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The Golden Mountain, by Meyer Levin, [1932], at

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Little by little Rabbi Israel had given Power out of himself, that the weaker might be sustained. The well of his Force was deep, and might never become dry, yet the Power was not in him now as in earlier years. His soul went no more into Heaven, and yet he yearned for Heaven.

Then he desired to bring down Heaven on earth.

Though he knew the time had not yet come, he could not restrain his desire, and all of the strength that remained in him gathered and mounted for that attempt.


The pale first sun of the new year hung far in the midst of grey heaven, and the air was filled with the sound of the ram's horn blown in trumpet call. Some thought they could even see the sounds of the trumpet spreading in a faint glowing orbit through the greyness of the autumn day, as the call went forward.

The students sat about the long ancient table in the house of the Baal Shem Tov. Today it seemed to root its gnarled feet into the very ground, and take a new hold on life. Some of the students looked out into the halo of spreading light, and some sat staring at the blackened walls, as though the next instant the walls must draw aside and reveal the Empire of Mystery.

The prayer was ended. The Master began to speak the sermon of the New Year.

The students had not the strength to look into his

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glowing face; but when they closed their eyes each of his words came before them, and each word had a form; some were ablaze in light, some shadow dark, and some were pure and stainless as God's love on earth. With their eyes closed they sat, young and aged, and listened, and saw.

The voice of Rabbi Israel was ever as a gently sounded bell, though when he uttered fullest prayer his voice became as the cry of the lark's throat. But on the day of the New Year his voice was fresh and nimble. The ram's horn breathed through him and became a human call. The song of the Tekia knocked on the door of the soul, calling "come away"! The wavering notes of the Scherwarim wakened the freed souls like the freshness of day, and filled them with the tremblement of eternal longing. The high joyous cry of the Terua carried them up to Redemption.

And the Word upon which the Baal Shem spoke was the Word of the New Year:

"Sound on the mighty trumpet the sound of our Release!"

"Sound on the mighty trumpet!" he cried to the Almighty. "When the sphere of the year is rounded, and the souls of all things reach through the darkness toward a new birth, sound! See, Your children are become bitten under the assault of the storm. See, the fire of the wilderness has left her mark on them. But now the circle of Your year closes. The awful darkness on the other side has sent out her chill waves before her, already we feel their approach. Sound on the mighty Trumpet, O Lord, for the new Birth!

"Your punishment has bitten into our hand and

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eaten out the strength of life. Your banishment has hounded our feet until they tottered on solid earth. You sent the worm into our hearts, and they are gnawed like withered leaves. We have felt the icy hand of Your Will upon our foreheads, and our thoughts are stiffened and glazed. Sound on the mighty trumpet, O Lord, for our Release!

"The Angel of the Lord took hold of me during the night and led me outward, and I stood in nothingness, and the night lay upon my shoulders like a great burden, and the night rolled from below my prisoned feet. Then the Angel said, See! and the darkness faded, and I stood in a whited nothingness, and I saw.

"There between two chasms stood a narrow circular ridge. And within the ridge was enclosed a red depth like a sea of blood, and outside of it was a black depth like a sea of Night. And I saw, there walked a man upon the ridge, he walked like a blind man, with trembling feet, and his two weak arms wavered feeling against the darkness on one side of him and on the other; and his breast was all of glass, and I saw his heart flutter like a sick leaf in the wind, and on his brow was the mark of the icy Hand. The man went further and further around the ridge, without seeing to right or to left, and he was nearly come to the end of the circle, where his beginning had been. And I wanted to call to him, but that which I saw stopped my tongue, and I could not move it, as though it were stone. For suddenly the man had raised his eyes and seen what was on the right and on the left of him, then he staggered, and from each chasm arms reached upward to seize him.

"Then the Angel touched my lips, and my tongue

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was free, and I called and I shouted to him, "Lift up your wings and fly!" Then behold, the man lifted up wings! there was no more weakness or fear in him; then the ridge faded from beneath his feet, and the chasm of blood was dissolved in God's spring-water, and the chasm of night melted in God's light, and the City of the Lord lay before me, open everyways.

"Behold, the year is a circle. We go on a narrow circular ridge between two chasms, and we do not see their depth. But when we come to the end of the way that is also its beginning, then the trembling of fear falls upon us as before the thunder from on high, and the lightning of the Lord flashes over the chasm, and we see the chasm, and we quiver.

"Then the trumpet sounds over us, and takes hold of our souls and carries them, each call of the trumpet carries myriads of souls upon its wings! And the sounds of the trumpet leap up to Heaven, and the Heavens listen, and fear and trembling comes over the Heavens as before the thunder of the Lord; and the trumpet resounds! And the Trumpet of the World carries on its wings that soul that shall be born out of all our souls, and is the soul of Messiah. And he climbs up to the Kingdom of Mysteries, and he beats with his wings on the Door, and the Door falls open, and behold, there is neither door nor wall remaining, but the City of God lies there, open everyways.

"Sound on the mighty trumpet, O Lord, for the birth of the Soul!"


The voice of the Baal Shem Tov was like the trumpet, until it ceased. Then he arose from the

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table, and went into his chamber, and locked himself there. And there he remained, motionless in striving. For his utmost power was gone forward in his demand, and his soul awaited surely the coming of Messiah.

And the students also arose from about the table, and went out. As sleepwalkers they went through the streets, unseeing, and filled with yearning. At the borders of the city there was a hut where they would come together that they might undisturbed occupy themselves with thoughts of the Eternal. There they now went. And the Wings of the Voice were still over them.

But at that time there lived in the house of the Baal Shem Tov a young boy whose name was Joseph, and who was called Yohseleh. When the Master had gone into his chamber, and the students had all gone to their cottage outside the city, the boy remained alone at the long table, for he was too young to go with the others to their meditations. Yohseleh remained sitting there, within the darkening walls, and he felt the wings of the Voice upon his shoulders.

And when the first shadow of the twilight trembled goldenbrown over the white table-cloth, Yohseleh laid his head on his hands, he was in terror before the Will of the Voice, and he sank under the heaviness of the wings of the Voice that were on his shoulders. His closed fingers, pressed before his eyes, set him into deepest darkness; but in that darkness there wakened a Light that sang with the same Voice whose will he so feared. The Voice pressed upon Yohseleh with an irresistible force, and like tears long held

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back it suddenly burst forth, and Yohseleh cried, "Now and at once Messiah must come!"

Then the room became as far away, and the walls disappeared, and before him was a Light that gave out rings of illumination, as a night-time sun. And Yoseleh ran toward the Light. But here was the door, like a piercing, wakening pain. The boy stood for a second, as one on a narrow ridge between two chasms, who suddenly sees his danger. The Lightning of the Lord went out of him, and he was afraid, shuddering. But then the Power seized him as with the strength of the Cherubim, and the Voice cried, and Light fell once more into his heart and burned there. And Yohseleh opened the door and ran out, he ran through the streets of the city, and he ran in terrible haste until he came to the cottage of the students. Here his feet stopped. And his throat split open, and he cried, "Messiah!"

But there was no loud voice about him; only his own voice sounded and resounded slowly, and lived, and was like the Voice whose Wings he had felt upon his shoulders.

He forced his eyes to open, and made himself see.

There the aged ones sat on the threshold of the house, in a long, curved row, and every mouth was hard closed, and every look was far in the horizon, and not a limb moved.

Then Yohseleh heard his own voice crying, "Now and at once Messiah comes!" and he heard his own voice resounding in the midst of the staring silence. Then the soul of the boy flew upon the Wings of the Voice, and lay within the breast of the first of the

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students, and Yohseleh said, "Nachum, do you still remember how you fasted from one Sabbath to the other, that Messiah might come? Do you still remember how I came to you when you lay on the ground on the last day, and beat your forehead against the floor, how we cried and prayed together then? Now see, Messiah comes!" But the other was silent.

Then the soul rose and flew to the second student, and crept into his sleep, and Yohseleh said, "Elimelech, I saw you once bowed over a fire until your hairs fell into the flames, and your lips uttered the name, Messiah! I saw you once lift up your arms and shake your hands against the heavens, and your lips uttered the name, Messiah! Elimelech, he comes!" But the other was silent.

And again the soul went out, and flew to the third, and nestled in his hand, and Yohseleh said, "Yehuda, I heard you once when you spoke magic over the waters, and uttered dim words in the way of the wind. Your magic ran with the waters, and your enchantments flew with the wind. But now, Yehuda, hear me, now he comes, do you not hear him coming? Yehuda, let us go and greet him!" But he also was silent.

Yohseleh looked upon these aged ones, and his soul looked on them, and he saw them listening to a distant step. So they sat in a long, bent row, and listened to a distant step, and looked into infinity. Then loneliness came over Yohseleh and laid her cold hard hand upon the nape of his neck, and the nails of the fingers sank deep into his flesh, and the hand lay on his neck like a live, in-crawling mark. And Yohseleh saw how the Light went out of his own heart and faded from

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before his eyes. And Yohseleh felt how the wings upon his shoulders shrank, and fell away. And Yohseleh wanted to speak, but no voice came out of his throat. And Yohseleh wanted to go from there, but he could not lift his feet. And Yohseleh sat in the row with the others, and looked into the distance, and listened for a distant step.

So they sat together, until the stars came. And in his chamber the Baal Shem Tov struggled to force down the presence of Messiah. And as long as he continued the struggle, the sound of a distant step was in their ears. But when the sun was gone, the Baal Shem was empty of strength. And he knew that the heavens would not yield before his urge.

Then the binding power was loosed from the students. They arose, and returned to the city.

And Yohseleh stood in his house like a blind man, with unsteady feet, and his two hands wavered reaching out against the nothingness to left and to right of him, and his heart trembled like a sick leaf in the wind, and the mark of the icy hand was on his brow.

Next: The False Messiah