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The Other Man

The plane glided smoothly over the wood boards, birthing perfect curls of shavings. It would be a table fit for a king’s palace, but was crafted for the Levite who led the local synagogue. Sturdy and large enough for feasts and councils, with some adornment of abstract design along the legs and edges, consistent with the prohibition against graven images in Law, yet elegantly simple, it’s artisanry understated.

Twenty-seven year old hands, muscular, with remarkable dexterity, gripped the plane with the confidence of a skilled tradesman. They had gripped tools for nearly all of their days, and formally for fourteen years, since the hands’ owner’s apprenticeship that began after he celebrated his bar mitzvah. At twenty-one he began to cultivate his own style and clients, while still in the family shop.

If all went well, another few months would see him established sufficiently to wed his fiancée. He wondered as he whistled over his work a tune from the synagogue service, where did the fourteen year training period for crafts and trades come from? Did it originate with Father Jacob, who labored fourteen years for his two brides, a week of years for each? If so, why did one these days have to work fourteen years to just get the one wife? Not that he wanted more than one! No, no! He’d observed that one was plenty for most men. He just wished it could be seven for the one, and then get on with life.