The Golden Mountain, by Meyer Levin, , at sacred-texts.com
When Satan heard Rabbi Israel beg for Messiah to descend upon earth, Satan the Enemy laughed and said, "I will send down Messiah."
Light has one great eye; but Darkness has a thousand arms; Light is One, and master of eternity; but Satan is legion, and reigns from each instant to each instant.
And now Satan reached forth one of his thousand arms, and brought down the false Messiah whose cursed name was Jacob Frank. He lived on earth, and announced himself as the Redeemer, the Son of God. With twelve disciples he went up and down the land of Poland, and wherever he passed, he left behind him the tumult of the end of the world. For everywhere Jews gathered their belongings together, and prepared to follow him to the Holy Land.
Then the Angel of Wrath came down and stood behind Rabbi Israel, and the fiery arm of the angel touched the shoulder of the Baal Shem Tov.
"What must I do?" said Rabbi Israel.
But the archangel was gone.
Rabbi Israel heard the cries and the tumult among the people, and saw the chaos that was like the end of the world, and he knew that it was his task to struggle against the false Messiah. He sought for his strength, but he was like a house that has been filled with the movement of living people, and is now empty and still. And he felt no power within himself.
Then he sent forth a call.
To each spark of his undying will that he had given out of himself during his lifetime, he called, "Return to me now, for I have need of all my strength for this combat."
His call streamed over the wide earth, into forests, and into obscure hovels, and into the very grave; for the rays of his power had gone into distant corners. From the souls of aged men, and from the souls of children, from the souls of scholars, and from the souls of simpletons, the sparks of the Baal Shem's inward flame arose, and they returned to him, until all of his powers were before him.
Then one small steadily burning flame spoke to him. "Master, I have come from the soul of a young scholar; and until you sent me to him, his life was miserable and drear, and he looked before him and saw only the grey unending plain, and the grey sky upon it. But now he sees the mountain of gold and the blue of brightest heaven, and his eyes are filled with joy, and his lips with melody. If you take me from him, misery will come over him once more, and the grey shroud. Then let me return, and remain with him; I am so small a power, Master."
Rabbi Israel remembered the wan boy who had come to him, and listened, and never spoken. He remembered how he had sent this very spark of his soul to the boy, and he said, "Return, remain with the scholar."
Then another spark, come from the soul of a dying woman, begged to be allowed to go with her into her death; and the Master did not refuse. Then from every side there arose voices, tiny like the crackling
of forest leaves, and powerful as tall successive waves, first few, then many, until all about the Master there was a rush of pleading and crying: for the sake of a woman in childbirth, for the sake of the joyfully wedded, for the sake of blind and poor, for the sake of the simple-hearted: each spark of his power begged to return to the soul to which it had been given. At last Rabbi Israel raised his arms and said, "My children, go home, each to the heart you have come from, go."
And then the flames of his power left him again, and twilight came, and he stood watching the particles of his soul fading away like the dew that rises off the earth. He cast one long look after them, as the sun casts a lingering eye about the earth before sinking beneath the horizon.
Then the Master was alone, with what remained of himself. And he knew that what remained was little, for he was weak.
Yet he made his way up to the heaven of the prophets, and there he found his teacher, Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai, who had often come to him in his boyhood, at night.
"Teacher," said Rabbi Israel, "help me. Once I was ablaze as a seraph, but now I am only the shadow of a flame. Where shall I find the power to combat the falsehood of darkness? Where shall I find a soul that is a steady burning light, that I may set it to consume the darkness?"
Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai said, "Israel, I fear I may not help you. For my task is but to teach the Torah, and therefore I could never know that perfect Soul whom you seek, for he has no need of being
taught the Torah: he is himself the Torah. Nevertheless, let us ask of Elijah. Perhaps in his coming and going over the earth, he has seen that one whom you seek."
At that moment Elijah passed through the heaven of the prophets. "The man whom you seek," he said, "is the shepherd Moses. You will find him in the Carpathian hills."
And without another word he lifted his feet, and returned to his labours on earth.
Rabbi Israel searched among the mountains. Untiring he went from peak to peak in search of the shepherd Moses. The beasts of the wilderness moaned before and behind him, and the thunders separated above his head; the wind was soft about his face, and the branches of the trees turned to make way for him.
He came to the top of a green hill. He looked down, and saw a flock of sheep in the pasture below him, like a small white cloud over the earth.
Between large rocks on the mountainside, a stream of water flowed.
The Baal Shem Tov saw a young shepherd walking among the rocks, and he knew that this was the shepherd Moses.
The Master hid himself, and watched.
The boy was beautiful; his neck was strong, his black hair clustered like the wool of a ram; his eyes were young and clear as the mountain stream. His face was alive with perfect joy engulfed in perfect love. He spoke aloud,
"O beloved God, show me what I must do because
of You! If You had sheep, I would watch them day and night, for no reward but the joy of serving You!" The boy stood still. Then he looked at the stream of water. Suddenly he began to leap from one side of the stream to the other, dancing high over the stream, and singing his joy out loud.
"Beloved God! I am joyous because of you! For your joy, I leap over the stream!" And he sprang back and forth, back and forth, leaping with all his strength, laughing, leaping, and singing with joy.
Then Rabbi Israel knew that this was surely the perfect soul, untainted as the Seraphim, and pure as a column of fire. "Shepherd," he called, "come speak with me!" And he stepped out from his hiding place.
But the young shepherd, never stopping his leaping, called back, "I cannot speak with you now! I cannot rest from my toil! Every moment of my day is given over to serving my Master!"
"But you are only sporting, leaping over the stream!" the Rabbi said.
"This is not sporting," the shepherd said; "it is the only way I know to serve my God!"
Rabbi Israel answered him, "It is of that very God that I wish to speak with you."
The shepherd paused, and replied, "If that is so, I will come."
"There is one who is doing evil against our Almighty God," said Rabbi Israel. "You must help me combat that evil-doer."
The boy said, "But I am only an ignorant shepherd. I know nothing but to watch my flock."
"Let me teach you," said Rabbi Israel.
Then they washed themselves in the stream, and
they seated themselves on the rock, and the Master taught the Shepherd.
First he taught him the aleph beth, for the Torah is written in the mighty alphabet. Then he spoke to him of the dwelling place of the Glory of God in the Temple in Jerusalem, and of how the Temple was destroyed in the Enemy's flames. The Master spoke of the Shechina, the Glory of God that wanders since then like a sorrowing virgin, wanders lonesome and lost and weeping through time and space; and he explained to the boy how the tears of the sorrowing Shechina are gathered together to quench the thirst of all created souls, who, on drinking of her tears, become filled with the love of God.
Already the souls of the earth were cleansed and would return to their Creator, already the eternity of exile stood at the brink of its ending. But the vigilant power of Darkness stretched out a thousand arms and barred a thousand ways. Then Night sent his servant over the earth, in darkness the False one strode, and every soul that looked upon his formless countenance became pale, and lost its holy fire, and every ear that listened to his falsehood became withered forever, and lost to the sound of Truth.
"Where is that man!" cried the shepherd Moses. "I will go find him, and make an end to his evil!" And he arose, filled with Almighty power.
But at that moment the Enemy clamoured in the heavens. "Space is mine, and Time is mine!" he cried. "No mortal creature can come against me!"
Then a Voice floated outward over eternity, and the Voice was like a low wind over water. "True," said the Voice, all sorrowful. "You are the Prince
of the Moment. Instant to instant, the world is yours, until you relinquish it to fall before Eternity!"
Satan cowered beneath that gentle Voice, his hulk shivered, and he hid his head in the ultimate chasm. But the Voice floated away and was gone. Satan raised his shoulders, he shook his giant form; he lifted up his arms, and reached his fists among the clouds, and knocked them mightily one against the other.
A storm broke over the earth. Black clouds split themselves upon the tops of mountains, thunders broke from peak to peak, and lightnings ran among the trees. Then the bells of all the villages were set wildly ringing, and all the world was in chaos.
The sheep of the shepherd's flock began to bleat, and run; they ran frightened everyways, and stumbled against the rocks, and shivered in the water.
The shepherd Moses ran from the side of Rabbi Israel. He ran one way and the other, gathering his frightened sheep, and carrying them to the safety of his cave. He lifted them tenderly, and spoke to them; he went far seeking for the lost ones, for he would not leave one of them astray in the storm.
And Rabbi Israel saw the form of the shepherd fading always further down the meadow, as he leaped after his straying flock.
Then the Baal Shem Tov knew that he had lost his needed help against the Enemy, for the Enemy was of today.
Rabbi Israel hung his head, for he felt very old.