Yom Kippur, 10th Century – Why would a Unitarian always celebrate Yom Kippur?

Fiction excerpt is from the historical time-travel with acupuncture needles novels of Anne Hart. Read this entire story in the book: Who’s Buying Which Popular Short Fiction Now, & What Are They Paying? or the novel, Adventures in my beloved Medieval Alania and Beyond.

Yom Kippur, Bethlehem, July 985 AD

Yom Kippur means to me a time of healing, caring, repairing, and revealing, being at one with the creator’s magic invisible acupuncture needles that repair the world. Yet the universe and beyond knows life as a force cannot be contained.

It’s about being at one with the world and other worlds where the life force moves forward with the same goal of repairing, caring, and sharing. Atonement also means at-one-meant for reflection. It’s a time to heal.

And on Yom Kippur, almost 1,100 years ago, another healer among many, Bihar of Balanjar, the great Tengri shaman with his Silk Road acupuncture needles who accepted his new faith roamed the streets of Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jerusalem looking for the rabbi who expected delivery of the torah scrolls in time for Yom Kippur. 

The Tengri Shaman’s motto, like mine, were about sensibility and "good deeds, not creeds," for all he encountered on his journeys through time and place. He arrived as a healer just as Yom Kippur arrives each year as the healer.

Bihar of Balanjar healed all in the diverse population of the 10th century. From the Silk Road to Cathay, from Kiev to Jerusalem, this traveler took his acupuncture needles as healing tools on all the people he met on his journeys.

Bihar, husband of the Levite’s daughter, a bride from Kiev, walked with his teenage son through the market place at the appointed time to find the great rabbi who journeyed from Jerusalem. Bihar and his son watched the feverish selling and the wonderful diversity and knew all life could be repaired by the energy meridians he had learned and mastered along the Silk Road from the wise healers of Cathay.

Who could succeed in selling a plate, a scarf, a trinket? Buyers bargained for the lowest price.

Each year a new army with a different belief tried to conquer the sacred land, in the way of too many cross roads of time and trade, its nation’s coins became worthless. Bihar threw away his.

Boys dressed in white robes ran from one street vendor to the next. When the merchandise and foods on the Christian side were empty, the boys had to buy in the many more Moslem shops at three times the price.

The few Jewish bazaars remained hidden in houses behind shutters, houses along dark and winding streets that one could not find without knowing whom to visit. And there were still fewer stalls that served the Armenians, the Greeks, the Circassians, and European traders. Every nationality had its niche from whom it bought food and trinkets.

Bihar thought as he looked at the array of diversity. Would he drink their coffee? Would he eat their food? Did they mix meat and milk at the same meal? Would he betray his many disguises? He healed all of them. "I am the miracle worker here," he told his teenaged son, Marót.

Marót laughed back at his father. "All this change only means nothing will ever change on the inside."


Bihar came to a tiny village and counted twelve flattened houses. "I wonder who is settling the accounts this time?"

Soldiers of the Caliph rode up to him. "Leave your houses if you want to save your lives."

"Peace be with you. I am el hajj, on a pilgrimage to Mecca from Samarkand." Bihar argued in a sing-song voice of Central Asia, squinting the corners of his dark eyes, this time disguised in white robes as an Imam.

The last soldiers he met learned he was an Imam from Bokhara. He knew more merchant’s watering holes along the Silk Road, their names, customs and dialects. Four Arab-speaking soldiers turned their horses. "Then be on your way, quickly."

He walked through the village looking for fresh horses of his own, but no one was around except the old people pouring out of the crumbling village.

An old Jewish woman tried to get Bihar’s attention. "I think we’re both in the wrong place today." He found himself wandering aimlessly. The woman asked Bihar whether he was a Jew. Bihar nodded.

"A man didn’t leave quickly enough because his wife went into labor. He was killed."

"You would have seen worse in Atil."

The woman touched the back of her hand to her chin. "And where I came from, if they thought you walked by their wells….It was even worse than that, and I’m far from your homeland."

"And where do I belong?."

Glances of hatred from below and above–glances of contempt. Bihar passed through the crowds, his face glistening. Leaves swept past him to the river as rootless as himself.

A woman carrying a calabash on her head closed one eye and cursed, "May the earth move so their houses fall on their heads."

"Once you leave, you can’t go back," a soldier shouted to Bihar.

He took the road to Jerusalem.

"I’m an imam on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he told the soldier. I have permission to go everywhere," Bihar told the soldier.

He gestured back. "Peace be upon you."

"Be careful, Marót said. "Messages between separated families are forbidden."

"How many days to Jerusalem?"

The soldier held up his hand.

Again, Bihar changed his disguise to that of a healer. Doors opened. It was dawn when Bihar awoke in Jerusalem. The sounds were maddening. He eagerly sat by the gate. Bihar waited for fighting soldiers in the streets to pass by.

"Where did you learn Arabic?" A soldier asked Bihar.

"Baghdad. The Silk Road winds through many lands, all of whom need those who heal the lame." He held up a bag of herbs.

They went on. A priest arrived with three dying children on a bier. Bihar carried them into the hospital.

All at once Bihar’s freedom of action in a moment had become meaningless. A little trail of saliva left his purplish lips.

He went inside to guard the hospital window. Bihar’s throat clicked in tight knots.

He rubbed his bag of herbs against his cheek, to make the fear go away. Bihar’s eyelids fluttered, and he dropped back, away from the latticed shutters. He gazed at the empty street. The walls around him seemed to evaporate. Terrible, silent tears dropped to his shoulder.

Bihar covered his mouth with his forearm, as if to hide his own darkness. Memories of a youth in Khazaria returned. Then came the memories of years he spent in L’Aashad, Persia, from the days he sailed from one end of the Caspian Sea to the other.

Marót nudged him from his dream. "So this is Jerusalem," he said, nodding as he looked around.

"It should have felt different," Bihar sighed. "I feel a sense of exclusion in an off-limits city."

"What do you say we don our Islamic robes and begin to heal anyone who comes our way, using the great acupuncture needles we were trained to use as we walked the Silk Road from Khazaria to Cathay" Marót asked.

"Yes," he answered twisting a fresh Imam’s turban around his head. "Infidels are often assaulted in the bazaars. They are refused lodging in pilgrims hostels and haircuts by barbers."

"What about Jewish life here? Are there any others like us, from Khazaria?" Marót whispered.

"There must be some," Bihar replied. It reminds me of the year I spent with your mother’s family in Mashad. But that’s Persia, not Khazaria. Jewish life in Mashad officially came to and end on the tenth of Muharram, the holiest day of the Shiite Moslem year.

"Your mother reminded me that her family had no hope other than the grace of the Almighty, the coming of the Messiah, or the arrival of the Khazars."

"The arrival of the Khazars?" Marót laughed. "Since when would a Jewish woman of Persia marry a Khazar?"

"When none beneath the Kagan could have this woman."

He remembered how he had been forced into the Caucasus. Jewish Hajjis had long been detouring through Mecca, leaving other pilgrims in Egypt and taking a boat to Jaffa.

Secret Jews. In Jerusalem they prayed at both Moslem and Jewish holy places: the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. Bihar joined other secret Jewish hajji, one of a band of secret Mashadi Jews from Persia who came back to Persia from Mecca by way of Khazaria to bring other secret Jews the news of Jerusalem’s growing Jewish settlement.

"My soul will not be flushed out into the bay through my father’s anger," Bihar told himself.

Now, aware of the wafting incense, the smells of Jerusalem, Bihar focused his thoughts on the present.

Music wailed in nuances of delight in a distant room, and the spicy scent of cinnamon and kamoun crossed his senses. A bown of fava beans was hurled from a window to join the garbage below.

Bihar remembered how men chipped away at their old gods in their own images. Golden fingers hammered golden notes into symbols to be worn around the throat, so music could be frozen in time. The old curse was unfeeling. The family was more important than each of its members. But in war without a family, you go crazy. This was Bihar’s third war.

"It almost never rains in July." Bihar was startled by the feminine voice. He whirled around to see the silhouette of a young woman standing behind him.

"The rain. It’s pouring again. It never rains in July."

Bihar cleared his throat. "Khatun, how did you get here without me?"

"I grew tired of waiting to grow, my husband. For years I’ve watched how you heal the sick, the tortured, and the old. I’ve learned much from you, as much as you learned from my peoples. It’s time I helped you finish what you came here to realize." Khatun leaned against the window sill. Bihar looked up at her broad, freckled face. Dark brown curls spun out from under her white robes.

"I’ll show you where I have been, where no one knows I’m the Queen of the Khazars, if you don’t mind a place where the rain comes in." He led his horses, walking beside her.

"Rain," Khatun sighed. "In Mashad it was forbidden for a Jew to go outside in the rain, for fear of contaminating rainwater which might then touch a non-Jew."

"I played many roles to get here," Bihar told her as she embraced him and her grown son to welcome them home. "I was a good Circassian Moslem from Daghestan whose family went to Persia. I played Imam from Tashkent on a pilgrimmage. The Silk Road is an open book of many peoples. All you had to play was a mother of nations. Could this only happen in Khazaria, my queen?"

"Or in Mashad?" She looked at him like a dove.

Marót and Khatun sat beside Bihar. It was an eternity ago that he talked like this with a woman, that the healer no longer had to disguise himself as a king without a country.

"Jerusalem is the only city to which kings without their lands return."

"It’s where everyone crosses paths with everyone else." Marót concluded.

"So where do we go from here?" Bihar looked wide-eyed at his wife and only son.

"Listen." Bihar interrupted.

"I don’t hear anything."

"That’s it. The silence. Not even a bird is singing.

"The fighting has stopped."

"For how long?" Khatun asked.

Khatun, Bihar, and Marót listened to the energy in one another. Metal became flesh and human turned machine.

"You were right that the more things change, the more they….." Khatun was interrupted by a rabbi walking down the cobbled stones with a crooked stick.

"They say you can heal…Please come. I need you to help my children." Bihar and Khatun brought Marót with them. "Yes, all of us will be with you. This is my husband, Bihar, but here you may call him Nissim."

"Nissim?" The rabbi said as he nodded to a Greek Father passing beside him, and then to the local Imam. "It means miracles."

And Bihar of Balanjar, brought his golden acupuncture needles to heal anyone and everyone. He had walked a long way from the Silk Road to Jerusalem to deliver not only his healing needles to the wise medicine women, but the secret Torah scrolls the rabbi from Kiev had given him to bring for Yom Kippur to the rabbi.

Yom Kippur meant to Bihar and his son, travelers from Khazaria, where the Volga meets the Caspian, a time and a place for repairing the world and caring for one another, for all of humanity for the sake of life.


  1. www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?B
  2. annehart.tripod.com