Stephen Berer
Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #17, A boat to Tarshish

Ship to Tarshish (modified and colorized image from the public domain book, Picturesque Egypt, published 1878, owned by the author.).

In this scene our hero gains first hand knowledge of a former Prophet’s visionary experiences.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Seventh Era, Part 3. ~1000 C.E., Alexandria

“So you want to sail to Andalus to ply your junk and skim your gold?”
says our Sinbadly friend, all ruddy and proud, all slime and dry rot, all full of wind.

Then what seem like words of the Lor agitate me to turn my way:
“Pigeon-man, rise yourself up to Sura, that great village, and call out to them with words to enlarge and words *as decrees*, for many their plaints in their need of Me.”
*-* other say ‘to decrease

But then I hear another voice. Nakhum it is.
“To Tarshish go!”
And so I climbs them narrow planks and its off to the Maghreb I set sail, thinkin’
‘Everything’s backwards now and whichever voice I listen to, I’ll be fleein’ the face of the Lor, and I’ll probably find the back of His hand.’

Sail and oar propel us out into the river and its mazy ways all crowded with shuks along the canals, to the rollin’ expanse, all sparkly blue, and the rippley waves and the whistley wind.

By noon a fleet of clouds appear billowin’ high and brilliant white, massy and weightless, majestic and mild. And up comes the breeze snappin’ our sail, and we lurch with a surge through the waves with a shout. As the sun descends in a fiery spray, clouds boilin’ in shades of purple sage, smoldering on edge in crimson and gold. Then a distant thunder that rumbles our guts.

And on comes the dark and the thrashin’ of surf, and the air is split with bolt and blast, and our airy hubris in terror succumbs, like a child who hears of a shipwreck on shore, and runs all excited till he sees the drowned.

It’s a mighty breath of the Lor, a storm that crashes the boat in white-cap and trough. And the sailors cry out, each to his Lor as they unload our cargo all overboard.

Me, it ain’t the terrors of death, but my cramps and pukin’ — I’d rather be dead. Lyin’ in the hold in my vomit and piss, the captain he kicks me, and launches into a rant.
“We are all prayin’, and you, you’re pukin’. My men are awaitin’ you up above.”
More screams, but me, I’m too sick to move so they drag me up the ladder by my feet.

Desperately clingin’ to the mast, as the boat tilts and is likely to tip in the crashdown waves. But them sailors, like monkeys up in the rigs and like jackals around me, all circle and drool.

“No need to cast lots. We know the one what caused all of this. It’s him, the Jew. It’s you and your books. Its you and your codes. Readin’ all day and countin’ your gold.”

Says me, all wretched,
“I call on my God, Him who divided the seas and the lands. I call on Him who sent me here to witness and declare who is false and who is true.”

And then their terrors are greatly magnified.
“This Jew who glories in discord and sin. This Jew who kills the God of us. He curses our ship and his god will obey. What must we do to save ourselves? Can we divert the breath of his god?”
Then the captain says,
“Sacrifice him! The human’s blood is what his god wants. See how the waves batter the ship, a-grabbin’ for him. Should we withhold? Heave him now, and his bloodlust god will drink his fill, and calm the sea.”

Nevertheless, I argue with them to row, to make for the saving shore, to take their stations at the rowing holes, but they cry out,
“His life for ours. We are innocent, sufferin’ his god. Suffer no more. Perish him!”
Then they grab me as I kick and shout, and heave me into the thirsty sea.

Into the belly of hell I splash, flailin’ the waters that suck me down. And as I flounder, I turn up my eyes, to see them cheer who know not the Lor.

In my troubles I cry out to the Lor,
“My life for theirs, oh Lor of all. Save me from out of the raging storm and burst their boat and let them drownd. Or if Your mercies extend to them, re-capture the wind and stretch out the wave and ignite your bolts no more on us, and save us all, them as me.”

Down comes the bolts and the lashin’ rains, and higher still the eruptin’ waves. But that boat lurches on like a log in the surf while breakers and billows sweep over me.

And this I think in the foamy brine:
“The Lor cannot hear in this rumblin’ rush. Cast from His Temple and now from this ship into the seaweed, I but a weed.”
Then the waters swirl over my head and the icy brine burns my throat. I sink. I tumble, like a broken shell, and the eternal doors close on me.

But it seems, a dolphin smells me there, and comes up beneath me like a flotsam plank. And me, like a strand of seaweed hangin’ over his back until he casts me ashore.

In the morn the sky is a lacework of rose, and the tender waves lap on my toes. And there I lay exhausted and chill, my mind a storm of delirious swill.

Now — voices — I am giving thanks, and cries of remorse that I am so frail, and thunders of that storm ragin’ in me, voices I hear to this very day.

From the tomb of the sea a fish spewed me out. Go figure. Deliverance comes from God, but I been delivered to the wrong address. And most of my purpose and all of my wares have sunk like stone in the bottomless sea.

~~~~~~~~~~

In the next episode, our hero discovers the mystical cave back to the Eretz.

About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan with an awe of The Eternal and an unbounded love of Judaism that shapes everything I think and do. 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: http://steveberer.com/work-in-progress. In the process of reconstructing lives, I also reconstruct English, in an effort to achieve heightened and multi-dimensional perspectives. I have recorded some brief thoughts about this philological journey in a series of essays entitled "Essential Notes on Linguistics." You can read these on my website or at Academia. My creative life also includes arts and crafts. For example, my older son and I are working on an illuminated Megillat Esther. Finally, and in many ways most importantly, I currently live with my bashert just outside Washington, DC, and have two remarkable sons, the three of whom light my life.
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