Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #77, Judgement Day, 2

Batkol in Blizzard; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Love In Death - by Walker, in the public domain.
Batkol in Blizzard; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Love In Death - by Walker, in the public domain.

In this episode, we see that sheol has its own special fire.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Fourteenth Era, Part 16 of 18, ~1170 C.E., to Khazaria
Sh’monah Esray, Hear our voice, 2

“…All who pass this way must hear whatever most appalls their soul, and then are judged as righteous or cruel…. You two, prepare to meet your judge.”
There we sat and who could have known our passage this way would come to this.

And Batkol murmurs like a voice from above,
“You hear our voice, Lor Adonai, our kindness and mercies, our harsh decrees, our careless accusations, our thoughtless disdain, and all their harmonics and undertones. None of us is so refined and pure that our soul doesn’t carry evil intents. So You who are hear* and You who are Judge, amplify what is best in us that our feet seek out the paths of the just, and from our lips only kindness is known.”
* others say ‘here’

The wraiths disperse, driftin’ into mist, their voices submerge in the glassy face of the river, and leave us anxious and chilled in the drizzle, its soft-blowin’ shades of rain.

Hours and days, who can tell in the changeless tones of muted light. Nor village to measure our passage up stream. Just textureless hills in bleached-out gray.

The river turns rocky, seethe and froth, and the hills grow steep with granite outcrops, and often we must clamber out of the boat and push and drag it through the shallow on-rush. Almost a week, then once again the river widens and the current is calm.

“Up near the end of this here pool is Malatya, a desperate place. And that’s as far as this ferryman goes. We’ll rest our heads there in two more days.”
The fear them wraiths instilled in us had just begun to fade, and now new fears, road-fears, change-fears swelled. This rivery road that brought such dread, now feels so safe, and them rocky banks now look foreign, and we, so lost.

‘Your souls have begun to burn and decay….’ Like the al khaet* I repeat these words in the chilling arias of the wind. Malatya, the violence and strife of Muslim, Byzantine, Armenian gangs. Kharput**, filthy, suspicious, poor, the freezin’ winds, the drivin’ snow. Ajilzenay***, hard ice and thugs, smolderin’ dung to warm our hands. Theodozenopolis**** Frozen solid. No life left. Across the freezin’ waste to Kars. What further descent is possible here walkin’ into sheol’s***** steppes?
* “these sins;” confessional prayer; ** now Elazig; *** now Erzincan
**** now Erzurum; ***** place of the dead in the Bible

I look at my hands; they’re burnin’ now. My feet aflame; and yet all caked in frost and ice. And slow the flame begins to flicker and fade away. I am standin’ in a cosy room. A gust of wind. It slashes my face. I blink. My eyes burn in light and here we are on this field of ice, a mud brick wall is juttin’ out. A bank of snow. Where am I?

An angel in a thick and wooly robe, a pointed hood and heavy veils across his face approachin’ us. He fades into a gust, and now a deathly sprite floats by me. He grabs my arm. I yank away.
‘Who are you?’ and ‘Where are we?’
I try to say, but all my words are thick and clotted in my mouth.

Down a valley of blindin’ light with canyons that end in timber walls. Batkol mumbles, “Be these streets?”
More like caverns of wind and ice.

Dragged on by angels or goats or ghouls; swept by the wind, confused fears. Limbs be achin’, stabbin’ pains like my days as a porter, sloggin’ loads.

Sunlight so fierce it burns holes into my skull through the slit of my eyes. The angel, he pushes me, the goat he butts, the demon sticks me with fiery swords, and into a tower of snow and ice. The goat behind me strikes up a hymn; be he Mikhael or Azazel or just some local thug hummin’ a tune from another world? And me, it seems, I lost my will and I follows him to an icy tomb.

In gehenna’s precincts. No light left. We hears the wail of the mournin’ dead as it echoes out of the solid earth and we descend into its catacombs.

Fire and lashes like the prophets foretold, my skin boils, my muscles cramp, clubs for feet, my hands just stumps, fingers a-rot in a leper’s decay. I hears them again, them Euphrates wraiths accusin’ me of corrupt thoughts, exposin’ the hidden rot in my soul. And here I am, seekin’ them out to make atonement and heal us both. Louder they sing. I’m gettin’ close.
*Sh’ma kolanu Adonai Elohanu…*
Into my burnin’ soul, appalled…
**Anah Adonai khattati aveti…**
*-* Hear our voice, Adonai our God; **–** Please Adonai; I have sinned and done wrong.

…These, my only thoughts in our blind descent into this tomb or devil’s den or prison, or passage out of this world.


In the next episode: what the demons of sheol look like.

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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