This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice: day #7.
Reference: Tobit 7:1-17
Tobiah and Raphael (incognito as “Azariah”) arrive at their destination, and Tobiah gets hitched to Sarah! All things considered, this is a wonderfully happy chapter.
First of all, I love the way the long-separated family greets one another, even before Raguel and his wife Edna (of course) realize they’re related to the strangers. They’re full of exclamations of, “brother!” and wishes of good health. I understand that the casual “hey” is a lot more succinct, but look at this hospitality! Aren’t we sort of missing something when we give up this kind of openness to strangers?
(Exception: people in white windowless vans.)
The hospitality of the characters throughout the Bible is easy to read past, but it is so beautiful and inspiring. Someone unexpectedly rings Raguel’s (theoretical) doorbell, and after a wonderfully jovial welcome and introduction of the family, he hosts a FEAST for the strangers. A FEAST. And this was considered normal! This was standard, almost expected. What a beautiful affirmation of each and every person. While this college kid doesn’t have the time to stop and catch up with every friend I see, nor the money to throw a feast every time someone visits my apartment, I could certainly afford to enhance my greetings a bit more than a quick smile and a “what’s up.” (Notice the lack of question mark. It’s not actually a question when you say it as a greeting, which I am guilty of.) I’m not sure what that enhancement would look like. An enthusiastic smile and warm eye contact in passing, sure, but when someone visits? I should go far beyond the “Would you like something to drink?” It should be a blessing to be inconvenienced at the arrival of an unexpected guest. If my hospitality isn’t putting the other person before myself, I’m not doing it right. I’ll have to think about this. Please comment with suggestions below. What could you do to enhance your greetings?
And then the marriage! You really can’t blame Raguel’s hesitation to discuss the marriage of his daughter, nor his frankness when he explains Sarah’s history with men. He’s been around this track far too many times. I don’t know much about the ancient marriage rites of Jewish culture, but it seems to me that the man even has the rite memorized as he blesses the new couple. Goodness, that must get old.
Another interesting point: Sarah’s father presides over the wedding ceremony. Again, I don’t know much about ancient wedding practices nor how they evolved into current Jewish marital traditions, but this struck me as significant and interesting. Yes, the patriarch of the family certainly held a place of power and privilege, but I had no idea that they had the power to confer matrimony on their kin! (It’s almost scary. Like, a ticked of dad could TOTALLY use a memorized marriage rite as a punishment. “Don’t make me marry you off, young lady!!” “One more word outta you, son, and I will marry you to the neighborhood bully faster than you can say ‘Amen.’” Anyway. We’re off track.)
Reading this chapter tonight, the part that stuck me the most was the last paragraph. First of all, Raguel uses the same phrase “my love” which means literally “sister” when referring to Edna as Tobit does when talking to Anna. It’s wonderful how much authentic marital commitment and love is emphasized in this book! Secondly, the last verse strikes me. After crying over her daughter as she prepares her to receive her new husband in her bridal chamber (because she’s all grown up, or because she knows she’s about to witness another death? ), Edna instructs Sarah, “Be brave, my daughter. May the Lord of heaven grant you joy in place of your rief. Courage, my daughter.” And then she leaves (Tobit 7:17).
“Be brave, my daughter.” Man, did I need to hear these words tonight. A rough week at school and work and some significant changes in my life have left me panicky and uncertain. Notice that it’s not “be not afraid.” Instead of a negative command, the imperative is wholly positive: Be. Brave. And may God turn your tears to joy!
Thoughts? I usually ask for your thoughts and don’t get much of a response. Really—let’s chat about this stuff. What are your reflections? Things you noticed?