The tale of Big Bird Ziz
Grandpa Yacov was named after Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. The three were the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel and we were their direct descendents. Jacob the patriarch was grandpa’s best friend and by extension, the greatest of my pals. In Jacob’s tales, grandpa Yacov made trees sing, mountains dance and the hardest of stones soften to be a pillow under Jacob’s head. Those were the days when nature had conscience, knowing exactly how to satisfy our patriarchs’ desires. It was a time when our predecessors were mightier than Greek Gods and Jacob, alone, had the power to tame rebellious angels, causing trouble to our Eternal in heaven.
Rebellious angels were responsible for every ill in grandpa’s tales. When terrorists knocked on our doors on Yehuda Halevi Street in Kiriat Shemona, grandpa Yacov blamed them, ‘because in the beginning, when human beings assisted God in bringing about Creation, devious angels taught men war. And although many years passed, the children of men did not learn how to overcome the angels evil design and till our days we remain subject to spilled blood and violent deeds.’ Grandpa’s tales stimulated my imagination. They recalled a time when even God had to reckon with the evil that threatened the best of Its intentions. God in grandpa’s tales was infinite wisdom and we had to walk in Its footsteps and if we did, Heaven would inhabit earth and we would live in peace forever after.
‘In the beginning,’ grandpa Yacov told me ‘before heaven and earth were created, God wrote the Torah with black on white fire and when the Torah came into being, it said: ‘Oh, Lord, what use is there for me without men and how glorious can the Lord be without Creation?’ And God saw that the Torah was wise and created the world again.
‘God created many worlds before’ grandpa said ‘but all prior creations were destroyed because humans sinned. And God realized that the world could not exist on justice alone, and created mercy to rule at its side and repentance for men to mend their ways and Paradise and Hell for rewards and punishment and a Messiah to bring salvation at the end of days. All this happened on New Year’s Day, which is a time of judgment and absolution.’
‘Ever since, Heaven watches earth from above and from time to time, the Divine shows Its presence on earth, to restrain the appetite of the powerful for the weak escape the strong. And since an ancient time, God appears on earth every fall in the form of the Great Bird Ziz, flapping wings and sounding cries, making birds of prey know that if they annihilate smaller birds, Ziz would bring an end to them. And so goodness rule on earth and the angel of Mercy encircles it and till this day, the river Ziz flows in the Dra’ Valley and Great Bird dips Its ankles in it and Its head reaches high into the heavens.