Tales from the Old New Land – Tale 1

To Whom it May Concern, I hope this letter comes to Haran, may he be blessed with bulls potent and cows fecund, if not Haran then Betuel, may he be blessed with dirt and not sand, and if not Betuel then Lavan, whom I remember only as a little pischer but I’m sure has grown into a righteous and honest man – may he too be blessed with cows and dirt and slaves cooperative.

As Avraham’s healer, chamberlain, taskmaster, and scribe, tidings of the evil eye fall to me. It is my disconsolate responsibility to inform you that the cursed fate Abba  Terakh predicted for Brider Avraham rose to the breath of life. You always knew his inclination to see invisible things, and wisely exiled Brider Avraham to carry on his meshuggas to a far off land. I’ve done everything to lead him back to the better yetzers of our nature, but his vision of an invisible silent god is more vivid than dwellers of his house. Year by year, the god is less silent, and he converses with it every day for half a century.

We told ourselves it seemed benign and pretended to believe everything he saw. We sacrifice three times a year to Avraham’s god in whom we don’t believe, we pray to a god we can’t see every Saturday morning, we give money for this place Avraham screams about called the State of Israel, and send our children to Hebrew school every Sunday, where all they do is play sports.

It was all relatively satisfactory until last week when the invisible god commanded Avraham to kill little Yitzhak, burn his body, and eat his remains. Such a shandeh! Everybody loved little “Tzakhi”, though he was 37 and four cubits tall so really he wasn’t so little anymore. And look, I know that this isn’t actually weird. Everybody sacrifices their children, but for Avraham, this is really weird because, as I’m sure you remember, he was the bokher who made enemies by screaming that nobody should sacrifice their children, and it’s one thing to get rid of them when they’re two or three, but when they’re 37 you should probably leave them alone. Anyway, everybody liked Tzachi, and even Avraham must have known we’d stop him if we heard about the voice’s commandment, but everybody saw that Avraham was peculiarly verklempt, even for our beloved meshuggener may he be blessed with a hole in the head that balances against the one already there.

I trust Haran and Betuel you are as alright with my saying this about Avraham as you were when we left, since Nakhor promised that it was imperative I speak my mind to Avraham so he remembers which world is the real world. For sixty-two years, I’ve been Avraham’s most faithful bondsman, exactly as I swore in blood to you both and Nakhor Z’’L. I’ve taken every eruption from the god of anger, every attack from the god of fear, every fistblow and whiplash from that amoretz with smiles. Every time he heard ‘The Voice’ I pretended the voice was real as though he were still in thrall to the voice which commanded him to kill Nakhor for denying the god of Avraham.

The problem with all this is that Tzachi’s mother really loved him. After we left Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised, she spent the next twenty-five years trying to have a child and watched as all those concubines Avraham geshtupped got pregnant – and in all fairness, most of them were the maidlakh you introduced him to before we left and his children are all still alive and have kinder and grandchildren of their own that Sarah had to watch every day. Sarah knew that the problem was her rather than Avraham and understandably loved the son she thought she’d never have. Well, when Sarah heard that Avraham killed their son, she died on the spot. Who can blame her? That son was a lot of work, and not just for her!

It’s about thirty-eight years since you got that letter from Avraham, saying that three angels came to him to announce Sarah would be great with child. Let me tell you, they were no angels. They were Canaanite healers I sent for to examine Sarah. The problem was exactly as I thought – that special diet Avraham’s a zealot about for which none of us eat shellfish or pork or most parts of the animal. The healers came for six weeks and I explained that Avraham was a little fertummelt, so just go along with whatever he says. Avraham asked almost immediately if they were angels. They looked at me and I could only shrug, so they said yes, and then they were angels! Nu, and when they wanted a little butter to go with their meat, would Avraham say no?

Two of them distracted Avraham during the day and insisted he ate oranges and pomegranates by the mina. They served him tea from the East they called ‘ginseng, but while Sarah would bring them those stupid ‘ashcakes’ she’s always made – and we wonder why she’s so thin…, the healers cooked Sarah a multitude of special meals. They fed her boiled octopus and fish eggs, pig liver and testicles. At first, the gross novelties disgusted Sarah, so they were ground into powder and served in potion; and while Avraham ate the good cuts of the veal and lamb, they gave her heart and kidney. They sawed the bones of animals to get blood from inside and and put the special blood in a stew, they even made broth from shellfish. Every night they told Sarah to go to Avraham so he’d schtup her while wearing damp wool boiled in ass’s milk. As I’m sure you remember, Sarah was zeyer sheyn, but for decades after the exile, she barely ate. She told me she never ate because she hated Avraham’s diet, but once she started eating the healer’s food, she declared it the best she’d eaten in forty years! Three weeks later she looked much healthier and was pregnant.

Anyhow, that’s almost forty years ago. It’s been more than sixty years since you banished Avraham and we his servants laid eyes upon our beloved mudbricks and tombs and cuneiform documents. All of us long to return and eagerly await the day Brider Avraham embarks on his journey to Nergal. ‘Next year in Ur’ we all chant in secret, and now more than ever await our second coming to Ur, An & Enlil and Enki be praised.

Nevertheless, Brider Avraham’s seykhel seems farther away than ever. After Sarah dropped dead, he too dropped to the ground. We thought he also was dead. I’m ashamed to say we slightly rejoiced as we believed our deliverance at hand, but Avraham returned to us, yet when he came back, he was still less Avraham. Divine Nergal took an entire side of his body. He neither can walk nor ride and only speaks from the side of his mouth. He barely tries to speak now, believing he misheard the invisible god and is justly punished for killing, burning and eating his son.

Anyway, sorry this letter is so long but the reason it’s necessary is to propose an idea and offer an urgent plea to security. In addition to physical maladies Nergal inflicted, Nergal took from Avraham his short-term memory. It is only a matter of time before all memory of the sacrifice is no more. In a few months, even were we to tell him he killed Yitzhak, he would forget in 10 regas.

It is only a matter of time before Canaanites discover Yitzhak’s death and Avraham’s dementia. We currently are leaderless. We long to return to Ur, but know so long as Avraham is alive, we are banished; and therefore are dead men whether we stay or go, kibbitzing in the Judean Desert, incapable of agreeing upon a war leader, or even organizing for battle.

It’s been more than half a century since Sarah entreated Brider Avraham to banish Yishmael and Hagar from our tents and I secretly packed them to Ur to live as servants in the House of Terakh. I realize that Yishmael was just a kint at the time, but he was a divine image of his father, just as Yitzhak was the same image until our divinely inspired nudnik put him to death. Avraham’s seed is self-evidently as strong as his brain feeble, and if the physical resemblance continued, Yishmael must still look exactly the divine image of both Avraham and Yitzhak.

Please. I ask, I beg the House of Terakh to send Yishmael and Hagar back to Khevron, where I believe Avraham will immediately recognize Yishmael not as Yishmael, whom he has not seen in a generation, but as Yitzhak. We then may marry Hagar to Avraham as perhaps she long should have been. Though everyone will recognize Yishmael and Hagar, they will be known around Canaan as Yitzhak and Brider Avraham’s second wife. We can even give her a pseudonym.

Your most devoted servant who prays East every day for his return,
Eliezer

PS: The two servants with Avraham at the sacrifice, Paebel and Keret, ran away from the site the moment they bound “Tzachi” and immediately warned of everything. They are the bondsmen who come to you with this letter, both illiterate as a pillar of salt. They do know nothing of its contents, but it is vitally important you kill them both the moment you finish this letter. They’ll understand.

————-

Lavan son of Betuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor
House of Terakh Global Partnerships
10 Gilgamesh Dr.
Ur, Sumeria, 324

9th of Seventh Month, Iddin-Dagan Year 8

Eliezer Master Slave Representative
Cc. Avram (Abram, Abraham’s pagan name) son of Terakh
House of Avraham
18 Noah Way
Hebron, Canaan, 613

Dear Eliezer,

It has been long since we received any word from House of Avraham, and while we regret the nature of its tidings we thank you for the update. We here at House Terakh are a bit confused by your insistence on Hagar and Yishmael’s return considering how eager once you were to be rid of them, but seeing its necessity, we here at House Terakh agree to this proposition and hereby grant you their immediate use. Nevertheless, for any further business ventures with House Avraham we require remuneration of ten camels and a basket each’s worth of silver, gold, and raiment. Included here is an outstanding bill of payment, which we send via Paebel and Keret. We regret we cannot comply with your request for their deaths. Were we to kill bondsmen from House Avraham, it would prove in Hammurabian court that we have knowledge of Avram’s whereabouts. You may of course do with your own bondsmen as you like, but we demand upon pain of further exile that you immediately burn this message upon receipt.

Furthermore, we here at House Terah regret that due to the nature of Avram’s malady and recent actions, the matter of his bondsmen’s return to Ur and Sumer must be delayed for a further generation until Yishmael’s death. House Terah feels it imperative that we establish plausibility that Yishmael is in fact Yitzhak, birthrighted son of House Avraham and that the return of Avram’s bondsmen do not portend the return of Avram himself.

Regards,
Lavan son of Betuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nakhor

—————————————————–

Dear Laban,

Many thanks for the return of Yishmael and Hagar, Abraham received them exactly as we hoped. Since Avraham’s god prohibits Saturday weddings, the wedding of Avraham to Hagar, renamed Keturah, began last Sunday and will, as usual, continue to the end of the month. It’s a Hittite neighborhood and half the guests are our neighbors, all of whom RSVP’d yes. Sadly, Amorites never responded and the Amalekites sent a very blunt RSVP I thought rather rude. On the other hand, the Jevusites sent a very nice, apologetic note and included a present from Melkizedek their king. While the King of Gerar, Avimelekh, said he’d like to make a visit to Avraham! Sadly, showing Avraham in his current state to a great king carries the danger of a terrible affront so I wrote him it wasn’t necessary. As there’s no way to hide it from them, the Hittites know entirely of Avraham’s state, but since we are currently allies, their leaders and bondsmen have all pledged on blood oath to keep our secret. Doubtless some Hittite will break it, but I trust by then Avraham will pass on. They have not, fortunately, learned nor guessed at Yitzhak’s replacement by Yishmael.

I should, regretfully, mention that I must supervise the journey after the wedding to deliver your demanded payment. I’m sure you understand that no other bondsman can be trusted to supervise so large a payment, and this is surely sufficient reason to grant brief clemency to violating terms of exile.

Nevertheless, please forgive me for such chutzpah, but since you informed us simultaneously that our return to Ur is postponed as we feared yet another generation, An & Enlil and Enki be praised, the payment you charge is really too expensive. Our positions would never be reversed, but I’m sure you’d agree that in the impossible occurrence they were, you’d find that price an unacceptably high rate for a bondmistress and bastard; particularly if the mamser is about to become legitimate. You can be assured Yishmael/Yitzhak will be an extremely solicitous and remunerative business partner for his former masters and guardians.

We the House of Avraham realize you’ve done us a true mitzvah to which our very lives are in remand. Nevertheless, I have another idea which may be to your liking and justify the expense of our purchase, please endow it with fair hearing.

Your grandfather recalls, no doubt, that horrific moment from Avraham’s adolescence when he cut the foreskin from his own person. He has, in fact, long since performed this appalling ‘ritual’ upon all his bondsmen. He claims it a sign of commitment to his god, and has even performed the ritual upon all our male infants when they reach eight days. I suppose we would rather this barbarity performed on our children while they’re too young to remember, but the one person in the entirety of Avraham’s house spared the ritual was myself, who’d esteemed himself so essential and loyal that Avraham felt no need to bond me through the atrocity he calls ‘covenant.’

Unluckily, one of his last ‘visions’ before the sacrifice of Isaac was that I too must be ‘covenanted.’ No matter my protestations, he otherwise did not trust me to pick a wife for Yitzhak/Yishmael. Avraham swore me on pain of his unorthodox and tortuous procedure that I shall not procure a Canaanite bride and only allow his son a bride from Avraham’s own family.

By the second marriage of Avraham, this matter attains further significance, as there is already much talk among the Hittites about how Yitzhak suddenly looks fifty years aged from his former appearance. My fellow bondsmen heard it suspected that Yitzhak may be ill. Seeing that Yitzhak has not married nor produced an heir, this could be cause for substantial Hittite unrest.

I told Avraham to forestall procurement of his son’s wife many times in the hope that I could either convince Avraham to allow his son a Canaanite wife or that our financial portfolio would make Yitzhak a more attractive prospect to your house. But now that Avraham is eyver bottel, it doesn’t matter to whom he is married as much.

Nevertheless, if we’re already sending you ten camels along with baskets of gold, silver, and raiment, I have an idea to everyone’s benefit. Yishmael told me you have a comely daughter of virtue true, Rivka – roughly contemporary to Yitzhak, may his memory be a blessing, and though she is forty still not married. It’s obviously not my business to know why she never married, but Yishmael, “Yitzhak Jr.” even though he’s fifty years older, is very eager to do whatever I tell him to prove himself a worthy heir, but it strikes me that after many years living in House Terakh together, she and Yishmael must know each other quite well. Since we’re already paying well over a marriage dowry rate, surely it wouldn’t be much to ask we include a marriage between our houses. As Rivka would come live with us, it would in no way violate the terms of stipulated exile.

Please just think the matter over. I will arrive in six months’ time and no matter your decision I hope you will forgive me mention of the matter for further discussion when I arrive.

Looking forward to our visit to sacred Ur with greatest possible anticipation: An & Enlil and Enki be praised,

Eliezer

——–

So many thanks, all due gratitude, and no praise high enough unto you and the House of Terakh for the most wonderful visit to Ur: An & Enlil and Enki be praised. There is no higher happiness than to lay eyes once again upon our beloved hieroglyphics, wheels, calendars, and soap. I can only wish my fellow bondsmen in the House of Avraham derive the same nakhes.

We’re so grateful to you for every service rendered, and in sending this letter, we want to repay the debt by notifying you of a small favor we performed. When meeting Rivka for the first time at your well, we knew her character was sterling when Rivka generously gave up her daily water allotment to us and also to our camels, but Paebel and Keret could not help but notice that there were a number of holes in your well that allow water to leak out into the sand. I hope you forgive us for meddling but all it took was a little bit of mud, grass, and reeds to apply some caulk to the holes. They finished the job in less than an hour. You should find your water retention rate much higher in the future and it is therefore all the more regretful that I had to put them to death at the end of our trip.

Your most devoted servant who will give thanks every day to the East for his brief return: An & Enlil and Enki be praised,

Eliezer

About the Author
Evan Tucker, alias A C Charlap, is a writer and musician residing in Baltimore. He is currently composing music for all 150 Biblical Tehillim. A Jewish Music Apollo Project - because "They have Messiah, we have I Have a Little Dreidel." He is currently on #17. https://evantucker.bandcamp.com/ Evan also has a podcast called 'It's Not Even Past - A History of the Distant Present' which is a way of relating current events to history and history to current events. https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/itsnotevenpast Most importantly, he is also currently working on a podcast called Tales from the Old New Land, fictional stories from the whole of Jewish History. The podcast is currently being retooled, but it will return.
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