The village women spoke animatedly and made admiring noises punctuated by some doubtful last minute suggestions as they fingered and finished putting the last touches on Muskat’s braids and bustled about the room, fabric swishing and hand swatting and giggling. Although Muskat couldn’t see herself, she knew the women had done beautifully. She had requested the gown be a lighter blue cotton with white, scarlet and purple floral embroidery. Hands gently took hers beckoning her to stand as someone wrapped a long colorful belt round her waist. And tucked it in at her side, pulling it down to secure it, patting her on the shoulder. Multiple “Oooohhh’s” of admiration swept and bounced around her followed by a few comments brimming with choking emotion and nose sniffling.
Although she still was getting to know these women, she could speak brokenly in their tongue and they had come to her aid, visiting after Josiah had been killed, and Triss had departed for Scotland with her children, bringing her extra loaves, a few of them and their husbands and the father coming to help her in the wheat fields this summer. She was still learning to see things through her hands. She could still see the picture of the fields in her hands, picture birds flying, though she could not remember their different forms. She listened to their different calls. She turned her sigh into a smile. Outside she heard jovial instruments coming up the path. A flute, a harp, other stringed instruments and the bouncy fast and slow percussion of the deer hide drums, hands clapping in celebration. The ladies around her followed suit, clapping and stepping in time to the approaching music, lifting her heart with their loving respect honoring her. The atmosphere felt filled with love.
Two women led her out to the front porch as the wedding party approached in their Israeli tradition. Though she could not see Zedekiah, she knew he was there, walking at the front in his tall confident stride. What did his tunic look like? She couldn’t wait to trace her fingers over the sewn patterns, over his smiling face, to ask him to tell her what he thought when he saw her in her wedding dress. She gulped down nervous excitement at the thought of trailing her hands down the bare chest, wrapping her hands round his arm muscles and other body parts of this man who was joining himself to her, knowing and facing the challenges of her not being able to see. This new man who would be husband. The ladies squeezed her hands and let go. As the music and the villagers whooping and exclaiming joy filled banter approached the house she was leaving behind that had been sold with Zedekiah’s advise to another and arranged for them to move in after they were wed.
Light excited footsteps descended past her. She folded her hands. After a minute, she felt a leather tough hand take her hand. Zedekiah! Warmth washed over her from head to toe. Delight radiated from her cheeks supported by her soft rose colored lips. His voice held a smile as she heard him say, “Step… Step… Step… Step.” As she took her skirt in her free hand to avoid tripping. Zedekiah eased his forearm under hers to help guide her, their fingers woven into each others. They walked down dirt paths to the stave church, now completed with the Zedekiah’s help and his convincing the men in the village to help.
The heart of the music danced around her body and blew on her heart like a life giving wind as a contrast to the sorrow she had been thawing from. The sound tasted and sounded like what she imagined the return of Messiach must feel like with joy like a wind sweeping through the souls and sailing, ascending out in beautiful expressions of leaving sorrow and frustration and all things sad or divisive to live in the present and celebrate two lives becoming one. As they walked, the flutists, the harpist and other strummers, the women carrying and beating the metallic timbrelled hand drums, danced on either side of her and her bridegroom. Singing a song about coming away. Yes. Muskat thought as she laughed and smiled on her dancing feet. Away from trouble. Away from sorrow. The Song of Solomon spoke in her heart, “Lo my love, the winter is past.”
Days prior Muskat had thought this day might hold some bit of sadness since Josiah could not share in this gladness. But she realized now, not just in her mind knowing the scriptures, that her Messiach was gifting her with a taste of joy that was eternal that Josiah was experiencing and living in forever. So, he was not missing out after all. And neither was she. For whatever reason, she and Zedekiah were granted a different gift. Life here. Together. As they approached the Stave Sanctuary Steps, she heard the hubbub of voices of even more people. She also smelled the various aromas of cooking mest and lovingly baked breads. The villagers, many whom she had come to know and be blessed with hailed Zedekiah and Muskat with a hoisting roar, “Heyyyyyyyy!!!”
Zedekiah gave her hand a loving quick squeeze. He laughed heartily back good-naturedly to their neighbors and unfolding friends. They danced to the huppah at the doors to the church in front of the grinning father. The rowdiness quieted to listen to Father Aeduuin.
Quickly clearing his throat, Aeduuin asked loudly, so people could hear, “Does anybody here have any reason or impediment that these two should not be co-joined?”
The air was hung full of hushed honesty.
“Anybody? …Anybody at all?”
Only the fires cooking the meat crackles noisily.
Father Aeduuin grinned and jested, “Good! You passed the first question”
Chuckles broke out amongst the guests as well as the couple.
Lowering his voice to address the couple, Aeduuin asked, “And what about you, Zedekiah Ben Joseph?” Aeduuin turned to him a little more serious, “Do you know in your heart any reason why you should not take Muskat Beir Levi to be your wife?”
Zedekiah replied, “I know no reason that Muskat and I should not marry.”
Aeduuin turned to Muskat, “And what of you Muskat. Know you of any inward impediment that you should not be Zedekiah’s wife?”
“I know no reason why I should not be Zedekiah’s wife” Muskat said, tears of joy escaping her sightless earthen eyes.
“Well congratulations to you both.” Aeduuin made a slight bow, “May you keep one another in honesty and kindness.”
Returning to his crowd voice, the father stated in Norse, “Neither Zedekiah nor Muskat have any reason or impediment to be conjoined in Holy matrimony.”
Cheers and warlike whoops and high pitched lelelele’s waved over the crowd like a sprouting field.
Father Aeduuin waved them back down to silence, smiling. Looking around, he said, “Who has the rings?”
Egil moved forward, handed the rings to Aeduuin before returning to his spot where he had been standing, who in turn passed both rings to the proper party.
Zedekiah looked down at her hand, and held it, placing the ring on her right ring finger as was tradition in the North. Swallowing he said, moved in Norse, “Muskat Beir Levi, I first saw you in the fields in your orange headscarf and simple dress like you had popped out of the sacred word of Torah, portion of Ruth. Like Ruth had Boaz, you had me from that moment. Wondering about you, wanting to know your story. As I heard all you have been though, I only grow in admiration of your trust in our Lord and Savior and our heavenly Father Yaweh. I am so so happy that those who cared for you until I came can celebrate with us today…” Zedekiah wiped his sleeve over his eyes, his voice full of emotion, and squeezed Muskat’s hand. She squeezed back. “My beautiful, gentle, determined, big-hearted Muskat, with this ring, I promise to honor you, protect you, love you, respect you. If you are ill I will do whatever is in my power to help heal you. When God gives us bounty, I share it freely with you. We are one. When God puts us to the test with little, I ask you to pray with me and steward what has been given well. Today is a day celebrating life, but because of our forefathers we have to face the reality of death daily. We both know that very well…” tears welled in his eyes, “but…” he continued in a determined tone, “until the day death separates us, I promise God and I promise you that I will lean on and seek His strength love you, Muskat, not my own. With this ring, I wed thee.”
Tears were flowing freely down, and even Aeduuin blinked to keep from crying. Smiling, she cracked a joke to transition the mood, “I guess this is what happens when a father and a rabbi attend a wedding feast.”
Laughs broke from the sniffling, joy teared onlookers who then quieted as their beloved and respected widow of their village put the ring on the finger Zedekiah pointed from his other closed fingers to make it easy on her. Waiting to hear what she had to say:
“Zedekiah bar Joseph, out of the heart the mouth speaks. The words that pour from your heart touch my own. Your heart has wonderful things to say and without my eyes, words and action speak at greater volumes before I lost my eyesight. God has taught me through you the deeper meanings day by day what it truly means to walk by trusting and not just by seeing what is ahead of me. I did not see myself losing my sight and I did not see or know you would come into my life as such a gift. I pray God give me the strength as well to love you, not that you are not lovable, just that love is tested. May he refine the metal of our vows as just as the metal for these rings. I thank God for smiling on me…bringing me you…I had almost forgotten what it was to smile in this life so deeply. I want share smiles with you with the days God grants us. If you are ill, as your helper, as the Spirit is God’s helper, I will stay with you, praying health over you and do what is in my power to restore your health. Having been a widow, I have little economy to bring, but what little I have I share with you. We are joining as one. I freely share all the inheritance God has given me with you. It is my joy to steward what has been given with you, Zedekiah. For I know what it is to steward things alone. We have been entrusted to one another. I pray you know as we go forward, I will seek to bless you and bless the heart of Yeshua by doing so. Love is as powerful as death, so even though we are older and that prospect is ever possible, long life to our life together. With this ring I wed there.”
Father Aeduuin added a few words, as he dabbed his sleeve, “I have preached on the power of God, my neighbors, but know that His power shining in the union of these two whom you have gotten to know is worth thinking upon. I would like to honor the couple with a blessing of the Scripture.” Aeduuin sang in Hebrew then translated into Norwegian, “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you. May the Lord be gracious to you and give you peace.” Finally Aeduuin concluded in a loud, smiling voice, “I present to you, Zedekiah and Muskat Ben Joseph!!! Zedekiah, kiss your bride!”
Zedekiah held onto her one hand in his and lifted her chin with the knuckles of his other hand, bent and gave her a long kiss which she reciprocated as the sound of a myriad of pairs of hands clapped and clapped and clapped and the feasting commenced.
Muskat enjoyed basking in the cheer and the smells of food as Zedekiah repetitively cued her to open her mouth or “Here, try this. So and so made/cooked it” for her to enjoy the meal they shared, as she sat on his lap. Many people came to them and offered personal congratulations and reflections on what was spoken. Men kissed her hand, and patted Zedekiah on the shoulder, women kissed her cheek. Zedekiah even whispered laughing the description of Father Aeduuin giving dancing a try with the villagers. It was all so wonderful.
However, time came soon enough for her bridegroom and her to go to their new home. A chant went up, getting louder as more and more joined in, “Plant the trees! plant the trees! Plant the trees!” Amidst long “whoooooop”s. Zedekiah led her to their new home as people flowed in step alongside them like water. He led her to her space by the right of the door, setting her kneeling and handed her a digging tool while he went to work on the opposite side. When she had dug some, he came over and inspected her work. Then put the tree her tree in and they patted the earth round the young sapling together.
“Here, wipe your hands on my tunic.” He said. She gratefully complied, thanking him. Looking worried, her features telling him she hated to get his wedding tunic dirtied. “It’s a memory I want to keep.” He whispered in her ear. He hoisted her into his arms, carrying her over the threshold of their new home, closing the door with his booted foot behind him as the silent onlookers outside listened, waiting dutifully.
Setting Muskat on her feet, Zedekiah turned and placed the bar across the door to keep it shut. Turning again he stood before her. The smell of the fit trees and dirt lingered on his hands and the smell of lye and his own comforting scent filled her nostrils. He rubbed her earlobe in circles between his thumb and finger. She lifted her hands to his face tracing it, lightly. He stood still letting her “see” his face, rubbing his chin stubble. Her hands trailed to his strong neck, tracing his veins down to his firm chest. She attempted to pull his tunic from the front. Quietly, he took her hands in his studying her expressions. Guiding her to take the hem of the tunic, he let her raise it up. He completed taking it off, settling it aside, letting her hands run down his sculpted chest and muscled abdomen and back up again. Placing his hands around her slender waist, he backed her up to the bed edge and sat her down gently. He knelt in front of her, his face in front of hers, kissing her. She dipped her tongue into his mouth, so he started untying her bodice front, loosening the the ribbons slowly. When they were, still kissing deeply together, he nudged her on her back, the back of his fingers caresses the top of her bosoms. She felt the hair on the back of his hand and the cool metal of his wedding ring. The beautiful stillness was shattered by an impatient, disappointed sound crowd outside.
She felt Zedekiah mouth turn up in a smile as he was kissing her mouth. “They are eager for our consummation.”
Muskat sighed exasperatedly.
His voice mischievous, he asked quietly, “I know how to get them to leave us alone.”
Unexpectedly, Zedekiah let out a cry as if they had peaked together. He clapped his hand over her mouth firmly, before they could hear her bust out laughing. She shook with muffled laughter so hard, tears streamed out her eyes. She felt him laughing quietly as well. When he was sure her giggles had bubbled out, he lifted his hand from her mouth. Switching modes, she followed suit, letting out a cry. Zedekiah, caught off guard, paused momentarily before leaning down to whisper earnestly in her ear and nibbling it, “Oh, Muskat, you undo me with your cries.”