The Golden Mountain, by Meyer Levin, , at sacred-texts.com
When the children of Horodenka ceased to sing, Israel was no longer content to remain in that place. He wandered again, and returned to the town of Okup, where he had been born. There he became the watcher of the synagogue.
The desire for knowledge came into him; and the joy that was given him by flowers and beasts in the forest was no longer sufficient. His mind was afire and thirsty, but his thirst could be quenched only by those waters that had cooled for ages deep in the deepest wells of mystery, and the fire within him was of the sort that burns forever, and does not consume.
The innermost secrets of the Cabbala were for him, and they were only as stars of night against the sun. For to him would be revealed the Secret of Secrets.
The boy lived in the synagogue. But since the time for the revelation of his power was yet far away, he did not show his passion for the Torah to the men of the synagogue. By day, he slept on the benches, pretending to be a clod. But as soon as the last of the scholars blew out his candle and crept on his way toward home, Israel rose, and took the candle into a corner, and lighted it, and all night long he stood and read the Torah.
In another city the Tsadik Rabbi Adam, master of all mysteries, waited the coming of his last day. For
in each generation one is chosen to carry throughout his lifetime the candle that is lighted from heaven. And the candle may never be set down. And the soul of the Tsadik may not return to eternal peace in the regions above until another such soul illuminates the earth.
Rabbi Adam was even greater than the Tsadikim who had been before him. For in the possession of Rabbi Adam was the Book that contains the Word of eternal might.
Though Rabbi Adam was not one of the Innocent souls, he had led a life so pure that this Book had been given into his hands. Before him, only six human beings had possessed the knowledge that was in the Book of Adam. The Book was given to the first man, Adam, and it was given to Abraham, to Joseph, to Joshua ben Nun, and to Solomon. And the seventh to whom it was given was the Tsadik, Rabbi Adam.
This is how he came to receive the Book.
When he had learned all Torah, and all Cabbala, he had not been content, but had searched day and night for the innermost secret of power. When he knew all the learning that there was among men, he said, "Man does not know." And he had begged of the angels.
One night Rabbi Adam arose from his sleep. He walked into a wilderness. Before him stood a mountain, and in the side of the mountain was a cave. And that was one mouth of the cave, whose other mouth was in the Holy Land. It was the cave of the Machpelah, where Abraham lies buried.
Rabbi Adam went deep into the cave, and there he found the Book.
All of his life Rabbi Adam has guarded the secret of knowledge. Gazing into it, he had grown old, and he had come to see with the grave eyes of one who sees to the end of things.
And when he saw himself growing old, he began to ask, "What will become of my wisdom?"
Then he rose, and looked to the Lord and said, "To whom, Almighty God, shall I leave the Book of Wisdom? Give me a son, that I may teach him."
He was given a son. His son grew, and became learned in the Torah. The Rabbi taught his son all that there was in the Torah. And he said, "My son learns well." He began to teach his son the Cabbala. His son was sharp in understanding. But when the boy had learned the secrets of the Cabbala, he asked no more. Then the old heart of Rabbi Adam was weary and yearned for death. "My son is not the one," he said.
Night after night Rabbi Adam prayed to the Almighty that he might be relieved of the burden of knowledge. And one night the word came to him, saying, "Give the Book into the hands of Rabbi Israel, son of Eleazer, who lives in Okup."
Rabbi Adam was thankful, for now he might give over his burden, and die. He said to his son, "Here is one book in which I have not read with you."
His son asked, "Was I not worthy?"
"You are not the predestined vessel," said Rabbi Adam. "You would break with the heat of the fluid."
Then he said to his son, "Seek out Rabbi Israel, in the city of Okup, for these leaves belong to him. And if he will be favourable toward you and receive you as his servant and instruct you in his Torah, then
count yourself happy. For, my son, you must know that it is your fate to be the squire who gives into the hands of his knight the sword that has been tempered and sharpened by hundreds of divine spirits that now lie silent under the earth."
Soon Rabbi Adam died. His son did not think of himself, but thought only of fulfilling the mission his father had given into his charge. He deserted the city of his birth and, taking with him the leaves of the Book, went in search of that Rabbi Israel of whom his father had spoken.
The son of Rabbi Adam came to the town of Okup. He wished to keep secret the true reason of his coming, so he said, "I am seeking a bride. I would marry, and live my life here." The people of the town were delighted, and felt greatly honoured because the son of the Tsadik, Rabbi Adam, had chosen to live among them.
Every day he went to the synagogue. There he encountered scholars, and holy men, and rabbis. He asked their names of them. But he did not meet with any one called Rabbi Israel, son of Rabbi Eleazer.
Often, when all the others had gone from the synagogue, Rabbi Adam's son remained studying the Torah. Then he noticed that the boy who served in the synagogue also remained there, he saw that the eyes of the boy were bright with inner knowledge, and that his face was strained with unworldly happiness.
Rabbi Adam's son went to the elders of the house of prayer and said to them, "Let me have a separate room in which to study. Perhaps I shall want to sleep
there sometimes when I study late into the night. Then give me the boy Israel as a servant."
"Why has he chosen the boy Israel, who is a clod?" the elders asked.
Then they remembered that Israel was the son of Rabbi Eleazer. "He has chosen him to honour the memory of his father, Eleazer, who was a very holy man," they said.
When the boy came to serve him, the son of Rabbi Adam asked, "What is your name?"
"Israel, son of Eleazer."
The master watched the boy, and soon came to feel certain that this was indeed the Rabbi Israel whom he sought.
One night he remained late in the synagogue. He lay down on a bench, and pretended to be asleep. He opened his eyes a little, and he saw how the boy Israel arose and took a candle and lighted it, and covered the light, standing in a corner and studying the Torah. For many hours the boy remained motionless in an intensity of study that the rabbi had known only in his father, the Tsadik Rabbi Adam.
All night long the boy studied. And when the sunrise embraced his candle flame, he slipped down upon the bench, and slept.
Then the rabbi arose and took a leaf from the holy book his father had given him, and placed the leaf on the breast of Israel.
Soon the boy stirred, and sleeping reached his hand toward the page of writing. He held the page before his eyes, and opened his eyes and read. As he read, he rose. He bent over the page of mysteries, and studied it, and his whole face was aflame, his eyes
glowed as if they had pierced into the heart of the earth, and his hands burned as if they lay against the heart of the earth.
When full day came, the boy fell powerless upon the bench, and slept.
The rabbi sat by him and watched over him until he awoke again. Then the rabbi placed his hand upon the boy's hand that held the leaf out of the book. The rabbi took the other pages of the book, and gave them to him, saying: "Know, that I place in your hands the infinite wisdom that God gave forth on Mount Sinai. The words that are in this book have been entrusted only in the hearts of the chosen of the chosen, When no soul on earth was worthy to contain its wisdom, this book lay hidden from man. For centuries it was buried in unreachable depths. But always there came the time for its uncovering, again it was brought to light, again lost. My father was the last of the great souls to whom it was entrusted. I was not found worthy of retaining it, and through my hands my father transmits this book to your hands. I beg of you, Rabbi Israel, allow me to be your servant, let me be as the air about you, absorbing your holy words, that otherwise would be lost in nothingness."
Israel answered, "Let it be so. We will go out of the city, and give ourselves over to the study of this book."
The son of Rabbi Adam went with Israel to live in a house that stood outside of the town. There, day and night, they were absorbed in the study of the pages that contained the words of all the mysteries.
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THE BOOK OF MYSTERIES
Israel was as one who feeds on honey and walks on golden clouds. His soul swelled with tranquil joy, and his heart was filled with the peace of understanding. Often, he went with the leaves of the book into the forest, and there, the words of the book were as the words spoken to him by the flowers and by the beasts.
But the son of Rabbi Adam was eaten by that upon which he fed, and yet his hunger grew ever more insatiable. The grander the visions that opened before him, the greater was the cavern within himself. And he was afraid, as one who stands on a great height and looks downward.
Each day, his eyes sank deeper, and became more red.
Rabbi Israel, seeing the illness that was come into his companion, said to him, "What is it that consumes you? What is it that you desire?"
Then the son of Rabbi Adam said, "Only one thing can give me rest. All that has been revealed to me has set me flaming with a single curiosity, and each new mystery that is solved before me only causes a greater chaos in my mind, and a greater hunger in my heart."
"What is the one thing that you desire?"
"Reveal the Word to me!"
"The Word is inviolate!" cried Rabbi Israel.
But the son of Rabbi Adam fell on his knees and cried, "Until I see the end of all wisdom, I cannot come to rest! Call down the highest of powers, the Giver of the Torah Himself, force Him to come down to us, otherwise I am lost!"
Then the Master shrank from him. He said, "The hour has not yet come for His descent to earth."
His companion was silent. He never pleaded with Israel again.
But each day Rabbi Israel saw his face become darker, and his body become more feeble. The hands were weak, and could hardly turn a leaf.
Rabbi Israel was torn with pity for his companion.
At last he said, "Is it still your wish that we name the Giver of the Torah, and call Him to earth once more?"
The son of Rabbi Adam remained silent. But he lifted his eyes to the eyes of Rabbi Israel. They were as the eyes of the dead come to life.
"Then we must purify our souls, that they may reach the uttermost power of will."
On Friday, the two rabbis went to the mikweh, where they bathed in the spring of holy water. From Sabbath to Sabbath they fasted, and when they reached the height of their fast they went again to the mikweh, and purified themselves in the bath.
On the second Friday night they stood in their house of prayer. They called upon their own souls and said, "Are you pure?" Their souls answered, "We have been purified."
Then Rabbi Israel raised his hands into the darkness, and cried out the terrible Name.
The son of Rabbi Adam raised his arms aloft, and his feeble lips moved as he repeated the unknowable Word.
But in the instant that the word left those lips, Israel touched him and said, "My brother, you have made
an error! Your command was wrongly uttered, it has been caught by the wind, it has been carried to the Lord of Fire! We are in the hands of death."
"I am lost," said the son of Rabbi Adam, "for I am not pure."
"Only one way is left to us," cried Rabbi Israel. "We must watch until day comes. If one of us closes an eyelid, the evil one will seize him, he is lost."
Then they began to watch. They stood guard over their souls. With their eyes open they watched. And the hours passed. They stood in prayer, and the hours passed.
But as dawn came, the son of Rabbi Adam, enfeebled by his week of purification, and by the long struggle against the darkness of night, wavered, his head nodded, and sank upon the table.
Rabbi Israel reached out his arm to raise him. But in that moment an unseen thing sped from the mouth of Rabbi Adam's son, and a flame devoured his heart, and his body sank to the ground.