“W ell? I’m waiting.” Aster stands over Jocef, the parchment in her hand.

His eyes open, blink once, twice. He looks over at her; his forehead creases in confusion.

“Jocef,” Aster says gently, “you are in my home in the Call in Mallorca.”

The tightness around his mouth eases.

“Now I want you to tell me, what is this?”

“It… it is a map.”

These are the first words he has spoken since he arrived. Aster wants to jump and dance and sing. But she continues the conversation.

“It’s no map that I recognize.” She puts the tiniest challenge into her voice. Not unfriendly, but enough to push him to continue talking. “A strange island near Africa?”

He shakes his head. “It is a map… of a masechta.”

Aster turns the manuscript around to see it. Clara steps closer and looks over her shoulder.

“I do not understand. How can one write a map of a masechta? And which one?”

He is puzzled that she does not comprehend. “Berachot.”

Aster turns to Clara. “Run into Papa’s study, and bring me a Masechet Berachot.”

Clara rushes inside.

Aster stretches her hand to give Jocef the map. To her surprise, he takes it from her.

“But… but where did you find this?” he asks, wonder in his voice.

“That is a story for another day. You tell me now, how and where did you make this map?”

A small smile spreads over Jocef’s face. For the first time since he reappeared, there are no demons, only an innocent sweetness. By the time Clara reappears with the volume of Talmud in her hand, Jocef has drifted back off to sleep.

“Sweet dreams,” Aster whispers, and walks away.



Aster is preparing supper when there is a knock at the door. She gestures to Clara to open it, but a moment later, Clara rushes over to her, fear on her features. “It is a Christian,” she says, “a Christian monk.”

Not Father Garcon, please… She half-runs to the door. She looks, and is filled with relief. It’s not Father Garcon. It’s that priest, the strange man who brought Jocef to them.

She steps aside, and gestures that he comes in. “I am glad you have come, for there are many questions I want to ask you.”

She points to a chair and the monk sits down. She stands opposite him. “Can I bring you something to eat or drink?”

“No.”

“I have much to ask. What happened to Jocef on the voyage?”

“How is he?”

“He is…” She thinks for a moment. “I think that he has taken a turn for the better. Today I showed him a…” How to describe it? She resorts to Jocef’s words. “A map. I found it washed up on the beach here. He said it is a map of Tractate Berachot, but I do not know how to understand that.”

The man’s face is thin and drawn, but now he looks up at her with eyes that flicker with life. “Yes, we worked on it together on the voyage. Each subject matter is shown through one picture.”

“But… why?”

He hesitates. “The future of your people is uncertain. The Talmud has been burned or condemned many times over. It is a way of preserving the law by which you live.”

She stands very still, trying to understand his words, if not with her mind, then with her heart.

His hands are pressed together like a steeple. “I would be grateful if we could leave that question to the side for now, so that I could see him. I would like to know how he is.”

“Oh.” She nods. She must show every respect to this man, who must have saved Jocef’s life. “Of course.”

She leads him outside, gives a small knock on the stone hut, and opens the door to let him inside.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 590)