*Click here to see glossary of Yiddish words used in this story.

Klotz, knisches and knaydl

Two hundred years ago, the Lord commanded the Golem to be his mighty arm, to slay the unjust and spare the righteous. So, who was this Golem? Let me tell you how it happened. Back in Russia in the Schtetls, the unjust people swarmed all over the land and the Lord had his hands full. The Jews minded their own business. But so what! Maybe the young Goys from the next village would get drunk, start talking, arguing, complaining about how life was so terrible. Then they would talk about the Jews and they'd get mad. The drunker they'd get, the madder they got, and would hop on their horses, gallop to the Schtetls and got even with the Jews.

Of course it was the fault of the Jews! It could not be the Czar of all Russia! Was he not one with the mujik. He even bathed their feet at Easter. It was the Jews!

"Let's get them!" They shouted, and, of course, they did! They spat on them, beat them, killed them, even desecrated their synagogues, their cemeteries.

The Lord up above, in heaven, saw all this and was troubled. He thought about it a lot. Then it came to him. And from the rich black and fertile earth of Holy Mother Russia, from the black earth of the steppes right outside the boundaries of a humble Shtetl, the Lord fashioned a man. He made this man big and strong. He made him with a nose like a hawk. He made him with eyes like those of Angel Gabriel, who just with his piercing gaze sends sinners to the deepest holes of hell. He gave him the arms of a blacksmith. He gave him the height of a small sapling, six feet and eight inches. And God the Mighty One lifted this freshly made creature of clay, blew into its nostrils, and it came to life.

Yes, all this he did! But who knows! Maybe he ran out of good earth. Maybe he finished him off with some saw dust. What more can I tell you? One thing, it was not so smart, which is why he was called the Golem, which in Hebrew means matter without shape.

The Golem was a very diligent servant and worked around the clock. What did he do? Wait, I will give you an example. You know Moishe the butcher? Yes, him, a big man, about six feet two, with such a belly! hairy like a monkey, even hair in his ears, but not on his head. Well! Moishe made a real bad mistake one day. Komissar Stanislav, with the big mustache and the bushy eyebrows, came into his butcher store one day to buy a side of beef. And what do you know! That schlemil of Moishe gave him such a side! Anyway, it was that of an old cow and the meat was like boot leather. Stanislav boiled with rage, like the samovar when the cha is ready, so he sent for Ivan and Peter. You know, the two Mujiks who when they don't work on their little farms help Stanislav. They're big lumps, and they fetched Moishe and dragged him to Stanislav.

Tie him to a tree," the Komissar ordered Peter. "Take his shirt off and give him twenty lashes on his bare back with the knout, right in front of everybody."

Ten would have been too much, but twenty would have killed him. Little Sacha, Moishe's boy, ran like a Cossack was chasing him and he got the Golem. Faster than you can say klotz, knisches and knaydl, the Golem stood in front of Stanislav with his big sword in his right hand and the tablet of the ten commandments in his left.

I told you Stanislav was a big man, but the Golem, Oh my! The Golem was so tall that he could see the top of Stanislav's head. So there he was, big leather boots up to his knees, an astrakhan coat, a fur cap on his head, the nose like a hawk and the eyes, hard, black like the fur of the wolf of the Siberian forests, the mouth pressed tight. Did that stop Stanislav? Oh no!

He commanded Peter and Ivan to lash Moishe, but they took one look at the Golem, backed away and ran away like dogs. Stanislav picked up the knout from the ground, lifted it and was going to carry out the punishment himself. But the Golem brought his sword high up above his head, twirled it...and was just about to let it go. Stanislav dropped the knout and walked away real fast, not run. You see, he had to keep his honor.

All the Jews from the Schtetl, they yelled, they stamped their feet from joy and they picked up the Golem and carried him on their shoulders. Then they prepared a feast of kugels, latkes, chicken, turkey, lots of red wine, lots of schnaps, and then they danced, the men with the men and the women with the women. Of course! That is the tradition. And the Golem was very happy, went to bed very late and woke up with a headache the next morning. /p>

Another day it was Dinah, the daughter of Tivvie the tailor, gloomy Tivvie. Why was Tivvie gloomy? And what has that to do with the Golem! Don't worry, I'll tell you.

Little Dinah, like a wood sprite, rosy cheeked, hair like gold silk threads, twenty two years old already and, oy vey! She was not married!

Zavieh the matchmaker, her with the big lump on her neck, she tried...with Mr Farbloom, the horse trader, nice man! So he was already fifty nine years old, and he limped, and his breath was so bad that when there were flies buzzing around him, he'd blow and ten flies would drop dead, so what! Nobody's perfect!

You know what she wanted? You'd never guess. Yes, that's right, the Golem. Why did she want the Golem? It was all because of big, six foot one inches, fat Douchek, the Russian postman from the next village who delivered the mail to the Schtetl. Why not the Jewish postman? Well, I got you there! The Czar of all Russia came out with the Ukase , "No Jewish postmen."

Douchek was drunk out of his Russian mind with fermented potato mash. Sloshed like that he went to the Schtetl to deliver the mail. On the way, he had to go through the woods, and there was Dinah picking wild flowers, singing, gamboling about having such a happy time. So fat Douchek dropped his mail pouch, and with a big smile showing all his big rotten teeth went after little Dinah, almost caught her, he did, but not quite.

Lucky for Dinah, the Golem was strolling through the woods, in a meditative mood, smelling the flowers, listening to the chirping birds, gazing at the sky through the crown of the trees when he heard her. He ran with such a hurry that he left his sword and the table of the commandments on the crook of a tree, such a klotz! That's allright, he didn't need them anyway. He caught Douchek, grabbed him by the shirt, and fetched him such a clout on the head that the postman woke up six hours later and three inches shorter. Do you think he ever bothered little Dinah again!

So little Dinah fell sobbing on the Golem's big chest, and that big oaf! He just stroked her shoulder with his big paws. Now you know why Tivvie was gloomy. Dinah was stuck on the Golem.

Of course she could not marry him! He protected the Jews, but he was such a lump!

All that was nice, but mostly, it was work, work, work, and there did not seem to be any end in sight. The unjust cropped up like weeds in an unplowed field, and the righteous were as scarce as figs in a date tree. He became sick and tired of being the right arm of the Lord. A break was what he needed, even better, a vacation. He could maybe take up some other trade, carpentry, be a butcher. Also, he really deserved a wife. A little sparrow of a wife, someone like Dinah.

So he went and looked up Angel Gabriel, who regretfully, told him there was a huge line of penitents that reached almost to the gates of hell waiting to see the Lord, and he had to take a number. It would take at least two years. In the meantime he had to continue to slay the unjust and spare the righteous. The Golem grumbled, but he came back two years later and had his audience.

Fur hat in hand, the Golem stood humbly in front of the Almighty.

"Lord, I have done right by you, but I beg your pardon, you have not done right by me. I need a vacation."

He also told he Lord to look for another Golem, for he was not a spring chicken, and needed to look into new pastures.

The Lord was most sympathetic and informed him that his services could be dispensed with for a little while. He would also think over his request of a new trade. Then, he handed him a necklace with a gold medal. The Golem read the inscription.

"TWO HUNDRED YEARS?" The Golem squawked.

"You just schlepp off for two hundred years. Then a maiden will read the inscription and you can do your thing if you behave like a good boy," continued God in Yiddish.

"But what if a maiden will not read my gold metal because she cannot find me?"

"Tell you what I am going to do for you, Golem. All this time you'll be able to hear, see, feel, smell, but human shape you cannot take until two hundred years. It's not so bad!"

"I don't know, Lord, it don't sound so hot."

"Trust me, Golem, a maiden will find you and everything will come out all right"

"All right, go ahead and do your stuff, I hope you know what you're doing."

So the Lord laid his hand on his shoulder, turned him into a statue and got himself a replacement Golem, for there still was a lot of work to do. The unjust kept on crawling out of the black earth and the righteous simply could not squash them down.

The Golem found himself in the clearing of a forest. The massive oaks were bare of leaves and the mighty pines bowed under the weight of the snow. A glacial wind howled through the trees. He felt the strength of the wind and the coldness of the snow, but was not bowed nor was he cold for he was not made of matter.

The angry winter thawed under the soft caresses of spring. The buds swelled until they burst and covered the branches with new leaves. Green meadows grew from the bare ground in the clearings where the mighty trees did not shut out the sun. Bright red poppies, white daisies, a lot of wild flowers sprouted everywhere they could. Birds sang, squirrels came out of their nooks and brushed their little paws together. Little animals, big animals woke up from their long winter night and scurried about.

The Golem felt all this with great happiness. He longed to regain his body but was resigned to wait for the right time. Summer shooed away spring who was in turn replaced by autumn. The seasons came and went. He now knew what it felt like to be a tree. Time compressed. The fresh green of summer was replaced in a flash by the crisp white of winter. Life ebbed and flowed. The constellations in the great vault of the sky cycled every year like the workings of a celestial clock. He was so lulled by the rhythm of the universe that he only awoke every ten years or so until this gentle and peaceful cadence was abruptly interrupted. Canons thundered. Flying machines droned up in the skies. From their bowels dropped bombs which rained destruction on the earth and consumed the forest into burning embers. Only he remained, for being a godly creature, he was indestructible.

As there is always an end to anything, there was an end to this mindless human rage. From the ashes, like the phoenix, the forest revived. Soldiers came into the forest, found him in the clearing, and took him away to a synagogue. He missed his forest, but he was also happy in his new home because the constant prayers of the faithful made him feel close to the Lord.

 

After a serene lull in the synagogue, they put him in a dark place in the bottom of a vessel. There, the timbers creaked an endless lullaby over the immense depth of the waters. He fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. When he woke up, he found himself in the middle of a long and spacious hall. In spirit, he stepped out of his statue and stared at himself. He had not done that for such a long time he had forgotten what he looked like. A full beard enveloped the lower part of his face. His eyebrows were bushy and grizzled. He was elegantly clad with knee length boots, velvet pants, astrakhan coat, fur hat. The chain with the medal lay around his neck. The sword lay in his right hand and the tablet of the ten commandments in his left. He sighed and went back in the statue.

The rays of the setting sun traced a jagged triangle of light which reached the shoulders of the statue, creeped up the chin, nose, eyes. Motes of dust danced inside a shaft of light. Sounds of wet cloth against hard floors reached his ears.

Such a wispy little thing she was! She wiped her brow and leaned on a piece of wood with rags at the end of it. He read her thoughts and found it was called a mop and was used to clean floors.

"What a fine figure of a man." She said and read out loud the inscription.

A gift to the city of New York from the Jewish community of the city of Prague.

A priceless sculpture circa 1743 by an unknown sculptor which represents the Golem, a legendary creature created by Yahweh to protect the Jews from the anti-Semites

He gently probed her mind and was touched by her sadness and melancholy. A tall corpulent young man entered the hall. He slowly made his way towards them, periodically stopping to examine a painting, ancient potteries in show cases, busts of famous composers. At times he ran his fingers through his huge mop of curly hair.

"Don't you know I love you, Raizeleh?" The young man said inside his mind.

The Golem had to find out more. So he transported himself in time to what the young man had just finished doing ten minutes ago.

Schloime smacked his lips at the huge bowl. Chicken legs, matzoth balls, carrots, potatoes, cauliflowers swam in a delicious bubbling brew. Mrs Guildstern crossed her arms over her voluminous bosom and watched contentedly while her only son demolished the bowl of soup.

"Mama," Schloime blew his nose, "you make the best soup of the lower east side!"

"Nou, I try mine best. It is not so easy to feed such a big lump like you. Such a nice boy you are and not married, such tsouris. Why you do not find a nice girl?"

"I try, Mama, but I don't know what is wrong with me! I can not say a word when I am with a young lady."

"Oi vey mir, such a lummox, strong like an ox and bashful like a little girl! What will I do with you!"

Schloime got up and loosened up his belt to relieve the pressure.

"I'll see you later, mama. Maybe I will go to a movie."

"Go, go find a girl, that's what you should do!"

Outside his apartment building Schloime buttoned up his overcoat. It had snowed the day before and a frigid wind was blowing. He walked to the subway, took the Uptown to Central Park and walked towards the Metropolitan museum.

Schloime had fibbed to his Mama. He was not going to the movies and was not such a lover of art. Truth was, Schloime was smitten. There was this little sparrow of a woman which he had seen at the museum one day that he had nothing to do. She worked there as a cleaning lady and he had seen her at least four times, but never had the courage to talk to her. He ran up the stairs.

"What a schlump Schloime is," the Golem thought. "Why doesn't he talk to her?" Then he concentrated back on the little sparrow, and prayed, "Oh Lord, please, make her bring me back to life!"

There was no answer. The Golem despaired, but then, the cleaning lady noticed the thin layer of dust which had accumulated over the statue. She walked over to a dust closet, got a rag and a small step ladder. A waning ray of sun made the medal sparkle. She touched it with a dainty finger, then wiped the dust from it. Curious, she picked it up in her two hands and examined it closely.

The inscription was written in Hebrew. That was no problem, had she not gone to Shul. She read it out loud.

Two hundred years I lie still
until the soft voice of a maiden

with life my body shall fill

when she chants the refrain.

Rise Golem, your time has come.
At an end is your rest.

again you are free to roam.

For that the Lord must you bless.

She felt the vibration, leaned on the statue for support and looked up. A glimmer of light flickered in the stony eyes. She lay a hand on her quickly beating heart and rushed down the step ladder, stepped back ten feet and stared at the statue.

It stood still. But, she sensed something. Maybe the hand holding the sword had clenched harder. Maybe the eyes had acquired a glint of their own. She rushed down the long hall and ran into a tall man standing about ten feet from a huge painting, which he had been pretending to examine at length.

"Wo there, and what's the rush?" said Schloime, surprised, who immediately cursed himself for being such a grouch.

"I was dusting the statue of the Golem and after I read the inscription on the medal, it moved," Raizeleh said.

"Don't worry, I will go see myself."

Schloime walked slowly toward the statue, stopped and uncertainly stared at it. The Golem felt himself come alive. A powerful current of blood surged through his veins. Schloime desperately resisted. He raised his arms. With all the fibers of his mind he pushed back the gray mass of granite inexorably invading his flesh, and extinguishing the mighty furnace of his spirit. But the Golem, who after centuries, suddenly felt the sweetness of life, overwhelmed him. Schloime could not utter a word. He felt himself rise as if pulled by a magnet and his body turned to stone.

The Golem glanced at the statue, smiled and stretched out his arms. He was alive again. Then he looked around, astounded. This had to be the palace of a king. Paintings covered the walls, even the vaulted ceilings. The hall was lit by glowing lamps. It was magic! After all, he was just a country boy. He gave the statue a last smug look. His eyes lingered over the sword and the tablet. Would he need them? After all, were they not the tools of his trade! But then he thought, "No, enough is enough."

He walked down the hall. Raizeleh waited for him.

"What you think?" She asked.

"I think maybe you feel faint, but everything is all right now."

Schloime's memories now belonged to the Golem. He did feel a bit guilty, but was too overjoyed to waste much time on pity.

"You want I should walk you out?" He said.

"All right, wait for me, I'll be right back."

The Golem walked around the vast hall, amazed. He peered at the paintings, the sculptures, the showcases containing old coins, antique jars. His steps echoed. He pinched himself, hard. It hurt and he was happy for it.

Raizeleh came out of the ladies room. She had on her coat, gloves, fur hat, shawl and galoshes. Her face, pale from working inside from dawn to dusk, was flushed. She barely reached 5 feet on high heels and had a pert little face with two dimples on her cheeks, soft brown hair and a little mole on her left cheek. The Golem gazed at her fondly. He sensed her loneliness. The words came out without thinking.

"My name is Salomon Guildstern, but you can call me Schloime!"

"I am Irene Feinstein," she said shyly.

They carefully went down the steps of the museum.

A heavy blanket of snow covered the street. The Golem shivered, a delicious sensation he had not felt for hundreds of years. He stared up at the sky. The swift winds had dispersed the clouds. The night was clear and the stars high in the firmament blinked. Quick flurries light as powdered sugar bit into their cheeks

The Golem was awed. Never in his life had seen anything like it. Buildings shot up to the sky and sparkled like jewels from the innumerable lights in each window.

"I don't believe it, such tall buildings!"

"You are maybe not from New York?"

"What's New York! Oh mine Gott!"

He grabbed Raizeleh and pushed her out of the way of a voracious beast with glowing eyes which rushed at them.

"Why did you push me like that!" Said Raizeleh. He pressed himself against a wall in panic. Finally he managed to croak, "The beast!"

"You never saw a car before? Where are you from?"

"Russia!" He said without thinking.

"So how come you speak in English!"

He thought fast. Yes, cars, Schloime knew about cars, so he knew cars, except it was not the same to just know as to see them really like they were, roaring monsters.

"I have been here for a while," he evaded.

"Don't they have cars in Russia?"

"Not with no horses!"

Raizeleh stared at him, puzzled. They walked past an older gentleman with sunken cheeks and a bushy beard muttering his prayers, for it was shabbes. An overcoat and a hat protected him from the bitter cold. Suddenly they heard shouts. They turned around. A young fellow with disheveled hair wearing a threadbare jacket was threatening the old man with a knife.

"Let me have what you got, old man, come on, hurry up!"

"I got nothing, leave me alone!"

The Golem sneaked from behind and grabbed the hand holding the knife.

"Hey, what you doing, man," the young fellow said, "mind your own business!"

The Golem shook him hard.

"LEAVE HIM ALONE."

"LET ME GO." The young man yelled.

The Golem stared into his eyes and concentrated. The mouth shaped into a scream, the eyes widened in horror. The soul struggled but like a frail stick swept by a torrent, it shot out of the head. The Golem grabbed the sparkling tiny creature in mid air before it could vanish like a firefly. The young man's face went slack.

He then stared into the old man's rheumy eyes. There was no struggle this time. The Golem held his left hand close to the grizzled head. The soul plopped out on his palm. The old man went limp.

The Golem pressed the squirming creature in his right hand against the chest of the old man, and the limp one in his left hand against that of the young man.

The older man felt a powerful thrust of blood shoot up to his head. He sensed that he had grown taller. He saw the face of his attacker, the bushy eyebrows and the grizzled beard. He felt his smooth face.

"What is happening! Mine God, I am a young person now! Oy vey mir! What will I tell Ester when I get back home! She will think that I will leave her for a young woman, such tsouris!"

The Golem walked back to Raizeleh. She smiled at him, "shall we go?"

"Wait a minute, I want to make sure everything is all right." He watched them.

 

"Give me my body back!" The old man piped up in a quavering voice and grabbed the young man's arm.

"It was your fault. Why did you want to kill me with a knife for so little money! Why didn't you ask! What is your name anyway?"

" Jojo, and yours?"

" David Goldstein. So what we do now, Jojo?"

"We talk to him, he did it!" They looked back at the Golem.

"Wait!" Goldstein said to Jojo. "How do I know you will not try to kill me again, hah?"

"All I wanted was a couple dollars!"

"For a couple dollars you would kill me? What is with you, look in my right coat pocket, there is there five dollars, take it!"

"Naw," said Jojo.

"Take, take."

The Golem approached them again.

"What you think?" He asked.

"Put us back, will you?" Said Jojo.

"Are you sure, Mr Goldstein?" The Golem asked.

"What you think, of course!"

"Hold hands," the Golem commanded. "Look into each others eyes."

They became one body, two minds, but mixed. Memories flash.

Jojo cries, "Where is daddy, mama? He's not my daddy, don't hit me! PLEASE DON'T HIT ME!".

He waits outside on the freezing stairs in the winter till the man comes out. "Here is a buck, kid, buy yourself an ice cream cone."

He pumps a needle into his lacerated veins, and then the hit...GOD, THIS IS SO GOOD!

David Feinstein reverently puts on the phylacteries and prays to the Lord at the synagogue.

Ester, a little bent -- not so young now-- but such a sweet smile she has when her David steps in the hall and kisses her. Sadness when the telegram arrives: We are sorry to inform you that your son Emil died a hero's death.

Both float and hold hands, up among the stars. Flashing meteors whizz by. There is the earth down there under the clouds, the continents of the America's, the tiny sliver of land holding the south and north parts together. There is the Golem suspended above them, laughing. He pushes Jojo, David, and they fall, slow, faster, and then so fast they can hardly breathe. And they hold on to each other so hard there is no more Jojo, no more David, It's JojoDavid, DavidJojo. And there is Florida, New York, the Empire State Building, Washington Bridge, Central Park, the top of the trees, the ground. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOh mine God, have I got a headache! What happened?" Says Mr Goldstein, holding his head. He feels his face, his beard, stares at the young man.

"You ok?"

Jojo covers his eyes with his hands, "Boy, was that one hell of a trip! I'd like to do it again!"

"Have a good Shabbes." The Golem says and walks away.

"Come on Jojo." Mr Goldstein takes the young man's arm.

Now you could ask what was Raizeley doing all this time? Wait! I will tell you. You see, The Golem, all that time I think he got smarter. Maybe not like you and me, but smarter. How smart? He put Raizeley to sleep standing up. Pretty good, Ha! I told you he was not such a schlemiel.. So after he woke her up, she smiled at him and they started walking. Her tiny steps crunched into the snow drifts. The dark hole of the subway appeared ahead.

"Where are we going," said the Golem, staring doubtfully at the dark hole.

"Don't worry, you're safe with me," said Raizeleh, and took his hand.

The Golem was troubled, but pleased. Raizeleh's little hand fluttered in his huge paw like a little vogeleh. They went down the steps. The hot wind coming from the depth almost blew her fur hat away.

"Hurry, we'll miss it!" She said. They ran down endless corridors until they reached the platform. The train roared to a stop, he froze. Raizeleh tightened his hand and led him inside. Half an hour later they stood in front of her red brick apartment building. The Golem said shyly, "Well, you are safe now, I will leave you."

"Why you don't come up and meet my parents, Mr Guildstern".

"If it is not too much trouble," he replied, happy.

The Golem did not feel so good in the elevator, but just shrugged. If the Angels could fly, so could a small room.

Raizeleh carefully wiped her feet on the rug outside before opening the door.

"Please come in, Mr Guildstern."

They stepped into the hall. Raizeleh removed her galoshes, her coat, her shawl and motioned to the Golem to do the same.

"Raizeleh, did you have a nice day?" Her mother asked from the parlor. The Golem peeped into Mrs Feinstein's mind and winced, as if the sharp quills of a porcupine pierced his eyeballs. Mrs Feinstein, who on high heels barely reached her daughter's nose, had an ongoing refrain which she sprang on her only daughter at every chance she had.

"Oy vey mir, mine daughter the cleaning lady that vorks in the museum. She don't go out even weekends. How can you find a mensch! Maybe you think you are a spring chicken, almost thirty years old, and a spinster. Such tsouris I have with mine daughter, Oy vey mir,"

Mrs Feinstein would heave a noisy sigh of despair. Misery was her bread and butter, and she thrived on it.

"Mama, we have a guest"

Mrs Feinstein came out of the living room.

"What a surprise! I am happy to meet you, and what is your name, Mr."

"Guildstern, Mrs Feinstein, and I am happy to meet you too." Mrs Feinstein looked him up and down, actually mostly up, since she was so short.

"Why you don't come in the parlor," she beamed.

The Golem followed Mrs Feinstein, and bumped on the door frame. He rubbed his head and sat on the sofa squeezing his knees together to take up as little space as possible.

"Irving, bring some Manishevitz wine for our guest," she commanded, "and put your shoes and your shirt on. You think you can receive the gentleman that visits your daughter the way you are? GO."

Irving frowned as he looked up from the paper he was reading in front of the fireplace. The Golem discreetly probed and felt sorry about disturbing him.

Irving, halfway through the Yiddishe Press, smacked his lips over a particularly juicy bit of local news concerning the divorce of Mr and Mrs Lebovitch, thirty five years married and two grand children. He knew some titillating facts about the couple and was dying to tell his much better half, as he was rudely interrupted.

Irving, a giant in comparison to his bantam wife, towered a full four inches over her four feet ten. T shirted, shoes off, he was ensconced in his favorite chair, luxuriantly roasting his toes by the fire. He had been as close to heaven as one could be on this earth, and this lump sitting in his parlor was ruining his evening. It was not fair! Reluctantly, he rocked the chair to the upright position and trotted out to the bedroom.

Mrs Feinstein was not one to trifle with. He put his shoes on, his shirt, his tie and coat. Was this not a special occasion! His daughter had a beau. He went to the kitchen, took out the bottle of Manischevitz, four glasses from the cupboard and carried the loaded tray to the parlor. With a wink to the Golem he set it on the coffee table.

"I"ll be right back," said Raizeleh. She had barely shut the bedroom door behind her when Mrs Feinstein pounced on the Golem.

"Would it be possible you are a doctor?"

"A doctor?" replied the Golem.

"Maybe a butcher?" continued Mrs Feinstein, a bit disappointed.

"Yes, butcher is more like what I do, but not exactly."

Mrs Feinstein nodded sagely.

"Have another glass of Manishevitz, mine young friend," piped in Irving. " And what you think of my Raizeleh?"

Raizeleh came back into the parlor She had put on lipstick, a dab of rouge on her wan cheeks and looked lovely in bright flowery dress. The Golem stood up. She smiled and sat next to him. The Golem sneaked a loving look at her. Mrs Feinstein winked at her husband.

"Come to the table. Today is Raizelehs birthday and I have made Latkes, kugels, gefillte fish. We have also stuffed turkey and for dessert we have rugallahs."

"Mama, you should not have told Mr Guildstern about my birthday!"

"Why not, it is your birthday!" Mrs Feinstein answered firmly.

They sat at the table. Raizeleh hardly ate, but could hardly tire of staring at the Golem polishing off five latkes, four kugels, six

gefilte fish, one quarter of the turkey and three rugallahs for

dessert...all this preceded by a large bowl of chicken soup, and watered down by half a bottle of Manischevitz. Three glasses of schnaps concluded the feast.

Then the Golem had trouble breathing. He opened up his coat and surreptitiously loosened his belt. It was so nice to be with a family again after centuries. It reminded him of the Shtetl, of Dinah, and his friends: Tevvieh the tailor, Moisheh the butcher, Zavieh the matchmaker, the Rabbi, little Mischa. They had been so nice, clapped his shoulder when they ran into him, invited him in for a glass of schnapps. Tears came to his eyes.

"What's the matter, something wrong with the food?" Mrs Feinstein asked.

"It was very good, Mrs Feinstein, but I have to go, excuse me."

"But it is still early, we have to talk. I want you to talk to Tante Zeidi tomorrow. I think she can help you find a job at cousin Jake's butcher shop. What's the rush!" Protested Mrs Feinstein.

"I have to go!"

He rushed out the door and hurried down the endless carpeted steps, his throat parched from breathing the stifling and dusty air. Down and down he went, he thought maybe he had gone too far down, and it got hotter. Suddenly he was afraid, maybe the stairs led down to hell and he was being punished for having forgotten his Lord. He stopped dead and cried.

"Oh God, I am so sorry. I am like a child who has lost his father and mother, what am I to do?"

There was no answer. So he sighed and kept going. Finally he spied the glass door at the end of the hall. He rushed to open it and took huge gasps of frozen gusts of wind. Mixed with feathery crystals of snow they burned stings of fire into his lungs. He almost fell down the icy steps of the stoop. He regained his breath on the sidewalk and then walked, he did not know where, muttering to himself.

"Bless you Lord, bless you. I am sorry I forgot, but you know how it is. Two hundred years, I get rusty, what can I say?"

"Stop! And where you think you're going!" The voice of the Lord boomed

"Oy vey mir, your highness, I'm sorry I made a pig of myself at the Feinsteins. I was hungry. Try and be a statue for two hundred years, then come to life, and see if you're not going to be hungry!"

There was silence. The Golem looked up with dread...

He heard a rumble way up above. He felt himself tiny before the wrath of the Lord. To make it worse, his insides were undergoing a lot of turmoil. The kugels, the latkes, the gefillte fish, the turkey

and the manischevitz were doing their number and he did not feel so good.

He looked up with apprehension towards the heavens...

and then he heard it. First a chuckle, then a cackle, then a torrent of mirth which filled the vast vault of the universe with laughter.

"You are not mad at me, Lord?"

"I know how it is, Golem. Well, what do you want now?"

"I am sorry about Schloime all alone in the statue. I miss all my friends. I miss the shtetl. Please Lord, can you make me go back there, I'll work double hard, please?"

"I am the Lord, your God. I can not make time go backwards, at least not now. Do what must be done."

"Yes, Lord."

A little star in the firmament winked. The Golem smiled.

He walked back up to Raizeleh's apartment and knocked. Mrs Feinstein opened.

"Excuse me, Mrs Feinstein, can I talk with Raizeleh alone?"

"Why not?"

Raizeleh came out into the hall.

 

"Raizeleh, this is very important. Can you come back with me to the museum, please."

Her hand fluttered to her mouth, "Whatever you say, Mr Guildstern."

They made the trip back in silence. They stopped in front of the Museum.

"We will have to go in through a side door." Raizeleh said. The Golem, a determined look in his face, said: "Raizeleh, trust me, I go alone. I promise I will come back."

"Can you not tell me what it is, Mr Guildstern?" Raizeleh looked up at him. He laid his hand gently on her head and shook his head, silent. Raizeleh gazed at him for a long moment. Then he smiled sadly at Raizeleh, went in and disappeared into the depths of the museum. His steps echoed through the long empty halls. He made his way back to the statue.

There, proudly standing with the sword and the tablet, the protector of the tribes of Israel. He looked up. The eyes of the statue stared reproachfully at him. The Golem let himself go. His body hardened. His right hand grasped the sword. His left hand felt the weight of the holy tablet of the commandments. Not too far away, he saw the lights of the shtetl, the tiny village where he was born.

Schloime found himself staring tensely at the Golem whose eyes now looked far away, almost sadly, into the distance. He relaxed. Now, it was only a statue.

He quickly averted his eyes and walked very fast towards the side door, hopped the steps down to the sidewalk. Raizeleh was there waiting for him.

"Are you all right?" said Raizeleh with a worried look. Schloime licked his lips and tried to talk. Finally he croaked out, "I am just fine."

"Come." Said Raizeleh, and took his hand. They walked away into the wintry night.