Part: 1 - c
"And the wood?" I asked, "Where did they cut them from and where did they grow originally?" "This I do not know. This was a family secret. I once asked old Terah himself about it, and he answered that these were from the trees of Kedem, the primeval trees. I must say that this answer did not really satisfy me. But why are you raising your ears like that all of a sudden?", he asked me. "I don't know. Perhaps there is no connection. But I was reminded about the stories father used to tell me in my childhood about the Trees of the Garden God planted in Kedem. About the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, and I was wondering whether they remained there forever in the garden, far away, under the flame of the turning sword, or whether Adam, after he had already tasted of the Tree of Knowledge, reckoned how to take of it as a souvenir. But tell me, Eliezer: what happened to the human figures that father formed? Did they rise on their feet?". "I do not know" said Eliezer, "for those things happened long ago. I was just a child among the other children and people". "And the rest of the people" I asked, "the other people who were with you? They must have been younger than you. How did they happen to be there?". "They just appeared." said Eliezer, "Each day someone appeared. Each day a new child was added to our camp, even though Abraham and Sarah were childless. I do not know whether they were the handiwork of Abraham or not. All I know is one thing: when we were seventy persons, a whole tribe, I checked and found that all the material had disappeared. Nothing remained of all the soil we brought from Ur of the chaldees, whereas our household was full of neophytes whom we trained in all manner of work in the fields and with the flocks. Abraham and Sarah taught them of the teachings of God. Abraham taught the men and Sarah the women. Abraham the boys and Sarah the girls". "And the wood?W, I asked in rising alarm. "What was done with the wood? Is there any of it left in our court?". "From the wood were made signs, to mark graves and holy places," Eliezer recalled. "And do not worry, there is enough of it. In fact, your father asked me to get them out of the hidden storage, so that they will also be ready for the journey tomorrow, at dawn".
"Who knows," I said to him, and saw in his eyes that he too thinks so, "perhaps the majority of our tribe were formed of man-made Golems by Abraham?". "But, if so, then you tell me, why did he not continue? Was it because the material was finished?" asked me Eliezer, "Did he hint at something to you during your letter games?" After some thought I answered "Yes, now that you mention it, I can recall various hints that father gave me. He told me repeatedly that I shall have to find the Name by myself, whereas the place we shall find all together, the place from whose soil the first Adam was formed. He said that if we find this place, we would be able to found our capital there, the capital city for all the kingdoms of the earth". "But does he know where the place is?" asked Eliezer, "No. He has journeyed over the whole land, traveled its length and width, and visited every site in it, as if the place has not been revealed to him."
remained silent for a moment, engaged in thought, then said "I wonder, perhaps Malchitsedek knew. I remember how he welcomed us then, after we saved for him all the other kings of the land, including the kings of Sodom and of gomorrah. He blessed us then saying 'Blessed be Abraham of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth'. Malchitsedek knew all the secrets of the land. But even if he knew the place, I do not think he would have told it to your father."
"If that is so," I said, "then perhaps I understand at last what he is looking for all the time on his many journeys. He must have been trying to find that piece of earth. I thought that he was looking for a burial site. Now I think that he was looking for the reverse: the place to create life in. Perhaps the journey that we shall undertake tomorrow is the journey in which we shall find the sacred site."
"In any case," sighed Eliezer "in my opinion, your old man is mistaken in this. In order to fashion a soul there is no need to form it. I believe that education is enough. Here we have all the people around us, all the natives of the land, the ignorant. We must think about educating them, and not about forming new people from the beginning."
"I have often thought about it," I replied, "but what you suggest poses a problem. We can educate a child who belongs to our tribe, but the people here belong to different tribes. They will not want to listen. They can only be reached when they are open to be taught. In joy and in the age they are opened to it. If father were to try to change the religion of the people of the land, or of their children, they would accuse him of corrupting their minds, deluding them with strange beliefs. They would drive him away from their land."
"Your father was a hero." said Eliezer, "He fought the four kings and liberated the five. And yet he was not brave enough to declare war on the people of the land or to disseminate his teachings among them. Whereas you, Isaac, you must become the one who is brave enough, hero enough, to do it."
"Bravery is not the issue." I replied, "This will not be done by might. You cannot force a man to listen. How will the people of the land listen to us? I do not know even if my own brother will. The education of Ishmael must surely be more important than the education of the people of the land. I would like to talk to him about this. And besides: how will the people of the land, who do not speak Hebrew, listen to us? Whereas father will only speak Hebrew - this is the language he is used to from beyond the river Euphrates. He even claims that it was the language of the first Adam. And it is the language in which he writes his Book of Formation, in which he reveals the divine secrets. He will teach only in this language."
I left Eliezer, thinking that the time has indeed come that I must speak with Ishmael. And Ishmael speaks Hebrew. But what am I going to tell him? That I am sorry for what happened back then, that I did not wish it? That I was envious of him? That everyone around him is wary of him? No. I shall stick to what I have been talking about with Eliezer, to the question of the language, the conversation and the prayer. These are the high issues. I shall hear what he says and how he feels about the situation the three of us had faced before.
the morning, I noted to myself, I have been wandering from tent to tent, not finding peace for my agitated spirit. And now I came again to the tent of Ishmael. It was the tent at the edge of the camp, where the young men and women sneaked away to, in the evenings, to make love. Ishmael was standing there erect. He was a handsome man. "My brother Ishmael," I said "peace upon thee". "Upon thee peace" he answered. "I came earlier." I said hastily, "I wanted to welcome you, but you were in the middle of your prayer, so I left. I see that you have completed your prayer". "Of course." he said, "one should not tarry over one's prayer". "But why? do you know that father is always praying? He commences his prayer at dawn and often continues it for hours". Ishmael sounded interested. "Is that so? I wish I knew how. Father only started to teach me about prayer. I was thirteen then. He had just started to teach me, when he drove me away from him. Ever since then I have sought the right way and the right time. I pray several times during each day, but I lack some procedures". "Please tell me about it." I beseeched, eager to hear, "This interests me. I am also searching for the right time. I think that my prayer is more successful in the afternoon". "I do not know if there is one fixed proper time", said Ishmael, "When you live in the desert - you learn to live outside of time, and yet to sense each particular moment. I spread my prayers throughout the day, five prayers in all. Thus I assume that at least one prayer will be at the opportune time.... but you should be able to tell me. You were only a little child when I left, and had not learned anything. But since then, has father not taught you all the secrets of prayer, its times, regulations and words?" "Yes my brother", I said, "He taught me many things. I have learned to pray, and I have also learned to read and to write". "Ha, this I have not yet learned" admitted Ishmael, "Is reading all that important? Does it add to prayer? Do you read your prayer from writing or do you say it from the heart?" "Reading does not change prayer. It does not add to the personal utterance", I expressed my view. "The heart must know best. But in order to enlarge the scope of prayer, in order to pray for all the tribe or nation, in order to pray for the welfare of the whole world, and in order to make the prayer all-inclusive, it is important to know the secret of words and of written letters, how to combine and to permutate them."
"You know what", Ishmael confided in me, "when I establish my own tribe, I shall invite you to come and visit us, and to be a scribe and teacher for us. Perhaps you will write our scriptures for us". I was glad. This invitation must signify that he did not bear a grudge toward me. But on the other hand, if I were in his care he would be more easily able to get rid of me? "Thank you for your invitation, my brother", I answered. "but I still do not know enough. I do not even know the secret which father calls 'initial wisdom'. He has hinted at it, but has not explained it yet."
"Have you learned from father the secret of the Thirteen?" asked Ishmael. "No." I answered, "What is the secret of thirteen?". "It was the first lesson which father wanted to teach me after we accomplished the command of circumcision on my thirteenth birthday. 'You should know, my son' he told me then, 'Thirteen is a very special age, and so is the number thirteen. It is the number of love.' Do you understand what this means?" I answered "yes, it is simple, the Hebrew letters of love (àäáä) have a numerical value that adds up to thirteen". Ishmael paused, and then continued "But that was not all. Father told me that the important thing was that the twelve came to one and comprised the one, and that this was the secret of the thirteen. And then he told me, even though I was a thirteen years old child, that to please the Lord I should beget many sons, give birth to twelve. And that if I did, a whole nation would issue forth from me. So when I pray to God, I pray that He will increase my seed. And indeed, the merciful and compassionate Allah has not denied my tribe of offsprings. My tribe is growing mightily. Only you are missing there, my erudite brother". He smiled a provocative smile, which embarrassed me, and which reminded me of my mother's worries. I wanted to partake of his power, and I felt that it was not from him that I should worry, tomorrow when we go on the journey.
"Now, please tell me", asked Ishmael as if he could hear my heart. "this journey we are setting out for tomorrow, what kind of a journey is it? What are we looking for?". "I do not exactly know" I replied, "All I know so far is that what we are going to look for tomorrow is something that is all-important for father. He is seeking the place which is also the way to God". "Probably that is why father has called for me." said Ishmael, "I certainly can find tracks in the desert better than you people of the tents and letters". To which I replied: "The desert in which we shall seek, the Midbar in Hebrew, means not only desert, but also speech. The Midbar which father is searching for is the one which means speech, the speech of the living God. You Yishma-El, the listener of God who survived in the Midbar, surely you can hear the speech of God. But I shall also go now to pray and find my own Midbar to God, and then I shall see what is happening with father." And then I took my leave of him.
"No," I said to myself as I left, "Ishmael is not vengeful against me. Perhaps we shall be able to renew the closeness that we once shared. And I already know that I accept him and the risk that tomorrow during the journey he may assault me when no one watches. And yet, the feeling of distress does not quit. Where does it come from then? Perhaps it has to do with the remoteness that grew with father?"
I went to look for father, and found him still immersed in prayer. Hours had passed, and father was still praying. I wanted to leave at once, but when I looked at him again, his face seemed different. He motioned to me with his hand to wait. He ended his prayer, folded his praying shawl and put it in a special bag. And then, he looked at me - and fear griped me. Something has become different about him. He was not the same father I knew. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, but that was not what gripped me. It was his eyes, insane eyes. "My son," he said to me, "my beloved son, my only one. Tomorrow we shall set out on a journey to the Land of Moriah. We shall go there to make a joyful sacrifice, an offering to God. I beseech you to pray. Pray my son, that God will make clear our way. Please my son, I beseech you, pray to God. Pray as you have never prayed before. I have received my answer from God, and I never knew until this day how terrible He can be. He is beyond my understanding. But now - my son - pray. Perhaps He will hear your own prayer and answer it". "What should I pray for, father?" I asked. "I can not tell you what, but pray to Him from the bottom of your heart."
I looked at him, and another vision flashed before me: Inside his eyes I saw a dread picture! My father, my own beloved father was lifting a knife over me, seeking to slay me. Then, as if father was witnessing my vision, he said, "My son, you will find out. God will show us. God will show you. Know what you ask of Him. Be precise with each word, with each letter as I have taught you, and more so. It would be a most terrible thing if you made an improperly formulated request, and God fulfilled it, and you received something you never expected."
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