like a flare upon her soul.

a nightmare was playing itself out before her eyes. she had been jolted from bliss to find that she was being thrust onto centre stage of the moment she had dreaded her whole life. ambushed and ripped out of the embrace of her lover, she was now being dragged through the streets of Yerushalayim; half-naked, half-weeping, and clinging to the sheet she had managed to grab in the moments before they tore her from her forbidden delights. yes, with the vengeance of lightning the thing that she feared most had suddenly become real: to be seen and to be shamed for it.

the men who had grabbed her were all worked up, noblemen and rabbis with a bitter score to settle. she could feel the heat of their rage as they brought her into the outer court of the Temple. she understood well what was to come next: only stoning – unforgiving and savage – would suffice to cleanse the community of someone as filthy as her. in any case, she had always felt so dirty inside that she was certain no one would ever truly want her. not to have as a daughter. not to trust as a friend. and, of course, never to cherish as a wife. sure, there were plenty of men in town who were more than happy to use her for a month or three. but none of them ever stayed longer than that. who would have wanted to anyway?

in the courtyard there was a man standing there when they arrived. the angry men seemed more enraged at him than at her. they threw her to the ground at his feet and challenged him to defy Moses. he was completely unmoved by their guile. instead of giving an answer, slowly he bent onto his haunches and started writing in the sand. but they continued to press him for a response. so with simple elegance he said, ‘the one who is without sin, let him throw the first stone.’

no one moved. almost instantly the clamour died. soon stones began to drop from hands. then, one by one, the group started to disperse. the older men first, then the youths. finally it was just her and him.

searching her face, his eyes were like a flare upon her soul. she was completely exposed. she tried to avert her gaze but couldn’t. for the first time in her life she was naked before a man yet without any shame. something about this rabbi was safe—so tender and safe. then looking around the courtyard he said, ‘where are your accusers?’ the question startled her. ‘does no one condemn you?’ he added. ‘no one,’ she answered. ‘neither do I. go and sin no more.’

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