Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #120, Gilgul, 1

Exodus 32:13 image created by the author, with NASA public domain sky image
Exodus 32:13 image created by the author, with NASA public domain sky image
In this episode, spirits interweave…

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Eighteenth Era, Part 1, ~1380 CE, lost
The C14 Bottleneck

And now, behold, my eyes seem clear. Or be I deluded once again? I rise from my bed like arisen from the dead, and there’s Batkol squatin’ in the dirt, tendin’ the garden by the cottage door. I picks up a quill and continue my work on a Torah scroll it seems I forgot, a scroll commissioned by a wealthy rav, the rosh* of a large kehillah** in Prague. I pick up the quill and read the verse, the verse where I left off my work, but the letters dance and twirl and flair, transformin’ themselves in fiery tongues, as if I be hearin’ them cryin’ out, anguish on the wind, angelic songs, their faces morphin’ in sped-up time.
* Hebrew: head, leader; ** Hebrew: community
For a moment I seen one verse on the page, then flash and revelation, time and again. These I remember, book and verse: *Noakh, Viyerah, Ki Tisa, Sh’mini, Korakh, Va’Yelekh too.*
*-* These are names of Torah portions, and these the specific verses referenced:
      Berraysheet/Gen. 6:7 and 18:21; Shmote/Ex. 32:10; Viyekra/Lev. 10:2; 
      Bemidbar/Num. 16:20; Dvarim/Deut. 31:17
Them verses all said the same thing:
“My devouring angers are blaze forth…”
and terror struck; I understood: the Lor is blazin’ His wrath at us. And what can remain when Hem fires consume? The world is altar, our souls the Olah*.
* a type of sacrifice entirely consumed by fire; translated into Greek as ‘holocaust’
But then, like the fire had burnt itself out, the letters again become ink on the page:
“Why let Your wrath blaze down on Your folk?”
And I know this verse — that same Ki Tisa that I seen for a moment, but the *next verse*, and now I know how to carry on:
*-* that is, Shmote/Ex. 32:11
“You delivered us from Egypt land, great of power, a mighty hand… to make Israel Your heavenly stars.”
And writing this, I lay down my quill and says to Batkol,
“It’s time to rise up. Futurity is lain in our hands.”

Eighteenth Era, Part 2, 1389 C.E., Prague

Lost in a world the size of a field, no thoughts of wonder or compass or map, still we set out to find a way to Prague to deliver the scroll I’d written. Tho I can’t remember the rav’s name, I’m sure when I find the synagogue, plenty of people will know him well.
Caught like a leaf in a whirlpool, and all unknowin’ our steps repeat as we weave thru this klipah*; such our plight. Yet somehow we come to that haven for Jews, that Prague, late winter, 1389; 5149 be the Jewish date.
* Kabbalistic term: dark shell enclosing this world; but also: this cosmic era
We quickly find many small minyans and the great meeting house, the Stari Synagogue. It seems the remnant of Jewish life was not extinguished by polemic and hate, or that God abandoned His vineyard and vine. The Jewish streets are all bustle and bake, as the feast of Purim is tomorrow night.
Batkol went out to find us a bed, while I gone searchin’ for the rav and dayan* to present him his Torah, whoever he may be, and collect my pay so we won’t have to beg. But, I ain’t never seen this Stari Synagogue, which, grand as it is, I wouldn’t have forgot, so I traipse from minyan to minyan all day, and nary a person has a name for me, ‘cept the same two ravs, the only ones who have the kreplakh** to commission a scroll.
* judge; ** local slang for ‘money’
It’s just about Minchah* when I finally find the first of the two, Yom Tov Muehlhausen. I don’t recognize him, nor he me, and terse, he says he’s the *shaliach tzibbur* and rushes off with nary a **’yom tov’**. I follow him to the synagogue, which is where Batkol and me had planned to meet after Maariv**. During prayers an elder and gaunt and fastidious man sits down beside me. Who can this be?
* afternoon prayers, often done just before sunset; *-* prayer leader;
**-** Hebrew: good day; ** evening prayers, done just after sunset
“Rav Yom Tov there, sent me to you. He said a gilgul* spirit came to you and asked you to scribe a Torah for him. I’ve met a few of these wandering spirits. I suspect your scroll bears their mark. Can I see your scroll?”
* Kabbalistic term for transmigration; in this usage: transmigratory
After Aleinu* I find Batkol. With him in tow we walk into the night. Our room ain’t far, down a crowded lane to a ruinous shack, a house of wonders — that so many children can be contained and still run amok. Our escort takes just one look and says,
“I’ll see you tomorrow at the study house next to the Stari, after Shakhrit**.”
And before I can answer, he disappears.
** concluding prayers; *** morning prayers
In the next episode, where does fact end and fiction begin?
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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