Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Hell Opens Beneath Him

1

That moan filled Balak with pity for the Children of Israel and he wanted to remove his anger from them. But his anger was greater than he was, because of the troubles that had come upon him. His guts started rumbling and his pity turned back on himself. His eyes rolled up, as if to say, Did you see my suffering?

A few of the stars began to decline, and the other stars followed and declined, except for the morning star that ruled at that moment and shone and twinkled. Little by little, the firmament emptied out and a kind of dark whiteness or whitish darkness rose from the earth. And from the mountains beyond the Jordan a kind of light flickered, like the flicker of sunlight, for the sun had already begun digging herself a place in the firmament, but her effulgence hadn't yet risen.

Balak saw that the sun was about to come out, and when the sun comes out, human beings are wont to get out of their bed, and when they get out of their bed, they are wont to go outside, and when they go outside, they will see him, and when they see him, woe unto him. He looked here and there for a place to hide from them. He saw a dungheap and crept into it. And we will cover it up and will not reveal the location of that heap where he hid.

Balak lay down wherever he lay down. Sleep descended upon him and he dozed off. But he didn't admit that he had dozed off, as suffering people are wont to do, for since they don't enjoy sleep, it seems to them that they haven't been sleeping at all. And how do we know he dozed off? If he hadn't dozed off, would he have dreamed? He dreamed of this, that, and the other thing. Four dreams

-613-

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