Friday, 16 August 2013

Pinocchio or The Golem of Prague

Long, long ago, the Jews of Prague lived behind walls, in a city within a city in love with its own holiness. When night fell, the Gentiles would close the gates: the sin of heresy could not flee, nor the sanctity of the city be violated, and all was as it should be.

But one year a new fear came to visit: one that did not respect walls and gates and could not be locked out. A terrible plague came from the East, a terrible plague came to Prague.

People died and were thrown unmourned and unshriven into shallow graves, and in the great Cathedral the Bishop preached contrition and the confession of sins, penance; that God would hold his hand from their flesh, and turn away the Plague Angel.

And so they did. They wailed and wept, walked in sack-cloth and ashes, and tore their own flesh; but still the Plague spread like wildfire consuming life after life. Then did the eyes of the Righteous fall on the Ghetto where the quiet People moved with lowered heads. Low did they bow and move closer to walls for they knew that blame fell always on the strange and the strangers.

The Bishop said: “All in Prague, City of Faith, did confess, and surrender their pride to God, except the People.” So he sent to the Ghetto and called the Rabbi of the People to the great cathedral.

Now, the Rabbi was a small man: small in stature, and small amongst his People. He made shoes that did not quite fit, his tongue stumbled at prayers; he dreamed awake and stumbled even on the smallest stone. A small man and a stumbler, he came to the great place and stood small before the great man.

Tall was the Bishop, high in righteousness and pride; higher yet his miter and so was his wrath.
“Rabbi, your people must confess, and do acts of penance and contrition, that God may turn away his hand, and punish Prague no more.”

The Rabbi stumbled even in his courage, but he had to say: “no” for he knew his People would not countenance such a thing.

And the Bishop said “Go then, and on you falls the blood of The People, for I cannot hold back the tide of fear and rage of the Righteous. If you will not be sanctified in Holy Water, they will wash your sins away in blood.”

The Rabbi walked home to the walls and the great doors and saw they were a prison, but also a protection.
That very night the doors were left open, the night-guard stayed home, and crowds roamed the Ghetto and killed and raped at will.

The People came to the Rabbi, as he made his ill-fitting shoes and said: “Have you no wisdom? No power from The One that may protect us, His People?”  In their fear they had forgotten that the gift of God to the People was ever endurance.

So that night the Rabbi took down an ancient book that had belonged to a great scholar, a man of Istanbul,
and in it he found the summoning for a thing of power. He went to the places of burial of the unshriven dead and took up the mud and flesh upon them and this he mingled with the seed of his body, and called on unholy names, and there rose from the dirt a great shape like a child, with no face and no bones and no heart to love.

He called it by its name - Golem - and it followed the Rabbi, and when they entered the Ghetto they saw a group of men with torches and rage, breaking into a house of the People, and the thing with no face and no heart took them up and tore them apart like bread, and they died.

The Rabbi felt at that tearing and spilling of life a great pleasure: greater than in the flesh of his wife, than wine, than the spirit of God within him. For ten days and ten nights, the Golem and the Rabbi stood as gates to defend the People of the Ghetto of Prague, but as the plague-fires died, the Righteous looked away and no more came to die on the narrow ghetto streets.

A great hunger stirred the Rabbi then - the small stumbler, maker of ill-fitting shoes- and he took his Golem with no face and no heart and went into the city and reaped lives to feed his lust. Soon all the children of the City - Jews and Gentiles alike - were afraid to sleep, and stories of death filled the night and the elders of the People drew together and spoke to the Rabbi.

“Destroy this thing you have made, take back the piece of your soul ,or be cast out from the people of God”
But the Rabbi was enamored of the hunger and the desire and the power, and would not; and every hand was upon him, and he was cast out.

In the dark forests he wandered and fed on the small deaths of small things, his mouth foul with dirt and lust; he and his golem, with no face and no heart to love and soon they were one. He had become a dual thing with no face, and no heart, and a screaming soul, unwilling to surrender its power to gain the peace of death. He was too small a man to know that you cannot fight death with more death; you cannot raise a monster in your own flesh and hope to rest your soul in God. It is said that to this very day, he roams undying, feeding on small deaths, mumbling and stumbling in blind pain.

But I wil tell you another ending. I think he went into the desert, where there were no deaths to harvest, and the sun dried his mud flesh and the cleansing wind scoured him away to a shadow of his former self. Centuries has he travelled, and now he crawls with his twig hands; dragging himself home to Jerusalem.
He will look for an olive grove on a golden hill, and there he will plant - in his own flesh - a sapling of hope; all that is left of the Rabbi’s stumbling soul.

Manuela Cardiga

If you enjoyed this story, look for my new novel 

"MANscapes - Journey into Light"


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