Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Night of the Golden Calf: An Eyewitness Testimony--a Parchment-Scrap from the Original Holy Ark

The Testimony of Chur ben Calev oo’Miriam

The following text was translated from a bit of parchment found in the bottom of what purports to be a section of the Holy Ark carried through the Wilderness by the Israelites. It was found during the reign of Pope Hadrian VIII (2023-2039, Common Era), when the search through the Vatican Treasury of Antiquities yielded up the original Table for the Shewbread (minus two legs) and a broken Menorah, thought by scholars to be the original candelabra which was seized by the troops of the Roman General Titus during the Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The Holy Ark fragment was delivered to the Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican, the Hon. Chaim Bennet-Shalom, grandson of Naphtali, to honor the 7th Anniversary of the Peace Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors (including Iran). Negotiations are currently under way to establish the Third Temple alongside the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, with all religious parties having free and equal access to the houses of worship thereon established, under an Israeli-Jordanian trusteeship, with a Joint Religious Supervisory Board consisting of the Muslim Waqf and the Orthodox-Conservative-Reform-Reconstructionist-Israeli Rabbinical Council of the Knesset.

            I have just passed through the most horrible night of my life. Scarcely had Rabbi Moses ben Amram, peace be unto him!—left us to climb Mt. Sinai, when the Egyptian rabble—that agglomeration of sorcerers, petty thieves, and outright lunatics whom the evil Pharaoh Ramesses II freed from his prisons and pesthouses and driven out of Egypt when he reluctantly gave us our freedom—began muttering, indeed screaming, that our Leader was gone, and that we had better prepare a better god to follow, for “That Old Man Moses, he is not coming back.” I stood up before them, alone—my best friend and fellow warrior, Joshua ben-Nun, had gone off with Rabbi Moses, and Aaron tried his best to quiet the crowd, but—God bless Aaron, he means well, he always means well—they would not listen to him, even standing there before them, wearing his pure-white, holy priestly robes—Aaron would have had to slay ten cows and six sheep, just to get their attention, and he was in a panic; he could not stir without Moses there to direct him.
            I, therefore, I, Chur, son of Calev, Joshua’s good right arm, and his sister Miriam, fearless leader of the women, stepped forward:
            “Quiet your shouting,” I said to the ringleaders, a pair of troublemakers named Datan and Aviram—I recognized them from the old days in Egypt; they never worked; all they ever did was complain, resulting in the Egyptian taskmasters’ piling on more chores, and increasing the number of sun-dried mud bricks-and-straw we others had to dry, cut out, and carry—“Be silent, and listen to me! We are Israelites; we have a goodly heritage, and we must wait, until He-Who-Is, the Invisible God, shows us His awesome power—“
            Just then, a bolt of lightning split the sky, and thunder rolled above, as though proving my words, how mighty the One True God is, has been, and will ever be. But the mob was muttering, again: Where was Moses? Where was their god?—I ran over to Aaron, and asked him,
            “Father Aaron,” I said, gripping his arm and glancing about as the evildoers drew closer, “What tricks do you have, up your priestly sleeve, to fend off these evildoers? Change a stick into a snake? Cast pebbles skyward and bring them down as angry bees? Or water into wine, even, making them drunk and fall-down-tired? We are desperate, here—“
            “I cannot—cannot do anything, Chur!” said Aaron, and he turned to me, his eyes full of tears—“Make them bring me their gold, their jewels, and I will make them a god—a pretend god, true, but otherwise, they may kill me!”
            “They cannot lay hands on you—back! Back, you scum!” I shouted, standing between Datan and my holy godfather, Aaron, and seizing out my dagger, holding it before me, my hand shaking. “The first man who touches him, will die by my blade!”
            Datan and Aviram, the greasy ringleaders, stopped; Aviram held up his hand, and said, “Perhaps it is, indeed, time, for a sacrifice or two.” He smiled, looked at Datan, who nodded, and pointed at me:
            “Take this one, this noisy dog, this Chur!”
            The rest is blackness—I believe they all fell upon me, beating, kicking: I had learned from Joshua that, if all attack, to cover one’s head and ears with one’s arms; to curl up like a ball, and go soft all over—and think: One-True-God; One-True-God….
            From afar, through the pain, I heard women’s voices: Leave that poor boy alone. Come here, young man, and dance with me—come! Dance before your god! Tambourines. Drums. Was that—a—flute?
            At last, I awoke: I was outside the camp, where they had dropped my body, thinking me dead. I was covered in my own blood: some small cuts, no more, and I swallowed: my nose was bleeding. These Israelites are not killers; they are useless, without Moses or their God to direct them. From afar, I saw a bonfire, roaring into the night, heard singing, and saw dancers—dancers without clothes. Other people were holding hands, and walking away from the fire—what they were doing, I did not wish to think. In the middle of the camp, a bright-gold, small Golden Calf stood, a-gleam, with piles of gold, silver, and jewels around it.
            I heard the thunder, saw the lightning, atop Mt. Sinai. I imagined my teacher, my Moses, standing in the Holy Presence of the One True God, and shook my head sadly at the fools who danced and rose up to play….

            What will happen to them, O’ God?