Chapter II – The Hair Weaver and The Kohein

  “Why would the Elohim want to work outside of an already miraculous creation?” – Essene quote concerning the virgin birth

  “Now it happened, that during the time of the high priesthood of this Matthias, there was another person made high kohein for a single day, that very day which the Jews observed as a fast. The occasion was this: This Matthias the high kohein, on the night before that day when the fast was to be celebrated, seemed, in a dream, to have conversation with his wife; and because he could not officiate himself on that account, Yosef, the son of Ellemus, his kinsman, assisted him in that sacred office.” – Flavius Yosefus, “War of the Jews”

  The Semitic tribes of the middle orient have always been patriarchal in nature and Hebrew society of the second Mikdash period was no exception. Like the Greeks, and to a lesser extent Romans, they held that women had no legal or religious rights in their cultures. Worse however, was that under the laws of the Torah, women and children were chattel; objects to be owned and used as the male patriarch saw fit. The Hebrew word for husband was “ba’al”, which meant master. “The relation of the wife to the husband was, to all intents and purposes, that of a slave to her master,” – Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.
  Levirate law decreed only males over age thirteen had legal rights within their society. “A man may sell his daughter, but a woman may not sell her daughter.” – Babylonian Talmud. Ancient clay tablets describing legal contracts, clearly recorded those children who were bought and sold, the child’s tiny footprint impressed into the clay attesting to its status as property.
  Hebrew society was polygynous and as such, the Israelite did not proscribe marital fidelity on the part of men. However, according to Levirate law, adulterous married women and adulterous betrothed women were to be punished with death by stoning. Male accomplices could also be punished by death, but this punishment was typically reserved only for those who had offended the wealthy elite by indulging their sexual appetites with their wives or daughters.
  While Jewish women of that time were not typically subjected to the indignities of being sold among their own people, they were still wholly dependent on men for their survival. Thus, it was of the utmost importance for a woman to have some legal attachment to a man, such as a husband or a son might provide. Without this legal bond, the Hebrew woman would almost assuredly be reduced to prostitution or begging, and a short hard life; not that life was easy for married women.
  Rabbinic literature is filled with contempt for women. The rabbis taught that women were not to be saluted, or spoken to in the street. They were forbidden to be instructed in the law or to receive an inheritance. A woman walked six paces behind her husband and if she uncovered her hair in public, such as on the street or in the bazaars, she was considered a harlot. Within the confines of the Mikdash, females were allowed to observe the ceremonies from a raised gallery along three sides of the court, but were never allowed to participate.
  By contrast, the Hebrew male became a legal citizen in his thirteenth year. This limitation was developed from various accounts of thirteen-year-old biblical male figures. Abraham turned thirteen when he broke the idols that began his conversion to the concept of one God. Obeying God’s commandment, Abraham circumcised Ishmael when he turned thirteen; an act that apparently turned Ishmael into a renegade. Abraham’s grandsons, Jacob and Esau, studied until age thirteen. After that, it was written that Jacob devoted himself to further study of the Torah, while Esau worshipped at “foreign shrines”.
  Like Ishmael, two of Jacob’s twelve sons, Simeon and Levi, wreaked havoc when they turned thirteen, decimating the male population of the city of Shechem in retribution over their sister Dinah’s alleged rape. Later, thirteen-year-old Betzalel was chosen as chief artist/architect for the construction of the portable desert Mikdash called the “Tabernacle”. Centuries later, the menacing giant Goliath was felled by a thirteen-year-old David. According to the Midrash, his son, Shlomo, became king when he was thirteen. The bar mitzvah tradition, granting this legal status to boys on their thirteenth birthday, began during the second Mikdash period. Boys completing their first Yom Kippur fast, were blessed by Jewish elders. At that point, a boy was granted legal rights. He could now be a member of a Jewish court, buy and sell property and his vows were considered binding.
  The Essene however rejected this heavily slanted patriarchal tradition and while Torah jews more or less mimicked the Greeks in their treatment of women, the Essene elevated women to a status even beyond that of Roman society where woman held citizenship. As the Essene sages would say, “The sight of God in woman is the most perfect of all” and “beautiful women are divine works of art”. They recognized that human beauty as being connected with divine reality and so they celebrated the perfection of the maiden that, taken in the correct perspective, stood for a deeper reality. Their idea was women, like men, have the capacity for development and refinement beyond the base human nature that drive the bestial human consumed by conflicting emotions and desires.
  The ability to see this connection however was denied to the self-serving, patriarchal, kohanim. They were never able to perceive both the beautiful woman and the divinity in the same form. For this reason, the kohanim never suspected that a woman might hold the solution to the terrible economic burdens they had imposed upon their people.
  Mariam was barely five years old when her father delivered her to the Mikdash. As a kohein, Mariam’s father Joachim had little use for a daughter for only a firstborn son held any value or significance to the Kohanim. For this reason, Joachim offered up his five year old daughter to the temple in sacrificial tribute instead of the traditional animal sacrifice required for redemption of a child. Under the old Abrahamic tradition, the child would have had her throat slit, her blood drained and her body burned upon the alter, but by this time the priesthood found it more advantageous to use sacrificed children as slave labor to work in the Mikdash.
  Before the age of six, Mariam had begun her training as weaver. Over the years, she worked her young, tender, fingers bloody, weaving the veil for the “Bet Ḳodesh ha-Ḳodashim” or “Holy of Holies”. Due to its exacting nature, the work was grueling for little Mariam. The kohein would harshly reproach and often strike the children weavers, demanding that each thread in the veil had to be placed as if by the hand of YHVH himself. Mariam often worked long into the night and more than once had to unweave a major area of the veil after a minute imperfection was noted by a kohein inspecting the cloth.
  It wasn’t long before a kohein named Zechariah took a personal interest in Mariam. More than once, he had been sorely tempted by her innocent beauty and as it was not unusual for kohanim to take certain young girls and boys under personal tutelage; nothing would have been said had he done so, but Mariam was different. Zechariah somehow could not bring himself to despoil such a young beauty. Instead, he became her guardian, making sure she remained chaste and unmolested by the other kohanim.
  Mariam’s bloodline originally came from Canaanite beginnings, but generations before her family had married into the Davidic bloodline. During their research, an Essene sage had discovered Mariam’s special bloodline and after speaking with her, felt she might serve as a perfect mate to attract a kohein and sire the male child needed for their plan. On her tenth birthday, an Essene sage and a member of the Mikdash went to Yerushalayim to redeem Mariam’s sacrificial ransom. It was standard practice among the kohein to pay a sacrificial tribute to acquire desirable children who would then serve the kohein’s sexual pleasure or as domestic servants in their home.
  After ransoming Mariam the two returned to the small, monastic, village of Natzret located at the foot of Mount Carmel. Here Mariam would be taught new skills that would insure her marketability as a wife. A bargain was struck with a local hairdresser to teach the young girl hair and cosmetic skills, which was highly unusual, for women were not typically apprenticed and at best, were only taught simple domestic skills by their mothers. In Mariam’s case however, the special intertwining of her bloodline qualified her as a candidate for the Essene conspiracy. Certain blood relatives were made aware of her purpose and in time, she too came to understand the pivotal role she would play in bringing down the Mikdash’s oppressive sacrificial system.
  Mariam was twelve years of age when an Essene sage took her to the remote desert region of Qumran to begin her formal education. Early in her training, her tutors had realized that among the girls being trained for the task, Mariam alone would by far be the most likely candidate to successfully seduce a kohein and produce a son eligible to become a member of the kohanim. She would be groomed for one purpose only, to entice a relationship with a kohein that would lead to the birth of a son.
  A bright girl, she quickly took to the Essene’s training where she was carefully tutored in those skills that would make her highly desirable, not only to men in general, but to a Mikdash kohein in particular. She was schooled in Levirate law, math, writing and social skills as well as special sexual techniques. She learned to hold herself erect, spine straight, head high and walk in a manner that made her hips sway with a certain provocative subtlety. She was taught how to sit and how to rise from a cushion or a sofa and how to serve refreshments along with the other manners requiring graceful comportment among various social settings.
  By the age of eighteen, Mariam’s beauty was rare and arresting. She was unusually tall, a statuesque figure that stood out among her peers. Her auburn hair, shaded to almost copper, fell to her waist. Her complexion was like that of the olive. She had well formed hips for bearing children and round, firm breasts, shaped like new spring melons, but her piercing eyes of deep green were most unusual of all as the other girls all had dark brown eyes. Although a regal beauty, she was a formidable young lady with knowledge of ancient laws that exceeded that of many within the kohanim. It wasn’t long before her tutors deemed her the one most likely to assume a lead role in the conspiracy. Eventually, Mariam was inducted into the Essene mystical tradition and a small group of women, with expertise in such matters, performed certain rituals and incantations believed to at least enhance, if not ensure, Mariam’s chances of bearing a son. Like the kohanim, this son would be legally imbued with the power to forgive sin in the name of YHVH.
Already an exceptional, natural beauty, every effort was made to enhance Mariam’s features and desirability to the fullest extent possible. She was dressed in a manner that, while attractive and subliminally alluring to a modest degree, was neither garish nor ostentatious as might be expected from a local prostitute or highborn woman. Although her hair was styled in the manner of women of the higher classes, her slim fingers were devoid of any jewelry that would detract from the delicately feminine nature of her hands. Every step of her preparation was carefully designed to subliminally attract while not drawing undue attention, or worse, give even the slightest hint of a woman actively seeking the affections of men. By now, many seasons had turned and after years of training, Mariam was ready for introduction into Jewish society.
It had been decided that Mariam’s best opportunity for encountering a kohein would be found in the closest possible proximity to the Mikdash. This meant nearby Yerushalayim, so arrangements were made for her to find lodging in that city. She and three carefully chosen companions began their journey to Yerushalayim at the beginning of the month of Shevat. The plan was to have Mariam settled in Yerushalayim before the season of Nissan so she would be present for Yom Kippur. Leaving for Yerushalayim now would allow her sufficient time to integrate into the community and then perhaps meet a kohein during one of the many Mikdash celebrations or observances.
Qumran was located northwest of the Dead Sea in the wilderness of Judea. The journey East to Yerushalayim took travelers from the west side of the Northern, uppermost portion of the salt lake. The distance, about twenty two milliarium, required no more than a day’s travel. The Essenes assembled a small caravan comprised of two men and another woman to accompany Mariam. Two camels, along with a few sheep and goats were readied for the group’s departure.
The following day, the caravan made its way slowly up from the wilderness of the valley, taking a winding path up into the Judean Mountains towards Yerushalayim. The first indication the travelers had of nearing the city were the forests of almond, olive and pine trees surrounding the religious capital. It was mid-afternoon when the caravan passed through the gate known as “Sha’ar Shechem.” שכם‎. Mariam marveled at the bustling market bazaars, for she had only briefly witnessed such colorful activity during religious celebrations. The people of the bazaars took little notice of the small caravan for such travelers passed through the gates on regular basis, bringing trade goods to market from the surrounding regions.
The small caravan wound its way through the city until it came to a prearranged location, the house of a certain trusted Essene merchant. There they dismounted and almost before their feet had touched the ground, a young boy sprang from an alleyway beside the house. Taking command of the small party, the boy directed the two women to the front of the house and then led the two men and their animals to a nearby shelter. The house was neither a wealthy house nor a poor one, but typical of those merchants who prospered in the city’s bazaars. This was the house of and Mariam’s grandparents, Shaphan the rug merchant, and his wife Peninnah.
A middle-aged woman met the two at the door and graciously bade them entry into the house. The floor was covered with thick, intricately woven, Persian rugs. Pillows had been placed around the room to provide supporting comfort for guests. Peninnah swept her hand across the room, indicating the travelers should make themselves comfortable upon the rich rugs and pillows placed carefully around the spacious room before exiting to an adjoining room. Mariam and her companion then removed their outer robes and veils, sat on the rugs and adjusted themselves upon the pillows.
Peninnah returned with a jug of water, a basin and two cups. Passing the cups to the women, she poured out the cool water and then poured more water into the basin. She then knelt and began washing Mariam’s feet, “So you are the one who was chosen! And such a choice they have made, for yours is truly a rare beauty to behold! No doubt you will do well in your mission and we will assist you in every way possible. You and your servant will stay here in our house. We have many clients in Yerushalayim and my husband has arranged for us to meet with the wives of those clients who desire the services of a hairdresser. I will set up these clients and assist you until you have established a reputation.”
Mariam’s professional skills were unique in that she had combined her weaving with her hairdressing skills. She would soon become renowned for her skill in weaving intricate patterns into her client’s hair using gold and silver thread, ribbons, beads and other special, more personal objects. The effect was quite astounding and the woman of Yerushalayim soon recognized Mariam’s special talent, for until her arrival, none had ever even imagined such splendid hair preparation. Beyond the newness of hair weaving itself, was the fact that Mariam performed it with the utmost delicate and intricate skill. Her slender fingers would deftly weave her wealthy clients hair into the most spectacular patterns designed to turn heads
In the ensuing months, Mariam found her skills in great demand, even among the women of lesser royalty. Before long, other hairdressers began mimicking Mariam’s technique and designs, but none could match her skill. For a woman to be seen at an exclusive party with one’s hair prepared by Mariam was a statement that she had employed the services of the very best artisan in the land. Mariam’s own stunning beauty enhanced this effort to an even greater degree, as her clients felt that one who could attend to her own beauty with such skill could scarcely be less successful in attending to their needs.
As word of Mariam’s hairdressing skills passed throughout the city, her clientele grew. Before long, wealthy men of stature began taking notice of Mariam. Some men began to grumble that it was unbecoming, nay, even sinful, for a woman to have her hair woven in such a manner, but the wives made it known in no uncertain terms that they would not tolerate any talk of returning to plainer hair styles. Mariam’s designs had in fact exceeded the most stunning hairstyles of Rome and it wasn’t often that one in the outer provinces could outshine the wife of a visiting Roman dignitary.
As the days passed, word of Mariam’s skills became renowned not only in Yerushalayim, but throughout all Judea. She often had woman from as far away as bethphage, bet Lahm, beth ′anya and even Amasa seek her out when they visited Yerushalayim. When a woman of higher social status had a special occasion or wanted the proper cosmetics and most appropriate perfumes, others would counsel her saying, “you need to seek the services of Mariam, for only she can weave hair finer than cloth and only Mariam knows the innermost secrets of true beauty and allure. Why just a glance would make one wonder how a woman of such appearance could not be steeped in such secrets.”
Mariam visited the Mikdash on a regular basis to pray and offer sacrifice and it wasn’t long before the kohanim began noticing the statuesque young woman attending the religious ceremonies. The kohanim took special note of the girls and women attending the Mikveh, or ritual bath. The Mikveh, before it was known as such, had originally served an integral purpose for the kohanim in marking the end of a sacrificial cycle by cleansing the blood marking of atonement. This ability to supervise the cleansing of blood from sinners was considered so important that the community was required to go to the extreme of selling Torah scrolls or even a Mikdash if necessary, to provide funding for the construction of the bath. However, by the second Mikdash period, the original intent of the Mikveh had been modified and now the ritual immersion emphasized not physical, but spiritual, cleanliness.
Once bathed, sinners were ready to begin anew the cycle of atonement. By the time Mariam began entering the Mikveh, it had become little more than a ritual purification bath to relieve the woman’s state of “niddah” or separation from purity during menstruation or childbirth. However, it served a second, secret purpose as well for the kohanim would frequently peep at the bathers from a special, clandestine, niche cut into the back of the bath’s wall. Women disrobing to enter the Mikveh were unaware of the scheming eyes and drooling lips drinking in the view of their nude bodies. There was one young kohein in particular who was always present at the peeping niche when Mariam came to bathe. As the robes fell from her body, it seemed to this kohein as if this woman was a living incarnation of a Greek statue he had seen as a child. The statue was sculpted with the robes falling in almost the exactly same manner has he had seen Mariam drop her robe just before stepping into the bath. As a child, he had been entranced by this statue brought to Judea by the Roman Procurator. To see that statue now come to life aroused a passion that was almost too much for the young kohein to bear.
  It wasn’t long before Mariam’s patrons began inviting her to various social functions as by now, she had become a known attraction in her own right, especially among the eligible young men of the community. During these social gatherings, men would cluster about her, awkwardly fawning and sparing with each other over her irresistible attraction. She was quick of wit and always ready with a smile and kind word and this, more than exceptional beauty, drew the attention of men. In fact, much of Mariam’s enduring attraction was due to her conversational ability. While never overtly demonstrating her educational training, Mariam well understood the various political and economic topics discussed by men.
  While the other women conversed among themselves about matters of home and hearth, gossiping about various indiscretions committed by the better-known members of the community, Mariam would speak to the men about Roman policy and law along with Jewish religious issues. She was an excellent listener and as the men would go about displaying their knowledge, she would insert a small question here or an agreeable word there and before long, they would feel like they were communing with a soul mate. While they found her knowledge intriguing, she was always ready with a clever, witty comment and never spoke in a biting, condescending or haughty manner. Men of various stations began slyly approaching Mariam with their proposals. In private moments, some would brazenly proposition her in the most open manner, while others, especially those who were married, would be more circumspect in their advances. But all were coyly rejected by the lovely young woman who had now developed the ultimate skill of weaving the hearts of men as deftly has she wove a woman’s hair.
  Usually such attention from men would garner jealously and hostility among women, but Mariam was just as ready to speak to women about the secret matters of cosmetics and beauty tips as well as those problems associated with being little more than chattel in their male dominated society. More than once Mariam had quietly stepped in to assist a woman with those problems that arose from their affairs with men. More than once, she had assisted with a birth as a midwife or administered hyssop to intervene with an unwanted pregnancy. She lent money to young girls in need of certain medical procedures that required the utmost discretion. However, Mariam had been taught not to gossip and that which she learned about the affairs of others, was never mentioned in idle conversation. This trait above all others gained her the greatest respect of both men and women alike. This engendered the trust of the women of the community and many did indeed take her into confidence about their affairs.
  It happed in the Mikdash one late afternoon during the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. Mariam was attending the Ne’ila and the Shofar had blown. The Mikdash had emptied out but Mariam remaind behind in steadfast prayer. As she prayed, a shadow suddenly appeared at her side. A furtive glance confirmed an imposing figure standing close beside her. Mariam could tell by the hem of the robe that this was the kohein gadol. She said nothing, but continued her prayer supplications without the slightest acknowledgment of his presence. After a time she heard a voice beside her say, “Mariam, I am most impressed by the piety of your supplications, but this piety pales in comparison with your beauty.” Mariam continued to pray even as she felt the kohein’s rough hands begin exploring her body.
  Suddenly, she stood up and in full fury, turned to face the kohein. Delivering a fiery look, Mariam’s flashing green eyes instantly froze the his advances. Addressing him in the harshest, most biting manner, she spat, “Has my lord somehow mistaken me for a Mikdash prostitute? Does my lord think me a morsel of shewbread upon his holy table? Perhaps his lordship considers me a juicy cut of meat, like one might expect from a tender Paschal lamb? Does he deign to consume me after which he will no doubt sit back to belch with satisfaction over my spent delights? Nay my lord, nay, retreat from me at once my lord for this is a holy place where the kohein gadol dare not desecrate either himself, nor those who serve ELOHIM!”
  The young kohein was so taken aback by this biting response, he fled in terror from the young woman. In spite of the harsh rebuke, Yosef would not forget Mariam, nor would Mariam forget the handsome young man temporarily serving the role of kohein gadol.
  Several months passed before Mariam saw the young kohein again. The occasion of a wedding party served as the setting for their next encounter. On this occasion, he came as a guest and therefore had not been called upon to officiate the marriage ceremony. During the Seudas Mitzvah, he spied Mariam conversing with several other women and quickly moved to her side with a cup of celebratory wine. As Mariam turned from her conversation, he offered her the wine saying, “I have not forgotten your beauty, you are even more radiant tonight than I remember.”
  With a cold shrug, Mariam replied, “Nor have I forgotten your indiscretions within the holy Mikdash.”
  Once again, taken aback by her frosty response, the kohein tried recovering slightly from the rebuff with an apology, “My lady I must apologize for the indiscretion, but I was overcome by your presence to a point where I could scarcely restrain my own actions.”
Again, Mariam rebuffed the kohein, “No doubt; how could one possibly expect a mere kohein gadol to have any more control over his actions than he might maintain over ELOHIM’s actions! Pray you have sufficient control over your actions that I might learn your name?”
  Still spinning over this new rebuff, the kohein spluttered, “Yosef, my name is Yosef”
  In softer tones, Mariam now asked, “And how is it you have come to the Mikdash in this city of Yerushalayim?”
  As she spoke, she took Yosef by the arm and led him into the nearby garden where they could speak privately. Walking though the garden with Mariam on his arm, Yosef began to feel comfortably lightheaded. Although the wine had produced a certain portion of the effect, Mariam’s presence was far more responsible for his heady condition than the wine.
  Yosef explained that he was the son of Ellemus and a nephew of the acting kohein gadol Matthias. On the night before Yom Kippur, his uncle had suffered nocturnal emissions during a dream. This event made Matthias ritually impure and therefore unable to officiate in the Mikdash for the Yom Kippur ceremony. For this reason Yosef, had been selected to officiate over the ceremony. As the evening wore on and the celebration waned, Yosef and Mariam spoke of many topics, but Mariam was always careful to guide the conversation back to Yosef and his life.
  The young kohein was quite arrogant and easily led by Mariam’s soothing demeanor to talk about himself and the kohanim. From their conversation, Mariam learned much about the inner workings of the Mikdash, especially which kohein was indulging in what activity and with whom. She discovered that along with his religious training, the kohanim had also trained Yosef as a carpenter. The law stipulated only kohein could enter the Mikdash, therefore only kohanim could fill the role of construction worker. It was in his role as a carpenter that Yosef served his primary function for the kohanim, participating in the final phase of Herod’s construction of the Mikdash. His actual time serving as a kohein had therefore been quite limited. Had he been older and more experienced in political matters, he would have no doubt been far more circumspect in his approach to Mariam. The kohanim knew the world of Judea belonged to them. Among the Jews they held a power beyond kings and believed all the wealth of this world was theirs for the taking.
  Had he fully realized his power as a kohein, Yosef might well have used those powers much differently in arranging clandestine relationships with women of the community. He would have had ample opportunity for such dalliance, as his carpentry work had left him ruggedly fit in appearance. There were few young women in the community who had not cast their eyes upon the young kohein as he shouldered a heavy load while plying the less spiritual side of his trade.
Had Yosef been more experienced in such affairs, Mariam’s attitude and cleverness might have put him on his guard; he might have even passed by Mariam altogether out of a sense of danger, but Yosef was young, inexperienced and impetuous. He had never tasted love and this first taste left him driven to fully satiate his burning desire to carnally consume Mariam’s charms.
For the kohanim, the desires of the flesh were all too common. Whether it was the flesh of a woman or the flesh of a beast, theirs was an overwhelming desire to dominate and consume all. Only YHVH had the power to stop them and the kohanim spoke for YHVH.
  Although Yosef had long since been smitten by Mariam’s charms, he now became obsessed with the thought of her. He sought every means available that might chance another encounter with the beautiful hairdresser. He found excuses to visit the houses where he heard she might be found in attendance to a lady. He visited those shops where various materials used in cosmetics and perfumes were sold. He walked along the paths he knew she favored. He searched for things he thought might interest her. Finally, he visited the house of Shaphan with an excuse to examine the rugs in which the merchant dealt.
  He spared no effort in his pursuit of Mariam, for he could think of little else but her. For her part, Mariam had detected a certain tenderness in Yosef, a certain innocence that belied his initial boldness. While she had discussed the possibility of Yosef as a likely candidate with Shaphan and Peninnah, she began to have feelings for Yosef that went beyond those of duty to her mission. What had begun as a lustful desire on the part of Yosef, and cold, calculated, intent by Mariam to fulfill her mission now blossomed into a love that would lead to the most profound change in man’s history.
  The Mikdash contained three outer courtyards. The easternmost of these courts was known as the “Court of Women”, so called because women could not pass beyond this area. This court contained the Mikdash collection points for its treasury, a place where people tithed their monies. With an area of almost 200 square feet, it featured ornately carved, gold trimmed, colonnades encompassing its perimeter. Nestled against the walls of the court were thirteen chests designed to receive a sinner’s tribute. These thirteen chests were shaped like trumpets, being narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom. Each “trumpet” had the specific object of tribute inscribed on its side. Nine of these trumpets were for the receipt of what was legally due by worshippers and the other four were for voluntary gifts. Such tribute was removed daily and the corresponding number of sacrifices would then be offered. This not only saved the labor of making numerous individual sacrifices, but spared the modesty of those who might not wish to have the occasion or the circumstances of their sacrifice to be publicly known.
  It happened during the time of the evening sacrifice that Yosef spied Mariam leaving the courtyard of women. After dropping the monetary equivalent for a turtledove sin offering into Trumpet III, she was hurrying through the gate called “Beautiful” when Yosef approached her from behind to encircle her slim waist with his bronzed, muscular arms. Startled, Mariam gasped and spun around to find herself looking straight into the dark, smoking eyes of her beloved. Yosef said nothing, but put a finger to his lips and led Mariam off to a secluded area and when finally shielded from the eyes of the other sinners, he tried kissing her. Mariam fended of this amorous advance, whispering excitedly, “Yosef this is the Mikdash, we cannot be seen embracing and kissing here, you know it is forbidden!”
  Having seen her tribute, he held Mariam at a slight distance and replied to the chastisement, “My sweet turtledove, you would blush endlessly with shame if you knew what went on behind these walls. Come let me show you something”.
  Taking Mariam by the arm, he led her out of the courtyard to a door defining a passageway cut into the wall. This passageway led deep into the bowels of the Mikdash. The two lovers descended into the depths until Yosef finally stopped their progress in front of an elaborate tapestry covering the wall. The weaving in the tapestry portrayed Moses receiving the tablets from YHVH. Yosef pulled the tapestry aside to reveal another small door. Holding her by the hand, he began leading her through the opening, but Mariam hesitated. In hushed tones she pleaded, “Yosef where are you taking me, this is forbidden. You know women cannot enter into the inner sanctuaries of the Mikdash!”
  Yosef gently pressed his finger to her lips and then quickly pulled her through the opening. The dark passage was lit only by a single, small, oil lamp. First down one passage and then into another, Mariam marveled at the realization the Mikdash was a labyrinth of secret passages. She was fascinated how a small oil lamp provided just enough light to allow one to make out the end of a passageway. As the two came to yet another intersection, they heard low voices coming down the connecting passage. Yosef pulled Mariam into a small alcove in whose dark shadow the two disappeared from view. Two kohein, discussing the daily take of the offerings, passed by the adjoining corridor and then receded into the darkness. Mariam whispered vehemently, “Yosef, what are you doing? Where are you taking me? If we are caught we will be executed!”
  Yosef replied, “we are going to visit a place few humans will ever see. In fact I have only been there once myself.” I have been working in the Mikdash for years and I know these passages like the palm of my own hand. The hour is late, few kohein will be around and none will be where we are going.”
  Mariam pleaded, “Where? Where are we going Yosef?”
  “Come my beloved, I’ll show you.”
  Once again, he led Mariam by the hand of down a dark passage. The journey through the inner recesses of the Mikdash seemed to take an interminable time and she lost track of how long it took before they emerged from the dark passages to arrive at the base of a stairwell lit by a series of bronze, oil-burning torches. Again, Mariam pleaded with Yosef to tell her their destination.
  Yosef just smiled, “My love, we are going to see YHVH!”
  Urgently pulling her by the hand, the two began the long ascent up the stairwell. Reaching the top, Mariam found herself in a large foyer facing two ornately carved, massive wooden doors flanked by two pillars with similar carvings. The carvings on the door were of the various animal sacrifices of the Mikdash and a blood red sash fastened with a complex knot draped across the entrance. Mariam gasped in panic as she realized they were standing in front of the entrance of something terribly sacred. As she stood gasping in awe, Yosef undid the complex knot in the sash and then engaged an even more complex set of levers set into the doors.
  Taking a taper from within the folds of his robe, Yosef lit it from a nearby torch and began opening the ornate doors, but Mariam backed away, hissing vehemently. “Yosef you are either insane or a complete fool! If we are discovered, we will be executed; our bodies will disappear; no one will ever know what happened to us!”
  Grabbing her hand he whispered, “Perhaps my love, but know that more than one kohein gadol has sired offspring within these sacred confines. Come let me show you how YHVH lives”, and with that, he pulled her into the utter depths of blackness.
  Mariam felt disturbingly disoriented after passing through the doorway and the effect only worsened when Yosef released her hand to bring light to the blackness. Moving around the room, he reached up with his taper to light ornate, oil-fed, sconces placed at intervals along the wall. With the additional light of each lit sconce, the room increasingly came into view until Mariam finally became oriented to the new surroundings. In the soft, gently flickering light of the shielded flames, Mariam marveled at what her eyes beheld, a breathtaking amount of gold, silver and precious jewels had been used in detailing the room. It looked much like the descriptions she had heard of Heaven.
The vaulted ceiling was at least fifteen cubits high. The floor was covered with luxurious carpets, blood red in color and woven with mysterious patterns. Several plush couches, also covered in blood red fabric, were placed against the walls on either side of the room. One end of the room was covered by a veil of pure white trimmed with gold that ran from floor to ceiling; a curtain embroidered with a panorama of the heavens. The veil was woven from blue, purple, crimson and white thread, depicting fierce cherubim. It was two hundred square meters of the most valuable fabric in Judea, requiring three hundred kohanim for washing. Its purpose was separating the holy place from the most holy, to screen from view the ark of the covenant and the chariot throne.
Instantly recognizing her work in the veil, Mariam’s breath drew short. Terrible memories came flooding back at the sight of the cloth. She had only been nine years old at the time when blood from her fingers had soiled that material. She remembered how the other girls working with her looked on in terror as a kohein came up behind her with his olive branch and whipped her mercilessly for leaving those traces of blood. She remembered the long, tedious, hours spent in unweaving the entire section and then replacing it with new thread. She did not know then what she was weaving, but now she stood directly in front of the final result of her hard labor – the veil covering the Holy of Holies
  Yosef closed the doors behind him. Turning to Mariam, he grabbed her hand and like an excited child urged her on, “Come! Come my love; let me show you the marvel that lies behind the curtain!”
  Mariam snatched her hand away, “Yosef, why have you done this? You will get us both killed by this foolishness. Surely this place is guarded and just as surely a guard or a kohein will soon arrive and discover the sash undone and that will be our undoing.”
  Taking both her hands into his, Yosef looked deeply into Mariam’s eyes. “My love this is the most well guarded place in all Judea; but fear not, no guard is allowed to come through the main entry into the stairwell, let alone climb the stairs to enter here. The kohein gadol comes here but once a year on Yom Kippur pray to YHVH on Israel’s behalf. Other then that time, no one is allowed to enter. There is only one exception made when the kohein gadol has a maiden brought to this special place of immense power to sire a special son for the kohanim. Then a virginal maiden is blindfolded and brought here and after servicing the kohein gadol on one of these couches, she is escorted back blindfolded. I happen to know my uncle is not in the Mikdash, but is holding a private audience with the wife of a certain official this evening. Therefore, I know there is no chance of our being discovered. Come now, let me show you the true marvel that lies within”.
  Holding Mariam’s hand tightly, he led her around the edge of the curtain. There behind the curtain, for the first and only time in her life Mariam saw the Ark of the Covenant. It was a box constructed of acacia wood. Plating the wood was a kapporet of pure gold. Attached to this were two solid gold figures. These were the Cherubim, servants of YHVH, which knelt facing each other with bowed heads. Their outstretched wings enfolded their heads and shoulders with the tips just touching over the exact center of the Ark. On the bottom of the box were four gold rings through which two poles could be inserted so the family of Kehath could carry the ark on their shoulders. The dimensions of the box were a mere one-and-a-half, by one-and-a-half, by two-and-a-half cubits, making a total internal area of about 19 square feet.
  Mariam had never seen so much gold in her life. Looking at the gold box, she thought about the poor families she had known in the villages and how the requirement for sacrificial tribute had impoverished them to the point of starvation. She thought about the massive wanton slaughter of animals to feed the system that held this gold-plated box in the highest esteem. So intense were these thoughts, she did not even notice Yosef spreading a soft, white cloth over the couch beside them.
  As she gazed upon the golden Ark, Yosef interrupted her thoughts, “The Torah lights, the Torah shines, but only money warms”, he intoned. “It is said the Ark contains the first tablets of the Ten Commandments, broken by Moses himself. Some say the second tablets are in there as well; but what this box actually contains is the entire wealth of the Mikdash. This Ark is why the Mikdash exists! This is why the kohanim exists! The power held in this Ark is the power of the kohanim, the power of the Mikdash, the power of YHVH! For it is gold that truly rules the lives of men. That is why it is said the people who carry the Ark before them are assured of victory; they have YHVH’s wealth to fund the armies that carry them to their victory.”  
  “But what about the stories of the ark containing the broken stones on which were written the commandments; what about the hyssop branch, were these just lies?”
“My love, what better way to hide the true contents of the ark? What better way to dissuade thieves and schemers than to spread rumors the ark contains nothing but useless dross?” Who might steal a box containing nothing more than old pieces of stones, branches of a bush and dust?”
As he spoke, he gently led Mariam to a broad couch positioned directly in front of the Ark and sat her gently down upon the soft, pure, white cloth that he had spread over the velvet cushion. Yosef began kissing Mariam’s neck and while nibbling gently at her ear whispered, “it is written there is no better sex possible than that which is consummated in this place of immense sacred power”, and in the intoxicating danger that precise moment held, Mariam finally succumbed to Yosef’s advances. No longer able to restrain her own desires, she began eagerly returning his kisses. Hardly able to separate long enough to disrobe, time now faded into eternity as the two bodies merged in the contrasting rock-hard and soft yielding of coital lust. The two lovers indulged repeatedly in the mutual pleasures found in the combining of their flesh and only when fully spent, did they finally separate.
  As Mariam began donning her robes, the still naked Yosef took the bloody covering from the couch and held it to his face. Breathing deeply the scent of the virgin’s blood, Yosef shut his eyes and spun round and round in heady lust holding the bloody cloth to his nostrils. He continued spinning in ecstasy until Mariam grabbed his arm to stop him. She waited until his eyes began to focus and then, gently taking the cloth from him, carefully folded it so her blood would not show.
  Yosef stood by dumbfounded as she finished folding the cloth. Mariam quietly told Yosef to get dressed, but still he did not move. She paused momentarily to admire the hard, tanned, body sculpted to muscular perfection from years of physical labor, seeing in his body the same perfection she had once beheld in a Roman statue, spotted during her travels to Caesarea. Suddenly Yosef jolted from his daze and taking hold of her shoulders, he looked into the depths of her emerald green eyes and cried out, “my love, my dearest love, there can be no doubt that this child will truly be a son of YHVH.”
  Finally, Yosef began dressing in an almost careless manner, but after casually adjusting his robes, he began attending to the smallest detail; making sure everything was left in exactly the same order as before their arrival. Finally, with everything restored to perfect order, he opened the door and while Mariam waited without, he snuffed the sconces. The two retreated from the Holy of Holies for what would be the first, last and only time in their life. Facing the door, Yosef reset the complex latching mechanism and then refastened the red sash with its intricate knot. He had almost finished tying the knot when Mariam asked, “How is it that you know how to do these things so perfectly?”
  Yosef replied, “These are secrets of the Mikdash that certain kohanim are privileged to know. Since I served as kohein gadol for that one day of Yom Kippur, I was made privy to the secrets of entry into the Holy of Holies. It takes some time to learn how to tie the knot and how the latching mechanism works. The mechanism is quite clever in that if one is careless and works the mechanism out of sequence, it sets the lock to where it can only be opened by two kohein using special keys. My work in the construction has provided me with every detail of the labyrinth of passages running throughout the Mikdash.”
  One by one, Yosef snuffed each of the torches. First, the ones beside the doorway and then, as they descended the stairwell, he extinguished each torch in succession, leaving a long, black, trail of darkness behind. As the couple emerged into a bright, starlit night, Mariam smiled to herself in the realization she could not have chosen a better specimen as the father for her son.
  After this encounter, Yosef began pursuing a formal courtship, for he now realized that by becoming the mother of his child, Mariam had become far more than a sexual conquest to satiate his lust. In turn, Mariam’s love for the young kohein had blossomed. People began noticing that the two were seldom apart, now living in their own world that focused on each other. In time, Yosef offered his betrothal to Mariam and she consented; this however would be no ordinary marriage, but one that would echo throughout the millennium.

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