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By Mark L. Blackman
[Editor's Note: This story first appeared in Blancmange # 183, APA-Q # 263 ©1987 Mark L. Blackman. It is reprinted with the permission of the author. Our thanks to Mark Kennedy who first brought it to our attention.]
SOMETHING'S NOT KOSHER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? You're gonna call WHO? A challah tale of Baruch Rogers, Space Rabbi -- from the writhings of the scribe Moshe Eeazar ben-Baruch ha-Levi.
"Enter freely and of your own will. And wipe your feet off."
Lightning crackled across the sky, and by its light and the silvery moons', Baruch Rogers, Space Rabbi, huddled in the doorway of the castle. From across the Translevoneh hills came a mournful howling.
"Wolves," said the bent figure. "Children of the night."
"Well, a little consideration the wolfs might teach their children. People could be trying to sleep."
The doorway opened fully and Rogers stepped inside. He regarded the man who had let him in. His twisted torso made it difficult for the Rabbi to judge his size. One arm jutted out and an unkempt white mane made him seem likelier to be some sort of riff-raff than the baleboss of the house.
"Good yontif. I am Baruch Rogers, Space Rabbi. Are you Raphael 24$ 4995 +tax?"
"No, I'm just the help. My name is Yizkor." He nodded in greeting; his body remained hunched-over. "I'll take you to him. Walk this way."
Yizkor strode forward, his right shoulder stuck out wide, head far up and back, and left shoulder tilted. One leg shuffled slowly across the floor. Rogers swiftly cut off JENTA's audio circuit.
It had been years since the Rabbi had visited the castle; at the time it was being converted from a hamburger (and frankfurter) restaurant to a bakery. Rogers had rekoshered the establishment. Since then, the bakery had gotten a new owner and a new name, and even the street sign outside had been changed to Aleph Ralpha Boulevard. Tonight he was here to help the baker rid his shop of all chometz in preparation for Pesach.
Rogers was led past cases displaying various breads mandel broit and hamantashen left over from Purim. "Excuse me, but I couldn't help noticing you seem to have a small problem." The Rabbi spoke slowly and carefully. "Have you considered seeing a doctor?"
"A doctor?" the little man exclaimed. "What for do I want a doctor? A tailor I need. Look at this suit --- this sleeve is two inches too long, the collar is halfway up my head, and the left shoulder is three inches wider than the right! And you wouldn't believe how the pants pull in the back!" He led Baruch through anarrow doorway. "Here we are, Rabbi. Welcome to the Little Shop of Challahs."
A heavyset man in a white apron scurried from oven to oven. In the center of the room stood the second largest oven tray the Rabbi had ever seen. Something massive lay covered under a sheet of waxed paper. Rogers audibly cleared his throat.
The baker looked up. "Oh, you must be the Rabbi. I'm Raphael 24$ 4995 +tax."
"How do you do, Mr. 24$ 4995 +tax. That's funny, you don't look Jewish. I see you've already gathered together the chometz. There's still some left in the front of your shop though."
"Call me Raphael. 24$ 4995 +tax isn't my real name. It used to be Loew; I changed it for business reasons. And this isn't chometz." His eyes gleamed. "It's my masterpiece. I, Rabbi, am going to create life. Under that sheet lies a golem."
"A golem?" Rogers was stunned. "The very idea is half-baked."
"So's the golem. It's an old family recipe handed down for generations, going back to the time of the Maharal."
The Rabbi gaped. Of course, he realized. Rabbi Yehuda Loew of Prague. Hundreds of years ago on Earth, using the power of Ha Shem, the Divine Name, he had brought a clay effigy to psuedolife to protect the Jews of the ghetto. Could this be . . . ?
"It's been a dream I've carried since before I had the stand outside Jerusalem's lot. Of course, I've modified the recipe a little. Instead of clay I used dough made from swamp things. A bissel Kabala,a bissel Sara Lee. And I adapted it for a microwave. He yanked off the wax paper and slid the tray into the oven before it.
"No, you mustn't," roared the Space Rabbi. It's an averah!"
"Wild dogs couldn't make me change my mind." The oven began shining. "I'm sorry, Rabbi. Yes, what is it, Yizkor?"
His helper had reappeared at the doorway. "A busy evening this is, boss. There's a man from the Environmental Protection Agency who wants to know what you've been doing to the swamp. Right behind him is an inspector from the Health Department. And the meter reader."
The lights dimmed briefly as the oven drew more and more power. Lightning flashed across the sky, its flickers illuminating their momentary darkness.
"Tell them I'm not in. I can't be interrupted now at the culmination of my culinary triumph."
Yizkor turned (no easy feat in his ill-fitting suit) and left. A hush fell over the room, broken only by a clap of thunder and a soft ding.
Raphael opened the oven door and slid out the tray.
"I hope it's not soup yet. No, it's hardening even as I watch. It's rising!"
"Sure it's not just the yeast?" Yizkor had rejoined them.
The creature sat up. "It's alive! I've done it!" the baker shouted triumphantly. "I've created life!"
"And I helped," said Yizkor.
Rogers gasped. On the creature's forehead was the sacred Tetragrammaton.
"You see, Rabbi. I did everything by the Book." He turned to the creature. "Can you hear me? I created you. You must obey me. Do you understand?"
As if in response there came an indistinct rumbling from the creature's throat. He swung around and lowered his feet to the floor. He stood, swaying for a moment, then began to walk. A lumbering but far more graceful than Yizkor. He halted be fore Raphael. And spoke. "Vos tut zich?"
It was the baker's turn to be stunned. "He talks! They'll give me the Weizman Institute Award for this! A chair at the Israel Institute of Technology! First Prize at my block party bake-off! I'll tell you what's going on," he said to the huge figure. "You're a golem. I created you. You must --"
"No!" The golem grabbed Raphael and swatted him aside. "Ich darf--." He looked from the Rabbi to Yizkor. "Are you the . . . keymaster . . . the gatekeeper?"
"Back off, I'm a rabbi." The creature reached out to him. He slowly ran his hand down the front of Baruch's spacesuit, leaving small, wet clumps in hia wake. "I've been shmutzed!" groaned Rogers.
Yizkor turned to the Rabbi and shrugged. He faced the golem. "Second door on your left," he gulped.
"There goes the neighborhood," said Raphael. He was still nursing some minor bruises. "Every last person in the neighborhood is out here looking for my golem, armed with torches. The whole city's in flight."
"Are you surprised?" asked Baruch Rogers. "After that rampage of his? Smashing gates, turning over groundcars, cutting in line at the deli counter?"
"And worst of all, he's never picked up a phone to call."
"Yes he has, boss. He lifted up that booth at the corner of Mockingbird Lane."
"I tried to warn you, Raphael. You should never try to create a golem except under strict rabbinical supervision. And speaking of phone calls, an acquaintance of mine, 'Fleisch' Gordon, Attorney-at-Space-Law called."
Two of the neighbors halted near them. "Shmattakopf, when we ordered torches we meant the kind with fire. How are we supposed to burn that monster with flashlights?"
"You should be more specific. Besides, where do you expect me to find a firestarter in this rain?"
"Rabbi, I'm worried about Yizkor." It was Rogers' Judaically-programmed Ethnocentric Nomothetic Talmudic Analytic computer. "The moons are all full and he's begun to sprout hair all over his face."
"It's called stubble, JENTA. It's something that happens to men without beards." He sighed. "What could he want out there? Any ideas?"
"Impossible," said the baker. "A good husband he might make--he's a creature of yeast culture and breading--but, alas, he is seedless."
"And you accuse me of rye humor, Rebbe," said JENTA?
There was a shout from the mob. Yizkor came back towards the Rabbi and Raphael. "They've tracked him across the pet cemetery to the swamp. He dodged into an old car, but an angry dog jumped onto the hood. Somebody heard him turn on the radio to scare it off."
"Come'on," said the Rabbi. "We've got to get there and destroy him."
"Wait for me," puffed Raphael. "Running a bakery is no way to get thinner. How can we destroy him?"
"You're the one with the family recipe for golem mix and you're asking me?"
The last toasted crumbs of the golem were dumped in the swamp just hours before Seder.
"I'm ruined," moaned Raphael. "I'll have to sell out to that mean green florist from downtown."
"I'm glad I was able to get close enough to efface his forehead," said the Rabbi. "His end was peaceful--such peace as a soulless creature might know. Could you make out what he was trying to say to me, JENTA? What he wanted?"
"Well, the first thing was 'I'm melting!' He was rather drenched and sloughing off. I can't be certain of the last thing he said but there was a 73.6 percent chance it was 'If I only had a brain.'"
They turned from the golem's final resting place and headed back toward the bakery. They never saw the swamp water bubble or a pulsating mass surface and slowly take on form . . .
The End -- Or Is It?
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