Simon played with a broken flowerpot while the soldiers threw gold coins at each other. In their haste, the Ptolemies had left their treasure, but they took their food. Judah’s hungry army had made a bold march across the dessert, but the irony of winning the temple and the Ptolemaic gold while they starved under siege was playing with the men’s minds. They were cackling, half mad, in a fight with useless money.
Only the miracle of the flame kept them sane. For five days it had burned, even though the Ptolemies had taken the oil with the food. So they clung to their sanity and chewed their leather. Judah had forbidden the eating of shoes, lest it come to fighting again. But sheaths and belts were quickly becoming meals. How could they outlast the siege without food?
Simon was absorbed with his pottery, rolling it along its edge, watching it teeter and fall. Such was the game for one of the few children brought along with the warriors. He was the son of Jonathon, Judah’s brother, and as part of the lineage of the Maccabean leadership he needed to learn. Still, he was too young to participate in most of the grown-up goings on.
The soldiers were called to the wall, and Simon was left in the treasure room. Idly, he began rolling coins, and tossing them into his pot. Then, as happened every hour or so, the hunger returned. He could drive it from his mind for a while, but it always came back.
He looked down at the coin in his hand. He had heard that gold was so soft you could make teeth marks in it. It seemed silly to make such a soft metal so valuable. Still, it was shiny, and the tooth-mark idea intrigued him. He gently bit the coin.
It broke apart in his mouth, and began to dissolve, filling his mouth with a rich dark sweetness. It was like butter filled with sugar, and something else he had never tasted, something like smoke and wine. It was the best thing he had ever tasted. It coursed through his body, lifting his spirits and abating his hunger. He remembered the story of the Manna.
Simon looked down at the piles of coins in the treasure room. Did all of them taste like this? He picked up one more coin and tasted it! Sweet beauty filled him again! He leapt to his feet and ran down the hall. He had to find Judah. The Maccabees were going to survive!
Editor's note: This was the program from Saturday's show. Happy Hanukkah!