The Withered Right Hand
by Ted Mason
A lonely figure stands in the middle of the assembly; nervous, downcast, his dignity long since stripped from him by the affliction he tries unsuccessfully to hide: a withered right hand.
All his life he has had to contend with abuse, discrimination and segregation because of this useless appendage, with him since a freak accident at his birth.
Cultural mores demand that only the right hand can be used to eat from the communal bowl, so he usually eats alone, or with a few, very few, special friends who have never deserted him.
His church leaders say God has punished him for some fault of his, or of his ancestors. No woman will marry him; employment is intermittent and poorly paid.
At synagogue he sits farthest from the lector's stand, almost up against the barrier separating the women from the men.
Now the young preacher from Galilee has called him to the centre.
Unwilling to obey, he has been propelled there by the hands of friends and the curious. He can sense tension in the gathering: officials stare at him disapprovingly; some are challenging the young preacher's right to bring this man forward; there is talk of desecration of the Sabbath; the men behind him are murmuring amongst themselves; he can even hear sounds from the women's section.
Above the noise, he hears the young Galilean ask him to raise his hand; he does so, exposing his affliction for all to see.
Whether it was the words said or the gentle touch of the preacher he does not know, but somehow life seems to flow down his arm into the once useless wrist and fingers.
He can move them, he can feel them; he touches his face with them to wipe away the tears flowing down his face.
Violent arguments break out among the men; women can be heard wailing; visiting officials are demanding some action against the preacher.
Ignored by all, he moves outside in time to see the Galilean also quietly moving away with his followers.
The uproar continues today, whenever and wherever our "withered right hands" are restored to life by breaking the rules.