Everybody hated me. That’s not a whine of self-pity, it’s just a dispassionate statement of facts. The Jews hated me because I was working for the Romans, the loathed occupying force. And the Romans hated me even as they used me, because I was a despised traitor working for them against my own people.
I tried not to let it bother me. After all, I carried some clout – people had to stay on the right side of me; if I reported them to the Romans it could have very serious consequences for them. And I had a comfortable lifestyle. When I was getting a bit short I just extorted more than the Romans asked for and pocketed the surplus. But deep down there was a gnawing hollow in my soul. It’s one thing to be despised by others, but when you secretly despise yourself you can never find peace.
I sat at my table every day watching the world go by, and I was intrigued by the laughing rabbi who often passed by with his growing band of followers and hangers-on. He was young for a rabbi, no more than thirty, I should think. Nothing escaped his gaze. I watched him, and I saw it all. The child with a scraped knee, the mother with a heavy load to carry – I saw him notice everyone and everything. He never hesitated to break his journey or stop his teaching to lend a hand to someone in need. I could see why they all loved him, why he attracted such crowds wherever he went.
And then came the day he paused by my money table, waved his hand over the piles of money and shrugged, as if to say, “Do you really think this is what matters?” And then, leaning over the the table towards me, he spoke very distinctly: “Follow me.”
I looked down at the piles of money. I felt the void it had all made in my soul, and at once I knew I wanted to be part of what he was doing. I abandoned my table with its piles of money spread out for everyone to help themselves to and I stepped up to this young man with the laughing eyes, his arm extended in invitation. I took my place at his side and he clapped a welcoming arm around my shoulders.
And in that moment I discovered the money I had so carefully hoarded had been a wearisome burden from which I was suddenly free, liberated, and facing who knew what adventure!