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Benjamin sized up the little girl. A flicker of recognition in the older man’s eyes quickly turned to ice. Stepping closer he reached down to the child and she pulled away. “Look at me, child,” he commanded with a little less animosity in his voice.
Rebekah lifted her chin and looked into her uncle’s brown, lined face. He pushed the shawl off her stringy brown hair, and for a moment the lines in his face softened and his eyes showed compassion. “You look like your mother,” he mumbled to himself. Then he stood back, cleared his throat and narrowed his eyes once more.
“You want me to take her in, is that it?”
“Yes. We have little and cannot take her as our own.”
“What is in it for my wife and me?”
“She is strong and a good worker. She is good with lambs. She can help with cooking and drawing water. I know she looks small, but she is strong and obedient. She could be a useful addition to your household. A daughter is not like having a son, but they can work.” Caleb tried to sell the idea to the shopkeeper.
“Well,” he sized up the child and scratched his bearded chin. “She could help my wife.” He stood in silence, strolled out into the street, and looked up and down at his friends and neighbors. Then, turning on his heel, he walked back to Caleb and said without emotion, “You asked around the village for me? Others know of the child?”
“We asked people so we could find you.”
With one more glance up and down the street, Benjamin saw the rabbi walking toward them. “The Torah does say that we are to care for orphans and widows. She is my dead sister’s child, no matter what else happened between us. I will take her in, but not as a member of my family.”
“Shalom. May you…”
Benjamin reached for the girl. He interrupted Caleb, “I will not pay you for her. Go back where you came from. I take her because it is my duty under the Law of Moses.”
Caleb turned to go. Benjamin pushed Rebekah toward the back of the shop. She looked over her shoulder at her father’s friend for the last time.
“Come. You must meet your mistress. You have taken up enough time. I have a business to run and customers to serve.” He spoke as if he were an important man.
Rebekah stepped through the door into a small courtyard and into a new life. She prayed silently that it would get no worse.