Eternal Jew: Batkol in Lilith's den

Here’s a short excerpt from a rich and varied scene in which Batkol (the wife of the Eternal Jew, aka Saadia) has found a female healer (Lilah, Leila) with remarkable powers in the hills north of Genoa. The whole scene is full of kabbalistic elevations, as well as new midrash on biblical characters, including Joseph, Judah, and Rahav (of Jericho). I present this little tidbit first as poetry in the new language I’m developing, and then translated into standard English (which I call “old English”). Fasten your seat belts…

Doze. Straenjen frotfule dreemz.
Open my iy. Awl ullone.
Then Sodyah stannen in the dor.
Open my iy az the dor kreeks.
Lilah kum in, her armz fule
A logz draept with fresh erb.

“Sodyah wer heer. Waerz he gon?”
“Bak down a ro he kum frum, I ges.”

An she slo an kaerfule skwot in frunt
A the fiyer plase an sets down her loed.
She layz a log on the smoelderree koelz
An then sum erbz an fanz them hard
Til the room a fule with punjen smoke.
She ternt her hed an louk at me —
Sheez yung an luvlee, with a triksee grin!

“Kum! Thaerz sumwun I won yu tu meet.”

I stan up. Lo! My bak iz fine,
An I relize my hed ake bin long gon.
Fer a momen I feel Iem afloten the aerz,
Then weer stannen in a feel a brilyen bloomz,
Krimsen an swayen, the sky deep blu.
Starz ar shinen an so iz the sun.
A towwerres mownten kapt in sno
An jagged owtkrops, kristellen kworts.
I aen nevver seen sech a wunderres lan.

“Am I a dreem?” I sez tu her.

An I see now she iz nude az Eve,
An sedduktiv an wiel az Ishtar herselz.
I louk down an see, I too am stark,
An my skin like pawlish ebbonee,
An she sez, “An yu ar byutuffule too,
“An no, yu aen a sleep at awl.
“Yu mor uwwake az yu evver bin.”

————— ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ —————

And here’s the reversion to old English prose, with its constrained meanings, one-dimensional grammar, and problematic spelling:

Doze. Strange and fraught dreams. Open my eyes. All alone. Then Saadia’s standin’ in the door. Open my eyes as the door creaks. Leila comes in, her arms full of logs draped with fresh herbs.

“Saadia was here. Where’s he gone?”
“Back down the road he come from, I guess.”

And she slow and careful squats in front of the fireplace and sets down her load. She lays a log on the smolderin’ coals and then some herbs and fans them hard til the room is full of pungent smoke. She turns her head and looks at me. She’s young and lovely, with a tricksy grin!

“Come! There’s someone I want you to meet.”

I stand up. Lo! My back is fine, and I realize my headache’s been long gone. For a moment I feel like I’m afloat in the air, then we’re standin’ in a field of brilliant blooms, crimson and swayin’, the sky deep blue. Stars are shinin’ and so is the sun. A towering mountain capped in snow and jagged outcrops, crystalline quartz. I ain’t never seen such a wondrous land.

“Am I dreaming?”

I says to her. And I see now she is nude as Eve, and seductive and wild as Ishtar herself. I look down and see, I too am stark, and my skin like polished ebony, and she says,

“And you are beautiful too, and no, you ain’t asleep at all. You’re more awake than you’ve ever been.”

Jonah ReVisioned

The Jonah story, traditionally read on Yom Kippur is often explained as being about repentance. However, in truth it’s mostly the tale of a troubled guy who feels called by God, but at the same time has serious issues with his calling. He’s cranky, rebellious, cynical, mean-spirited, and petulant. Further, the story has much in it that even ancient readers could not take seriously: the absurd whale scene and equally absurd repentance-of-Nineveh scene, replete with the animals having to wear sackcloth! This is well beyond even the ancient view of reality. And in truth, Ninevens couldn’t have cared less what Hebrews thought, a fact that ancient readers surely were quite aware of.

Thus, our authors have re-visioned the text, in attempts to expose the real Jonah. Two of us re-wrote portions of the story. A third person engaged in a therapy session with Jonah. The fourth envisioned Jonah after his Nineven tour of duty.

Our general thesis is this: this is not a text about repentance; it is a text about moral ambiguity, self-deception, and the effects of inner conflict. Join us in this journey on new ways of understanding Jonah.

Read all 4 vignettes at: http://forward.com/scribe/386907/jonah-reimagined/