Censer Priest

priest indeed! Perhaps the rabbinic fools were right.

The time had come once again for his division, the Division of Abijah, to care for the priestly services of the Temple. The lot is taken to select the Censer-priest whose duty is to burn incense on the altar in the Temple of God. Once, the altar stood before the Veil in the Temple of God. No more, not in these days in Herod’s Temple. The altar did not stand even in the Holy Place. Different times; nothing stayed the same. Incense, supposedly, symbolized the prayers of the nation to God. Indeed, the Censer-priest came to offer such prayers. Two relatives assisted him, one to remove what remained of the previous day’s sacrifice, the other to rearrange the live coals on the altar of incense. Zechariah had long since laid aside any expectations. Too often he had wondered why God had granted him life. Why live, especially as a priest, when one is not allowed to serve? Why live when your life would end, leaving no son, no purpose? Why live at all?

Once, he looked forward to the lot, hoping to be chosen, wishing to be chosen, living for the day when he would be chosen. Not anymore. Today, as in recent years, he thought it all tedious, a wearisome, vexing bother. He was too old to bother, too

decrepit to care. His knees ached. There were shooting pains in his hip. He wearied with life. There was no thought, no expectation at all that he would be chosen.

Hence, on this day he was.

At first, the realization that it had happened amused him. Well, he thought, the old man finally gets his day. He thought it not unlike eulogies at funerals. Since you are dead, how can you enjoy them? He was less than impressed.

When the reality of his doing the services of Censer-priest began to seep into the cisterns of his self-esteem, tired cynicism yielded to childlike joy opening the dawn of a percipient day. Like the taste of exquisite wine, he rolled it around in his brain, letting it bring to life the calloused taste buds of jaded emotions. He allowed himself to enjoy the inebriation—at least, partially. The other pain, that at his age he would never see a son, he did not think about, at least not today. It was pleasant and perhaps more significant, after a manner of speaking, to be chosen when you are old. Could it be an endorsement of his years? The rationalization amused him; perhaps all had not been a waste. For now, he would humbly serve. This provided him a semblance of peace.


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