1 When Yoḥanan had grown to manhood, he reappeared in the wilderness of Bethimra, proclaiming, “Change your ways, for you have fallen into error and ignorance. Return to the teachings of the Torah, interpreting them without guile, and turn your eyes towards the new light of the coming day. For One comes who will be the promised Instructor in Goodness, to establish the government of Elohim.”

2 Then the people said among themselves, “Surely this is he of whom it is written, ‘The voice of a herald will cry out from the wilderness, “Make a highway for 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄, let the swift rivers be bridged, the high mountains passed, and the rough places made smooth; for the impassable places will be crossed, and the wilderness made to flourish.” ’ ”

3 Some came to Yoḥanan from the place of his upbringing, who said, “Withdraw from the people, for they are no concern of yours. In good time, preach purification of the ruaḥ and suppression of passion; but meanwhile you are too inexperienced.”

4 Yoḥanan said, “Worthy teachers, you dress in white, proclaiming your purity, yet fear to put this to the test. Is your flesh so weak that it must be kept continually under restraint? Is the imprisoned malefactor good by his own desire, or by his circumstances? Is not the world a place of temptation so each may discover his own strength or weakness? Untested you can know neither and must always remain in a state of doubt.”

5 “The fire hidden in wood gives warmth only when released. It also provides light and is useful. But while hidden away it is of little value. A tree left growing uncut falls and rots, serving no man. So too is it with knowledge and wisdom, for only when utilized can they have any value. Goodness is not assessed only by the things done, for the things left undone are not overlooked.”

6 Yoḥanan appeared strange in the eyes of those who saw him, for he was wild-haired and large, clothed in a garment of hair as were the neḇi’im of old and bound about with a leather girdle, like Ĕliyahu. His food was locusts and bread dipped in wild honey, for he was of the Zofim who watched for the Coming of the Reign. He came to bear witness to the light which should shine in the hearts of all men. But the Yahuḏim would not heed him, for he used cleansing waters, which they did not. This, he said, signified the washing away of the causes of illusion and the impurities of life. He was a cleanser of minds and hearts.

7 There were mockers, but they were afraid to come near Yoḥanan. Yet many listened to the message and were cleansed in the River of Ḥai, providing they were wholehearted in a desire to change their ways. Yoḥanan knew some were hypocrites, and he held them long under the water, for he said they required a lot of purifying. Few men argued with Yoḥanan, though it is in the nature of Yahuḏim to argue.

8 This is how Yoḥanan testified when kohenim and learned men were sent to question him, saying, “Who are you?”

9 He said, “I am not the One you anticipate, whose coming is at hand. Is it not written, ‘I will send a forerunner to prepare the way’? I am that herald. Soon the One you seek will hasten to acquire His Reign. He will be like a refining fire, preparing you for participation.”

10 “I am one who verifies the neḇi’im of old who said, ‘Take heed, for the day comes which shall burn like a fire, when the self-satisfied and wrongdoers shall burn like stubble, so neither branch nor root of their wickedness shall be left.’ ”

11 Then some who enquired of Yoḥanan said, “If you are not the Expected One, why do you immerse?”

12 He replied, “I teach cleansing in water as a sign of repentance for the past and rebirth into another way of life. I herald the coming of someone much greater who is now born among you. He is one whose sandal bands I am unworthy to unlace. I use water, but he will immerse men in the Ruaḥ and cleanse them with disciplinary fire. He is the bearer of a winnowing fan and will thoroughly cleanse the threshing floor, gathering the wheat into the granary and burning the useless chaff.”

13 Then one said, “No good thing ever came out of the wilderness.”

14 But Yoḥanan, overhearing him, said, “Recall the days of our forefathers, when the wandering in the wilderness was over, and they came to a land where there was an abundance of milk, butter and cheese, where the sheep grew fat and corn grew plentifully, where the vine flourished and all good things for the nurture and comfort of man were found.

15 Then the people became weak in body, slothful, their minds turning to unclean things. They forsook the Ways of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 and had little respect for the teachings of the Torah. From which did they derive the most benefit – from the wilderness or from the land overflowing with good things? Pity me not for my days in the wilderness but pity yourselves who have been denied man-making experiences.”

16 Yoḥanan said, “Woe to you who have taken to the keeping of many slaves, for you, having robbed the man with a small plot of ground of his livelihood, are worse than thieves. You roll your eyes upward, saying, ‘Never would I steal a loaf of bread,’ and condemn one who steals because of his emptiness. Your stomachs are full, but your hearts are empty of goodness. Take heed of my words, for surely if any man act so he brings another to wrongdoing; even though the other be in a far distant land, he shall not be blameless in the sight of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄.”

17 “Hypocrites, you cast a piece of silver at the feet of a beggar sitting beside the Hĕyḵal and say, ‘I have done good,’ but how small the goodness compared with the wickedness done to those unseen! What of the disinherited ones, victims of your avarice? They have been driven from their homes and lie shivering in the coldness of the night, no roof protecting them from the night dampness. They huddle uncomfortably under rocks for shelter, aching stomachs denying them sleep. They rake the hard, hot ground with bony fingers and gnaw coarse roots with teeth loosened in their gums. Their mouths are dry, and sour and bitter unsatisfying leaves become an acceptable diet.”

18 “When they crave for the relief of bread, driven desperate by mouthwatering smells carried on the air, and steal some small thing, they are harried by well-fed tyrants such as the slave owners among you. Take heed of this, for it is the Torah: If a hungry man steals because of the emptiness within his stomach, the crime is not with him, but with those whose hands hold the power.”

19 Those to whom Yoḥanan spoke said, “Tell us not of these things, for we have rulers. We give to the poor outside the Hĕyḵal, but if we gave to the multitude of the poor, we would only be added to their number. Tell us about the Deliverer.”

20 Yoḥanan said, “From what do you expect the Deliverer to save you?” They said, “It is written, ‘He will deliver us from the hands of our enemies.’ ”

21 Yoḥanan said, “He will perform no mean task, but will save you from the greatest of enemies. Tell me, which presents the most danger – those who lay siege to a fortress from outside, or those within its gates, cunningly biding their time with concealed weapons? Surely it is the enemy within who is most to be feared. Therefore, I declare to you, the Deliverer comes not to fight against the enemy clamoring outside, for the silent unseen foe within is most to be feared.”

22 Many shook their heads and said quietly, “This man is mad.” Then one among those who listened said, “If he tells of the ways of Elohim, surely those ways are strange.”

23 Yoḥanan, overhearing this, said, “The ant cannot understand the ways of an eagle, nor an eagle the ways of a man. How much less can man understand the ways of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄!”

24 One standing close to Yoḥanan said, “If a man is ruled by two sovereigns, which should he obey – the one who is close, or the one who is far distant?” Yoḥanan said, “If I answered you straightly, would you follow my advice?”

25 The man replied, “Surely, for I am perplexed and would hear your words.” Yoḥanan said, “Obey the rule of the sovereign closest to you, he who reigns in your heart.”

26 Now, Yoḥanan testified concerning  𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤔𐤏 in this manner. “These are the things written in the Qodesh Books about He who will come. ‘Then shall 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 raise up a new Kohĕn ha’Gadol like no other before Him, and He will reveal Elohim in a new light to the understanding of men. He will set the feet of men on the path of rightful judgment.”

27 “He shall shine forth as the sun over the Earth, removing all darkness from it, and will arm men with the sword which brings everlasting shalom. His star will shine above like that of a sovereign, its light kindling the lamp of knowledge, enlightening men as the sun lightens the day.”

28 “He will proclaim the reign wherein the sword will be drawn against the wrongdoers, and the injustices of the poor will be redressed. There shall arise the Mashiaḥ from among you who will deliver you from your enemies.’ ”

29 Yoḥanan also said, “Already the ax is laid at the root of the vines; for was it not naḇu that every tree bearing sour fruit will be hewn down and burned? Therefore, do not be fuel for the fire, but produce the good fruits of repentance wherein lie the seeds of your deliverance. The day is not far distant when each shall be called to an accounting, some enjoying the fruits of their labor and rising into glory, while others go down into darkness and shame.”

30 There was a time when many Hĕyḵal worshippers came to gain rebirth through the cleansing waters, and Yoḥanan said to some self-righteous ones among them, “Children of the viper’s brood, what has caused you to seek escape from the fate in store for you? Produce deeds consistent with repentance and console yourselves no longer by saying, ‘We are of the seed of Aḇraham.’ I say, being of the seed of Aḇraham serves you no better than being one of those stones.”

31 When the people said, “Tell us what we should do,” Yoḥanan replied, “No man wears two coats, so let the man who has two share with the man who has none. Whoever has a store of food beyond his needs, let him do likewise.”

32 A tax gatherer asked him, “What shall I do?” Yoḥanan answered, “Exact nothing above the amount fixed for collection, and never exploit the defenseless and unlearned.”

33 Some soldiers asked him what they should do. Yoḥanan said, “Never be unnecessarily cruel or threaten to bring false charges, and make sure you always live within your earnings as soldiers.”

34 Then a captain said, “What shall I do, who must enforce commands?” Yoḥanan replied, “Make sure the commands are just, and do not extend beyond the need of the circumstances.”

35 A man of kehunnah said to Yoḥanan, “Why do you not offer incense and sacrifice?” Yoḥanan answered, “Such things are not fitting for The Most High Elohim, who is already full with all things and lacks nothing. Therefore, honor Him by giving thanks for His benefits, and let your only sacrifice be dedication to His service.”

36 A kohĕn among the crowd said to Yoḥanan, “Do you say the Elohim of our fathers is not a great Elohim?” Yoḥanan replied, “You know His requirements and whether these be worthy of a great or small Elohim.”

37 Then some cried out, “Pity him, for he is only a waif of the wilderness, having neither father nor mother.”

38 Yoḥanan answered, “Have I not said, ‘Pity me not, for the wilderness was a goodly father, making me strong and hardy’? Can I not outrun the gazelle and lift a great stone? No sickness eats my body, and I can bite through a halter line.”

39 “What of these people fattened at the tables of their fathers, like geese prepared for the banquet? They say, ‘We are the light of the land,’ but I tell you, they are an unprofitable burden. They say, ‘Give us white water to quench the fire in our stomachs,’ when every day they kindle the fire anew through their mouths. For things that pass pleasantly through the mouth often stir up strife in the belly.”

40 Yoḥanan was the beacon of the Light, the herald of the Deliverer, coming to purge the world of wrongdoing by enlightening men, showing what was right and what was wrong. For though men had the light of the Torah, many saw it only dimly or with distortion, while many interpreted the Torah to make it accord with their convenience. The true Deliverer was one who would deliver men from themselves, exposing their weaknesses, failings and hypocrisies only that they might benefit, the purpose and intent being wholly good.

41 Glory to the Supreme Elohim reigning in the shamayim above all. May shalom and plenty fill the Earth and goodwill extend to all creation. May suffering, turmoil and disaster quickly serve their purpose through the cooperation and understanding of man, so they may pass away as things no longer necessary for his upbringing.

42 Baruḵ be those who preserve these words and may those who alter them suffer for what they do.

43 The world is glorified through men whose lives are governed by dedication and duty, who completely devote themselves to carrying out the purpose ordained by 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄, using earthly conditions to this end. The desires and longings of the heart – the hopes and aspirations of men – will never go unfulfilled or be ignored by Elohim while men are willing to rise to greatness through selfless sacrifices and devotion to duty. The highest duty to which anyone can be called is service and suffering in the cause of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄.