Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On The Worship of an Ass, III


Just before Amichai ben Dovid declared himself God’s chosen one, the world heaved and belched as if its very end was imminent. There was a disastrous war in the lands just to the east of Demblin. The Army confiscated all the horses, cattle, sheep and goats from the Jews of the province, stole all their stores of grain and potatoes. In June, an unexpected snow storm blanketed the region, and the freshly planted crops died in the fields. Famine gripped the province, and then the host of diseases which accompany it like helpmates to the Angel of Death: typhus, cholera, fever.

Soon, one of the armies was routed, and they retreated through Demblin. They were more like a fleeing band of brigands and criminals than a well trained army. They stole whatever was left to steal in the already denuded region.

Then, gentile peasants, under the leadership of a charismatic monk, rose up in revolt against the government and the landowners, and once again the Jews in Demblin took a drubbing. Some of the wealthier Jews acted as tax collectors for the government and warders for the landowners, so in the peasant uprising all the Jews were made to suffer. There was looting, rape, and murder. Countless atrocities were committed in the full light of day. Jews fled to the mountains, often leaving the aged and sick to be torn apart by the Gentile wolves.

When the government finally restored order, and the Jews returned to Demblin, the sense of shock was enormous. How could God allow his children to suffer so in the jaws of jackals? Jews mourned their dead; some wore sackcloth and smeared ash on their foreheads in penance.

Learned rabbis, scribes and scholars, sought an explanation for the terrible misfortune which befell the House of Israel. There was much fighting and bitterness. Unable to turn on their oppressors, the Jews turned on themselves. One evil chapter on the history of the community of believers in Demblin was closed only to open another. For it was then that Amichai ben Dovid arrived in the village and suddenly, where they had been nothing but darkness and gloom, there was light and hope

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