Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #123, Zhids

The execution of Jan Hus, image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Jan Hus 1485-Spiezer Chronik, in the public domain.
The execution of Jan Hus, image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Jan Hus 1485-Spiezer Chronik, in the public domain.
In this episode, the evil serpents that grow in the standing waters of the mind.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Eighteenth Era, Part 2, 1389 C.E., Prague

Rav Kara might have thought he were Samson reborn, but the Philistine pillars he undermined fell on the Jews, not Prague’s philistines, not once but twice in those evil days. Hear the sorrows my own eyes seen.
To compile his thoughts and write the book Avigdor decided we had to leave the *zhidovski mesto*. Not far away his uncle managed a roadhouse inn. In two wagons his wife and him and me and Batkol and his three kids and food and drink and clothes and books and rumble and rattle, we giggled and squealed, sang and prayed our way down the road. Who could have known that a moon from then, while the children rumpused around in rooms and milked the goats and played in the fields, and the women went shoppin’ for food and cooked and cleaned the inn and kept accounts, and me and Avi wrote and revised, and I began to scribe his book, that Easter would bring its passion to Jews, passionate hate, passionate lies accusin’ us of attackin’ a priest and desecrating the wafer-host; that a mob would rise up to pillage and rape and before they were sated a thousand Jews would be stabbed and hacked and burned to death, the rest plundered and terrorized.
*-* Czech: Jew’s town in Prague; ‘zhid’: Jew
While the flames still burned and screams still rose, pale and breathless messengers beat on our door and wailed their plight, and with empty hands and gapin’ mouths we abandoned the women and children and work and rushed to help and comfort the folk. But we were not even able to bury the dead. In a raging fire their bodies were burned by this town that valued wafers more than human life, if it be a Jew’s.
A single shiva* for the whole town met each morning, noon, and night at the Stari Synagogue, and a month long fast in daylight hours; at night we ate bread of affliction and little else. This our Passover. The Angel of Hate passed over Egypt and slew us Jews.
* formal ritual, mourning the dead for 7 days
Maybe them urgeists Avigdor exposed got roused and riled, and rioted out just to let him know he been pokin’ about in snake pits and cesspools best left alone. But probably them demons don’t give a damn what we Jews think or say or do. Like a wolf in a zoo, always testin’ it’s cage, the boards, the gate, to find a way out, ever ready to break loose and rage til he be re-noosed and whipped and beat back into his cage to brood on his fate.
But a decade later Avigdor’s friend, Yom Tov went out with a stick in his hand and smacked a low hangin’ hornets nest, and a lot of people got stung real bad. He wrote some book that boldly chided Christian distortions of our Hebrew texts, which some apikores* heard about and denounced him to the bishop here. Him and eighty more were jailed. Before a court of hangin’ priests, Rav Yom Tov refuted most eloquently his accuser, and so saved his own life. As for the other 80 Jews, they burnt for his blunt honesty.
* non-observing, skeptic Jew or Jew who converts; derived from the philosopher Epicurus’s name
These been grim and dangerous times in Bohemia, and yet we Jews sunk our roots in the crusty earth, and tho our lives been crusty, the same, we earned a certain nobility among these folks, especially them that were discerning and were learned in books.
At that time as the Catholic Church began to fracture, and the cracks grew deep, and many a reformer seen in us Jews an alternative where authority weren’t concentrated in one man, and that things of this world could not become idols and objects divine in themselves. Such a one were Jan Hus, and many an hour he sat in our midst searchin’ and debatin’ Torah and truth. Yom Tov especially he counted a friend.
He knew well the violence that simmered against us Jews concernin’ the host that the people believed was the body of Christ, and yet he walked straight into that mob, declarin’ that both the wafer and wine were only symbols, and not divine. *For that they burnt him at the stake.* Good and wise and expansive he were, but king and pope had no use for that, unless it be obsequious.
*-* 1415 CE
In the next episode, another chapter of Kerouac’s theme.
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.
Related Topics
Related Posts