Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #86, Sefirot reformed

Saadia working on a more complete model of emotions; image colorized and modified by the author. Images (Portae Lucus, 1516, and Tree of Life by Kircher, 1653) obtained from Wikimedia Commons, both in the public domain.
Saadia working on a more complete model of emotions; image colorized and modified by the author. Images (Portae Lucus, 1516, and Tree of Life by Kircher, 1653) obtained from Wikimedia Commons, both in the public domain.

In this episode Saadia takes a scalpel and operates…

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Fourteenth Era, Part 21, ~1190 C.E., Mtskheta
A Psycho-analytic Interlude, 1a

This Mtskheta in Georgia’s vales. Such a here-on-earthy paradise. And here I am like a shackled slave, heavy melancholy sappin’ me like a poison vine that chokes a tree.

Just so, its tendrils creep thru my veins. Its roots dig deep into my thoughts. Its poison berries drip bitter juice, and I hack and choke in words I regret. Today my failures, my unsung tales. Tomorrow, I don’t have the strength to go on. For an age mad dogs have attacked us Jews. I dig in the wormy loam of dream and lo, repressed anger burns. And lo, suppressed self-hatred churns. But melancholy is all I feel. And deeper still in the twisted strands, life itself is what I feel. Life, combustin’ in materia, its raspy edge, battered and burned, forcin’ its way thru this molten world. And yet beneath it all, my soul sees this world as but a dream, come and gone, flicker and fade. And still this melancholy remains, my soul longin’ some journey home.

These the four worlds: A world revealed; a world hidden in thought and feeling; a world above the adam seas; A world of light and eternity. Asiyah* to the Atzilute*
* Kabbalistic terms; ascending layers of consciousness

I’m not satisfied with this Kabbala. Searchin’ the sky won’t give a clue of the spheres turnin’ the human mind. So I tease and tear at my veiled thoughts, not like a butterfly pinned on a board, but like an inquisitor full of distrust who questions and probes for suspected crimes, who will coddle and coax and confuse and abuse, to expose the shadow layers concealed; to find the truth of what I feel.

And this is where I stand right now… I began by seekin’ pure feelings, like pure love for Batkol or God, or pure compassion for an orphan child, thinkin’ my feelings are separate and pure, like white light. Then Newton come down, that troublesome man, diffractin’ our light into colored strands, all wivver and wave, and it seems our emotions are woven the same.

Take love. Frack it apart and you find confidence and friendliness, desire and joy. But frack it some more and out comes jealousy, pride and distrust; and shock it and out breaks aggressive fears til there’s hate in love and fear in joy. Same for compassion; same for despair. There ain’t no emotion shines on its own, but all prismatic, with shimmery shades. And what colors we see, blue to red, how much more is still concealed?

I started on a model of the Sefirot*, ten emotions that interact like colors in changin’ intensities that shine thru each other and alter the hue.
* Kabbalistic 10-point figure like a neural network diagram

But that weren’t quite right; there’s more than ten and they like to cluster and shine in groups, as one then another comes to the fore, like I mentioned already, describin’ love. With joy comes pride and empathy. In the darker registers of our neural nodes, sadness aligns with shame and distrust. And hate comes down near anger and fear. And all of these have their opposite poles, love and hate; confidence and fear; distrust and empathy; pride and shame. I’ll let you decipher the other poles.

But that don’t cover the range of our feelings. We need more dimensions for our diagram. Like Ptolemy’s cosmos, sphere within sphere, it’s so over-wrought it’s bound to break down. And I’m back to usin’ a metaphor of light: many a beam can fill the same space and many a source can shine at once.

How much more then for the Sefirot — divine emanations into this world? A ten point grid? That’s just a hint.

Evidence, 1

Some evidence exposin’ our layered feelings: a case of hatred in a man of love.

I knew a priest of the Orthodox church, who called himself Cristome Tammay, and was known as the Georgian Chrysostom.* He knew himself as a man of love, kind to his flock and quick to absolve their cruelties, omissions, failures, and sins. Ever he seen the good in them. And yet the saintly face of this man, when he turned to Jews, had a wicked scowl. However righteous and kind a Jew be, in his eyes he twisted it to evil and sin.
* John Chrysostom, early churchman, and vicious bigot, known for his Jew hating diatribes, especially, Adversus Judeaos

Quick with gospel quotes he were, like a Mongol archer, rapid of shot. Especially fond of that troublous man with conflict and doubts in his Jewish soul, that Matthew, or the author who usurped his name.

Many of his sermons began with this word to praise his own people and vilify Jews:
“You snakes, you brooding vipers, say, how will you escape damnation in hell?” [1]
Or approachin’ my friends and brethren on the street he would spit and cast this abuse at their feet:
“‘Truly I say, not one stone will be left’ [2] of you and yours in this Christian land.”
Or “Jesus’ blood be on you and yours.” [3]
Though never loath to quote that John whose hate was ever churnin’ the serfs, he’d hail Batkol and me with a curse:
“You, of the devil, no truth be in you…” [4]
And then continues as if he wished us good day, askin’ advice on repairin’ books or whose onions or groats were best that day.
“You and your woman are different” he’d claim. “Right Christian even though you’re Jew.”
Abuse he thought was a compliment.
1. Matthew 23:33; 2. Matthew 24:2; 3. Matthew 27:25; 4. John 8:44

Full unaware of his misshapen thoughts — smug and arrogant; certain he knew the truth; certain that bein’ Christian confers superiority over all Jews — a tower of babel built on fear, lies, illusions, self-servin’ texts. Ignorin’ that Matthew and most of the rest were Jews; that his Messiah was a Jew; that many a kind word they said of Jews; that Paul said, as others too,
“The Jew is entrusted with the very words of God.” [1]
“Do we nullify the Law? Not at all!” [2]
“Did God reject His people? No!” [3]
“God’s gifts and call can not be revoked.” [4]
And supercedin’ all, time and again, Torah and Prophets declare to all, God, forever has chosen us Jews. But bound by hatred, and envy, and fear, and love of power, and the urge to control, a need to be certain, a need to be right, and many another unspoken feeling, he lives in his hypocritical stench.
1. Romans 3:2; 2. Romans 3:31; 3. Romans 11:1; 4. Romans 11:29

But the disrespect he poured on Jews is not the sum of my evidence.

There was a child, a favorite of his, a lamb-eyed girl…


In the next episode, a tale, til now untold, yet well-known.

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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