A Midrash on Leviticus 20:13
My name is Philemon ben Phalaris. I am a Jew from the town of Elasa. Jonathan is king in Jerusalem. A fortnight ago I walked out to the barn and saw my son, Baruch, and Nathan his friend, the son of my neighbor, lying together, with their nakedness uncovered.
I shook my head sadly and said, “I am sorry my son, but the Law requires that you must be stoned to death, you and your friend Nathan. Please know that I do not hate you, that I only hate your sin. Neither does God hate you, but only your sin and your evil influence in Israel.” My son looked at the floor and was silent.
I said, “You know from Scripture that this evil must be purged from Israel,” and Baruch nodded.
Baruch was a gifted young man. The favor of the Lord had been upon him from birth. My heart had swelled with pride when he read Torah in his twelfth year, the day he took his place among the men of Elasa and of Israel. He had been zealous for the Lord of the Universe, may his name be praised.
My son had always observed the commandments and the precepts of the Lord. He loved the Almighty with all his heart, soul, and strength. I was sure he would one day sit with the rabbis. In the town he was not called Baruch ben Philemon, but was greeted with smiles and with honor as Baruch of Elasa.
I summoned my wife Mary, together with my sons and my daughters, with my neighbors, and the elders and rabbis of Elasa. We took my son Baruch and our neighbor Nathan to the outskirts of town that the town might not be defiled by their blood. It took one-half hour to gather the stones, and it took one-half hour to stone the young men, although it seemed longer. I confess my arm started to hurt after a few moments, but I was doing what the Lord required. And within two days the pain in my arm went away.
Baruch’s cries and wails were difficult on my ears. I am embarrassed to say I almost stopped. But being a righteous and upright man I did as the Scripture requires. I admit, I threw most of my stones at Nathan, the son of my neighbor. You can understand that. But be sure of this: I loved my son. I still do. But I hate iniquity. We worship a holy and righteous God who requires that his people be holy, righteous, and blameless.
I am proud that my wife and my sons and my daughters helped to purge the unclean things from Israel. They are strong in the Lord, observe the Torah, and are of godly character. I was surprised that my wife came, heaving the large stones together with the other mothers. He cried out to her to stop us. I would have understood if Mary had stayed home. It would have been easier, but I am proud of her. She is a true Mother of Israel.
I have pondered this matter in my heart. I think my family has considered the matter, too. Mary rarely speaks, and has not smiled for a fortnight. My sons and my daughters are never here when I come home from the fields or from the village. I sometimes go out to the barn to look for them.
Baruch and Nathan did not flee, and I know why. They knew their blood was on their own heads, according to the Scripture.
My family is no longer greeted with smiles in Elasa, because the people of the village have seen the hand of God at work and fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. I take refuge in the word of the Lord: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” My family, indeed all of Elasa, honored the Lord God of Israel, observing his statutes and precepts, not like the gentiles, who do not know his righteous paths.
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