Friday, March 09, 2007

Passover Story: Lord of the Reed Sea

My last story was written for my step-son, and is based on the classic The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. I'm sure this author and his series need no introduction here.

It is the least successful of my stories, I feel, because Tolkien is a hard author to emulate, particularly his constant references to ancient songs.

This story is based on the midrash that the waters to the Reed Sea didn't open until Nachshon jumped in as a show of faith. My poor poem, such as it is, is based on the final song in the Hagaddah, "Had Gadya".

Lord of the Reed Sea

Before them lay the great swirling waters of the Great Reed Sea, known in the Hebrew language as Yam Suf, Sea of Ends. It's waters crashed against the shore of dark rock they were standing on. Behind them, the endless hosts of Pharaoh, King of the Mitzrim, came shrieking and gibbering. They were still an hour's distance, but Joshua thought he could already smell their foul stench.

"We can't go forward!" he cried. "Moshe, what can we do?"

"Half a moment, half a moment! I must rest!" he declared, and sat himself down against a jutting black admantite rock.

Joshua, only son of Nun, threw himself down on the wide expanse of ground, exhausted. Moshe sat with his back against the large rock, mumbling to himself and blowing blue smoke rings that drifted lazily above his head. Nachshon, son of Aminadav, dropped his heavy sack, swung his cedar bow off of his shoulder and began polishing it with mirkwood oil. He cast worried glances at the wizard, and glanced at Joshua. The stout warrior just shrugged his shoulders in reply.

Joshua spoke, "It seems as if I have been running since Abraham, Patriarch of Canaan, first chased the hosts of the five kings through the valley of Sodom. How did I ever let you drag me into this, Nachshon? I wish I were back in my little house in Mitzrayim, eating celery and cucumber sandwiches, the teapot just beginning to boil." It was not the last time that he wished for that!

"Your home is likely taken by the Mitzrim now, Joshua. You must keep up your courage, for we still have a long way to travel." The skilled archer put away his oil, and studied his bowstring, trying to judge if the string was still sound.

"Why is this burden laid upon our backs?" exclaimed the warrior. "I wish it were someone else!"

Then Moshe spoke, "So do all who live to see such times. It is not up to us to decide in which age we live, but to make the best with what time we have been given. And now, I think I have remembered the way through."

He stood with his face towards the sea. Raising his powerful arms, he held aloft his staff Emunat-El. The staff flashed a brilliant blue, and blue fire raced up and down the sides. "Teyn lanu la-avor!" he yelled. "B'vakashah! P'tach lanu derech!"

Moshe tried those and other words of power, his face beginning to sweat. Nothing appeared to happen. He threw his staff down in disgust.

Joshua began to sing an ancient Hebrew song. The words rang out softly, to the rhythm of the surf. The words were sung in Hebrew, but a fair translation was provided to me after the events by a Hebrew poet, and it goes something like this in our language:
 One kid, one kid,
In the land of milk and honey,
My father bid,
And it was bought with little money,
Then came the cat,
His slashing claws, his sweeping paw,
And after that,
The bloodied coat was all we saw,
Then came the dog,
His fearsome bite, his frothing jaw,
Like a balrog,
And bloodied fur was all we saw,
Then came the stick,
The striking blows, the fierce attack,
The blows were thick,
The bloodied cur lie dead and black,
Then came the fire,
The searing spark, the ravenous lick,
The flames rose higher,
Eating up the blackened stick,
Then came the rain,
The drowning waves, the quenching hood,
And once again,
'Twas all consumed, for woe or good,
Then came the bull,
The scalding breath, the striking toe,
And with one pull,
The rain consumed, for good or woe,
Then came the man,
The sharpened knife, the bloodstained skirt,
A thought, a plan,
And downed the bull, slain in the dirt,
Then came the war,
The screaming hordes, the dying hosts,
And by the score,
Men shed skins, and walked as ghosts,
Then came the Lord,
The gathering touch, the healing word,
The flaming sword,
The sheltering wings of the noble bird,
The nourishing gourd,
The holy song forever heard.

Meanwhile, Nachshon leaned over the red boulder he was standing on. He tossed a fist sized rock into the shallow surf. The rock turned over once, before splashing in the water. Water sprayed onto the sand at Moshe's feet. "Nachshon," exclaimed the old wizard, "throw yourself in next time, rather than disturb my thoughts!" Chagrined, Nachshon stood up on the boulder looking out over the blue-green face of the great Reed Sea, and then turned around.

"Ho!" yelled Joshua. "Here they come!" Joshua jumped up, drawing Yehudi, his great Hebrew sword from it's scabbard. The metal blade was glowing blue, which meant that Mitzrim were near. "Moshe!" yelled Nachshon, starting toward the great wizard, when he suddenly stepped on a wet patch, and slipped, falling down into the Great Sea.

"Nachshon!" Yelled Moshe, starting forward. He suddenly stopped, his eyes widening. In front of him the Reed Sea was surging and boiling where Nachshon had fallen in. The water shot up in a large column, forming a head and face. The mouth of the face spoke, "Moshe, I have been waiting for one of you to enter into the sea, for only by taking the first step can I intervene on your behalf. Well do I remember the service of your people. Raise your staff and come forward." The head disappeared in a wash of salt water, and the water began to split. It rushed up into great walls, to the left and right. When it was done, where once stood the Great Reed Sea, there was now a corridor of dry land. Nachshon lay strewn across it. He slowly pulled himself to his feet.

"What happened?" he asked, in perplexity.

"It seems I was right, after all, dear Nachshon. The Lord needed one of us to step forward before he would respond to our request. I am happy that you have found the step to take, although, next time, you may want to make it more deliberate."

"What is this place?" asked the bowman.

"This is the ancient bridge of the Philistine caravans, called the Dry Land Bridge, or, in Hebrew, Gesher B'toch Hayam. It was destroyed during the second age, when the Lord sought fit to cover it up with Yam Suf, but knowledge of it has been passed down to me through the ancient writings of the Lord. But come now, no more time for explanations. The Mitzrim come. Hurry!"

Stopping only to pick up their packs, the three men hurried down the queer passage, only minutes ahead of the mad pack of Mitzrim.

Yehuda Berlinger

1 comment:

Mike said...

This is my favorite post ever... Your telling of this event is what always comes to mind when I am facing a leap of faith. Thank you!