A MEETING AT THE WELL
Old Naomi slowly made her way along the dry, dusty road that passed through the Samaritan city of Sychar. This same road lead to Jacob's well which the old patriarch had allotted to his son Joseph and his descendants.
As a young woman, she had been very attractive. She caught the eye of many young men of the town. They flirted with her, brought her gifts of honey cakes, and dates dipped in honey and cinnamon.
Naomi had enjoyed all the attention of these young men, even at the expense of the married women to whom some of those young men were attached to. These men thought nothing of having Naomi on the side as a lover, an adventure, a sort of concubine.
This situation put her at odds with the other women who began to shun her. They began calling her names, sometimes throwing small stones at her. Naomi didn't seem to care much. She enjoyed being popular, if only among the men. Eventually, she got married to one of those young men, but her marriage didn't last long. Her husband soon tired of her and gave her a letter of divorcement.
This happened again and again, over the span o many years. The men in the town for some reason only considered her a past time, an object of physical desire. Naomi became a bitter and frustrated woman. She used to fetch water with the other women during the morning hours, but because of the wagging of tongues and harassment by the others, she went to the well in the afternoon, when no one else was around.
This became her trend, her daily walk, her lonely path, for over 50 years. She would walk to Jacob's well, walk alone. Now she was no longer beautiful to look at, she was old and wrinkled, her hands, arms, and the skin of her face burnt brown by the hot sun. Her hair was a mix of gray and white streaks. Her lively steps had turned to slow, but still steady steps, to and from the well.
But now, there was something different about Naomi. Her countenance was no longer of anger and gloom, for a permanent shadow of peace had settled on her. It was a peace that passed all understanding. It was a peace that could only come from God above. Now her dreams of a family had been fulfilled since the day she met the master, the prophet from Nazareth. She had met him at the well, at Jacob's well.
Since meeting him, things had taken a turn for the better. She had met a widowed man, a seller of fine linen. They married and had 4 children. Now, these children had married and had children of their own. Her husband finally died and Naomi mourned for him and buried him in a small cave in the hills of Samaria.
She knew that the day would come when she would join her husband, and her children would lay her to rest along side his bones. But for now, she would walk to the well as she had been doing for years.
Today was hot and sunny, and the summer sun was casting long shadows along the path to Jacob's well. Old Naomi walked along the dusty road carrying her old clay pitcher, which now seemed heavier than years before. As she walked along, she smiled as she heard some familiar voices.
“Grandma Naomi, Grandma Naomi” cried little Ruth as she ran up and joined her old grandmother on the old, dusty road leading to the well.
“Hello Ruth, how are you this fine day?”, replied Naomi, taking Ruth's hand in hers. Naomi's children and grandchildren had replaced her years of sadness and gloom with joy and happiness
“I'm as well as can be grandmother Naomi” smiled young Ruth. “Can I help you carry the pitcher?”
“of course” Naomi replied, passing the clay pitcher to her granddaughter. She felt relieved as her burden was now lightened. A few minutes went by and two more of her offspring joined them on their way to Jacob's well. They still had a way to go, but now the going would be lighter as the clay burden was shared.
“Shalom Grandmother Naomi, blessings to you” greeted Ana and Levi as they now joined the two on their way to the well.
“Shalom and blessings to you both Ana and Levi” replied Naomi. Now there were four on the way to the well. They walked slowly along, the grandchildren making sure they didn't pass their grandmother, as now she walked slower because of her old age. The youngsters smiled and talked among themselves, a joke here, a friendly push there.
They finally saw it, just up ahead, a deep water well surrounded by a wall of stones. Over the years, four stout poles had been added supporting a roof made of palm branches to create a shade from the hot sun.
The four reached the well and sat down on the round rock wall that surrounded it. Naomi seemed to gaze off into the distance, deep in thought.
“ Tell us about the prophet again grandma” pleaded Ana, as she looked up into Naomi's dark eyes.
“Oh Ana” sighed Naomi smiling softly, gently stroking Ana's long hair. “I've told you that story so many times.”
“Yes, but we like to hear it. It is so wonderful the way you tell it.” said Levi, now moving closer to his grandmother.
“All right” she replied as she got up to tie the well's rope around the neck of the clay pitcher. The rope was hanging from the main roof beam above the well and lay coiled on the ground, beside the rock wall. Those who went to the well tied the end of the rope to their pitchers and then lowered them into the dark, cool, life-preserving waters.
There was a hallow splash as the pitcher hit the well water and slowly sank until it was filled. Naomi pulled on the rope and the water pitcher slowly arose to the top of the well. Levi also took hold of the rope and together, old Naomi and her grandson Levi lifted the now filled water jug out of the well and placed it on the ground. Naomi then took a cloth and covered the top of the jug to keep out the dust.
She sat down again on the wall and closed her eyes. In her mind's eye, she imagined going back and back in time, back perhaps 40 years or more. She smiled as she saw herself young again. Her thoughts took her back to that special day, the day that changed her life completely. The day she met the prophet.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself quickly approaching Jacob's well. With the empty water jug on her head, she walked the remaining steps that led her to the familiar spot that provided the life sustaining waters.
Young Naomi noticed a young man sitting down on the rock wall surrounding the well. He might have been in his early thirties. He had a gentle, serene look, a look of true peace. She noticed that he was a Jew, not a Samaritan, by the way he was dressed. He had the usual tunic tied with a cloth rope, and a four-squared outer garment with tassels tied on the four corners.
She could tell he was a little hot and tired. He took a small cloth from his belt and wiped his face and beard, and then put the cloth again under his belt. The young man smiled as Naomi stopped at the well. She tied her clay water jug to the well's rope and lowered the jug into the water. The young man just observed her without saying a word. As she pulled up her now filled jug, he spoke.
“Give me to drink” he asked her, his words so quiet and ever so gentle. Naomi was surprised at his words. Jews avoided talking to Samaritans, and even avoided walking through Samaria so as to avoid any and all contact with them.
“How is it that you, being a Jew ask me for a drink, since I am a Samaritan woman?” replied Naomi with a friendly voice, yet a bit confused since she was aware of the cultural and racial separation of both Jews and Samaritans. For centuries, the Jews had despised the Samaritans and considered them “half-breeds” mixed with Babylonian blood. This fact, however, didn't seem to affect this man.
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you 'give me a drink', you would ask him and he would give to you living water.” replied the young man, with gentleness yet with the voice of authority.
The words surprised Naomi, as she had never heard the words “living water” spoken with such passion as this man just voiced them. Everyone knew that water was essential for life, but she had the feeling that this man was referring to something deeper, perhaps something spiritual. She had to be sure.
“Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep, where do you get that living water?” asked Naomi with all curiosity. Could this man be more important than her ancestor Jacob she wondered? It was Jacob who had given this well to his descendants.
“You are not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us the well and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”
“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again” answered the young man calmly, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst. The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life!”
Naomi thought on these words. She was right. He was indeed talking about spiritual things. How her soul longed for such water. She had felt bitter for so long, being ill-treated by certain men and women in Sychar. Men just used her and the women despised her for being a “loose woman”. She had wanted peace, true peace, internal peace, but up to now that had eluded her. It was something out of reach for her, until that day.
“Give me this water” pleaded Naomi. She needed it. He knew it, she knew it. Her search for inner peace would soon be over. If she could only draw out this 'living water'.
“Go call your husband” the man replied, “and come here.”
“Now what would this man want with my husband?” Naomi thought, but she knew that the man who she was living with was not her husband at all. He was just another man who fancied her, at least for a while. As usual, he would probably cast her aside and go to someone else. She decided to be truthful, what harm could that do, what else could she do?
“I have no husband.” Naomi answered truthfully.
“You have correctly answered, 'I have no husband', for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you have now is not your husband. This you have said truly!” responded the man with authority, his eyes looking deep inside hers, and into the depth of her heart and soul.
Naomi was stunned. How could he possibly know all of this? They had never met. He didn't even live in Sychar, nor in any part of Samaria. He was just...just passing by and stopped to rest, for a drink of water, that was all. He knew her somehow, in some strange way. Deep inside her heart she knew that this man knew everything about her. Now Naomi knew that this man was someone special, not just an ordinary man, not just an ordinary Jew from Judea. Could he be? Yes...he had to be.....he must be.
“Sir” began Naomi, “I perceive that you are a prophet....”
Yes, she was right, and the two dialoged that day at the well. The prophet from Galilee talked to her about worship, that God was spirit, and that true worshipers would worship God in spirit and in truth.
She began to feel attached to this man, this prophet from Judea, unlike no other man. It was not in a carnal sense, but in a spiritual sense. 'Salvation is from the Jews' the prophet told her. His words reminded her of the stories she had heard from the rabbis and Torah teachers, that some day, a Messiah would come who would bring “Yeshuah” (salvation). The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. She often wondered about that.
“I know that Messiah is coming, when that one comes, he will declare all things to us” answered Naomi after listening to the young prophet's words.
“I who speak to you, am he” replied the prophet, his eyes glued to hers, awaiting her response.
But Naomi could not utter a word. She just stood there amazed. In this prophet, the Torah came true, the scriptures became alive, prophecies fulfilled. Messiah was here, here at the well. Just then she saw twelve men walking up to the well. The prophet turned to the men and smiled. They came near and were astonished that he was actually speaking to her, a woman of Samaria. Were these men friends of the prophet?
But this was the Messiah, the one foretold by the prophets of old. Yes, he was here with her, in her city. He would have to declare all things to her and to those of her city. The prophet turned to her again and smiled. He seemed to know her thoughts. Naomi left her water jug right there at the well. She ran down the road and headed towards the market area of Sychar. She just had to tell the residents of her city all about the prophet. She found an open area and started to shout;
“Come see a man who told me all the things that I have done, is this not the Messiah?”
So all the people in the market left what they were doing and followed Naomi back to Jacob's well. The prophet was still there with his disciples. Yes, he was there waiting for Naomi to return with the people.
The prophet stood up when the crowd came near to him. He knew what they wanted. Yes, he would stay with them for two days and expound the scriptures to them. He would reveal himself to them through Moses and the Prophets of old. Yes, salvation was within their reach. It was also the prophet's name, 'Yeshua'. In those two days, many came to believe on him as the promised Messiah, Yeshua Ben David who was born in Bethlehem, as foretold by the Prophet Micah, Messiah the Prince, as foretold by Daniel.
Slowly, the crowd and Yeshua seemed to fade away, until only memories were left. Naomi opened her eyes as she left a soft touch on her arm.
“Grandmother, are we going home now?”
Naomi's mind and soul returned to present, although she longed for the past once more, for the chance to sit at the feet of her Messiah Yeshua who told her all things.
“Yes my lovely Ruth, we shall return home now.” answered Naomi. The story was long, yet seemed so short. It wouldn't be the last time she would tell this story to her descendants.
“I wish I could have met Yeshua the Messiah” started Levi, “He was here, really here wasn't he?” his voice reflecting all wonder and awe.
“Yes” replied Naomi gently, “He was here and in my heart and mind, he still is” Naomi's eyes seemed to still stare off into the distant past, a meeting that changed her life.
Slowly, Naomi and her grandchildren got ready to return home. Levi offered to carry the water pitcher and together they left Jacob's well. They walked back along the well-trodden path that connected the well to the city houses. Naomi paused for a moment as she looked back once more. Her eyes saw the familiar figure of the Prophet from Nazareth sitting by the well, offering her the water of life. (Bible reference: John 4:3-30)
By Jacob Ben Avraham
(this is my latest short story, just finished last night)