Mutter (German). Mère (French). Majka (Serbian). Mat’ (Russian). Madre (Spanish). And in Hebrew: Imma. In any language, mothers are special. They are who we run to whenever we are in trouble. Even Bezalel.
Bezalel considered his choices as he hiked home. He knew severe punishment awaited any slave who ran away, but he could not leave Ahmose behind. A seven-year-old could not have done anything to deserve such a beating. From anyone.
Ahmose was asleep by the time Bezalel stepped inside his house. He hated to wake him up, but he knew his back must be tended to.
Imma came out to the main room from the kitchen beyond it, towel in hand, and her eyes opened wide when she saw the boy on Bezalel’s back.
“This is Ahmose, a servant at the palace.”
“Why on earth would you bring him here? He’s an Egyptian!”
“He’s a little boy, Imma.” Bezalel set him down on the low table and showed her Ahmose’s back.
Imma gasped. “Oh, my! Who did that?”
“I don’t know. But I intend to find out. In the meantime, I hoped he could stay here.”
“Of course he’ll stay here.” Imma headed to the kitchen. “I’ll get some oil.”
Bezalel sat on the floor near the table. His mother returned with oil, honey, and cool, wet cloths and knelt across from him. Ahmose curled up on Bezalel’s lap, his chest to Bezalel’s, his face buried and his arms tight around Bezalel’s neck as Imma tended his wounds. The scents of honey and oil melded and soothed Bezalel’s frayed nerves as much as Ahmose’s back. Occasionally, Imma would hurt him as she removed the dried blood to get to the wound below. He did not cry out, but held more tightly to Bezalel, who marveled at how Imma’s motherly instincts seemed to have overtaken her fear.
“Hush, habibi. We are done. Now it’s time for you to go to sleep.” Bezalel stroked the boy’s hair.
“Have you eaten?” Imma asked him in Egyptian.
“I’ll take him upstairs, then.” Imma took his hand.
Bezalel followed Imma up to the roof.
Ahmose winced as he lay face down on the sleeping mat.
Imma left Ahmose’s shirt off so that the breezes might cool his back and help ease the pain. She sat next to the exhausted little boy and tenderly rubbed more oil and honey on his back.
She stroked his straight, coal-black hair and gazed at him as he slept.
Bezalel watched his mother’s face as she tended to the abandoned child, and knew the old pain flooded her once again. It was not fair that this little boy should be so unloved and unwanted when she had more than enough love for ten children, but only one on which to bestow it. She blinked back a tear.
“El Shaddai has His ways, however difficult they may be for us to understand,” she whispered to the child. “I pray He will watch out for you, habibi, because surely no one else is.” She stroked his battered back once more, leaned over and kissed his cheek, and left him to the care of El Shaddai for the night.