The Book of El

By Leo Heska

Based on an original story by Daniel Munksgaard. Dramatic adaptation by permission of Daniel Munksgaard.


Characters:

Rabbi Cohen (male) (May be old or young. He is blind and crippled in Scene 1; later he sees and walks)
Rabbi Meyer (male)
Rabbi Lewis (male)
Old Man (this is G-d)
Sarah (female)
Deborah (female)
Offstage voices of executioner, Asherah (female), Baal (male), Osiris, Isis (female), Marduk, Allah, Jehovah, and The Void

Nonspeaking parts:

Amos

Optional nonspeaking parts/parts for extras:

Scene 1: students/listeners, mixed male and female
Scene 2: observers/crowd, mixed male and female
Scene 3: observers/jury, all male
Scene 4: observers, including all males from scene 3, plus others, including females

Nonspeakers may be very simply costumed in simple work clothes or simple robes. Since there's not much to do but sit and/or walk offstage, this is a good way to invite stage crew, ticket sellers, volunteers, benefactors, special guests, or anyone who wants to, to get some stage time if they'd like it.

Sets:

Scene 1 - A classroom or other meeting place.
Scene 2 - A bare stage lit like dawn, with offstage lit more brightly
Scenes 3 and 4 - Evening prayers (note: these are held at night); stage dimly lit

Scene 1

5 to 10 people sit listening to a rabbi (Rabbi Cohen), who is blind and crippled, and seated in a crude chair. It needn't be noticeable, but Rabbi Cohen sits on a rude canvas or muslin sling with handles. Later the others will carry him out using the sling.

As the curtain opens, Rabbi Cohen is speaking. He is concluding a lesson.

Sarah: Rabbi, I don't understand. What does Thales, or any of these Greeks, have to do with us? We are Jews.

Rabbi Cohen: Do you suppose that our faith, our lives, and our G-d grew from nothing, unaffected by the people and the gods we lived with for thousands of years?

Deborah: I don't know, Rabbi. I don't see a lot of similarities.

Rabbi Cohen: Because they're hidden. Thales sounds trivial: "Big deal! An old Greek thought everything was made out of water". Read deeper! Think! Thales said "even the very fire of the sun and the stars, and indeed the cosmos itself is nourished by evaporation of the waters". Sound familiar? Fire and Water?

Rabbi Lewitz: It's almost time, Rabbi.

Rabbi Cohen: It's not time yet, Rabbi Lewitz. Think! Fire and water - the ancient and eternal pair. Any ideas? (slight pause) Rabbi Meyer, the word for "Heaven"?

Rabbi Meyer: Heaven. Shamayim.

Rabbi Cohen: Shamayim. Two words. "Aish" - Fire. "Mayim" - water. Together, aisha-mayim; say it!

All: Shamayim.

Rabbi Cohen: Yes, Shamayim. Every time we speak of heaven, we use the thoughts of Thales of Miletus. He was more than just a thirsty pagan. His thoughts make up the very words we use to discuss our faith. Fire! Water! Heaven! Shamayim! The power of heavenly water! Think of it, and of Thales, and Shamayim, the next time you water your vegetables.

(He is finished).

Rabbi Lewitz: Speaking of vegetables, Rabbi, are you hungry?

Rabbi Cohen: Rabbi Lewitz, you know I'm never hungry. My mind is fine, and needs all the nourishment it can get. My body is battered and needs nothing. (pause) And now, brothers and sisters, it's time to go to the hanging. Who's still here?

Rabbi Lewitz: Rabbi, besides you, here am I, Lewitz; Rabbi Meyer, Sarah, Deborah, and Amos..

Sarah: (to Rabbi Cohen) Rabbi, the guards are here.

Rabbi Cohen: Let's go. I will thank you to carry me...

(all exit, carrying Rabbi Cohen in his sling)

Scene 2

The stage is dimly lit, like it's twilight or dawn. Brighter lights shine from offstage; the action is happening offstage, out of sight of the audience. What's happening offstage is a hanging.

When curtain opens, Rabbi Cohen is sitting on the ground, on his sling. The others are standing; all are facing offstage, looking at the hanging which is about to start.

Rabbi Cohen: And who will have the courage to describe to me what is going on?

Rabbi Lewitz: I will try, Rabbi.

Deborah: I will also try, Rabbi.

(pause)

Rabbi Cohen: Well?

Rabbi Lewitz: They are leading your brother, Judah, to the gallows. Also another whose name I do not know.

Deborah: Chayim.

Rabbi Cohen: And the guards?

Rabbi Lewitz: They're still behind us, making sure we watch, as ordered.

Rabbi Cohen: Then, we will watch what they do to us. And you will kindly narrate for me.

Rabbi Lewitz: They're marching Judah and Chayim to the gallows.

Rabbi Cohen: Dear Judah, only 16, I can't think of his face, I will never think of it again...

Deborah: He should be crying.

Rabbi Cohen: I should be crying. Someone should be crying.

Executioner's voice (from offstage): The charge is stealing scraps from the officers' garbage. The penalty is death.

Deborah: We are not crying.

Rabbi Lewitz: We are just here.

Rabbi Cohen: Like a silent, stagnant wind. (pause) So, dear ones, please tell me what is happening?

Rabbi Lewitz: They are climbing the platform.

Deborah: The ropes are around their necks.

Rabbi Lewitz: (in agony) They are pushing them off the platform. The bastards, they have no mercy, the drop is short...(pause)

Rabbi Cohen: Speak! Tell me what they do.

Rabbi Lewitz: I cannot. I cannot cry, I cannot speak.

Rabbi Cohen: Deborah?

Deborah: Rabbi...

Rabbi Cohen: Deborah, please do this for me!

Deborah: (also in agony, when she speaks, it's in a choked rush, punctuated with pauses) They're struggling... Their hands are at their necks, shit and piss are staining their pants.. Their faces...

Rabbi Cohen: That I can no longer imagine...

Deborah: They're changing colors... Judah has drawn a breath... Now he's choking again.

Rabbi Lewitz: There is no dignity. We have nothing more to stand on than they do.

(lights dimming)

Deborah: They're fighting death. And losing.

Rabbi Cohen: As are we...

(lights out)

Sarah: (voice is bitterly soft and calm) Where is G-d?

(lights up)

Rabbi Cohen: Are they dead?

Deborah: (tonelessly) Yes, Rabbi.

Rabbi Cohen: How long has it been?

Rabbi Lewitz: Half an hour.

Rabbi Cohen: Their families?

Rabbi Lewitz: All gone. All dead. You are the only relative.

Sarah: Where is G-d?

Rabbi Meyer: (turns to Sarah, puts his hands on her shoulder, points offstage to the gallows). (hoarse whisper) There!

(all except Rabbi Cohen shuffle uneasily)

Rabbi Meyer: (still in hoarse whisper) He is there, on those gallows!

Rabbi Cohen: (angry) I did not see G-d swinging in my brother's place.

Rabbi Lewitz: You are blind, Rabbi.

Deborah: And you speak from anger.

Rabbi Cohen: I saw G-d shove him into the void which he thrashed against!

Rabbi Meyer: Are we at our end?

Rabbi Cohen:
Let us take it to its end.

Sarah: What does that mean?

Rabbi Cohen: We are three rabbis, the only three left, that I know of.

Rabbi Meyer: We rabbis were the first to be killed...

Rabbi Lewitz: And?

Rabbi Cohen: Tonight, an hour before evening prayers, we will put G-d on trial.

(Deborah and Sarah, along with all other women, wordlessly, straight-faced and without dramatic gestures, turn and exit)

(lights out - curtain)

Scene 3

(It's night) (Note: in some congregations, "evening" prayers are held late, well after sunset)

Rabbi Cohen: We are gathered together tonight to put G-d on trial. Who is here?

Rabbi Lewitz: You, Rabbi Cohen, I, Lewitz, Rabbi Meyer, Amos, and some others.

Rabbi Cohen: You name no women.

Rabbi Meyer: None of the women would stand for this, apparently.

Rabbi Cohen: Rabbi Lewitz, will you read the charges?

Rabbi Lewitz: We charge the Lord G-d, the G-d of our ancestors, with the following crimes:

(Note: the list is supposed to be long. You may add to it at your discretion)

Torment and punishment of the innocent.
Supporting, creating, enabling, and rewarding evil.
Rape.
Murder.
Torture.
Spite.
Hatred.
Famine.
Disease.
Abandonment.
War.

Rabbi Meyer: The charges have been read. Let he who may answer, come forth!

(pause)

Rabbi Lewitz: No thunder.

Rabbi Meyer: No death.

Rabbi Cohen: No guards.

(pause)

(An old man steps forward. This is G-d.)

(all look at him, except Rabbi Cohen, still blind)

(all who have shoes remove them)(make this shoe removal obvious to the audience, though not too overly dramatic)

Rabbi Lewitz: (narrating to Rabbi Cohen, as he did at the hanging) It is an old man; one I have never seen before. He is ancient; he bears even more scars than wrinkles. He is hunched over.

Old Man: Kept down for countless years.

Rabbi Lewitz: There are marks as deep as rivers in his face. He is crying.

Rabbi Meyer: (To the Old Man) (more a formality than a question) Who are you?

Old Man: (voice is weak but steady) I am that I am. (He spits.) Whatever that counts for.

(Rabbi Meyer falls to his knees; all others remain standing)

Rabbi Lewitz: (to Rabbi Cohen) Rabbi, he is stronger, but crying harder. And Rabbi, a small patch of grass has grown where his tears fell! It grows and spreads!

Rabbi Cohen: Give me a tuft of that grass. (Rabbi Lewitz does so.)

(Grass may be pantomimed, or Rabbi Lewitz or Rabbi Cohen may pull some from a sleeve.)

(Rabbi Cohen smells the grass, touches it to his eyes, eats it. He stands up, and looks at El. He is no longer blind or crippled.)

Rabbi Meyer: Then are you the G-d of our ancestors? The G-d of David, Moses, and Abraham?

Old Man: I am indeed the G-d of your ancestors. I am the G-d of David, the G-d of Moses. But Abraham? (face crumples) That ... is difficult to say. It would require much time.

Rabbi Lewitz: (Holds out his hands to El) Of all the things you could give us, time would be most appreciated.

Rabbi Cohen: (Looking straight at El)(his voice is dead) And answers.

Old Man: (musing) Time and answers. (Sits down, stares at Rabbi Cohen's bare feet.) These things may be all I have left. (Looks up at Rabbi Cohen's eyes, returning his gaze) But I shall give them to you.

Scene 4

Old Man:

I do not know what was in the beginning; I was not there. I know that El was, but El never quite explained what had happened to put everything here.

El, you see, was one of the first. He and others whose names are unimportant shaped the chaos, formed the world, and made the peoples. I know that El took two people for his own, against the wishes of the others, put them in a fertile place, fed them Life and Knowledge, and protected them.

The others feared these people, tried to make sure they could never gain more Knowledge and Life, and sought to kill them, first with giants they had created, and then with a great flood. So El created me to slay the giants, and he asked his wife, Asherah, to save his people from the water. Asherah gave birth to Baal, god of the rain, and told him to take control of the weather and stop the flood. Together Asherah and Baal blessed the survivors with plentiful crops and fertile wombs. And together the four of us watched over these people.

When El saw it was time, he approaced these people and promised one of them eternal bounty and protection, because his people were El's creation, and he loved them. And they were indeed blessed and became plentiful, for a time. But then Baal grew sick, and Asherah grew barren. The earth of El's people became dry, and they began to starve. El feared for their lives, and gave some to Baal to watch over, hoping that their devotion would make Baal well. He sent the rest to Egypt, where his friend and fellow world shaper, Osiris, promised to protect them until Baal was well and Asherah was no longer barren.

As time went on, El could hear nothing of Osiris or of his people in Egypt. Then Osiris's wife Isis told us horrible news: Osiris had been slain by Set, his dark brother of night and pestilence, and El's people were now enslaved by the Egyptians. Then the barriers that kept El from his people buckled, and we could hear their screams and cries for freedom.

Baal arose from his sickness and wept, and the land of El's people was once again fertile. El stood frozen for a long time, unable to think or move, drowned by the cries of his people. Only Asherah remained calm, and she counseled him.

Asherah: (from offstage) You must gather your strength and travel to Egypt. Even now, Isis seeks the pieces of her husband, and when he is reassembled he will need your help to defeat Set.

Old Man: El agreed, and went to Egypt to bargain with Set, to distract Set from Isis' plan. Knowing Set was treacherous, he took me as his guard. Set was waiting. "We have no quarrel with you, god of Night," El began to say. But Set descended upon El as a flock of jackals, tearing him limb from limb with a fury and speed that terrified me. Now I stood frozen in horror, unable to act, paralyzed with shock and fear.

After El finally fell to the ground, unable to offer the slightest defense, the thousand jackals of Set smiled gruesomely at me, El's flesh mixed with their bile. Then, they vanished into the darkness that fell.

I took hold of El, cradling his battered head in my lap, and wept for my Father and Friend. And he opened his eyes, eyes that shone like the heart of a star, and begged me to save his people. My people. He told me they were my people now.

And then he died.

I took him back to the land of our people and buried him, and a great sea sprang from the hole I dug for his body. In my sadness at El's death, I named it the Dead Sea. I drank of its waters, and for one brief instant, I thought I could hear El again, whispering wisdom into my ears. I then promised the sea that his people - my people - would come and settle by this sea, and gain life from El's death.

Baal, grief-stricken, insisted (Baal finishes this sentence)

Baal: (from offstage) Stay in Egypt to help guard your people that are still here, the people that El placed in my charge.

Old Man: I refused. (Turns to speak back to Baal's voice offstage). You have your people, now I have mine.

Old Man: (Speaking again to Rabbi Cohen and the other rabbis) Then I heard the voice of one of my people who had escaped from Egypt, and I flew to his side, appearing as a burning bush. He asked my name, and I declared that I was the G-d of his ancestors. This was not enough for this man; he demanded a name. I told him, "I am that I am", which made him immediately suspicious.

"Are you El, the G-d of my fathers?" he asked again.

"I am that I am," I repeated, "and I will free your people." This was enough for him; I don't think he cared who I was, as he believed El to have failed him and his people. He journeyed to Egypt to serve as my messenger and I flew ahead of him, fire in my throat, vengeance for my dead Father and Friend my only goal.

I appeared as a great tempest, demanding that Set show his jackal's face. Set was already fleeing Isis, and Osiris, who Isis had brought back from the dead, and allied with Ra, god of the sun. Set panicked and ran into my fury, and I struck him again and again with all of my force, ramming down his doggish throat pillars of flame and lightning, ripping his scaly flesh and devouring him from his insides. He died horribly and painfully inside my fury, and I absorbed his essence and power.

Drunk with the power of Set, I encouraged the wanderer to challenge the Egyptians for my people's release. I believed I knew El's wishes, my head was swimming with the wisdom of the Dead Sea and the corruption of Set, and I lashed out in anger at Osiris, Isis, and Ra. They begged me (other gods finish this sentence)

Osiris: (from offstage) Let us release your people gradually.

Isis: (from offstage) My people will not give up yours immediately. Give them time.

Old Man: (speaking to the gods offstage) No! I refuse! (Speaking again to Rabbi Cohen and the other rabbis) Using the powers I got from Set, I ravaged their lands with plague, famine, locusts, and frogs. They submitted and tried to tell their people to let mine go. But my vengeance burned against their people, and I hardened the hearts, and turned their water to blood and slayed their firstborn children.

Then my messenger screamed out to me, asking me to put my anger aside and lead my people out instead of putting them in further danger by angering the Egyptians. The waters of El, my Father and Friend, calmed me, and I relented. My people gathered themselves together quickly, and we set out for our home.

Along the way, I tried to recall the wisdom I had heard whispered from the Dead Sea, and told my messenger to write the wisdom down while I could still hear it, so that El's people might go the way he had intended. But a fit of vanity welled up from a new, dark part of my being, and I demanded that my people recognize no other power but me, and pay glory to me alone.

My brother Baal must have gotten word of this, for as my people marched towards our land, he called me from a distance.

Baal: (Nervously, from offstage) Brother! The power of our father truly exists within you now, but you still lack his wisdom. Look at all the people you bring with you! You have hardened their hearts towards our people, those who would recognize me and my mother and pay us homage. Yet you wish for your people to settle amongst ours. They would quickly fall upon each other. Therefore, I give you the land next to the sea of our dead father, and I beg that you don't ask for more.

Old Man: This angered me greatly, and I struck my brother down, saying, (turns and speaks back to Baal's voice offstage) This land is for the people of El, the people our father told me to rescue and bring here. Your people are not mine, and are therefore not the people of El. Leave this land, or we will take it from you.

Old Man: (speaking again to Rabbi Cohen and the other rabbis) Baal refused, and the rage of Set burned away the wisdom of my Father and Friend, and I sent my people in full arms against the people of Baal. I had always been a G-d of war, so Baal's people did not stand well against my onslaught, and many cities quickly fell. But Baal and Asherah still controlled the fertile land, and where my people settled, there were no crops, and the rain did not fall. Many of my people paid homage to my brother and stepmother for fear of starving.

This angered me greatly, so I called forth a speaker from my people, and told him to challenge the priests of Baal. My prophet stood atop a mountain, and as Baal's priests gathered around, I saw Baal looking over them. And as Baal became distracted by their calls, I lashed out from behind, sending him sprawling on the sand. I drank my brother's power, gaining control over the elements, the weather, and the land. Only the wisdom of El, which had been sprinkled over the rocks by my brother's priests, kept me from killing him.

I set my people on those priests, and they tore them limb from limb. Crippled, bleeding, Baal was unable to protect his followers. He could only curse me, and call to his mother for help. She appeared next to him, helped him up, and began to walk away without looking at me.

I called out to my stepmother, "If you take him with you, you betray both me and my father." And she looked back at me with cold eyes, and spat, "Then I betray you." She and Baal then merged together, and I named them Adversary. And the Adversary glowered at me, an unspoken promise in its eyes, and left.

For centuries I searched my people and culled those who worshipped my lost brother and stepmother, threatening them with my wrath. All the while I hunted for Adversary. Soon I found other gods watching me, whispering. At first I thought they feared me, and I ignored them. But then they began to circle around me. So slowly that decades would pass between steps, they closed in tightly together, until all I could see was a wall of gods and goddesses. Panicked, I tried to warn my people, but the prophets I sent became confused, saw visions that made no sense to their leaders, and frightened my people. I was certain that it was my Adversary who was stirring the gods against me, and I called for my brother and stepmother to show themselves. But all I heard was the laughter of the surrounding gods.

Then the Assyrians struck, dispersing my people and carrying them away from me, behind the wall of gods where I could not follow them. I never heard from most of them again. I embraced what was left of them tightly, fearfully. I begged the gods' mercy. A Babylonian god named Marduk answered (Marduk finishes this sentence)

Marduk: (from offstage) Mercy? What do you know of mercy, son of El, he who would murder his brother and stepmother?

Old Man: (addressing Rabbi Cohen and the others) I no longer wanted mercy, but vengeance. (replying to Marduk offstage) Where are they? Show them to me!

Old Man: (addressing Rabbi Cohen and the others) Then the Babylonian gods descended upon me. They whipped me, gouged out one of my eyes, and tore off my foot. They carried what was left of my people to their lands, and left me to wallow in the dirt next to the Dead Sea.

The surrounding gods then started to fall upon each other. The Babylonian gods were defeated by the Persian god of light, who allowed my people to return on the condition that I be chained in a desert beyond the reach of the Dead Sea, barely able to hear the voices of my people scattered in other lands. And there I languished for centuries, laughed at by the gods around me. The Greek gods swept through my lands, mocking and spitting on me. Isis came to me in my misery; most of her fellow Egyptian gods had fallen, but she survived with the Roman gods, who ruled now. She somehow knew that my brother and stepmother had arranged my fate. She was glad of it. She gouged out my other eye, and left me to my chains.

Soon after, I heard the voice of El calling out to me, begging me to answer. At first I thought it was just the first sign of my coming death, or my growing insanity. But as I strained to listen, I realized it was one of my people, calling out from the waters of my dead Father and Friend, the wisdom of El filling him. I sent a dove as a messenger, asking him to come to me in the desert. After forty days and nights, he found me, and washed my broken body with the water of El, and I could see again. I then gave him the wisdom of El that I held, as well as some of my power. I whispered a plan to him, telling him he'd die painfully, and he recoiled, afraid. But after some thought, he agreed, and left to wander the land of my people, leaving tracks of power in his wake.

He did die painfully. But as the power I had given him left him, it descended upon his followers. And I whispered into their minds, telling them to walk the lands of the other gods, leaving my power in their wake. Some trailed the power over the sea, others over the desert. And I took a web of power from the sea, sprinkled the water of my dead Father and Friend over it, and commanded it to rise. What emerged was a towering, powerful mirror of my younger face, and I named him Jehovah. He shattered my chains, and as he continued to grow in strength, stretching out across the land of the Romans, I gave him his mission: destroy the other gods, and to hunt down my Adversary. I then took the web of power from the desert, gave some to a merchant from Mecca, and commanded Allah to rise forth with the same mission.

Then I watched in glee as first the gods of the Romans and Arabs, then those that lay beyond, fell to my creations. But they failed to find my Adversary, and in my anger I drove them further, paying little attention to the cries of my people, who were being turned upon by the followers of my creations. But finally their cries reached me.

I traveled to see Allah. I was surprised when he barely acknowledged me, my orders for him to listen he treated like gnats. For centuries I beseeched him, growing all the more frantic and aware of my own weakened state. Finally, with a great show of impatience, he promised to go about protecting my people. But he looked across the sea with a troubled face, and said to me (Allah finishes this sentence)

Allah: (from offstage) I do not know why you trouble me, when it seems you should be more concerned with my brother.

Old Man: And it was when he mentioned Jehovah that my heart went cold. For when I looked across the sea, I saw something that no longer looked anything like my son. He was bloated on the power of the gods he had slain, and his face shifted with a chaos that reminded me of El's stories of creation. I asked after my people, and he responded with a thousand answers that blended into gibberish. And then I heard the screaming.

At first, it was only in a few isolated places, but then it became louder, more unified. Entire communities of my people would scream at once, then fall silent.

"What have you done?" I asked my son. At first he said nothing, but then he began to writhe, and a trail of black boils appeared across his body, and he clawed at them and screamed (Jehovah finishes this sentence)

Jehovah: (from offstage) What have I done? What have you done to me? Look at what is happening to me!

Old Man: His screams grew louder, and I saw masses of people in his lands, both his followers and mine, become covered with similar boils and drop to the ground. Enraged, Jehovah pointed at me, yelling,

Jehovah: (from offstage) You did this!

Old Man: And his followers turned on my own, screaming the same words. And the cries of death that reached my ears almost drowned me. I hid behind Allah, who now looked more terrified than worried.

The boils vanished, but Jehovah grew darker. The faces of the gods and goddesses he had slain began to sprout from his body, which began to twist and turn, corruption sprouting throughout it.

Other Gods: (from offstage) (using as much of a stage whisper, or hoarse voice, as possible) You. You did this to us.

Old Man: And as I looked at their faces, I saw something that should have brought me joy, but instead blackened my heart. "Adversary?" I whispered.

Other Gods: (from offstage) (voices rising to a shout) Adversary? You are the Adversary!"

Old Man: A thousand fingers pointed at me. And all of the faces collapsed into a whirling Void, a Void which slowly drowned out all the voices of the gods trapped inside. And after centuries, only the tortured voice of Jehovah remained.

My people noticed none of this. My warnings were drowned out along with all the other voices in the Void. My people knew only that the followers of Jehovah had left them alone for some time now.

I could look into the Void. Inside it, I saw things previously unknown to the world - strange machines and lights that were not a part of creation. The Void spread across the ocean, swallowing the spirits that guided the people of those lands, and the mysterious machines within the Void began to be turned upon the people. Wars beyond any I had ever seen or imagined were fought, and people died by the millions. Still, my followers remained unalarmed. "My people," I whispered.

Voice of the Void: (from offstage)(in a strange, knowing voice) Your people?

Old Man: It was a voice I had never heard before, yet it spoke as if it knew me well. This was no longer my creation, Jehovah, whose voice was now nothing but a scream. Allah shrank back, leaving me to its mercy. It wrapped its dark tentacles around me, and through the screams of chaos, I saw horrors beyond my imagination being inflicted on my people.

(Old Man motions to the listeners, indicates that he's referring to them)

You.

And the Void said (Voice of the Void finishes this sentence)

Voice of the Void: (from offstage) Your fault!

(Old Man begins to openly sob, throws himself at Rabbi Cohen's feet)

Old Man: I could do nothing, and it was all my fault! (blubbering) I wanted only revenge, and I forgot the people I was supposed to watch. I forgot about you. You, who never really forgot me, even though it was not me, but the wisdom of El, that you truly remembered.

Rabbi Lewitz: His tears are now a flood! Rabbi! And fruit, real, fresh fruit, is springing up from this barren, worthless dirt!

Rabbi Cohen: Yes, I can see now. My stomach is rumbling. I'm hungry.

(Old Man picks up fruit and hands it to Rabbi Cohen)

Old Man: Eat. I have given you time and answers, and now all I can give you is food, food nourished from the water of my tears.

(Rabbi Cohen takes the fruit and devours it madly.)(Soft ripe pears are good for this, or pantomime.)

Rabbi Cohen: (while stuffing his face) Here I am madly devouring fruit like an animal. Yet I feel wisdom flow through me. And I understand.

(Old Man nods.)

Old Man: The wisdom of El has almost left me.

Rabbi Cohen: But it is still in your tears.

(Old Man nods again, and raises his hunched body as high as he can.)

Old Man: And now you have the wisdom to judge me.

(The circle murmurs.)

(Rabbi Meyer is looking at the old man curiously.)

Rabbi Cohen: Amos, Rabbi Lewitz, you want me to kill him. I know. (Amos and Rabbi Lewitz shake with rage, barely containing themselves, unable to speak.)

(pause)

(Rabbi Cohen turns to Old Man)

Rabbi Cohen: I charge you, son of El. I charge you with cruelty and betrayal. You have broken the laws passed down to us by our fathers, and you have betrayed the spirit of El. You know what you deserve, by your own interpretations of El's wisdom.

(Old Man nods again.) (Old Man looks more relieved than frightened.)

Rabbi Lewitz: You look more relieved than frightened.

(Old Man nods again.)

(All stand ready.)

Rabbi Cohen: (addressing everyone except the Old Man) All ready?

(All nod.)

Rabbi Cohen: (Turns to Rabbi Meyer, and addressing him:) It's time.

Rabbi Meyer: I understand.

(All except Old Man solemnly get up to leave.)

Old Man: Where are you going?

Rabbi Cohen: To evening prayers.

(Rabbi Cohen kneels to the ground, bows low to the Old Man, then follows the others offstage, into the night.)

(lights out)

(curtain)

Author: Leo Heska
Based on an original story by Daniel Munksgaard
Dramatic adaptation by permission of Daniel Munksgaard
Distributor/Publisher: http://www.freeplays.org

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