Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On the Worship of an Ass, VIII, Conclusion


But most remained and joined Amichai ben Dovid and Rubin of Hebron at the altar of conversion. Once again, rumor filled the breech of fact. It was said that the Gentile lord had offered Amichai the choice of death and Judaism or life and Christianity and without wavering the Messiah chose life and the Cross.

His followers whispered other tales: it was all part of the God’s great plan: Amichai ben Dovid must descend the rungs of sin before he climbs to the heights of glory.

The conversion of so many Jews was a feather in the Gentile lord’s cap, and at the baptismal font he was godfather to Amichai ben Dovid. All the nobles in the region clamored for their own Jew to godparent. These converted Jews took on the names of their gentile hosts. Amichai ben Dovid became Peter Ktzowlski, after his lord. For many generations, these converts were treated as special guests of the royalty and bred with them, both within the bonds of marriage and out, until most of the nobility of this nation could lay claim to some Jewish blood in their lineage.

But listen: there was more: Amichai ben Dovid, or Peter Ktzowlski, did not amend his ways when he traded in the Torah for the Cross. He learned Latin and Greek and began to read mystical texts, made hints that he had heard the voice of God, and that voice had told him wondrous things. He sang and danced with a cross half his size when elated, and when plunged in melancholy, he strippled his back with a switch till he drew blood.

Then one muddy spring day the Jews of Demblin were treated to a curious sight: Peter Ktzowlski, the former Amichai ben Dovid, in disheveled, filthy clothes, and in his stocking feet, carrying the head of an ass he had procured from a slaughter house on a good sized pole.

He held it aloft over his head and a great deal of blood poured down from its open skull and onto his head and jacket. He taunted the Jews in Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, and even Greek and Latin, to come out of their homes and worship their god. All the Jews of Demblim, every man, woman, and child, flung stones, mud and dung at Peter Ktzowlski. But before anyone could lay a hand on him, the Gentile lord’s guard seized him and carried him away, the head of the ass and all. The lord had had his fill of his godson and locked him away in the province jail, in the most abhorrent conditions he could arrange. In a month Peter Ktzowlski was dead.

It was just after his death, nearly three years after the birth of the red heifer, that Issur the cattleman noticed a sizable patch of white hairs growing near the udders of the heifer’s belly. The red heifer was red no more. Her ashes would not be fit for use in the rebuilt Temple. But no one needed that sign to tell that the Messiah would not yet come. It was an anticlimax, but one of note.

So what did the poor Jews of Demblin do? They peddled their wares, planted their crops, birthed their babies, and buried their dead, went to the study house, immersed themselves in the ritual bath. What else was there to do? No one speculated that the Messiah would come any time too soon. Everyone hoped in silence and waited in patience. They prayed for a new wind to blow them through this province and ferry them away to the Promised Land.

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