Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #88, Exiled

Rav Khiyam; image colorized and modified by the author, from the public domain book Picturesque Egypt, published 1878, in the public domain.
Rav Khiyam; image colorized and modified by the author, from the public domain book Picturesque Egypt, published 1878, in the public domain.

In this episode, a rabbi and his shadow.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Fourteenth Era, Part 21, ~1190 C.E., Mtskheta
A Psycho-analytic Interlude, 2

…And one more case I now present to show that emotions shape our thoughts and guide our steps unknowingly…

I knows a rav who lives in Darban* (where Alexander built his gates). A well regarded man he be, full of sermons and proverbs too, who wrote a book, a copy of which he guv to me, most generously. Here are some excerpts I found in it:
* aka Derbent

*Shorish Khayim*: Judgments and Guides, Midrash to Strenthen the Halakhah*
By Khayim, Rav and **Rosh Beit Din.**
*-* root of life; * Jewish law; **-** head judge of a Jewish court

1. Notes to Fathers who Uphold the Law
1.1 A just scale and an honest weight are a measure of a man at work and prayer.
1.2 As a King is measured by the swath of his law so a rav by the length his word endures.
1.3 As a Lion rules by his Godly strength so a rav by his Godly wisdom and wealth.
1.8 Him who aspires to be a rav will constrain his mercy to serve Halakhah*
1.9 Him who long endures as a rav must know who will profit in every case.
1.14 When justice is hidden, the Law must serve him who will serve the kehillah** best.
1.16 As the rod teaches a child to obey so the Law makes a kehillah** strong.
* Hebrew: Jewish law; ** Hebrew: community

3. Notes to Fathers to Strengthen their Sons
3.5 As the roar of the Lion trembles the herd, so the words of Prophets to rebellious sons trembles them out of their crooked paths.
3.9 Who is teaching Gemara* well? Him whose students take a Talmud tract and plow it into a productive field.
3.10 Who makes Talmud a barren tract? Him whose students prune root and branch til the vine withers and bears no fruit.
3.11 Who understands Gemara? Him who is skillful in driving a bargain. Him who can yoke a team and drive it well.
3.15 Run your caravans thru prosperous lands. A comely shop will attract a prince. Turnips please a peasant. Pheasant, a king.
3.17 Plow deep to prepare a field. Cut the sickly branch from the tree. Dig out a vine that grows bitter fruit.
3.20 For tradesmen, be stern and firm of grip. For merchants, a smile and a clever quip. For the learned, Mishnah and brandy to sip.
* the expansive analytic and evidentiary component of Talmud

4. For Fathers with Gentile Neighbors, Know…
4.1 The Lor has sent us down the scale into the layers of clay and shale, into the sorrows, into the fears, into the waters, frigid and drear.
4.2 Look at the stormy surf of the sea. Closely study each breaking wave. In every ripple you can see a face distorted into this turbulent place.
4.3 Tide and current, wind and rock disturb the perfect face of the sea. The vital soul that emerges from the Lor is bent and broken on Adam’s shore.
4.6 How can you know the difference between a human neighbor and a demon beast? When the sun shines and the air is clear a demon smiles like any man.
4.7 When a storm blows, thunder and crash; when plague is lurking down in a well; when hunger bites and the belly growls, a man and a demon glower the same.
4.13 We are living now in a vale of rebukes. Bow to your neighbor. He is your king. If he points his finger, accept his blame. The Lor is the one who snaps the whip.
4.17 These three things can lighten the decree: Be scrupulous in Halacha*. Honor Shabbat and feed the poor. And serve your rav like a Levite priest.
* Jewish law and observance

Such the teachings of this practical man. That is how he walks by the way. But here is how he sits in his home. Hear the way he treats his sons…

A Letter From a Son in Samarkand as writ to me bewailin’ his fate:
“Dear friend and teacher and master of roads: I hope this message finds you well, you and your wife of ages, Batkol, and I hope the cries of war have faded and the sounds of useful labor restored. I have come to a city, green and cool, a garden with many fruitful trees, well tended and prosperous. Here I have found a family friend who saw my skills in bargaining and made me a partner in his caravan trade, far from that viper who would bite my heel.

“You wondered why I trekked so far; what troubles clashed, what sorrows lashed, that I abandoned my inheritance, a family of status, of comfort and wealth, a kindly father to prepare my way.

“But surely you know that power is vain and appearance is a cloak of subterfuge, that the fox makes his rounds with a toothy grin and a serpent tells lies with a truthy phrase. Just so, my pompous father, making his rounds with ever a smile and a clever word. But over his dinner, gnawing his meat he chews up his friends like a lion chews a goat. And them as compete in business or law or come to him with troubling needs, oh, how the blood drips from his chin and the snarling sneer belches from his maw.

“But worst of all how he tears up his own, my mother and sister, brother and me. I’ll not repeat his wicked abuse, but this to say of me alone: his favorite title is ‘incompetent’ and ‘ignoramus’ and ‘Esau’s brood.’ Glorying in my punishments, thinking himself a Prophet of God. A priest of Moloch he was to me.”

Such anguished words he writ to me and that very father cried on my arm,
“O, where is my son? Gone and lost, and nor do I know if he’s dead or alive.”

And yet I see in the stoop of his wife, in his daughter’s hopeless and weary eye, in his other son’s aggressive stands many a sign that the son’s word is truer yet than the father’s tear.

How then sit his emotional states? Not consistent, not pure, but layer on layer and ever in change, and opposite feelings together stand — hate and self-hate, anger and love; outside, kindness, inside, abuse; servin’ the people he hates the same; servin’ a God of punishments. When he victimizes, then all is a-right.

Here ends the evidence I will present.

These thoughts emanate into my mind thru contemplations, studies and dreams. Like rain in a cistern they accumulate, and so I thought maybe now is the time to lay them out and let you decide if they fit in my tale and if they serve yours.


In the next episode, visitors with an attitude arrive from the north.

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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