Arts & Culture

Fiction: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind

…and on the books' pages – not a single letter. –Borges, "In Praise of Darkness"   for Margarita Meklina   ? They said of old Isaac that he didn't go blind, but one day simply stopped opening his eyes. Many … Read More

By / May 20, 2008

…and on the books' pages – not a single letter.

–Borges, "In Praise of Darkness"

 

for Margarita Meklina

 

?

They said of old Isaac that he didn't go blind, but one day simply stopped opening his eyes. Many believed that Isaac's lids were sealed by angels – with beeswax and honey. To amuse us, Isaac would enumerate the people in the room and describe them – one after another – but would sometimes err, adding those who weren‘t even there. His trade was healing with the laying on of hands, and giving counsel.

?

In the synagogue, during communal prayer, his voice would break from our voices, and we – one after another – would fall silent, looking on in astonishment as his prayer ascended. When the service would end, the rabbi would bring forth a cup, so that Isaac could drink his fill, and then accompany him home, propping him up by the elbow.

?

In Isaac's home there were many books, and when we would ask how it is he read them, Isaac would answer that he smells every page, and sees what is written just as clearly as if he were reading it with his eyes. When one of us doubted him, Isaac offered to pick a book, open it to any page, and place it into his hands. He smelled the page and read aloud:

?

… and so it is that in the holy days the Creator appears to gaze at all the dishes shattered by Him, and he comes to us, and sees that there's nothing to be joyful about, and weeps for us, and returns to the Heavens, so as to destroy the world.

?

Hearing this, we began to weep, for we considered the book's words a dire omen, but Isaac said: "Do not weep, for He appears to us not only in the holy days, but everyday; and every time we are given a chance to convince Him that the world is good, and then He returns to the Heavens, joyous of what he has created."

Einstein, by Sheryl Light?

But we wept more than before: "Isaac, your days are numbered. You will die soon, and who shall then convince Him that the world is good? Who will take up our salvation day after day, caring for us, loving us, and taking pity, as you do?"

?

Isaac replied to this: "You shall have other advocates and defenders before Him. But if you do not grow wiser and raise up your spirits, you will grieve and suffer one way or another." We beseeched him: "Speak to us of this," and he opened the book to another page, smelled it, and read aloud:

?

…my silence created a High Temple, Bina, and a Low Temple, Malkhut. People say: "The word is gold, but twice as dear is the silence." "The word is gold" means that I uttered it and regretted it. Twice as dear is the silence, my silence, because two worlds were created by this silence, Bina and Malkhut. Because, had I not remained silent, I could not have grasped the unity of both worlds."

?

Then we asked him: "So how is it that your intercession takes place in silence?" Isaac replied: "A prayer is good, but a dance is better than a prayer. I prance with you and so I converse in the Temple." We recalled that we were often amused at him, seeing the blind man prancing, and were shamed by this, and left him.

?

The next day Isaac died and we again gathered in his home to determine who would now answer before the Lord. Since then we gather daily after evening prayers. The world still stands and the stars do not go out – does this mean that someone has taken the task onto himself, but did not wish to announce it to us? We speak, we argue, we ask, we read and write things down. Alas, this is all we can do.

 

Dmitry Deitch was born in Donetsk in 1969, and has lived in Israel since 1995. His short prose has appeared in the anthology Very Short Texts, various collections of new prose edited by Max Fray, including Prozak, 78, The Best Short Stories of 2005, The Best Short Stories of 2006, The Best Short Stories of 2007, and in the Russian-language journals Semicolon and Solar Plexus (Israel), and Air (Moscow). His books include Incomprehensible August (Donetsk, 1995), Griffith's Advantage (Moscow, 2007), and Tales for Martha (Moscow, 2008). In 2005, he won the international literary contest Dvarim.