I have never liked crowds, but this one is the worst I’ve ever seen: a shifting mass of bodies, jostling for space. The smell of sweat fills my nose. For the umpteenth time, I consider what I am about to do, and shudder. If I go ahead, my burden might be forever lifted. If I do not, I might…die? Either way, I’ll never be the same again.
My name is—but what does it matter? It has been long years since anyone called me by name. Mostly, they stop talking when I approach, and when they do talk, it’s in whispers. Sometimes, I’ve caught things like, “Bloody woman!” But that is rare, for I hardly see people. Or, to be precise, people hardly see me. They don’t want to.
My crime? I was guilty of the longest period ever, as far as anyone knew: twelve years. It started shortly after I was married at fifteen, after I attained womanhood, as was the custom. Our wedding was delightful, the talk of the town: my father could afford it after all, and I was his first daughter. But I had hardly got used to being married—my third month—when it started. Or rather, it wouldn’t stop. My flow had never been heavy, and it still wasn’t, but now it just wouldn’t stop. The cramps were the worst.
Initially my husband was supportive, but it wasn’t long before it started to get to him. You see, under the Torah, a woman on her period is unclean while it lasts, and for seven days after. So is anything or anyone she touches. Normally, it’s a small inconvenience, but with my unending flow, that law quickly became an unbearable weight. Seven days became seven months, and there was no end in sight. The inevitable whispers began, and spread like maggots: “She’s unclean.” I was an outcast, a leper with good skin. I couldn’t go to the market or the temple. At home the blood, unseen, drove a wedge between my husband and me: ceremonial uncleanness would be bad for business. I couldn’t cook for him, conversation became stilted, sex was out of it. Not that sex could have produced anything of course. Within a year, my husband had divorced me.
Before the divorce, my father built me a house on the outskirts of town, and I stayed there with only a couple of slaves for company. He also provides a monthly allowance for my upkeep, but that was as far as he could go, poor man. He has never come to see me. In the meantime, I have spent my time seeing all kinds of doctors. I have drunk evil-tasting potions, suffered the most agonising procedures, even had exorcisms done. I spent large sums of money. (In my desperation, I even saw a medium once, something forbidden by the Torah.) But the blood flowed on.
And then I heard of Yeshua Bar-Yosef.
My maidservant it was who told me of him, six months ago. “They say he heals all kinds of diseases!” I’d heard that before, naturally. But the girl would not rest. Soon, she started going to hear him whenever he came around, and would come to tell me of his words. One day, she angered me. She was taking my clothes to wash, and started to talk of him again, imploring me to try. I was in a foul mood, and commanded her to be quiet. She stopped talking, looked intently at me and, voice breaking with feeling, said, “Why will you not try, my lady? What do you have to lose, who have already lost all?”
I flew into a rage and beat her out of my sight. And then I went to my room and cried for hours. Anger and sorrow tore my heart apart. Anger at God and man, and sorrow for all had I lost, for all I never had. And in my ruptured heart, her question rose again: “What do you have to lose, who have already lost all?”
What indeed? It took months, but slowly the idea began to grow in my mind and to take hold of me. Slowly, hope began to stir in my heart, and with it, fear…
Now, I stand at the edge of the crowd, watching. I know Yeshua from my servant’s frequent descriptions, but I wouldn’t need them. It is obvious who the centre of attraction is. The fear roils in my heart still, but there is faith too. I believe Yeshua can heal me, but I fear what he may do when I carry out my thought. No matter. My mind is made up. Muttering a quick prayer, I pull up my veil and joined the crowd, jostling with the rest.
As I draw nearer, careful not to touch anyone with my bare hands, I hear whispers in the crowd that he is headed toward the home of Jairus, whose daughter lies dying. My heart thumps: who knows what awaits him at Jairus’ home, what may hinder him? At that moment, a space appears out of nowhere, and I see him barely five feet from me! I breathe thanks to the Almighty and plunge through, feeling the press close in behind me. Keeping my face to the ground, I grab at the fringe of his garment.
Two things happen in that instant. I feel a…how shall I describe this? This is no bodily feeling, and yet I feel it: my flow has ceased. But I can hardly rejoice, for the second thing happens: he spins around, the force of it throwing me back, onto the ground. “Who touched me?” he asks, his voice firm and clear. Terror swells in my heart. It is as I feared: my doom is about to fall. I shall be denounced forever for daring to touch a holy man in my uncleanness.
“Someone touched me,” he repeats, as though to a challenge. I do the only thing I possibly can: falling at his feet, my heart filled with an unfamiliar mixture of dread and wonder, and my voice no louder than a whisper: “It was I, my Lord. I have had a flow of blood lasting these twelve winters, and I…I heard you could heal me…and indeed, I am healed.” I falter, but go on. “I touched because I feared you would not hear me… Forgive me, my Lord. Have mercy on an unclean woman and presumptous.”
I feel a tug on my arm, and go limp with new fear. But it is his hand, and he is pulling me to my feet. And with a tenderness I have not heard in long years, he whispers: “Cheer up, daughter. It was your faith that made you whole.” I look up, and I see him smiling, a wide and generous smile. I realise I too am smiling. Then he blesses me: “Go in peace, and be whole in all things.” And he beams at me again.
“Let the Master go! Your daughter is dead.” The man is speaking to Jairus, but he spares me a withering look. I do not care, for Yeshua has smiled on me. I feel sorry for Jairus, though, and for his dear daughter. But Yeshua looks keenly at him and says, “Don’t be afraid, Jairus; just trust me.” And I know everything will be alright.
The crowd moves on, following him to Jairus’ house, but I stand there, frozen in wonder. I have longed for this day so long that I had given up hope that I would ever see it, and now it has come and I can hardly believe it. I feel like clean laundry, like a baby new born. I am whole, and no one shall call me “bloody” ever again.