Next installment of my new historical novel: Peter and Paul.
Soon after sunset, more than a hundred believers, mixed with some three thousand travelers—tired, disheveled—converged on the Temple courtyard. As many as could, tight, shoulder-to-shoulder, pressed inside, to spend the night under the Temple roof. For many it was their first time in the Temple. First time in Jerusalem.
Tomorrow thousands more would come, spread across the court of the gentiles, and even further down the slopes. They all came in the hope of Shavuoth bringing new hope, new revelation, new guidance as it has done throughout history. They all needed help. With the Romans around, they needed all the help they could get.
As soon as the sun has set, the protection of darkness emboldened the disciples to press closer together, surrounding Shimon all sides. When it was definitely night Shimon rose to his feet and recited the ancient blessing:
"Baruch atah A-donai E-loheinu Melekh Ha-olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al S'firat Ha-omer."
Not all of his friends understood Hebrew. A some, perhaps many, have been born and raised far north, and seldom visited Jerusalem. With a gentle smile he repeated the words in Greek, which most people understood. It was the lingua franca even for the Romans. Yes. For some disciples, even such words as Sheol were meaningless. They gave it the Greek name. They called it Hades. The place of those not yet awakened.
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.”
Some heads looked up even as he spoke. They seem to draw strength from the ancient promise. The words gave them renewed faith in a greater tomorrow. Counting the Omer, they knew, was counting the forty-nine day that brought them to this day. Which brought them to Shavuoth.
(to be continued)