The Gingerbread Golem

Moscow, 2013.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was infuriated. Barak Obama had recently informed Vladimir that he must cease using his Russian Army computers to attack U.S. computer networks.  

“Russia can do whatever it wishes with its army computers,” Vladimir fumed to himself. “Barak Obama needs to learn to defend his computer networks just as we do ours. I must find a way to rid myself of this American upstart.” He then began to consider how he could accomplish such a feat.

That, of course, would be unnecessary because of the upcoming presidential election to be held in three years. “All I really need to do is to arrange for someone who I choose to become President. I can then command my new lackey to do my bidding. The first thing I will have him do will be to get rid of those pesky sanctions. That should not be so terribly difficult.”

At that time, however, Vladimir had no operatives stationed in the U.S. capable of exercising control over the U.S. election system. Barak Obama had, only recently, deported all of Vladimir’s intelligence specialists assigned to the ‘diplomatic’ residence. The American President claimed they were engaged in spying. This annoyed Vladimir because there is a long-held, unwritten agreement between the two countries, that it is OK to spy on each other – but not to drop bombs or shoot missiles.

Vladimir was about to call his trusted confidant, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, when, suddenly he was struck by an unusually shrewd idea. Sergey has been the go-to minister in Putin’s Government since Vladimir became President. But, as he thought about it, it became clear that, even as clever as Sergey Lavrov is, he would have never come up with a plan such as this.

Until 2014, Vladimir was married to Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya, an attractive and accomplished linguist. Lyudmila was popular with the oligarchs, the financial backbone of Vladimir’s government. She was also popular with the Russian People but, the marriage eventually, became a disaster.  As he described to the oligarchs and to the Russian electorate at the time they divorced, his wife had become a vampire; a blood-sucking she-devil. His first impulse, rather than deal with the awkwardness of a public divorce, was to arrange for a timely disappearance – a process Vladimir Putin has built his career on. That tactic was not possible, however, due to the presence of their daughters, Yekaterina and Mariya Putina, who were very close to their mother, an inconvenience that would have made Lyudmila’s disappearance indefensible.

During his startling epiphany, Vladimir recalled that, early in their courtship, he became unexpectedly close to Lyudmila’s grandmother. It happens that the old woman is the daughter of an Orthodox Rabbi whose ancestry reaches back to medieval Prague. It always amused Vladimir that, whenever her grandchildren misbehaved, she would gather them around her, Lyudmila among them, and frighten them with the ancient legend of the Golem. The grandmother would relate the history of her grandfather, Judah Loew ben Bezalel, Rabbi of Prague during the pogroms of 1512 – 1526, a man learned in ancient Talmudic manuscripts who was a master of the mysterious secrets of Kabbalah.

During the rabbi’s studies he had discovered the mystery relating how the hideous creature, known to the ancient Jews as Golem, was brought to life.  This nightmarish apparition could be made to do the will of a skilled Kabbalist who held the secret keys. Rabbi Loew discovered that the creature could be made to destroy those tyrants, who ruthlessly persecuted the Prague Jews and forced them to live in the horrible Ghetto — a walled-off district of the city from which the Jews were forbidden to leave. They were not even permitted to enter the city to beg for food and clothing to relieve the suffering of children and the aged. Because of the persecution, the Jews were dependent on itinerant traders who would enter the ghetto through a hidden entrance, unknown to the Prague magistrates, with goods to sell at exorbitant prices.

It was only their fear of the golem that restrained the Prague citizenry from driving the Jews from the ghetto and murdering them. For countless generations, the terrifying creature had been brought to life by the holy men when persecutions became so severe that the very existence of the Jewish Race was threatened. Their god did not give Jews the necessary skills to make war. Their only means of protection, and of revenge, during the pogroms was the golem.

As he recalled the old woman’s tales, Vladimir Putin soon appreciated the benefit of having access to such a creature. Even as he doubted the existence of a god who could give it life, he was now determined to locate the old woman in order to discover how he could come into its possession. Vladimir would have his own golem, but first he must locate the grandmother.

It was no easy task, but, after extending an “invitation” to his former spouse to visit him in the Kremlin, it did not take a great leap of imagination for her to realize that it would be to her advantage to help her ex-husband find Lyudmila’s ancient relative.

Grandma, it seems, along with assorted aunts, uncles and various other relatives, had been ruthlessly relocated to communal facilities in Russia’s frozen interior where they went into hiding. This, Vladimir felt, was a deserving punishment for the loss of face he suffered as a result of her granddaughter leaving and then divorcing him.

Soon, after enduring several dog-sled relays across the frozen tundra, the old lady arrived at the Kremlin, surprisingly, not a great deal worse-off for having endured such a grueling trip. Grandma was tough.

Unwisely, when informed that she was to be the honored guest of the President of Russia, Grandma, not so politely, told the young officer, who she presumed to be the hotel concierge, that one of the sled dogs that pulled her through the frozen Siberian wasteland, was the President’s mother. However, after a few days spent with the social-attitude-readjustment-team, she decided that perhaps she might indeed enjoy renewing the association with her ex-grandson-in-law. In fact, as she told her interrogators, she now looked forward to visiting with him about old times.  

When she was brought into his Kremlin office suite, Vladimir vigorously, but kindly, clasped her withered hands in his and grinned “So, Grandma, are you enjoying your stay at our…um…ski resort?”

“Oh, my yes,” she smiled. “I can hardly wait to return. It will be soon, I hope?”

“Most assuredly,” he smiled. “But first, perhaps, you could assist me to remember some of your pleasant recollections. Do you recall those old legends you used to tell your grandchildren — the old ghetto tales about the creature who protected the people and extracted revenge against their persecutors?”

“The Golem stories? But why would you care about old Jewish tales? Certainly, my grandson-in-law does not believe in such things.”

“Listen old woman!” The President’s impatience suddenly flared. “Let’s cut to it! I need to know how to make one of those golem things and I need you to tell me how it is done — immediately!”

However, rather than being cowed by his outburst, Grandma, a clever old babushka, could see that she now had the better hand. And she knew well how to play it.

Letting a wry smile creep slowly across her cracked, toothless mouth, she waited until Vladimir’s irritation reddened his brow. Only then did she begin to speak.

“In the Talmud, the same book your Orthodox Priests call the Old Testament…” Here she paused, slowly looking distractedly out the huge palace window, then, slyly noting Vladimir’s anxious expression, returned her eyes to meet his with that distant stare that accompanies advanced age.

“Yes, yes?” he pleaded, now trying to appear a bit more respectful toward the old woman. But, after taking a deep breath, he realized that he would need all the patience he could muster; patience gained from long years as a KGB interrogator.

“Please! Please do not rush me. It was many years ago when I first heard the stories from my grandfather. If I become confused, I will most certainly forget the many details.”

When she saw that he was completely at her mercy, and when the powerful Russian dictator had settled into his chair, finally comprehending that he was no longer in control, Grandma, with all the slimy noise she could muster, blew her nose into her filthy handkerchief and began her story anew.

“As the story begins, we are told that when God created the world, he placed within it, a beautiful garden. It took him only six days, but it must have given him a great deal of trouble because he had to take Sunday off.” Stopping again to blow her nose, she asked Vladimir if he worked on Sundays.

“I must work every day,” came the solemn reply.

“Well then. You and God must have a great deal in common,” came her equally solemn reply.

A perplexed look crossed his face, then a smile, followed by “Yes. It seems as though we do.” Both conversants, stunned by this reversal, began to share his animated laugh. The two combatants had suddenly, unexpectedly, found a moment of common pleasure in what had begun as a fearful inquisition.

“When the magnificent garden was finished,” Grandma continued, “it was only a very short time before the weeds, as weeds do, began to overgrow his creation. It then occurred to God that he needed a gardener. He had placed creatures of every sort within the garden, but there was none who could tend it. So, scooping a large hand-full of wet clay from a nearby swamp, God molded the figure of a new creature. The thing resembled what we now call a gingerbread man. He set it in a warm, sunny spot in the garden and waited for it to dry. When he decided it was taking too long, he blew on the figure to hasten the drying. God must have been surprised when the creature began to move and jump around, because, apparently, he had not made all the first creatures in the same manner. We know this because fur did not grow on this new thing as it did on his other beasts.”

Vladimir was again becoming anxious. This was taking a great deal more time than he had anticipated. “Could you perhaps move the story along a little bit,” he pleaded.

“People must sit for many hours in a synagogue to hear this story,” she snorted. “It would do you good to listen to some of those stories. You might even find some humility.”

After another disgruntled nose-blow, she continued.

“When God saw the creature had come to life, he was startled. He gasped in surprise and spoke the word ‘golem’, which, in ancient Hebrew, means ‘my light’. It was this word, ‘golem’, that made its way into the Talmudic writings that emerged in the Middle Ages. Those ancient heretical kabbalists were trying to find a way to create a living creature, as God had done, that would be a protector for the Jews during the persecutions.

“But what about the life force?” asked Putin, becoming suddenly curious. “Surely a rabbi breathing on a clay effigy is not the same as God breathing the ‘breath of life’ into an inanimate human figurine.”

“That, indeed, was their problem,” she replied.

“And how did they overcome this difficulty?” he asked.

“By literally putting words in its mouth. When they wished the golem to carry out their revenge, the Rabbi who molded it brought it to life by writing the Hebrew name for God on a slip of paper and inserting it in the thing’s mouth. The creature would arise, go through the city by night, terrorizing the people and killing the persecutors. When the job was complete, the golem would return to the Rabbi who made it, who would then remove the paper and the golem would disintegrate into an unrecognizable pile of dust. The people of Prague watched as the golem performed his fearful work. They suspected, but could never prove, that it had anything to do with the ghetto Jews. Even though it had a mouth, the golem could not speak or make a sound. It did as it was commanded in complete silence. That horrible silence is partly why it created so such fear.”

“Tell me Grandmother, who can make a golem? Must one be a Rabi?”

“More than a Rabbi,” she replied. “One must be a Rabbi scholar of the Talmudic mystic tradition, the Kabbalah. Only then can one know the incantations – those spells that must be uttered after the golem has been molded into its proper form.”

“Where can I find such a Rabbi? Do such scholars exist in Russia,” Vladimir asked?

“None that I know of. You must begin your search in Prague where the story began.”

Now that Vladimir had the information he required, Grandma was expeditiously returned to Siberia and his intelligence people in Prague could begin the search for a Kabbalistic Rabbi.

In a relatively short time, the Russian operatives located a practicing Kabbalist who was intimately familiar with the tradition and the creation of the golem. The rabbi was quickly subdued, loaded onto a train bound for Moscow where he was confined in an ancient, derelict, clandestine interrogation center deep in the bowels of the Kremlin.

After a brief introduction into the KGB (now FSB) art of the interview, the Rabbi was enthusiastically willing to assist his interrogators, just as Grandma and her granddaughter had been.

After being shown into a windowless room, with a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, the rabbi politely inquired, “So, how may I assist you gentlemen?”

“It will be very simple,” smiled the lead agent. “We only need you to provide us with the latest model of your clay toy.”

“I see. You would like a golem. Do you require one that will take out a village, or, perhaps an entire city? Those models come in various sizes of huge. The items that are effective for individual or small group conversions more closely resemble humans and come with less involved logistical challenges.”

After a brief consultation between the lead interrogator and the Russian President, Vladimir, himself, then entered the interrogation room.

“We do not require any…um…mayhem or destruction,” said Vladimir. “In short, we only need an unremarkable agent who will operate within the United States electoral system. This agent will enter the Presidential race and become the new POTUS!”

“Hmmm” mused the rabbi. “What you are asking for – a clay monster, would not only be overkill, I doubt if it would even work. Who would vote for such a, shall we say, Frankenstein’s Monster? You need something that more closely resembles a human.”

“And what would that be?” questioned Vladimir, with a renewed interest.

“Surely, you are familiar with the story of the gingerbread boy?”

“As is every child, but you are forgetting, Rabbi, that, in the fairy tale, after the old couple made him, the gingerbread boy ran away and caused them a multitude of difficulty. We can do without that kind of a golem.”

To this, the rabbi replied, “Instead of a sinister clay figure, I will make a gingerbread man that will resemble an American citizen who would be likely to run in an election. We then simply substitute the ‘ginger-golem’ for the physical person, who you then, how do your agents say, ‘delete’. Then, when the proper incantations are uttered over the figure, it becomes an exact replica and assumes the identity of your subject who will run as a candidate for President.

Vladimir could not have been more pleased. The only decision remaining, was to determine who would now become the identity for the surrogate stand-in. This was the perfect moment to rely on Sergey Lavrov’s keen intuition. The only operative more familiar with the political inclinations of the American Electorate was the sitting Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak.

Moments later, after being informed of the President’s plan, Lavrov was on the diplomatic hotline ordering Ambassador Kislyak to return to Russia on the next flight.

“What’s the big rush,” grumbled the Ambassador.

“Why? What’s happening there that could be more important than a call from me,” snarled Lavrov.

“Manafort just sprung for a Smoked Salmon Carpaccio with Quail Eggs at Marcel’s. We’re about to make the wine selection at this very moment,” grinned Kislyak.

“Well, that I can overlook. Except for the fact that I am not included,” chuckled Lavrov. “But what’s the big occasion?”

“Manafort’s offering a ton of research – specifically, a complete list of republican donors and some survey results targeting voter preferences in important electoral districts. In short, we have the back-door keys to the most influential republican influencers for the next election. Something to celebrate, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Sounds good on the surface. How much does he want for the goods?”

“Only a few Million USD. But, just think what your hacker-boys could do with that data for a propaganda war!”

“Well, they’re the President’s boys, not mine, but he should be pleased to have your stuff. Why’s Manafort selling it anyhow?” Lavrov queried. “Shouldn’t he be buying information from us? Isn’t that what those hackers are for; you know, to steal info?”

At this point, the Ambassador excused himself for a trip to the men’s room. Lowering his voice, he whispered “Seems like our boy Paul borrowed some Republican campaign funds without telling anyone. Apparently, his lifestyle is getting ahead of his budget – ostrich jackets and the like. He’s pretty desperate to replace his borrowings before he gets discovered.”

“Does he know you know?” Lavrov asked.

“No, but our people have his phones tapped. He’s an easy mark. Never questions anything or anyone. He’s got too many irons in the fire to keep track of, including a string of mistresses waiting in posh hotel suites.”

“OK but listen Sergey. The travel office has already chartered a jet. You need to be on that plane the moment dinner’s over. Don’t even offer to leave a tip. We’ve got the craziest assignment that you will ever pull off. I can’t even put the words together to describe it. You will have to hear it from the boss to believe it.”

The moment the Ambassador took his last bite, and before Paul Manafort could mumble an awkward complaint, Kislyak was out the door and into the embassy Rolls Royce waiting for him under the canopy. The Russian Diplomatic Travel Office overlooks nothing.

Sixteen hours later, a bit hungover, with no sleep and a raging headache, the Ambassador sat waiting outside the President’s office. It is well known within the diplomatic community, that Putin is always frustratingly late. Delay is his preferred instrument of diplomatic warfare. 

“So, Ambassador. you appear to have added a bit of girth during your stay in the States,” smiled Vladimir. It seems that your protégé, Mr. Manafort has been treating you well.

Sergey, with an appreciative chuckle, admitted that he was indeed enjoying his appointment in Washington. “How observant, as always, Mr. President,” he grinned. Then, in an awkward attempt to lure Putin into changing the direction of the conversation he muttered. “Minister Lavrov tells me you have a very important project you wish me to be a part of.”

“More than that Ambassador. Your career, in fact your entire future, will depend upon your performance.”

Vladimir then took the rest of the afternoon outlining the story of the golem and his plan to manufacture a presidential candidate and exchange it for a U.S. Citizen to run in the 2016 election. “It will be your job to make the substitution,” said Vladimir.

By now, Sergey’s hangover and headache were replaced by sweating palms and brow. His shirt and the underarms of his jacket were now drenched. Nothing in his long diplomatic career had prepared him for an operation such as this. Sergey Kislyak was, in fact, petrified.

“Mr. President,” Sergey gasped. “I’m certain that I do not need to remind you that this proposal is extremely reminiscent of the plot of the book The Manchurian Candidate. Am I to arrange for this substitute to perform an assassination?”

“Very observant Sergey. Sometimes you do surprise me. I must say that idea had not occurred to me. But it does seem remarkably relevant. However, our candidate will not be shooting anything, except, perhaps, his mouth.”

The Ambassador was relieved to know that there would be nothing covert, except, he guessed, perhaps a rendition.

Vladimir was, without letting Sergey see his delight, enjoying the imaginary position he had placed the ambassador in.

“You are correct, this will be a rendition – of sorts. Our subject, however, will be delighted to cooperate. You see, we have selected an individual who has attempted for years to expand his business into Russia. You know him well. You and he have had numerous intricate dealings.”

“Well, Mr. President,” Sergey’s confidence was returning, “Of course you mean Paul Manafort. He will be an excellent choice and he already does a great deal of your bidding.”

“No,” replied Vladimir, “Manafort’s too smart. He’d turn this to his personal advantage and leave us in the cold. We’re using Donald Trump.”

“What? Trump? That self-obsessed, narcissistic liar? He’s also, how do the Americans say it – dumb as a box of rocks.”

“Precisely! And, for those very reasons, he, that is his substitute, will perform, exactly as we instruct him.”

And so, plans were laid for the rabbi to bake a gingerbread golem in the image of Donald Trump.

However, after several failed attempts, the rabbi recalled that the ancient golems could only understand commands spoken in Talmudic Yiddish. This golem needed to be programmed to act independently, carrying out its instructions as though it were in control of its own will. The biggest problem in devising such a system was the lack of an interface – one that would allow the rabbi to code the golem’s mind with the necessary instructions.

This rabbi, however, besides being well versed in artificial intelligence, was also, in fact, a master of the internet – especially the use of social media, and, particularly Twitter, as a propaganda communicator. His solution was deceptively simple. After molding the gingerbread dough into the proper shape, the moist effigy was laid out, face-up, on a seven-foot-long baking table. A large HD TV monitor was installed directly over its head and speaker buds inserted the ears. The neural processing was accomplished by exposing the golem to countless hours of ultra-conservative programming — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Fox and Friends and of course, Breitbart was constantly flooding into its consciousness. When available, media footage of Richard Spencer and other prominent Neo-Nazis was added. The entire procedure was reminiscent of full body radiation therapy with the exception, that, a fleet of nurses was required to continually moisten the creation with liquid skin bronzer.

After thousands of hours of toxic exposure, the programming was deemed complete. It was only then that the rabbi whispered the final series of commands, bringing the monster to life. When he looked upon his creation, the rabbi beheld a fearsome monster that resembled a huge orangutan with a freshly set blond coif. Whether or not he had intended, the mouth was molded in the shape of a tiny donut and the golem’s hands were disproportionately small. It now seems quite probable that the rabbi was, more than a little, familiar with the prototype’s being. So accurately did the golem match the actual Donald Trump, that the first words spoken by the monster were: “Bring me KFC, mashed potatoes, double biscuits & gravy and a 2-liter Diet Coke.

It was only then that the three Russians, Putin, Lavrov and Kislyak, were admitted into the creation kitchen.

Putin, placing himself directly in front of the monster sneered “Who are you and what is your purpose?”

The golem, with some difficulty, because it was still damp with bronzing solution, sat up and faced its inquisitor. “My name is Donald John Trump, the next President of the United States. My mission is to displace the American Constitution, do away with all the established institutions and run the government as its dictator.”

“And, what are your loyalties?”

“My allegiance is to Mother Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin.”

So satisfied were they with the rabbi’s result, Vladimir, together with his ministers, immediately began planning the means by which the golem was to be substituted for Donald Trump. Their plan was astonishingly simple.

During 1996, Donald Trump had acquired the Miss Universe Pageant franchise. He was desperate to stage the 2013 show in Moscow because he wanted, more than anything else at that moment, to build a Trump-branded hotel in the Russian Capitol. The three conspirators were unanimous that they could facilitate the project. While in Moscow, supervising the Pageant, Trump would be put-up at the Ritz-Carlton where he would be seduced by a cabaret group, The Waterfall Girls. While in an erotic ecstasy brought on by their performance, he would be swapped with his golem, which would then be returned to the States, masquerading as Donald Trump and programmed with the Pavlovian obsession to become the next President and to carry out its subversive mission.

So, as you can now understand, the skeptics are right about one thing. We are living a national nightmare. Fortunately, for all of us, the skeptics must also remember that nightmares have a way of dissipating upon awakening. You see, Churchill was right about Americans. But his observation did come with a caveat. His statement, quoted incompletely at the beginning of this story, actually reads: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing…after they’ve tried everything else.

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