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The Third Pillar

by Soma Morgenstern

Bibliographic information

TitleThe Third Pillar
AuthorSoma Morgenstern
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2001


That pagan onslaught upon the Jewish people which destroyed one third of that people, that crime Lord Russel of Liverpool called the greatest crime in all history, has been documented in a dozen languages. We have the individual reports, the diaries, the narratives, the poems of a thousand martyrs. We have had yet no summing up, no concentrated delineation, no transmutation of this vast tragedy into the meaningfulness of pure art.

Through slow and difficult years of impassioned creative effort, Soma Morgenstern has summed up, distilled, symbolized the incomparable tragedy of his people into an essentially poetic form that is clear with a great intellectual clarity, as well as majestic with the grandeur of the theme he treats. It will, no doubt, soften the calloused conscience and shake to its depth the heart of Christian as well as Jew. And it will do so not as outcry or propaganda, but as story, as symbol, as great epic art in a form of singular purity.

About the Author 

Soma Morgenstern ---

Dr. Soma Morgenstern, who had a distinguished career in Central Europe, has been an American citizen for many years. He is the author of a trilogy of novels: The Son of the Lost Son, In My Father’s Pastures, and The Testament of the Lost Son – a trilogy certain to grow in literary stature and significance in the years to come.



























“During that night we heard the tumult of battle. And when at the very break of day we ventured out into the street we saw the victors of those nocturnal skirmishes crowd into the city. There were the Germans in their grayish-green uniforms and on their sleeves were the hooked crosses, the swift pockmarks of the German pestilence.

“On that day of their rapid victory they did us almost no harm. Perhaps it was that these soldiers were no murderers; perhaps it was that they wanted to give no time to murder. The bloody deeds of this day and of those that followed were committed by our fellow citizens, our neighbors. Ah, it is an ancient sorrow that in the days of their history, whether fortunate or wretched, it was always they, our neighbors, who were prone to vent their spleen on us. That is an old story, a European and Christian refrain.

“And yet, contemptible as they were, what were the deeds of violence of our neighbors compared to the ill deeds of the German murderers as they now set in? Those were raging flames; these were all-consuming forest fires. Those neighbors devoured hundreds of us, but millions were spared. These other devoured millions and only hundreds were saved.

“I, the narrating judge, mournfully name the deeds of violence of our neighbors, inspired more by the lust of gain than by the lust of blood, in order to commemorate those victims too, may their names be sanctified. Concerning the misdeeds of the German murderers the accusing judge will bear witness, and he will do so according to the measure of blood guiltiness, primarily of the blood guiltiness incurred upon the bodies and lives of our children: from the newborn to those thirteen; that is to say, children according to our Law.

“May the accusing judge be upheld before this court by the merits of our fathers and the memory of our martyrs who fell for the Sanctification of the Name. And may strength be granted him to speak of what is unspeakable, that is, to bear witness according to the needs of this court, not to delineate, for that would be contrary to our Law. For only he could succeed in describing these bloody deeds and delineate them who was in a measure allied to the monsters who committed them. Only such a one would be willing and capable of rehearsing these deeds in word or writing or image.

“Now the accusation can begin. But I perceive that a judge has not yet assumed his seat. Where is the seventh judge?” “The seventh seat was destined for Zacharia Hakohen, the Torah scribe.” Thus spoke the Ab Beth-Din, the leading judge. “But he seems to be delaying. Since danger is imminent, another judge must serve as a substitute.” “What danger do you see in delay?” asked the narrating judge. “The procedure must not be interrupted,” said the Ab Beth-Din, “because Higher Court, as we know from the Messenger, is waiting for the result of these proceedings. This publican will take the seventh seat as a substitute for judge.” Therewith he pointed to the taciturn one among the publicans and said to him: “Reb Senderl ben Hayim, the water carrier, known as Havryluk the publican, you have been found worthy to sit on this court as the seventh judge and to pass judgment.”

This appointment came upon the taciturn publican with such grievousness, that he had to hold on the arm of the Messenger in order not to faint on the stairs. Then he broke into sobs and lamented aloud in order to be heard by the other judges and Almemor. And in his lamentation he accused himself: “I have denied the Name of the Creator. For four years I have not lived according to the Law. For four years I hid myself under the name of Havryluk when the true Havryluk disappeared. I wanted to live, rather live under a false name than die with my brethren. And I am to be a judge, I?”

“You have not denied the Name of the Lord, Senderl ben Hayim,” the Messenger consoled him. “You have denied only your own name. You have pretended to be Havryluk and you were believed. It is well. For you live, and that is well. More grace is upon the living than upon the dead. Otherwise you would not have been alive. And as for the name of Havryluk – it is a beautiful name, for Havryluk is derived from Havrilo and that is a form of the name of Gabriel. It is a good name. Look upon me; my name, too, is Gabriel. And the name neither the Lord nor me. Do you imagine that Senderl is a better or purer name than Gabriel?”

“No, no,” said the water carrier, “I do not believe that.” “Very well, then,” said the Messenger; “your answer is one that will be pleasing everywhere. And now you will bend down and lift up the box. You will carry it to the wall on which the pictures are painted. And you will lay it down at the feet of the smaller of the two images, so that it will remain clearly in the sight of the judges.”

“How am I to lift the box and carry it all by myself, seeing that five strong men were unable to budge it?” Senderl the water carrier lamented. But he wept no more, for fear had gone from him. “You brought it hither,” said the Messenger; “Have you forgotten that?”

“It was two of us who brought it here, the oldest of the publicans and I,” said Senderl, “Do you not know it?” “I know it well,” said the Messenger. “But to the oldest of the publicans another task has been assigned. Did you not observe that it was he who, during narration of the story about the Torah scribe and his twin sons, led the judges from the subterranean passage here, one after another? He is now seeking for the Torah scribe. Therefore you will carry the box alone. Do it and ask no further.”

The water carrier bent low over the box, placed both of his arms about its middle and lifted it with such obvious ease, that all, except the Messenger, were speechless with astonishment. But the officer of the storm troopers stretched out an arm toward the box with a gesture as though to ward off a thing of horror and thrice stammered words: “A shrine, a shrine, a shrine.” “You found your tongue again at almost the right time,” said the Messenger to the officer. “You will soon need to use it.” “I am innocent,” the officer stammered. “I have acted as I was ordered to do. That is my job. I am a soldier.” “The court will decide in that matter,” said the Messenger.

The water carrier, Senderl, equally astonished at the lightness of the box, kept it in happy surprise in the crook of his left arm, while his right hand caressed the wood. He said to the Messenger: “It is as light as … as …” “As what?” the Messenger helped his faltering speech. “Say it, just say it,” he encouraged him. “I was going to say that it is as light as a Torah scroll,” the water carrier said with his delighted glance steadfastly on the box. “Those are wise and good words, Reb Senderl,” the Messenger commented him. “If you will then carry it to the place where it belongs, you will not find it difficult to think of and to say the right thing in the court and to join in its decisions. Go and neglect nothing.”

The water carrier who, for four long years, had lived disguised and so in constant fear of being discovered and betrayed and, like his brothers, subjected to torture, now faced yet another danger, namely, of smiling with joy with that box against his bosom. But he had the strength to withstand this temptation too, and broke out in tears instead.

With unguarded face, weeping as effortlessly as a child, he carried the box as he had been bidden to the painted wall of the old synagogue and placed it lengthwise at the feet of the smaller of the two figures. But when he perceived that the box, standing thus on end, corresponded exactly to the measure of that smaller figure, he stopped weeping, again consoled as easily as a child. With lowered head, as though opposing himself to a violent wind, he trod swiftly to the Almemor, mounted the narrow steps that led to it and reached his place on the bench at the very moment in which the prosecutor’s accusation began.

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