"What You're Living For"
Menachem and Yossele
visited the city of Siegburg
to shop for the tools of their trade,
for it was not always easy to find
what they could not make themselves.
They sorted through dies and swages
made from the highest-grade of tool steel.
Menachem even let Yossele pick out
a few, such as one that made acorns
to decorate the ends of rods.
As they were passing a pottery shop,
a statue of a woman suddenly
turned and looked at them,
and they realized it was
not a statue but a golem.
"Oh, she moved!" said the potter.
"She hardly ever moves any more,
not since my parents passed away."
This golem was not made of regular clay
but rather the finest porcelain, so pure
that the sun shone through her white flesh.
Delicate paints had given her blue eyes,
rosy cheeks and lips, even hair in shades
of lighter and darker brown. Gold leaf
wrote across her forehead: בִּלְהָה.
"Bilhah," said Menachem.
"Is that your name, then?"
Bilhah the golem nodded her head.
Yossele hovered anxiously around her,
his sturdy form thick as an oak beside
her slender, willowy grace.
"Why does Bilhah no longer move?"
Menachem asked the potter.
"When my father grew frail,
he created a golem to look after
my mother, who was also unwell,"
said the potter. "Bilhah served them
very well, but after they were gone,
she had nothing to do. I am young
and strong and need no help.
So she just stands there."
Yossele seemed miserable
at this news, and he gave
Menachem a pleading look.
The blacksmith thought about it
for a few minutes, mulling over
what Bilhah could do. Clearly she
was too delicate for guard work,
which is what most people
expected golems to do.
Then Menachem realized
that he was being a fool.
"Bilhah, there is no reason
that you cannot continue your work,
just because your first job is done," he said.
"Certainly it is sad that your maker and
his wife have passed away, but there are
many more people whom you could help.
It is a mitzvah to visit the sick."
Bilhah shifted again, slowly
and stiffly, but growing smoother
the more she moved. The idea
seemed to interest her.
Menachem turned to the potter.
"Do you have any objection?"
"No, of course not," she said.
"Bikkur holim is important. I am
sure my father would be honored.
Bilhah, please feel free to extend
your service to the sick in this city."
Yossele stroked Bilhah's cheek,
and then waved a hand around
the bustling street in query.
"I have no idea where to go or
who needs visiting," Menachem said.
"Let us search for a doctor, who will be
certain to know such things."
The potter gave them directions,
so Menachem and Yossele gave Bilhah
a ride in their wagon because she was
in no shape to walk that far.
When they explained the situation,
the doctor was thrilled to gain
the assistance of a golem
experienced in looking after
people who were old and frail.
"You will need to work out
some way of communicating,"
said Menachem. "It took a while
for me and Yossele to do that --
we use signs and some writing
for the most part now."
"Yes, of course," said the doctor.
"I'm happy to help Bilhah find
a new purpose in her life.
If you don't know what you're
living for, you haven't yet lived.”
Bilhah's painted lips curved in a smile.
* * *
"If you don't know what you're living for, you haven't yet lived.”
– Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory
Blacksmith tools include a wide variety of products such as dies and swages. A die has a raised pattern on the end; you put it against the metal to be marked and hit the other end with a hammer, leaving a sunken impression. A swage has a hollow that you stick metal into and hit it, leaving a raised shape; clapper or tong swages have two matching hollows, so you stick the bar between them and hit the outside to make a three-dimensional shape. Check out this acorn swage.
Porcelain is a fine white clay. It has a long history around the world.
Jewish pottery comes in a variety of styles. Blue, brown, and verdigris are popular colors. Porcelain is used for things like seder plates that may be decorated with vivid colors and scenes. See one with and without its matching cups.
Everyone needs a life purpose. Follow the steps to find yours.
Visiting the sick, or bikkur holim, is a mitzvah. Understand how it works.