter.
GS, realizing that the elder was under no obligation to see a
Samaritan, thanked him humbly for receiving him. Then he related
what he had seen and heard from the Jewish victims and Jerusalem
leaders. He concluded: "Look how many lives have been ruined
by this associate of yours. How can you judges and elders not
The venerable old man looked troubled and stroked his beard. "It's
all true... and yes, it has gone on for too long. As leaders we
are embarrassed before the Lord about it... Heaven help me, I
have to work with some of the priests who are supporting it. But
to put a full stop to it would take a great time investment and
cause great turmoil in the community. Both would jeopardize our
holy work. Who would teach the Law, or judge the people, or care
for those in need?"
GS was perplexed at his answer. Isn't that exactly what we're
talking about? he wondered. He pressed further. "Will no
one among you care for those injured by this man? Do God's ministers
have no obligation to people who are stripped, beaten and left
half-dead, other than to avoid stepping on them as they pass?"
The elder gazed at him appreciatively for a moment. "It is
a question that deserves close attention," he said. "But
a leader is not led by God to stop and answer every single call
for help. If he tried, he would burn out."
"Fine," argued GS, "but how many priests and judges
and leaders can make the same claim about the same call for help?"
"I won't try to answer that," replied the elder firmly.
"Only God knows their hearts. But I am aware that some leaders
refrained from offering aid to the victims because there were
doubts raised about their innocence. And due to the pressure of
all the Temple service, there simply wasn't time to hear both
sides and sort things out."
GS was fighting a growing despair. "Okay, let me see if I
understand this. One priest is claiming that he 'was forced' to
beat up - how many is it now? - about 15 of his fellow-priests,
all at different times, always in 'self-defense'. And of all those
who heard this one priest, not one leader in all Jerusalem could
find time to hear the other 15, who are also priests? Not even
the Sanhedrin, which must have scores of capable men trained for
this sort of thing?"
"Well," observed the elder mildly, not seeming to notice
the other's agitation, "there are times when the entire leadership
can be stumped over a really complex dispute, and cannot in good
conscience take any action at all. God Himself will settle such
dilemmas in His own way."
GS thought, Then why did He command His people to appoint judges?
but he suppressed it and tried a different approach. "Alright
then. What about unconditional compassion -- comforting brothers
in pain, just because they are brothers in pain? Is it right to
avoid them? Visiting them, just to say: 'We are sorry this happened
to you...' doesn't require taking sides in the dispute. Would
this not be pleasing to God?"
The old leader pondered. "Yes, I suppose. Still... have you
ever considered the risk of showing compassion in such a case?
We recognize that one man has launched a series of abusive attacks,
some of them in revenge for perceived offenses. Comforting the
victims would no doubt be interpreted as condemning the perpetrator
- which would make us the next 'offenders' on his hit list. And
then who would risk being next after that, by coming to our defense?"
Let me guess: the Good Samaritan? GS stifled that thought too,
and sighed. "Please understand me. I am not interested in
causing problems. I am interested in ending the shameful silence,
the abandonment, the complacency.... and the cycle of attacks.
I don't have the authority to stop them, or I would."
His listener sat in thought for another minute. "Tell you
what.... I will work behind the scenes, if you will get me some
solid documentation for the attacks. But please, don't tell anyone
that you spoke to me about this."
GS thanked him for his time, and then took his leave with mixed
feelings. Where he had hoped for courageous leadership, born of
long service to God, he found only the same reluctance to take
a stand, or even to go on record discussing the problem. But for
all he knew, maybe a widely respected elder like this could make
progress through discretion. Time would tell, he supposed.
Then again, why should he, the outsider, gather "documentation"
for attacks that seemed to be common knowledge to the insiders?
As a Samaritan, he had already done more than expected - more
than some of the Jews liked. And if "being next on the hit
list" was a likelihood how was a lone foreigner better suited
to take that risk than a united group of influential Judean leaders?
But being a compassionate man had its down side: GS was unable
to pass the buck and wash his hands of the affair. By the time
anything was worked out "behind the scenes", there were
likely to be more broken bodies, hearts and spirits. He exited
the old man's courtyard, haunted by the memory of one victim's
pained questions: "How many more years do we have to live
this nightmare out? How long is God going to allow Tsavuah to
"Years? How long has he been beating people?"
"For the last five years," one victim had volunteered.
"No, for ten," someone else had said, "and if you
think we've suffered, you should see how he's damaged his wife
and kids. The other priests know, and they keep telling her to
just submit to him and God will 'bring peace to her heart'....
His own sons have disowned him, just like Korah in the wilderness."
Making his way down a stone street toward one of the city gates,
GS passed groups of Jews resting in the shade. Impulsively choosing
one group at random, he asked if they had heard about attacks
on the Jericho Road being perpetrated by Temple priests.
The men all exchanged quick looks, and three got up silently and
left. Of the handful who remained, one said, "Samaritan,
you don't know who you're dealing with. Unless you have a lot
of clout and can survive character assassination, don't even ask."
"What do you mean? Are you talking about Tsavuah bar Maimon?"
With a nervous look over his shoulder, the man replied in an undertone:
"Tsavuah's connections in the Temple have made him very powerful.
I'm not sure who can afford to say anything about him."
Another man spoke up (somewhat louder than necessary, GS thought):
"Tsavuah is a righteous man! He's helped a lot of Jews with
the Temple funds, and he's been slandered relentlessly for it
- and for his free thinking too. If anyone has a problem with
him," he went on, with a meaningful look at the previous
speaker, "there's no call to expose others to their negativity.
They should go and make things right with their brother! Or better
yet, just leave it alone and move on. And I suggest you do exactly
GS moved on quickly, showing no emotion. Inside, he was creeped
out. How could one man with a decade of destructive behavior convince
an entire city to simply look past it?
The whole experience validated the prediction he'd heard from
one of Tsavuah's bitterest victims: "Even if they knew about
the abuses, they wouldn't care. The shepherds are never going
to admit there's a wolf in the flock - much less a wolf right
next to them in the leadership. It's less embarrassing to just
shoot our wounded."
"Isn't that a little unfair to stereotype all your leaders
"Time will tell, won't it? Look, in a place like Judea where
the believers are under pressure from the outside, the leaders
close ranks and protect one another. It's a matter of honor, you
know: 'If the unbelievers see us fighting one another, it will
be a desecration of God's name.' Same thing that relatives tell
the battered wife: 'Don't shame the family. Just tell everyone
you fell down the stairs.' Forget about what Torah says about
binding up wounds and all that. A few battered sheep are always
expendable to keep up the image of 'unity'...."
Today GS was prodding his donkey back down the Jericho Road, intent
on carrying out the only remaining strategy he could think of.
He was going to post warning signs.
"Danger! Beware of the Robber-Priests who use this Road for
Make every effort to avoid one named Tsavuah bar Maimon.
Find an alternate route if you can."
If he could forewarn travelers, maybe they would arm themselves
and the attacks would have to stop. Or maybe the Roman authorities
would finally do something once the perpetrator was identified.
He had made a set of signs mounted on sturdy wooden posts, which
accounted for his donkey's burden.
When he told his recovering victims of his plan, they had been
noncommittal. One said: "My initial reaction to this is 'too
little too late’. My life has been ruined in so many ways
- I am emotionally destroyed and terrified." Then another
timidly volunteered: "I think if anything, it will bring
a lot of scared and hurt people out of the closet - and everyone
talking about it may help prevent more tragedy."
GS came around a hairpin turn, and saw a priest toiling down the
Road ahead of him. He was alone. GS immediately thought of the
potential danger and hurried to catch up with him.
"Hey, I've heard about you," said the priest before
GS could introduce himself. "You're the Samaritan that patrols
this road, aren't you?"
"Uh, I guess so... if you mean I stop and help people along
this Road who have been beaten." GS was surprised that anyone
had heard of him. Maybe word had gotten around from travelers
at the inn.
"Listen," said the priest, "I've been attacked
on this Road before, and I didn't have time to hire a guard for
this trip..." He looked GS over. "I've heard nothing
but good about you, and you obviously have experience with rescuing
priests from robbers. What do you say to a job?"
"Well..." GS hesitated. His mission was to post the
warning signs. But why not combine it with escorting this man
safely down the Road? "Okay."
The priest smiled in gratitude, produced a club from somewhere
in his own baggage which he handed to GS, and the two resumed
their journey together. He began describing his Temple work, and
his family, and his touring career teaching the Law across Judea.
It was all so fascinating to GS that he didn't want to interrupt.
As they came around a bend, -- "There he is!" the priest
yelled so suddenly that GS jumped. "After him - he's got
my money!!" And with priestly garments flying, he raced down
the path toward a man walking in the opposite direction toward
GS was startled into temporary paralysis, confusion clouding his
"It's a thief, you idiot!" shouted the priest over his
shoulder, still running. "Get over here with that club! NOW!!"
GS, repelled by the sudden change in the priest's tone, stood
where he was and watched as the two men met. The other man was
also a priest, and they appeared to know each other. They began
arguing and gesturing, with most of the words lost, except when
the second man raised his voice: "It's no good... you're
not going to get away with your bogus 'self-defense' story this
time! There's an eyewitness!"
His new employer replied in an arrogant voice, "That's what
you think - he's with me!" Then to GS: "Go ahead, beat
"Now - wait a minute - I need some answers first!" GS
answered hotly, approaching the pair. "This man, thief or
not, is unarmed! What's your history with him? Isn't this one
of your brother priests?"
"So what if he is? Do you think all priests are honest?"
the accusing priest retorted. "He was supposed to turn over
the money from the Temple treasury to my management, and he's
holding out on me!"
"But aren't you all managing it together? This doesn't make
sense..." Finally it dawned on him: This is Tsavuah...? He
started to back away as his boss came at him.
"You know what - forget it, you're fired!" Tsavuah grabbed
the club away from GS and swung at the other priest, felling him
to the ground.
"No you don't! Not this time!" GS stepped in, taking
a few blows that he barely felt in his anger, and he grabbed the
club away again. The attacker, deprived of his weapon, backed
away in fear... and open hatred. "You make me sick - with
all your talk of love and compassion! You're nothing but a companion
of thieves, you lousy, lying Samaritan... You've betrayed my trust,
and I'll deal with you... later." Then he turned on his heel
and stalked away.
The Samaritan bent over the beaten man (now unconscious), picked
him up and staggered over to his donkey, who had been patiently
dozing through the whole confrontation. He gently laid the man
down long enough to remove the signposts from his beast of burden.
What do I do with these now? he wondered. This man needs medical
attention, and yet... if I don't put these up, I'll bet he won't
be the last.
He hesitated. No, the warning signs will have to wait. He dragged
his signs off the road and left them behind a boulder. Then he
shouldered the wounded priest onto the donkey and, with one last
look in the direction Tsavuah had gone, GS turned back the way
he'd come just an hour before.
After securing his newest patient at the inn (and listening to
the innkeeper make tasteless jokes about his "medical career"),
GS headed back to the Jericho Road. His donkey was showing signs
of fatigue, so he left him behind. GS too was badly in need of
a rest, but he felt a sense of urgency.
As though his thoughts had leaked from his mind and materialized
in the air, he could hear the unmistakable noises of an unseen
struggle coming from around the bend.
He was nearly running to get past the last boulder, in order to
see what was going on, and -- whomp! -- he collided with a man
standing on the edge of a small crowd. The man turned on GS, annoyed,
and began with, "Hey - don't you know it's against halachah
to interrupt a disciplinary hearing?!" He paused as his gaze
took in GS's features. "No, I don't suppose you do... ignorant
Samaritan..." and he turned his back on GS, returning his
attention to something in front.
GS moved around the edge of the crowd. The people were whispering
and staring, apparently all of them focused on the same thing.
But no one spoke aloud, except for two on his left who were discussing
a business deal while eyeing the proceedings. What did that man
say? A disciplinary hearing? All GS could hear was a series of
thumps, some shuffling, and a groan. Two men grappling.... No,
one was being held by others while the other was raining blows
into his midsection... Oh no... not again - already?!
GS forced his way to the front of the crowd, grabbed Tsavuah by
the shirt, and dragged him away from the fracas. "You're--
stop it!-- got to--" GS puffed, fighting to hang onto the
enraged priest. He got a glimpse of the beaten man. It was the
sad-eyed Jew who had thanked him for meeting with Tsavuah's past
victims. Only now his eyes were swollen nearly shut, and he was
gasping in an effort to breathe.
"Get him off me!" yelled Tsavuah, trying to twist out
of the Samaritan's grip. Several bystanders jumped at the pair
and grabbed GS, separating him from Tsavuah. One gave him a cuff
in the ear and sent him sprawling in the dirt. Another kicked
him in the ribs hard enough to roll him a few feet farther.
But GS was not feeling any pain. Only intense anger. He came up
out of the roll onto his feet, taking a defensive position and
ready to throw a punch at the next one who laid a hand on him.
They backed away a respectful distance. Somebody whistled in mocking
"Someone - please - help that man on the ground...... Come
on, people -- he's a fellow-Jew, one of your own!" GS panted,
keeping one eye on the mob and the other on the victim. GS noticed
that the crowd had grown, but no one was looking at the object
of the recent beating. All were staring at him dumbly. The silence
was broken by a cough, and then someone in the back suggested
that it was time for lunch. Someone else gave quick directions
on how to get to Tsavuah's house from there.
Meanwhile Tsavuah, trying to regain his dignity, spent a minute
straightening his tunic and untangling his ritual fringes. "Okay,
friends," he said finally, fixing GS with a cold stare. "You
are my witnesses that this - this Samaritan idolater attacked
me. I want him off this Road... for good."
Four obliging priests grabbed GS by his arms and roughly marched
him a dozen paces uphill, away from the Road. He could hear whispering
beginning again, could feel the eyes of the crowd on his back.
He wanted to turn around and say something biting to this group
of Jews, but he was shocked into mute numbness by the whole incident.
Then he noticed Tsavuah keeping pace with him and his escorts.
As he looked Tsavuah in the face, the priest smiled. "You
know, I admire someone who can fight. I can give you a job that
pays better than the last one I offered you, so look me up later."
The Samaritan felt a chill go down his back. He tries to scare
me when he's caught in a corner, then tries to buy me once he's
got things back under his control... This must be how he neutralizes
his opposition! He spit at the ground for answer, narrowly missing
Tsavuah's swinging ritual fringe.
The priest didn't seem offended; he leaned closer and said a mockingly
friendly tone: "You really need to do something about that
temper... and your urge to meddle in other people's business.
You know, a lot of Jews believe the Samaritans have demons. You
wouldn't want that to be added to the scandal you've already created
He's baiting me. Anything I answer will only be used against me.
GS looked away from the taunting eyes and bit his lip to keep
quiet. The strongmen released him with a final shove and turned
away, flanking their boss as they all strode in step back down
to the Jericho Road.
Twenty minutes later, GS peered out from his hiding place between
two boulders. The Road stretched away empty in both directions.
He stepped onto it, hoisted two of his retrieved signposts over
his shoulder, and with a large rock in his hand he looked for
a strategic spot to pound the first sign into place.
It had been a long, stressful day, and GS had gone to bed shortly
after sunset, right after returning from his sign-posting task.
But he couldn't fall asleep. It wasn't the bruises from his encounter
with Tsavuah's gang; when he was lying still, he could hardly
feel them. No, it was the growing realization that something was
very wrong, not just in Jerusalem but in Judea. How could one
person hold the whole region hostage to his agenda?
Fine - not my region, and not my problem, he told himself, turning
over onto the less bruised side. I'll stop at the innkeeper's
door in the morning, leave enough to cover the expenses of...
how many now?... um, four patients... right. And then I'm outta
He had just started to doze off when there was a loud, insistent
pounding on the door. He awkwardly stumbled out of the bed and
was groping for his cloak when the door was given one last pound,
and then silence. He finally wrapped himself and unbolted the
door. Finding a parchment tacked to the outside, he pulled it
off and lit a lamp to read it:
"To the Good Samaritan, so-called, who is lodging
at the inn of Shimon bar Yakov:
A complaint has been voiced against you by prominent Temple servant
Tsavuah bar Maimon.
You are invited to the court in the Sheep Gate of Jerusalem for
a list of the charges,
followed by a hearing and judgment.
We are offering our good services in order to avoid a deterioration
of the situation,
and we urge you to cooperate as a God-fearer and an honest man.
Failure to comply could make you subject to banishment from Judea
and/or arrest by the Roman cohort in charge of this area.
Signed, the Jerusalem City Council for Righteous Justice."
The innkeeper, having heard the noise, poked his head around the
corner. "What's going on?" he asked thickly, not quite
awake. GS showed him the note, which he read with a puzzled frown.
"Strange," he mumbled.
"In what way?"
"Well... First off, the charge isn't listed here, which ought
to be standard procedure. Who ever heard of demanding that someone
show up to a hearing and only then revealing the complaint against
them? Hmm... Then there is this bit about 'banishment from Judea'
- no Jews have had the power to do that since the Hasmonean kings...
sounds like an empty threat to me. But now, Roman arrest - that's
a totally different judicial system, which Jews don't use except
as a last resort... for capital offenses."
He looked up from the parchment, and for the first time since
they had met, there was a faint hint of suspicion in the innkeeper's
eyes as he studied GS. "What have you been up to?" he
"Rescuing wounded Jews, as you very well know!" GS retorted.
He didn't mean to say it in such a strident, defensive tone, but
he was feeling the lack of sleep, the day's events still galled
him, and Tsavuah's jab about Samaritans having demons - ridiculous
as it was - had left some of its poison in his soul.
Why did I ever get involved with these people? he wondered. Tsavuah
is right - I must be under an obsessive urge to meddle in affairs
I have no right to touch. I'm in over my head, and I don't even
belong here. I ought to just leave now, while I still can... He
had the weird, irrational feeling that Tsavuah's spirit was hovering
nearby, just out of sight, waiting for the innkeeper to leave
GS alone... waiting to attack, to do something hideous and painful
to him, to punish him for his meddling---
"But who is this 'City Council for Righteous Justice'?"
It was as if a spell had been broken. GS, suddenly aware that
he had been thinking utter nonsense for the last minute, was jerked
back to reality by the sensible question.
It came from another guest of the inn, who had come up behind
them in the dark and was now reading the parchment over the innkeeper's
shoulder. A companion was with him.
Apparently the door-pounding had disturbed others... and GS was
unreasonably glad of the small knot of people around him now.
"I've heard of them," said the second newcomer. "They're
a local group of activists who want to reform the Jerusalem justice
system, make it authentically Judean and faithful to Torah, that
sort of thing. They're kind of controversial because they declared
independence from the Sanhedrin."
GS, who had been studying the signature, looked up with interest.
"Have they been doing a good job?"
The man looked at his friend and scratched his head. "Don't
know. They're too new to have much of a track record."
The innkeeper shrugged and avoided everyone's eyes. "I'm
too far from the city to keep up with Jerusalem politics."
GS returned to his room, having already forgotten his irrational
fear of something lurking in the dark. By the time he settled
back into bed, he had decided to take up Tsavuah's challenge and
test the quality of this new, independent group of judges. "...cooperate
as a God-fearer and an honest man..." Maybe the day had finally
come when the Temple would be cleansed of its mysterious stink.
GS walked into the Sheep Gate with the summons in his hand, asking
a bystander where he might find the City Council for Righteous
Justice. The man pointed to the corner where two Pharisees sat
in casual conversation. As GS approached, they stopped and looked
up. In answer to his query, they assumed a posture of importance
and responded courteously.
"Ah, the Good Samaritan, is it? Yes, yes, we know about your
difficulties with our colleague Tsavuah. His complaint against
you? Actually, he hasn't been terribly specific about that, only
mentioned something about a sum of money that he claims that you
have, which belongs to him--"
"What?!" GS interrupted them in disbelief. "I worked
for him less than an hour, and I didn't take so much as a sandal
thong from him in payment!"
"Well, you see, the plaintiff has insisted that the charges
be revealed only at the hearing, so we ourselves don't know much
more than that. Now, it's true that the Torah commands us to prepare
a trial by investigating thoroughly and examining the evidence.
And those requirements are good ideals to aim for. But they can't
always be kept. Tsavuah is in great distress over this matter,
you understand, and sometimes it's simply better to be flexible
rather than to allow disputes to go unsettled and broken relationships
The other judge nodded wisely, but seeing the look on GS's face,
he hastened to add, "At any rate, be assured that the only
way to remove the cloud of doubt over your reputation is to appear
at a hearing and let the truth come out. We are committed to impartial
judgment, for the Torah says: 'one law shall there be for the
resident and for the alien'. Be assured we will get to the bottom
GS, wondering how judges could schedule a case without first determining
if there WAS a case, nevertheless agreed. He waited in a corner
while a messenger boy was sent to Tsavuah with a proposed time.
The boy returned with an affirmative answer, the hearing was set
for the next day, and again the Council representatives advised
GS to "be assured" that the matter would be settled
with complete justice. After all, that was why they had formed
the Council in the first place.
When GS returned the next day at the appointed time, he found
Tsavuah already there, lounging with the judges in the shade of
the Gate. He was flanked by his bodyguards, who gave GS hostile
looks and knowing sneers. But Tsavuah himself seemed to not notice
the arrival of the defendant. Nor did the judge to his left, who
was admiring a richly embroidered cloak.
"Well now, Tsavuah, I do appreciate your thoughtfulness,"
said the judge warmly. "This is a most welcome addition to
my wardrobe. It really does have a judicial look to it, doesn't
it? Everyone will know at a glance what my position is."
Tsavuah smiled and agreed. Then he reached over to slap the back
of the second judge. "About that loan you need for your scribal
project -- your worries are over. I've found you a patron."
The man he was addressing brightened noticeably. "Thank God,"
he said with heartfelt sincerity.
Only then did Tsavuah look up at the Samaritan, searching his
face for signs that GS had seen and heard it all. The stony expression
told the priest what he wanted to know. "Okay," he said
smugly. "We're ready to start this hearing."
The judges settled themselves, arranged their ritual fringes over
their robes and cleared their throats, gesturing to Tsavuah to
begin. The latter rose to his feet, struck a theatrical pose opposite
the standing Samaritan and began to recite, apparently from memory,
a list of charges against "this scheming, unscrupulous idolator".
GS listened to his rambling, melodramatic speech with a growing
sense of unreality.
"This man has sabotaged my Temple ministry by joining forces
with lawless Jews. He is in fact a disgruntled former employee
of mine, who has become the ringleader of a new gang in Judea
composed of those who have attacked me in the past. He has conspired
with them to rob me and has helped them to escape justice by hiding
them at a safe-house disguised as an inn.
"More recently, he has slandered my good name by talking
to Jews throughout Jerusalem and falsely accusing me of beating
innocent travelers on the Jericho Road. According to my sources,
he has harassed several Temple officials with intrusive questions
about my private affairs. Besides not being entitled to speak
on the issue of disputes between Temple priests, he has disturbed
the entire city with his talk. We have had to spend hours explaining
to upset people that there was no problem among the priests of
Jerusalem, UNTIL this Samaritan took it upon himself to organize
those who have a grudge against me. I might add that this conspiracy
took place before he began to work for me, and therefore his acceptance
of employment from me constitutes dishonorable behavior."
GS could tell that Tsavuah was only getting started. He sighed
and asked if he could sit for the rest of the monolog. The judges
nodded. Tsavuah just looked irritated at the interruption, and
"As a result of the foregoing, our Temple fund for needy
Judeans, which I was appointed by the Temple to manage -- and
which I personally built up from nothing into one of the largest
funds in Judea -- has yielded 60% to 70% less income than before.
And the bottom line is -- I am not very good at requesting help
for myself, nor am I particularly inclined to make personal appeals,
but -- the bottom line is that my wife and I need help personally,
because our own finances have been invested in the fight to clear
my good name and bring the evildoers to justice.
"Despite my best efforts in damage control, we have, for
the most part, seen only modest contributions restored, for which
we are nevertheless grateful. However, it remains clear that we
still have a long road of recovery before us. With God’s
help, we can continue assisting the needy as we have been, notwithstanding
the pressures and difficulties caused by the painful and unprovoked
attacks on my reputation. Needless to say, your friendship and
prayers mean a lot to us." He looked each judge in turn,
and they both responded with warm smiles.
"But allow me to point out," Tsavuah continued, raising
his voice, "that all this damage was instigated by one who
believes that God should be worshiped at that heretical place
in Samaria, in total violation of our holy Torah. Now mind you,
I am not one to make groundless accusations of heresy, and my
own theological views are considered controversial by some, but
speaking as one who has studied Torah and gained great insight,
I have no need to defend myself. Suffice to say I will never compromise
with those who, by using word wizardry and mental gymnastics,
lower the Almighty God to the level of man by employing the most
bizarre expressions of mathematics ever contemplated - '100% God
AND 100% man.' Our countrymen who have become followers of the
latest false messiah have reported him to say, 'I and the Father
are One', and 'He who has seen me has seen the Father.' But a
careful study of the matter will reveal their absolute ignorance
of Torah, to the extent that if a giant 'Alef' fell from the sky
and hit them on the head, they wouldn't know it.... Away with
you, who say that the Mashiach will be 'Adonai'!"
GS found his attention drifting as Tsavuah wandered into a convoluted
defense of his teaching, alternating that with more ridicule of
those who apparently disagreed with him. He caught only part of
a tirade about "the concerted efforts to remove me from my
priestly ministry because of my theological views, which have
all to date backfired upon those whose morals and ethics consistently
give them a green light to carry out the unconscionable....",
and from this he gathered that Tsavuah's view was a minority opinion
in Jerusalem. He sleepily wondered what this Judean theological
dispute had to do with his hearing, or with the beaten priests
who had been "brought to justice", as Tsavuah put it.
He was brought back to awareness by the sight of one of his signposts
being pulled out of a dim corner, as Tsavuah continued in a particularly
"His chutspah finally culminated in putting these accusations
in writing and posting libelous signposts on the Road, which are
now putting my very life in danger!" He motioned to one of
his bodyguards, who turned the signpost to the light so that the
judges could read it.
GS snorted in derision. "Putting your life in danger - what
nonsense! What, will you die if you can't beat people up?!"
One of the judges leaned forward to read the sign out loud: "Danger!
Beware of the Robber-Priests who use this Road for revenge attacks.
Make every effort to avoid one named Tsavuah bar Maimon.
Shoot him on sight if you can." He drew his eyebrows together
and turned a stern look on GS.
"Whoa - whoa! I didn't write that last bit... I wrote something
completely different!" protested GS, genuinely shocked. "Let
me see that sign!" He shoved past the guards who were moving
in to surround him, and turned the wooden sign to face him. With
relief, he saw that the offensive line had been crudely added
by someone. It was printed over his original words which were
now hidden under whitewash.
"There - you see? That's painted over, and that's not even
The judges looked at each other in silence, then back at GS. The
one with the new cloak finally spoke. "With all due respect,
Samaritan, why should we believe you? How do we know that you
didn't change the sign yourself as an afterthought? And even if
you didn't write the one line, you are still guilty of the damage
that was done. You admit that the rest is your work, and even
the parts that are true are hurtful to this priest. And to the
holy Temple as well."
"So the one who points out sin becomes the sinner? Is that
what the Torah teaches?"
"The Torah says we must not speak evil of a priestly brother
and a ruler. He serves God's people, and if he has done any wrong,
it is not our job to rebuke him. It's the job of God's people."
GS was undecided whether to laugh or cry. He searched his mind
for a respectful way to point out to these judges that they had
just declared themselves unqualified to judge, but he gave it
up. "Well then," he said finally, "if you will
not rebuke him for his bullying, then I suppose an eyewitness
might do it in fulfillment of Torah."
And turning to Tsavuah, he said, "I spoke with a whole roomful
of Jews you have hurt and sinned against. I found you on the Jericho
Road in the act of directing a mob attack. You need to repent."
The judges and Tsavuah's guards erupted as one, filling the air
with a mixture of jeers from the latter and outraged exclamations
from the former. "By whose authority do you speak in such
a way to a priest of the Lord, Samaritan?!" demanded the
second judge. "A single witness is not valid testimony! If
any others have an accusation against Tsavuah, why are they not
The first judge pounded his fist on the wall in frustration, and
shouted at GS, "Why are you picking on this man, of all people?!
What about the priests under Ari bar Shlomo, who are notorious
for their corruption, neglecting their duties, and abuse as well?
Why aren't you going after them??"
GS sat silent, stunned by this new revelation, not to mention
the way it was delivered. Tsavuah also sat silent, listening to
the outpouring of support with a half-smile.
Regaining his self-control, the presiding judge said sternly,
"We will overlook your impudence for now. You have no right
to call a Judean to repent. And it is you who are on trial here,
not this priest. I must restrict you to answering the charges
GS was wishing he had gone home to Samaria after all. "I
have done nothing wrong," he stated flatly with a defiant
"What about these signs? Do you deny that they are your work?"
"No. I deny that it was wrong to put them up." GS decided
not to point out that Tsavuah's charges of robbery and conspiracy
had apparently been forgotten in the uproar. It was enough insult
that the only charge they saw fit to examine was his meager attempt
to protect the defenseless, undertaken only because the proper
authorities had all shied away from that duty. "I was trying
to prevent further injury to your people," he said, and placed
heavy emphasis on "your".
The first judge cleared his throat uneasily. "You are insinuating
that we don't defend our people from harm. Well, it's understandable
in a way. You're a Samaritan. You have no idea how packed our
ministry schedule is. How are we to neglect a hundred concerns
that affect the whole community, and focus on one or two Jews
who sustained bumps on their heads? And as we already pointed
out, none of them have filed complaints or asked for a hearing."
The second judge admonished: "You took sides in a fight that
is not really yours, and that was your own choice. We are not
part of your personal vendetta against Tsavuah, and you should
not try to pull us into it."
"Fine. I'm not the one who asked for this hearing, and I'm
not pulling you anywhere." GS got up from the floor and turned
"Wait!" commanded the first judge. "We don't want
this dispute to go unresolved. In order that the desecration of
God's name should not continue, we have prepared a statement for
you to sign, promising to cease from spreading your slander against
this priest of the Lord."
As GS looked at him with raised eyebrows, he hastened to add:
"We are determined to be even-handed about the whole affair,
so we have prepared a similar statement for Tsavuah to sign. He
will refrain from any negative comment or punitive actions against
you for your attacks on him." The judge looked expectantly
at Tsavuah, who had lost his half-smile and was staring sullenly
at the ground.
"Nope," the priest said stubbornly. "I want an
apology from this idolater, in public, on the Temple steps. I
want him to burn all the libelous signs in my presence. And then
I want him to go to his Jewish accomplices and collect my stolen
money from them."
The Samaritan had had enough. "At least now I have the answer
to why the attacks on the Jericho Road have continued for so long,"
he snapped. "I guess the Romans will have to step in."
Again he turned to leave.
One of Tsavuah's bodyguards stepped into his path. "If you
dare to file a complaint with the Romans, you will live to regret
it - just like those who you found on the road," he threatened
in a low, contemptuous voice.
The trembling in GS's voice was not from fear, but from fury.
"You know what? I won't have to. As God is my witness, your
own conduct will bring your house - this entire city - down on
Then he stepped around the bodyguard and stalked out. But not
before he heard Tsavuah calling after him, "You still don't
get it, do you?"
GS took a very long walk before returning to the inn, trying to
work off his anger in the exercise. As he came in sight of the
inn's courtyard, he saw there was still more trouble waiting for
His belongings had been taken out of his room and stacked outside
the door, and the innkeeper was standing in the doorway, his body
language announcing the eviction more clearly than the pile of
stuff next to him.
"What's up?" asked the weary Samaritan, knowing the
answer and almost not caring what the excuse was.
The innkeeper was apologetic but firm. "I'm really sorry,
but I can't afford to tangle with a Roman court."
"Let me guess." GS sighed, closed his eyes and leaned
his head against the wall. "You got a summons to answer charges."
"Worse than that," came the reply in a lowered voice,
as if afraid of being overheard. "I'm already guilty... never
told you before... Tsavuah loaned me the money to buy this inn
and start my business. It's taking me a long time to pay him back,
and he just sent word that if I don't get rid of you immediately,
he's calling in his loan... and if I can't pay - and he knows
I can't - he's turning me over to the debtor's prison."
"So this is another way Tsavuah controls people? Does the
needy a favor, and then holds it over their heads to keep them
His host nodded sheepishly and his expression softened. "Listen,
I really admire what you've done for those people beaten on the
Road by... well, by whoever did it. For what it's worth, I see
you as the model of righteous action that I wish I could have
"Hmm, 'for what it's worth'... not worth a room though,"
GS couldn't help saying drily.
The other looked down. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "You'll
have to move on. Not just for my sake. Word is out that Tsavu--
that there will be a Temple guard coming to arrest you, because
you refused to return stolen money to Tsa--- to the Temple treasury.
No, don't bother answering - I know as well as you it's a false
charge. What idiot is going to believe that a Samaritan had access
to the Temple treasury? But you never know what kind of 'evidence'
he might conjure up to make it stick... and there are others who
owe him favors."
"Okay, I'm going already. But what about the injured Jews
who are still here?"
The innkeeper shrugged and answered, "They're quiet guests...
if you get my meaning. As long as they stay quiet, they're not
a problem to keep here. You've already taken care of their expenses,
and then some."
GS turned his back on the businessman and started packing his
things. The other watched him long enough to see that GS was serious
about leaving, and then moved away to his other tasks.
GS heard a soft sound behind him and turned quickly, ready for
another confrontation. Then he relaxed and smiled sadly. It was
one of his earliest patients, now in the final stages of recovery.
The man had been beaten badly, GS remembered; he had been barely
breathing when they arrived at the inn. He evaluated the fruit
of his care with quiet satisfaction as the man now approached
him on steady legs.
"I heard," the Jew said simply. He put out his hand
and clasped GS on the arm warmly. "I won't forget you, or
GS returned his grasp silently, unable to say anything with the
tightening in his throat.
"By the way," the man continued, his eyes lighting up,
"I also heard from my cousin today.... He was the one priest
from the Temple fund who actually got dragged into a Roman trial
"Yes, I remember." GS waited, hopeful. The man's expression
hinted at some good news.
"You won't believe it." The Jew's eyes twinkled. "The
magistrate listened to 8 days of nonstop testimony from Tsavuah
and his lackeys. A lot of the stories didn't even match, but the
Roman seemed to let it pass. My cousin was getting really worried
about the judge's silence through the whole thing. He had been
through the same experience with the Sanhedrin, you see, and he
was sure there was going to be the same outcome - another guilty
verdict - only this time it would mean flogging with a Roman whip."
"And, the Roman sat there until the very end, and then he
ordered my cousin to speak on his own behalf. Before 2 minutes
had passed, the magistrate stopped him and said: 'I've heard enough.'
Then he gave Tsavuah a legal lecture... said that he needed to
learn more about good accounting practices. That's one thing the
Romans know how to do, keep proper records. But then, this man
- a pagan, mind you - told our Jewish priest: 'Just because your
Temple team wasn't struck down by your God for the irregularities,
that doesn't mean they should have waited for disaster to strike
in order to take some preventative action, when they know their
God requires a full accounting. They have to follow through with
that.' Then he just said: 'The defendant is innocent' and sent
GS grinned, enjoying the scene in his imagination. "And how
did Tsavuah take it, learning Torah from a Roman?"
A chuckle escaped the other man. "He stomped out, declaring
that the judge was biased against him and that he would appeal
the verdict. But the Romans are not so easy to manipulate like
the Temple brotherhood. The higher he goes in the Roman court
system, the more he's going to be under pressure to prove his
case. All in all, it's a good development."
"Yeah, maybe he'll be so busy arguing his way up to Rome's
highest court, he'll have less time to waylay fellow-Jews on the
Jericho Road," remarked GS, catching the other's good mood.
"Yes, a worthy prayer!..." the patient's voice trailed
off, and he gazed fondly at GS. "Thank you for everything
you've done for all of us. May God reward you."
"The God of Israel bless you, and may you merit to see the
return of His Divine Favor," GS responded, for the first
time blessing a Jew with a traditional Samaritan blessing. And
he meant every word.
GS led his donkey down the steep hill on the road that led north,
toward home. He could have found another room to spend the night
and started his trip in the morning. But he didn't want to stay
in Judea one hour longer than necessary. If I never see the walls
of that accursed city again, I will be content. Besides, every
day he delayed his return would make it that much harder to revive
His donkey recognized the homeward direction and was setting a
fair pace, with ears pointed forward. GS should have felt the
same way. But the events of the last days clung to him like the
fine gray dust of the road. He couldn't be sure which it was that
was choking him and making his eyes burn. He felt drained, depressed,
alone in his humiliation and grief. Why am I grieving? he wondered.
They're not my kinsmen; what they're doing to one another is not
The realization brought back the feelings from the night when
he had received the summons to that farce of a hearing. What made
me think it was my job to stop their cycle of violence and silence?
Why did I ever stick my neck out? What did I accomplish, besides
getting into trouble and ruining my good name? Then his mind went
back unbidden to the roomful of traumatized Jews, their faces
expressing relief and gratitude that someone - even if it were
only a Samaritan - would take the time to listen to their pain...
and tell them that God saw their situation.
That was worth something, wasn't it? The question came to his
mind, seemingly from elsewhere.
"I guess so," GS answered out loud before he realized
that he was doing it. Oh, great, now I'm talking to myself. Aah,
who cares... There's no one out here to notice.
"So... while we're on the subject..." he muttered half-jokingly
and paused to kick a stone out of the path of his plodding donkey.
Then becoming serious, he tried to think it through, still speaking
out loud. "If God saw their situation, why didn't He stand
up for them, plead their cause? A predator posing as a priest
of His was allowed to do all that damage... it went on for years...
and to this day no one has lifted a finger to stop it? Instead,
others are lending a hand to help him.... And I'm the bad guy
for blowing the whistle on the whole dirty business."
He didn't expect a reply, and he didn't get one. Talking to the
air. He quit speaking and sighed deeply. Well, it's history. I've
got to let it go, get on with my life. Whatever reason God has
for staying out of the picture, it's not for me to figure it out.
But the thought brought him no comfort or release. Justice denied
to innocent people, guilty people getting away with things - even
flaunting it... evil and abuse done in God's name, with apathy
and self-serving denial covering it all. Such issues could not
be soothed away with platitudes like "God knows".
Obviously He knows. But knowing is different from caring.
He yanked his mind back from that thought; it seemed blasphemous.
And yet he had nothing with which to "defend" God, so
he shut down his argument with himself altogether. He made an
effort instead to focus on the surrounding landscape.
Ah, this is more like it. The mountains on either side of the
road were going through their subtle changes from the chalky tan
cliffs of Judea to the rust-streaked banks of his native region.
Stately olive trees stood like stout guardians on the mountain
tops, the clear air making them look closer than they really were.
The rocks were piled up in low terrace walls that straggled up,
down and across the hillsides, dividing them into rough pastures
browned by the summer heat. Contrasting with the dusty green of
olive, fig and almond tree branches, the limestone fences glowed
orange in the slanting sun.
He became aware of long shadows darkening the valley on his left,
telling him that evening was almost upon him. Turning off the
road, he took a path leading upward toward a grove of trees to
camp for the night.
After he tended to his beast, he ate a simple meal and then made
a bed for himself in the wild grass, already damp with dew. Familiar
earthy smells came up to him as he cleared away some sharp porous
rocks and uncovered the rich brown dirt. Samaria! Who could be
depressed in this sweet, fertile hill country? he thought to himself,
a measure of peace finally settling on him. The Judeans didn't
know what they were missing when they took the long way around
to Galilee. Days out of their way, through the wilderness, just
to avoid us... Well, their loss is our gain. Mount Gerizim, Joseph's
tomb and Jacob's well. They can keep their temple... especially
after what I've seen of it.
His bleak mood returned as he wrapped himself in his cloak and
lay down to sleep. Even the moon, rising full over the eastern
hill like a perfect marble disk in the deepening blue, could not
cheer him. God, why do You allow Tsavuah to mangle innocent people
and terrorize everyone into silence? Can it be that You don't
care about justice anymore? Then again, was it really God's fault
that His people were looking the other way while a wicked man
did what he pleased? Jerusalem obviously liked things the way
they were... or at least didn't dislike things enough to take
a stand and end it. The scene arose in his mind of the man being
beaten while the crowd watched and discussed lunch plans. GS rolled
over miserably and pulled his cloak over his head, shutting his
He rolled onto his other side. He couldn't get comfortable. His
foot suddenly cramped and he sat up, trying to stretch it out.
No good. As though conspiring against him, his other foot arched
in another, even more painful cramp. GS jumped to his feet with
a curse, trying to work the muscles back to normalcy. They resisted,
and he limped back and forth on the dirt path, looking carefully
where he was stepping in the moonlight. Last thing I need is to
step on a scorpion or a viper. His eyes were still burning, and
as he coughed and felt his head throb in response, he realized
his low feeling wasn't entirely emotional: he was getting sick.
The moon was nearing the western hills when he was finally able
to relax and lay down again. But still sleep wouldn't come.
The next thing he knew, he awoke to the chatter of birds in the
trees around him. The cloudless sky was showing the golden pink
tinge of dawn, and there was a faint breeze. His cloak was covered
with heavy dew.
He felt chilled, stiff and exhausted. His head was pounding, and
the bird noise that he usually enjoyed was irritating. I'm not
ready for this day.... He found another position and tried to
go back to sleep. Then he raised his head and listened.
Someone was coming up the path he had taken from the road. Whoever
it was, he wasn't concerned about stealth - rocks were crunching
under his sandals, and he was whistling a Samaritan folksong to
himself, cheerful but off-key. Not likely a robber. But who would
be out on the road at this hour?
GS glanced at his donkey, which was tied to a tree between him
and the road. He could see its ears pointed attentively in the
direction of the sound, and it was pulling against its rope as
if wanting to join the whistler. My donkey shies away from strangers,
he thought wonderingly. Could this be someone it knows, from my
A moment later his question was answered, only to be replaced
by more questions. In the growing light of the dawn, a stranger
came into view, climbing the hill from the road below. His clothing
marked him not as a Samaritan but a Galilean Jew... and not a
wealthy one either, judging from his homespun cloak and small
bundle of belongings.
Something was vaguely familiar about him. The Samaritan couldn't
place the face, but he understood his donkey's reaction - and
without knowing why, he too was glad to see this man, even at
such an odd hour in this unlikely place. What is a Jew doing on
the road going straight through Samaria? How did he come to learn
one of our songs? The cheerfulness of the traveler was contagious,
and even though the morning sun had not yet risen over the hills,
GS felt warmed.
Then the man saw him and suddenly stopped walking and whistling,
like someone surprised to find another occupying the place where
he had thought himself alone. But he recovered quickly, closed
the distance between them, and climbed up onto a large rock shelf
a short distance from GS.
"Sorry if I startled you," he said good-naturedly, and
not sounding at all apologetic. But GS didn't think of that; the
accent in the voice, like the face, stirred a blurred memory.
Who is he? The answer seemed just out of reach.
"Do I know you?" GS finally asked, unable to think of
a more tactful way to phrase it.
A smile broke the man's sun-darkened face, and he chuckled. "Well,
I'm a shepherd. My sheep know me. Are you one of my sheep?"
The tone was teasing, yet somehow it sounded like a serious question.
GS sat up slowly. "I almost wish I were," he sighed.
"The life of a sheep would be a lot easier than the one I've
been living." And driven by his loneliness, he began to tell
about his recent ordeal.
His companion sat listening, not interrupting, with dark eyes
fixed on him. He seemed to look not just at him, but into him...
seeing even the things GS found too painful to express. Those
eyes... again the sense of familiarity swept over him.
After some time, GS ran out of things to say and apologized for
his impulsive monolog. "You're probably on your way somewhere,
and you don't even know me."
The stranger seemed neither self-conscious nor inclined to move.
He settled more comfortably on the rock. "I wouldn't say
GS started to wonder if his lack of sleep and pounding head were
clouding his thinking, or if this man's simple answers really
carried more than they seemed to. He smiled at his own confusion
as he asked, "You mean you have no place you need to be,
or you actually do know me?"
"I know that you've been a neighbor to those who you found
on the Jericho Road."
The Samaritan gave a sharp laugh. "I should have quit while
I was ahead! They called me 'the Good Samaritan' as long as I
stuck to patching up the casualties. But the minute I tried to
stop the casualties, I was nothing but a troublemaker who didn't
know how to mind his own business."
"Hmmm. 'A troubler of Israel', are you? You're in good company
-- that's how God's prophets are usually branded. But you weren't
entirely rejected, you know. You have some grateful friends back
there. And you have God's favor. Tsavuah can't take those things
away from you."
GS was about to ask the man how he knew about the "grateful
friends", but he forgot everything when he heard the priest's
name. Having learned the hard way how far Tsavuah's influence
extended among the Jews, he had purposely avoided naming the abuser.
"Tsavuah! So you know him too?"
The stranger didn't answer for a moment. For the first time since
their conversation had started, he looked away from GS, down the
hillside. His features darkened, and GS caught a glimpse of swift,
intense anger that passed over the man's face, so fierce that
GS regretted repeating the name.
Then the fury evaporated like a cloud, and the weatherbeaten face
became serene. "Don't worry, my friend," he said as
the eyes returned to search those of GS. "No one is getting
away with anything."
GS, still in awe over the righteous wrath he had witnessed, ventured
a gentle question. "Did he do something very terrible to
"Yes. He has done great injury to those I love, and that's
the same as doing it to me."
GS's forehead wrinkled. Another answer that said more than it
said. "Your family?"
The other looked at him intently. "Yes. My family. My brothers,
sisters. Those who do the will of my Father in Heaven."
Suddenly the man's identity fell into place. The Jew who stopped
at our well, who asked Rachel for a drink... the rabbi with his
disciples trailing behind, who stayed and taught in our village...
the prophet... no, He's -- the Messiah! The One sent to restore
God's favor upon us!
"I remember now! I DO know You! And -- and, I..." Unbidden,
GS's eyes filled and his voice caught as he tried to finish.
The Messiah responded with a wide and welcoming smile. The olive
grove seemed to light up with His joy, and He finished the sentence
as if He had heard GS's thought: "And yes, you ARE one of
GS struggled to his feet and threw himself to the ground in front
of the Teacher who he had met only once, years before. He had
not seen Him since, but he had never forgotten His teaching: "You
shall love the Lord your God... And you shall love your neighbor
as yourself. On these two hang all of the Law and the Prophets."
Yeshua nimbly slid down from the boulder and raised GS from the
ground. He embraced him strongly, kissed him soundly like a well-loved
relative, and said in his ear: "You have done well, good
and faithful servant. Don't let your heart be troubled. You are
being called 'the Bad Samaritan' by some, but truly I tell you,
they are calling Me worse than that!"
He sighed and looked up at the sky, now vivid blue in the early
sun. "As it is written: 'So they weighed out for My shepherd's
wages, thirty pieces of silver - that princely price they set
He returned His gaze to GS. "There will always be Tsavuahs
among My people. They are left there by My Father. And since I
do only what I see Him doing, they are left there by Me as well.
Do you know why, My friend?"
GS shook his head wordlessly, anxious to know that very thing.
"They are a test for those who have been entrusted with the
care of My flock. Or those who have taken up the shepherd's staff
of their own accord. Even to test the sheep themselves."
Yeshua climbed onto the rock again, leaned back on it and motioned
for GS to sit beside Him. The Samaritan self-consciously clambered
up, wondering at the honor of being able to sit next to the Anointed
One so casually. Did He really call me His friend just now? He
was continuing His explanation.
"Some Tsavuahs are wolves in sheep's clothing, waiting for
the chance to strike, terrorize and feed on others. Other Tsavuahs
are rebellious rams, strutting through the flock, thrusting aside
the weak with their horns and fouling the pastures where the hungry
are meant to feed.
"A good shepherd will face the butting horns and kicking
hooves, in order to deal out discipline - or the slashing fangs
and claws, in order to cut off an attack. He thinks of the flock
first, and he will risk personal injury to himself to take care
of them. Those sheep are as dear to him as his own family.
"A hireling... he can do the job of a shepherd when all goes
smoothly. But for him that's ALL shepherding is - a job. It's
to earn his living, put his gifts to use, build his reputation
for leadership. Trying to deal with horns, hooves or fangs is
time-consuming, expensive, painful... he will back away from 'messy
situations' and let the sheep fend for themselves. In his view,
self-protection is not cowardly, it's smart: the job is not worth
risking personal injury.
"Only when the sheep come under attack are the true shepherds
distinguishable from the hirelings. And although this part should
be obvious, My people always seem dismayed to find that the two
kinds of leaders do not get along with each other. As a rule,
they collide going in opposite directions - the shepherds fighting
their way through the flock to get at the wolf, and the hirelings
fighting their way through the flock to get away from the wolf.
"Yes, the sheep are thrown into confusion by the confrontation
between them. But upsetting the flock is healthy when there is
danger among them. What - is it better to be quietly picked off
by a predator, one by one, so as not to 'disturb' the others??
Not all unity is from Me, and not all division is from the enemy."
GS felt a rush of vindication. "So then, what will happen
to the hirelings in Jerusalem? Surely this is proof that it is
an unholy place, and You will judge them now that--"
Yeshua's face became stern in rebuke. "Their judgment is
not your affair. They will answer to the Master Shepherd, both
as shepherds and as sheep. As you yourself also answer to Me."
GS swallowed and looked down. The Teacher's words came back through
his memory: "The day is coming when you will not worship
in Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem, but in Spirit and in Truth."
As though the words had been repeated aloud, he replied contritely,
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... It's just that... How long
will a wolf be allowed to run around with the flock? I mean, he
does a lot more than just test everyone - what about the damage?
What happens to the sheep he's tearing up, if no shepherd steps
in to protect them?"
"You're forgetting that I am THE Shepherd. I never leave
My flock - never! How much more when there is danger? My presence
is a continual protection to those of My sheep who stay close
to Me, for a wolf cannot bear to be anywhere near Me.
"But the wolf's presence does not drive all sheep to My side....
Some think they can 'live with' him - they try to ignore his evil
deeds so they can benefit from his 'good deeds'. Others don't
even notice him - they are too intent on eating, sleeping or picking
fights with one another. When the wolf falls on them, it is never
without prior warning.
"Yet even if they are brought down, they will not be destroyed.
All that the Father has given Me are Mine forever; no one can
take My sheep out of My hands. Always they will find Me there
if they search for Me, and they will heal under My intensive care.
If they should panic and run the wrong way, out of the flock altogether...
then I go out after them, bind up their wounds and bring them
back in. Either way, the lessons they learn are not easily forgotten.
"Don't you learn from your own physical body that pain can
be a friend? How many times were you saved from serious injury
or death because you heeded its warning? My sheep learn from pain
in the same way. They eventually grow wiser, humbler, stay closer
to Me. And I tell you truly, more than a few hirelings have become
true shepherds after learning what it feels like to be mauled
by a predator."
GS was thinking intently. "So being wounded is good for the
sheep and those who care for them? We shouldn't try to get rid
of the wolves or prevent the destruction he brings?"
"Don't even think that! I don't want My flock to experience
pain! Its only value is to warn them away from danger, and after
they receive the message it becomes My priority to banish both
the pain and its source.
"I tell you truly, wounds are inevitable as long as there
are ravening wolves and bullying rams, but woe to the one who
willfully inflicts pain on My flock.... He who destroys in My
holy sheepfold always imagines he is in control, and yet I hold
his very life and breath in My hands.
"And the one who sees the least of My sheep being torn or
bullied, who has been given the means to stop it and yet does
nothing, he will find a fearful judgment awaiting him. And not
just in the next life; the day is coming when everything whispered
in the inner rooms will be shouted from the rooftops.
"As for the wounded sheep, the one who binds them up does
well, and the one who prevents the wounds from ever happening
does better. Yes, blessed is he who even tries to prevent them,
regardless of whether he succeeds or fails! All of them will receive
the reward of a good shepherd. And the one who puts himself in
harm's way and suffers injury to protect My sheep -- he will receive
double honor, and I Myself will stand up to serve him at the Marriage
Supper of the Lamb."
Then squeezing the Good Samaritan around the shoulders, He said
briskly, "Now, we both need to be about our Father's business.
You are headed north, I must continue south into Judea. But we
will meet again."
Suddenly a bird in a tree overhead broke into singing... the most
melodious, beautiful birdsong that GS had ever heard. He craned
his neck, looking here and there, and finally he spotted the source.
It was a bird that he didn't recognize. Its dull gray feathers
were commonplace, but its open beak was pouring forth the remarkable
music. The creature formed a dark silhouette against the bright
blue heaven, releasing a warbling of praise that kept changing...
passionate, intricate and sweet... a feast for the ears.
Then the Samaritan noticed several things in rapid succession:
He was alone in the sun-drenched grove. Where his Master had been
reclining was a fresh, spicy fragrance that was almost drinkable.
He no longer felt sick or stiff, bruised or weary.
And his soul was filled with unfathomable peace.
Comment on this story at READER
IS THERE LIFE AFTER "TSAVUAH"?
Are you a victim -- or an eyewitness -- of "Family
taking place in the Lord's Body?
you been intimidated or manipulated into silence by the "can't
or the "unity at all costs" rule?
you struggling to recover from the damage caused by a "Tsavuah"...
or from the damage caused by leaders you trusted who refused to
or who even sided with your abuser?
Join an off-line (and
list, "Life After Tsavuah"
-- a support group established for and by those
who have been through
similar experiences. All followers of Yeshua (Jewish and non-Jewish)