the skies above your head shall be copper and the earth under you iron. for some reason these words from this week's torah portion catch my eye. they ring familiarity. where have i seen them before? over the yummy potluck sabbath meal something comes to me. a bright sense. i see it like looking at a gold coin lying at the bottom of a clear and still pond. a story. the story of alexander the great as told by my guru. i heard it once and it's been fiercely seared within me since.
here's how it goes as i recall it now.
when alexander first became king he summoned the best and brightest astrologers in the land. he asks of them one question only. when will i die? the astrologers went to work. they came back and said, your majesty, you will die when sky turns to iron and earth gold. wow. what does that mean? that's exactly what alexander asked. the astrologers didn't have an answer. so alexander thought and thought. well, how can sky turns to iron? impossible. how can earth turns to gold? impossible. well, that can only means one thing. sky will never turn to iron. earth will never turn to gold. and i will never die.
with that understanding, alexander went out to conquer and conquer and conquer. his soldiers believed their commander could not be defeated. the armies on the opposite side in the battlefield lost the will to fight. after all how can you beat someone who is destined to never die?
fast forward. alexander was passing through a rough terrain. he started to feel ill. he wanted to stop and pause a little bit. his loyal general said, your majesty, we are in the middle of nowhere, this is not a place suitable to receive your majesty. please let us go a little further. alexander agreed. he soldiered on. he grew sicker and sicker. finally he couldn't hold it anymore. he decided to just stop and get off the horse right there. his loyal general immediately removed his protective vest that is woven of fine threads of gold and spread it out so that his king would not lie on coarse sand. then he held up his shield of iron over alexander's head as shade. alexander lay down, closed his eyes. after a while he felt a little better. he opened his eyes. what did he see? iron over his head. gold underneath him. in less than a wink he remembered. he knew. he started to sob and sob and sob. the general said, your majesty, you''ll be allright. alexander said, it's too late. the general said, what do you mean? alexander said, if only i knew then what i know now, i would have done differently, but it's too late. he wept and wept and wept to death.