The Golden Mountain, by Meyer Levin, , at sacred-texts.com
When Israel was five years old, his father Eleazer was dying. On the day of his death Rabbi Eleazer talked to his son. Eleazer was old, and the wandering that he had done over the earth had creased his body with pain. His eyes were weary, for they had stared many days upon thick clouds to see one instant of heaven. And now he was glad that his death was come.
He said to the boy, "My child, know that the Enemy will always be with you, he will be in the shadows of your dreams and in your living flesh, for he is the other part of yourself. There will be times when like a lightning-stroke you will pierce into his farthest hiding-place, and he will fade before you like a fleeing cloud; and there will be times when he will surround you with walls of darkness, and you will stand alone as upon a raft in the midst of a sea of night. But remember always that your soul is secure to you, for your soul is entire, and he cannot come into it; your soul is a part of God.
"Before you were born it was made known to me that God would always be with you, for within you there lives one of the Innocent souls of heaven. Then go fearless through your life on earth, do not be afraid of man, and do not fear the Enemy, for the highest power is in you."
After the death of Rabbi Eleazer, the Jews of the village cared for his child. Israel was sent to the cheder. But soon he found he could not bear to remain within the schoolroom; he would glide through the door and go into the woods, there he would remain all day long, walking under the trees, sitting among the flowers, or by the running river, absorbed with joy.
The schoolmaster would find him and take him back to the cheder. For a few days Israel would attend dutifully, but then again an urge would come into him, and he would run to the woods.
At last the schoolmaster lost patience with the boy, and left him to do as he pleased.
Then Israel lived joyously, he was brisk as a squirrel. He made himself a mossy place within a cave, and there he slept, or he slept in the branches of the trees, he lived on berries and fruit, he talked with the birds, he played with the untamed beasts, and sometimes he stood very still, and listened. So Israel grew.
When he was ten years old he came out of the woods to the village of Horodenka, and became a helper to the schoolmaster there. It was Israel's duty to go from one house to another early every morning, to wake the children and lead them to the cheder. In the evening he led them home.
Soon the Jews of Horodenka began to feel that the children were changed. They were like no other Jewish children. Often, they sang.
And this is how it happened that the children of Horodenka sang.
At dawn, the boy Israel went from house to house, calling to his followers. When he had gathered all his
herd, he would lead them toward the fields, quite in the opposite way from the cheder. And then he would begin to sing. And the other children would also begin to sing; so they would go a long way through the fields and through the woods, going in a great circle until they came to the schoolhouse. In the late afternoon he would lead them again singing through the woods and the fields, they would come carrying green branches in their hands, with flowers woven in their hair.
Often they sang, "Praised be his Holy name, Amen!" For Israel knew no other song.
The voices of the singing children rose like arrows upward and broke against the heavy clouds of evil that the Enemy had spread over the earth. Each day the voices beat against the clouds, until they pierced into them. Soon a crack was made, and the voices reached the blue sky, and flew toward heaven.
Then the exiled and wandering Spirit called the Shechina, hearing the singing of the children, raised her head in the hope that the time had come when she might flow back into her Creator, and again be One with Him.
But Satan rose in furious hate and strode straight into heaven.
"Someone there below is interfering with my work!" he cried.
Elijah said, "It is only a band of children singing."
"Let me strive against the children!" Satan demanded of God.
And God nodded his head, saying, "Strive."
Then Satan went down to the earth.
He went to the wood where the boy Israel had
lived, there the Enemy crept over the ground, peering at every insect and crawling into the bosom of every flower; of insect and blossom he asked, "Will you carry my poison into the heart of the child Israel?"
But no living thing would turn against the child.
In that wood lived an aged charcoal-burner, who had been born without a human soul. His body lived, and ate, and slept. He did not know what was right and what was wrong. He was afraid of humans, and therefore hid himself in the forest; some people thought he was a sorcerer, and they feared him.
It was true that often at night a demonaic power would creep into the flesh of the old charcoal-burner; then he would feel himself becoming an animal. He would crouch, and sink onto his four paws. His limbs would become covered with fur. Then he would be a werewolf, and prowl under the trees.
Those who went late into the woods were often frightened by the werewolf's moan. But none had felt his teeth.
The charcoal-burner's simple heart shrank under the terrible urge that made him into werewolf; when he had howled his pain and shame, he would creep under a bush and lie there panting, unable to flee his self, until at last he slept.
So the Enemy found him sleeping.
Satan reached his hand into the breast of the sleeping creature, and took his heart out from his body. That heart Satan buried in the earth. And within the breast of the human werewolf he placed his own heart, that was the innermost kernel of darkness.
When Israel came at dawn with his singing children
toward the forest, the Werewolf broke from the bush and rushed with snorting nostrils and teeth that flashed like knives toward the flock of children. The children screamed in fright, some fell insensible, some ran into the forest, some into the field, some clung to each other and cried, and some were taken with fever.
The Werewolf disappeared.
Israel called to the boys who had been with him, but they were run home crying.
Then the whole village was taken with fright. The children told of the terrifying wolf that had come out of the forest upon them, they shivered and whimpered and trembled, and some lay in the houses, sick with fright. The mothers and fathers said, "It is the fault of the boy who led them into the forest. We will not send the children with him any more."
When the other boys had run to their mothers and fathers, Israel went into the forest. He thought of the words his father had spoken to him, and he knew that what the other children feared, he need not fear.
He walked all morning in the forest.
Then he returned to the village, and went from one house to the other, speaking to the parents of the children.
"Let them come out with me again," he said. "No harm will befall them. A wolf ran by in the field, he was himself frightened of the children. Let them come with me again tomorrow, and you will see how they will no longer be frightened."
And the eyes of the boy were so earnest, and his
pleading was so strong, that the parents trusted him and said, "Come for the children in the morning."
At dawn of the next day Israel once more gathered his band about him. He spoke to them earnestly of many things, as a man speaks to his fellows. "Come behind me," he said, "and whatever happens, do not be taken with fright, do not run."
Then he began to sing, and the children followed him singing "Yiskadal …!"
He led them across the fields, to the very edge of the wood. There he stopped and said, "Remain here."
He went alone into the forest. At once the Beast emerged from behind the trees, and came toward Israel.
The boy saw the Beast becoming larger, he saw the Beast grow until his back was a scowling cloud arched beneath the heavens, and his paws clutched the whole earth, and the bloody vapour that issued from his mouth covered the rising sun.
But the boy was not afraid. He walked straight forward, going into the very body of the Werewolf, and nothing stopped his steps. He came to the dark glowing heart of the Beast. Round and shining like a black mirror it lay before him; all of the knowledge and all of the desire of the world were drawn into its gloomy depths, and all of the evil and all of the untruth in the world were reflected outward from its surface, reflected with such a black and universal brilliance of hatred that only his universal love of God saved the boy from being blinded, and drawn into the mirror, to become a part of its evil.
That black heart was given into his hand.
He closed his fingers tightly over it, he held it fast.
But then he felt it palpitating within his hand, shivering and jerking like a fish out of water, he felt the blood drop from it, and he knew the immeasurable pain that was in that heart: pain that began before time began, and would endure forever.
Then he took pity, and gave freedom to the heart.
He placed it upon the earth; and the earth opened and swallowed the black heart into itself.
Israel looked around, and saw that he was alone. He went and found his band of children and led them on to the cheder.
At the close of the day, townsfolk found the charcoal-burner lying dead under the bushes in the woods. A smile of simple innocence was on his face. His eyes were closed.
Then, they did not understand why they had ever feared him, saying he became a werewolf at night in the woods. For in death he was like a child.
From that day forward the children of Horodenka ceased to sing as they went after Israel through the fields; they began to be like their fathers, and the fathers of their fathers, with their heads bowed between their shoulders.