Midrash: a form of rabbinic literature or storytelling used to explore the meanings and interpretations in the Torah and other Hebrew texts. (In this way, the religion evolves along with its people.)

We went to see him, me and my sister and my sister’s kid. We walked there, stayed until our food ran out, then walked home. Then they asked us, who is he? They surrounded us and demanded to know: What is he like, and moreover, is it he or is it He? We looked at each one and chose our answers:

He had the fake charisma of a used-camel huckster, all oil and smiles. People drew near to him for flattery and my sister gave me a look: she felt it too, the little nope in her heart saying he’s a fraud.

He was dramatic, dependent upon attention, living off our movements toward him. Even in the crowd, my nephew wrapped himself behind his mother’s skirt. He could feel the energy siphoning off us at ten, twenty, forty paces.

He was a wild man. Crazy. The sand had gotten too much in his ears, and his hide was burnt but he did not care. His hair was unkempt and he wore no sandals. He shouted nonsense that the people copied down and picked apart for truths, forcing their own selfish guesses between the syllables.

He was a wild man. Crazy, and crazy-looking. But his shouts were true. They were arrows that split into shrapnel, one piece striking the center of each person near him. Each shard was exactly the right, sharp shape to best awaken its target. We left hurt but panting with life.

He sat very still and he spoke like an oracle, in riddles. One by one we asked him questions, took his words in a tight packet to unfold later, bowed and retreated. But around him were four scribes with oafish fingers and wax in their ears, each mangling his phrases in a different way.

He was gentle, with none of the wrinkles people get from pursing their lips, only the ones from laughing and from seeing very sad things happen. He was strong but his edges blurred into the sand and the sky. His voice was a brook, cool to step into and wash in. His eyes shaded us though we stood in the beating sun. It was charis, charisma that is gift and grace, and we melted before him and into each other and became the very water of his words. Leaving was a wound that still runs. I think we would follow him anywhere.

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