Monday, May 25, 2009

8 The Death of Yitzhak 1

When Yitzhak did not come home, Abraham called: “Yi-ii-i-ii-caak! Yi-ii-i-ii-caak! Yi-ii-i-ii-caak!” There came no answer.

We do not know if this story about Yitzhak and Billy happened before or after speech was invented. Certain things can happen before the arrival language; for example, the art of gardening by Weaver Ants, perhaps the herding of animals by humans. However, Abraham’s need to communicate his deepest fear was pressing. Whether the call went “Yi-ii-i-ii-caak!” or “Yaaa-n!” we cannot tell, but Abraham’s voice was loud and desponding.

That night Abraham went without sleep. So did Sarah, the mother of Yitzhak. The parents churned in their heads the same question: Why had Abraham told Yitzhak to take the goat to the mountains yesterday? Why did he not do it the day before or today? Why had Sarah not stopped him? Neither Sarah nor Abraham could recall seeing any signs that would hint at what was coming. The sun had risen and set as it had every day—the day had begun no different from any other day.

This is not to say that sometimes the tribe had not stopped in its tracks to take notice of the moment. There was the time when someone had stopped in his walk and done something weird. Well, perhaps not so weird, because as soon as others in the village had taken note of his doing, they had done the same. All turned four full turns to the left and then four turns to the right. After they had done so once, they could not stop. They had done the strange dance all morning long. There was the time when a fight had broken out between two men and the women had rushed in to separate them. To restore calm, old Sarah and Abraham had lifted their skirts and shown how hairy they were.

Now neither Abraham nor Sarah could stop remembering the event that had caused them to send Yitzhak, Billy, and the herd of goats into the mountains. Sarah blamed it all on herself. She had stroked Yitzhak from an early age. When the boy had slept with her and started crying, she had stroked his thigh to calm him. Abraham remembered how fascinated Yitzhak had been with his penis and how he had obliged the boy and shown it to him, first soft, then hard. That is how Yitzhak probably got the idea of stroking the goat.

The habit of touching anything and everything was probably why the women knew how to masturbate men. They knew how to do and be done by. They could get men to stick their tongues in their honey troughs, and when a man had them flowing, they knew how to scream and cream him off without entering them. If in the 21st century such an act may seem out of a pornographic film, 21,000 years ago masturbation separated humans from other animals. Masturbation was another thing humankind became obsessed with after it had been forced out of trees. With no more branches to hold on to, the hands became freed “to do the devil’s work” as some might say. Women, though they still carried their newborn with them, became sexually more active and capable of getting greater pleasure from sex than men. A man soon became sexually exhausted (Casanova, who claimed to have had fourteen orgasms in one night, was an exception). In any case, women made it a habit of controlling aggressive men by stroking them and then not letting go until the man could do little but not jump. Their own preference was to do it slowly, to set the mood. This is why to this day women like to do it by candlelight.

But on that long ago day it was different. Yitzhak had disappeared. “Ai, ai, ai, ai, ai! Yi-ii-i-ii-caak! Yi-ii-i-ii-caak!”

Abraham and the entire village went up the mountain at daylight. They could see the goats above them in a meadow, but there was no sign of Yitzhak. Old Abraham, for all his age, led the climbers. As he came within shouting distance of the herd, he called again, but not for Yitzhak, but for Billy: “Brr-aa-vo, brr-aa-vo!”

Billy answered and came running. The goats lifted their heads and watched. Abraham lassoed Billy and gave the rope to someone else to hold. His eyes then searched the meadow once more. Then he saw Yitzhak’s body. It lay by a large rock. When the villagers reached the body, they could see a run of congealed blood from the nose and ears smeared Yitzhak’s tunic. His sling with a rock still in its pocket lay beside him.

Everyone reported some of their goats missing. Everyone had lost a goat or two. It was then that they understood that Yitzhak had died defending the herd from thieves. Still, who were the thieves? Because no one knew, everyone looked at Abraham and pointed at Billy. Was not the goat the one who had led to this unhappy event? Shall we kill him?

Abraham shook his head and swept his arm across the entire flock of goats. It was as if to say: Is Billy alone the guilty one? The gesture made everyone think. If they sacrificed Billy and their own goats, the act of the day would not be the discovery of the murder of Yitzhak, but a slaughter of goats. Would that not be sacrilege against Yitzhak? Abraham went to Billy and untied him.

Many years later, a traveler walking from one end of the world to the other asked for directions to Yitzhakville. He had heard of a temple dedicated to a goat and a boy there. A story told that it was there that a people called Yitzhaks had their origin. The traveler asked a villager of Yitzhakville to explain. This is what the villager told the traveler:

“The goats the boy was guarding in the mountains were our shadows. We did not know it at first, but we learned of it after Yitzhak was dead and our goats stolen. Everyone felt something was different, that something was missing. We did not know what it was until Abraham told us that Yitzhak had defended not only our goats, but also our shadows. He was right. That is why we hold our goats to be sacred and never slay them but for old age.”

“What do you mean that the goats are your shadows?”

“Before Yitzhak was killed, we did not know that goats were our shadows. This is perhaps because goats are white. After Yitzhak died, we began to understand that he was not guarding only our goats, but also us. He made us see ourselves through our shadows. This is why on Yitzhak Day we dye our goats blue.”

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