Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #117, Drop-Dead Amazing

Dance of Death; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, from the Nuremberg Chronicle, Library of Congress edition, p600, in the public domain.
Dance of Death; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, from the Nuremberg Chronicle, Library of Congress edition, p600, in the public domain.
In this episode the tour is a sensation, knockin’ ‘em dead in Iberia.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Seventeenth Era, Part 5, ~1347, around Europe
Tales of the End Days

So the Angel of Death is makin’ me God, to roll a dice and tumble worlds. But the *God I learnt of don’t play dice*, and me, I ain’t no God at all. Bound up, I were, and couldn’t decide what to do to heal this world and end this plague and free myself from his grindin’ teeth and jagged claws.
*-* Later, Einstein will say that.
“Make your move or *I’ll kill them all and let God sort it out*.”
“**Justice, justice you shall pursue**,”
I’m thinkin’, so I take a chance:
“The king of the age will make a decree: on pain of death bribes are forbidden. Them as offer and them as receive will both suffer their hands cut off, and hot lead poured into their ears.”
*-* a phrase made famous during the Vietnam war;
**–** Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:20
He looks at me with a pleased smile.
“How will that king enforce the decree?”
“He’ll send his agents to every court to observe the judge and assess each case.”
“But bribes will just get more concealed.”
“Put three judges on every case! And the judges must all be kept separate.”
“Where will he find so many judges?”
“The king will fund new schools of law.”
He nods, then drives a different wedge.
“If justice spreads, then cases increase. Vassals will begin to challenge their lords, and peasants will demand the right to move, and cases will come against the church — boys battered, boys abused, lands usurped from powerful lords. Conflict will spread across the lands. And now the wealthy and powerful lords might start to openly challenge the king, and the Pope might declare that Vatican law supersedes the law of the land.”
And soon, like Samson, I were caught and bound, and Death made sport with me, til one last move and pillar and wall come down on my head in a massive heap, and Barcelona’s churches were filled with open pits for the ravenous plague.
All delighted and chatty now Death congratulates my moves.
“That’s the Royal Open you played — king or pope leadin’ the charge. But thrustin’ your royals into the fray puts too much weight onto your pawns, and almost always ends in collapse. But you played it well; better than most, using justice to rally your men. Much better than money. Money corrupts and always oozes with thick deceit.”
And sayin’ that he deflates my next game, which I thought to start by promotin’ trade. Perhaps that’s a move for the middle game.
To Valencia now, then on to Provence. Such lovely memories fill my mind — lavender fields and rosy-cheeked girls, the fragrance of bakin’ bread in the air — now twisted bodies lay in the streets and the greasy smoke of the burning dead clots in our nostrils and paints our cheeks; a mask of horror that the living wear. And Death, he bustles from graveyard to church, inspirin’ the troupes to music and dance, as if the death dance would ward off the plague.
“New game! Here’s my opening move…. A small landowner falls in love with a peasant girl, and so he decides to turn his fields into a free estate; everyone equal, like Israel’s tribes, or like brothers live in a monastery, so everyone shares the land and the work, and the harvest is distributed equally. And he names a counsel, him and nine more, to make decisions and judge disputes, and every year three new men replace three of the counsel seats. Now see how everyone works so hard, shares alike the good and the bad, and is given a voice and given respect.”
And Death, he remarks with a wrinkled brow,
“Aaah. You’re playin’ the Essene* move. And after ten thousand years or so all of Europe will copy them, and join hands and dance and sing and praise the Lor as one and all. But just as likely, in a year or so, envy will grip the neighboring lords, who will raid that estate and enslave them all.”
* Jewish sect, ascetic, communal, egalitarian (for men), before and during the Roman occupation.
“But in the same way, the word can spread, and one by one the discontent, and them that suffer onerous lords will make their way to join this farm. And now inspired and now made brave, they fearlessly fight to defend themselves, more than any maraudin’ band. And now the farm earns a name, and word is spreadin’ rapidly.”
“Indeed! And now the king hears, and will he tolerate usurpation?”
“But nay, this be a wise king, and he seen how this farm improves his reign: productive, happy, loyal they be. And now craftsmen in nearby towns join together as the farmers have, increasin’ the goods that they produce, and now the monthly market days become the greatest fair in the land, and others see and imitate.”
Now Death goes squirmy and bites his lip, assessin’ the board and the stronghold I built. Maybe he never seen such a play. Maybe he’s thinkin’ it’s time to concede as he nods his head in a frown, and says,
“Aye. The king grows tolerant seein’ the local prosperity. And he’s pleased to see all his other lords be chafin’ and grumblin’ and restive at court. And kings in neighborin’ lands all in arms and the news carries rebellious tones, and many a prince gives harsh response to his peasants who have fled their masters’ lands or fomented riots, demandin’ change; and the church be watching, mighty askance, as them freed men walk with a prouder gait and talk to their betters all self-assured — not by the church, but by their own hand and their own hard work does goodness arise. And now comes a summer of bitter drought and the harvest fails and the churchmen rail, blamin’ the drought on the sin of pride. Then a winter of vicious cold comes on, and the priests redouble their accusin’ reproaches, and old pharaoh dies and a new one arises and the grumblin’ princes gain his ear. And neither have I touched on the inner foment that stretches and strains and finally rends a land that weakens king and law, and unleashes men to be equal and free. Men are oxen, inclined to gore and must be put in a heavy yoke. You’re full of dreams… but of course. You’re a Jew.”
I try to argue his lines of attack on my cooperative communities, but my fortress collapses under the weight of his stress on human contentiousness.
Oh, we put on a right-fine show in Alsace, thunder and lightning, song and dance, costumes that terrifies every child, drop-dead amazin’ blood and guts.
In the next episode it’s rock and roll in merry England and the dour German principalities.
About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: I live just outside Washington, DC with my bashert, and we have two remarkable sons. Those three light my life.
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