Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #69, Trauma

In this episode… a good night’s rest and everything will be fine. Right?

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Fourteenth Era, Part 8 of 18, ~1170 C.E., to Khazaria
Sh’monah Esray, Healing

Stretched out in a furrow in this scorched field among the clods and dried out stalks, head on a stone, dreamin’ my dreams — fractals of me stirred by the wind that blows my spirit across this world. Some wanderer walks the eastern sky, maybe Ishtar or some warlike Greek, a sky that finally begins its show of deep azure emergin’ from black.

I give Batkol a gentle shake, worried to see if she’s restored to her lucid mind and sturdy health. But she wakes in tears and troubly thoughts, same as when she gone to sleep. I gathers the goats, and the little ones nibble her face and bring on a smile, but I can see them skeletons is a-dancin’ on her with a tauntin’ song.

But all-denyin’ and not to be stopped she yokes herself and we push on. But an hour’s trek, and a world of change: happy, carefree, a crowded fair — jugglers and dancers, musicians a-play, vegetable stands and carts with fruit, trinkets, amulets, bobbles, and charms.

I looks to Batkol to share a smile but furrowed her forehead and teary her eyes.

“You! Come here!”
An old man waves when our eyes meet.
“Your woman is ill. Come. Sit down. Let me read her pulse.”
Batkol shakes her head but worrisome me, I make her sit on his flimsy stool.

Wrist in his hand, he unclenches her fist and studies the lines on her fingers and palm. With a charcoal he draws a polygon that sometimes follows the crease of her hand. Then he pauses to study the moles on her arm, connectin’ them in a star of lines. Now he sticks a straw in a tincture of red and streaks her forearm in a feathery stroke.
“Honorable madam, I surely see you’re not an earthy shepherd of goats, but a *woman of valor*, dare I say?”
which he carefully studies her face as he says. And she peers at him, then slowly nods.
*-* he uses this as a code to judge if she’s a Jew; it’s a famous poem recited on Shabbat

“*And may I bind a sign on your hand?*”
And their eyes engage again as she nods.
*-* a reference to the confession of faith, the Sh’ma: ‘And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand’

“*And where else may I place a sign*?”
“Mayhaps you can place it between mine eyes.*”
*-* a third code, also from the Sh’ma which she de-codes

“Dear holy woman of God, your heart is weak and a fear has spread a chill on your skin, and the wandering stars have taken a hold of the star on your arm to lead you astray. All is in spin and discomfits you; your eyes have seen evil; your soul is faint. As you surely know, only God is heal but the skilled physician can help to call on the Lor’s spirit. May I help you call?”
And she nods as the tears trickle and fall.

So the ancient man pulls out a reed and sharpens the tip on a sandstone rock. Now to concoct a special ink which includes a tear as it drips from her cheek, a bead of honey and a drop of milk, and some herby stuff which I don’t know, but looks like dirt and smelt like dung, along with scrapes from his charcoal stick. Mix and grind; grind and mix. Finally, in a leather satchel he gropes and pulls out a curled parchment scrap. He cuts off a piece and wets it a bit to smooth it, and then carefully draws a twisty serpent bitin’ its tail and then the four letter name of God inside the serpent, and then all around it. Now he wets the opposite side real well and folds the parchment and folds it again, and presses and squeezes it into a pill.
“Chew and swallow…. Now say with me,
‘Be it Your will, Lor Adonai, that Your Name enter the blood of me and search out the serpent that slipped thru my eye and now encoils around my heart. Be Your will, Lor Adonai that Your Name expel the evil one. Redeem Adonai. Redeem and save.’
Now, go in peace, oh *Daughter Voice*”.
*-* a literal translation of ‘Batkol’

Amazed by his works, amazed in his cure, amazed that somehow he knew her name, we ask,
“Pray tell, oh holy one, what is the fee for your wondrous cure?”
“Pay what you will. The cure is the Lor’s.”
And he turns away that we might drop what coins we will in his leather sack.

That night we gather all our goats and sleep in a caravanserai, the first night since leavin’ Tiveria we slept in a bed and under a roof.

Call of prayer. Rustle and fuss. Gates creakin’. Rattle of chains. Neigh and bray. A knock on our door. It startles Batkol. She trembles and clutches my arm, whisperin’,
“How to escape?”
“Who would be comin’ after us?”
“Valorous woman, I am come to check if healing has come to your fluttering pulse. Sorry to bother. I’ll wait out here.”
“How could he know we are in here? I don’t trust him. Don’t open the door!”

I’m not afraid but for Batkol’s sake I whisper, “How do we know who you are?”
Silence. Which Batkol takes as a sign.
“See! Like I said. Don’t trust the man.”
“Lad…” (I love that he calls me ‘lad’), “I doubt there’s any way I can prove I am who I am, when fear controls your woman’s thinking. And that confirms my worry for her. Which brought me here. I’ll wait at the *chai hane* by the gate. I hope you decide to drink some tea.”
I never seen Batkol dress so slow. And yet our physician patiently sits, waitin’ for us as we finally leave.
*-* tea house

Seein’ him, Batkol breaks apart heavin’ in tears, gaspin’ and sobs. I can’t understand what is breakin’ her. That scene of revenge in that settlement? I declare, she’s seen worse than that!

Dear Reader, you know what’s boilin’ in her. I suppose I should have known too, but mayhaps I too was sufferin’ shock and it bound my wings and blinded my eye. My feelings hardened and turned into walls.

The physician jumps up and takes her arm, walks her to his table and helps her sit, takes her hands and says,
“Don’t be a-feared.”
Me, my arms and my mouth a-flap with ‘what’s goin’ on,’ and ‘leave her alone,’ and beratin’ comments and jabbertalk. My thoughts a-twisted in jealousy and fear, confusion, and wantin’ to be in control, and knowin’ I’m helpless and a bit in the way.

The doc turns on me with a sharp rebuke,
“Read your Aristotle* and stop making noise.”
* presumably The Poetics, on catharsis; but maybe he just likes Aristotle.

“Oh rav*, I was sure that knockin’ on my door was them wicked marauders come for me. And then when I seen you a-sittin’ here I felt such shame; I can’t even trust my own feelings or my own thoughts. And then I thought you was one of them plottin’ to kill us, even yesterday. And just in that moment a man rode past, who looked like that murderous knight from Metz, that Emicho, that vicious dog, and I’m sure he’s the one that murdered them folk, and now come to finish the job on us. And I looks again, and his face changed; him smilin’ and noddin’ at folk as he passed, and now before my eye a dozen faces rush, twisted and cruel from Granada’s riots and Jerusalem’s lanes, soldiers and mobs plunderrin’ in spite. And then you take my hand and I feel like a river is flowin’ over my skin and down my arm and out of me, washin’ me clean of horror and gore. And all my terrors tumble away and I feel empty and out of breath and oh so tired and oh so relieved. Oh doctor, what is happening to me?”
* ‘rav’ used as term of respect

“Do you think your soul is made of iron, to withstand fire and furor and fright, with nary a dent, unbattered, unbent? Its more like your skin. Oh, it can grow tough, insensate and calloused, defiant and dull. But fire still burns; stick it, it bleeds. Your soul has taken a drubbing, my dear. And when it heals, it will have scars as probably never will grow away, but ache you and limp you on your ways. But now you need rest and a lighter load to let the rent in your soul close up.”
Me, I just sits there, my head a-whirl with the tohu weavin’ in and out around a verse of Torah chantin’ in me:
*‘Ael nuh, reffah nuh luh.’*
*-* Bemidbar/Numbers 12:13, ‘Please God, please heal her.’
This, the eighth of our eighteen steps.


In the next episode, dancin’ to the animals.

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 with my bashert just outside Washington, DC, and have two remarkable sons, the three of whom light my life.
Related Topics
Related Posts