The natives of the city of Luz are spared the dangers that confront all other human beings.
The histories of the city, reaching back for centuries, are filled with every detail of
learning and life. Yet these same histories, though complete, do not record a single war, a
single flood or fire, nor the death of a single person. For so safe are the citizens while they
live inside the city, even the Angel of Death can do them no harm.
Some say Luz is so safe because it was built on the spot where Jacob had the dream of
the ladder reaching from earth into heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it.
Others say that the Holy One set aside Luz after the Fall of Adam and Eve, to preserve
one boundary in this world that the Angel of Death could not cross. In any case, not even
the armies of Nebuchadnezzar could disturb the city. Nor do the people suffer from internal
strife. For all who are born inside the city have their names inscribed in the Book of Life.
The precious dye known as tekhelet was made in this city. The Torah commands that
this dye be used in dyeing a thread of the fringes of the tallit (prayer shawl). But no one
knew how the dye was made, or whether it was derived from a snail or shellfish. This
dye was said to be available in the city of Luz, but no one knew how to get there. King
David is said to make his home there, thereby avoiding death for all time. That is why
Jews sing a famous song with words that mean “King David is alive” (David melekh Yisrael
hai ve-kayyam). After learning that Jews sang such a song about King David, the Turkish
sultan accused them of obeying King David instead of him. He demanded a gift from
King David, one that only King David could give him. Messengers were sent on a quest
to the city of Luz. Then reached it through one of the caves that lead directly to the Holy
Land, discovered the secret entrance, and found King David in the city, who rewarded
them with an apple from the Tree of Life. This apple later saved the sultan’s daughter
from a sleeping sickness, and the Jews of the community were suitably rewarded.
The walls that surrounded the city of Luz had no apparent entrance, since the city
would otherwise have been deluged by those seeking eternal life. But there was an almond
(luz) tree that stood before the gates, from which the city is said to have taken its
name, with a hollow trunk, which led to a secret cave that passed beneath the walls and
emerged inside the city. It was this exit that the inhabitants of Luz had to take if they
chose to depart from the city.
Yet despite their safety and the great blessing of immortality, there was one mystery
that absorbed the wise men at night, and one source of sadness that caused the families
to suffer from time to time. For in the course of a life it always happened that very old
people would take leave of their families and walk off alone, to make their way into the
world outside the walls of the city.
Why would anyone, young or old, choose to abandon such a city? And why did these
wanderers never come back? Some are believed to have grown tired of living, others to
have been called by an angel to another place. But when they passed through the hollow
trunk and reentered the mortal world, they are said to have found the Angel of Death
waiting there to take their lives and bury them in the fields beyond the walls.
From Howard Schwartz's Tree of Souls:The Mythology of Judaism