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Menorah Files, Light VI: Miracle Whip

Menorah Files, Light VI: Miracle Whip

Talmudic thumbs vs. Syrian swords

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© Natalia Kadish
© Natalia Kadish

Last we left off, OutaNowhere was in a bind. No matter how you looked at it, their solution could provide only seven miracles. In one scenario, the last day had no miracle. In the other, the first day was missing. Finally, the CEO himself suggested the solution was obvious.

Yosef Karo helped him out, in an understanding voice. “You’re going to tell us you are willing to let Hidden Surprises Inc. take credit for the miracle of the first day of Chanukah, right? You want the Heavenly Court, as well as the Court of the Maccabees below, to recognize that the discovery of a jug of oil sealed with the seal of the High Priest and obviously untouched was also a miracle, and one to be celebrated.”

The CEO was charmed to have found a friend in Rabbi Karo. “Of course,” he added, “they could also count their miraculous victory over the Greek army.” “We’ll be glad to share credit with Underdog Miracle Services, as well.”

“Hold it!” A furious Angel of Bureaucracy was asserting himself. “Who in heaven’s name is Underdog Miracle Services?”

“Why, they’re the team that engineered the miraculous victory over the Greek-Syrian army.”

“Just a minute. We’re talking miracles here. Big time miracles. Oil miraculously appearing out of nowhere. Coffee mugs that never empty. Total disregard for the standard conventions of the natural order. And you want to compare that to a natural event of one army winning over another in war!?”

“A very miraculous war.”

“They used guerrilla tactics. They knew the territory well. They had higher morale and greater conviction.”

It just so happened, the people from Underdog had been sitting in the wings. Deftly, one of them leaped onto the stage. “How about we take a look at what actually happened,” he suggested, “and then determine just how conventional it really was.”

Before the judges of the court could nod or shake their heads, the lights dimmed and a 3D image of the Maccabee brothers was playing in the projection atrium. They didn’t look like guerrilla freedom fighters at all. In fact, they looked a lot more like sedentary yeshiva bachurim in ancient garb, hunched over their scrolls by an oil lamp, waving their thumbs and arms in a heated discussion of talmudic cases of damages.

“Now, let’s say someone just rolls a rock by a hillside, and the rock rolls and causes some heavy property damage along the way. Maybe like even an avalanche or something…”

“Well, his liability depends on this: Did the rock roll due to his rolling of the rock, or was his roll of the rock only an indirect cause of the rock rolling?”

“I told you last time. A rolling rock is similar to fire, and concerning fire we have a Torah edict…”

“But Rabbi Eliezer says…”

“Why do you always bring up that same Rabbi Eliezer?! I’ve told you a thousand times his statement is irrelevant to this matter!”

“Please don’t yell at me. My ulcer, you know.”

As the heavenly court shook their heads in pity and compassion, the agent from Underdog continued his narrative, “Now let’s take a look at the enemy forces. You decide who you imagine would be more successful in battle.”

The wild beat of raunchy Hellenist music rattled the heavenly court. Thousands of fierce warriors danced in wild frenzy about huge bonfires, swinging their swords recklessly, guzzling gallons of beer, hollering and bellowing rude epithets at the top of their lungs.

“Stop!!” the judges screamed. “Who gave you permission to bring those hoodlums up here?!”

The presentation ground to an abrupt halt. The Underdog agent asked the judges for their respected opinion: Rate each side for its ability to win a battle of arms and bloodshed.

The Greeks rated 95. Maccabees, 0.05.

“Now let’s observe what actually ensued.”

The scene was now the top of a Judean Hill. The Maccabee brothers stood about a large boulder, clumsily holding bows and arrows that may have been bought in some cheap toy store, awaiting the approaching Greek army.

“Look, here’s a good example of just the sort of rock we were discussing last night. Just the sort of rock Rabbi Eliezer would have…”

“I told you: Rabbi Eliezer’s statement has nothing to do with those sort of damages! How can you compare damage due to fire to…”

“Brothers! The Greeks are coming! The Greeks are coming!”

“It’s obvious. This is a case of indirect damage. That’s exactly what Rabbi Eliezer is discussing!”

“The whole army! Thousands of them!”

“You’re already assuming this is indirect damage! But it’s not!”

“Oh yes it is!”

“NO IT ISN’T!!”

“Tens of thousands of footmen! Cavalry! They’ve sent the largest army in the world against us!”

“Brother! I don’t understand how you can ignore the reality of all this! It’s just such a classic case of indirect…”

“ELEPHANTS! THEY GOT ELEPHANTS! WHOOOOOEEEEEEY!!!”

“Direct liability! That’s what it is!”

“They’ve almost entirely entered the valley right now.”

“INDIRECT!”

“DIRECT!”

“Yes! The entire army is in the valley below us! They’ll find us soon!! WE’RE MACCABEE PURÉE!”

“INDIRECT!”

“DIRECT!!!!!!”

With that last assertion, the Maccabee brother pounded his talmudic fist down upon the boulder. As their debate continued, the boulder began its descent down the hill, gathering more and more rocks to join it on its mission. Within moments, a cataclysmic avalanche was in action.

“BUT RABBI ELIEZER……”

The leading flank of the Greek army was crushed in a matter of seconds. The central flank turned to retreat in panic, screaming at those behind to turn back. In the stampede Greek fought Greek—the rear flank pressing forward, certain the enemy was ahead, the mid-flank desperate to get the *%*&#^!! out of there.

“BUT RABBI ELIEZER NEVER HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH ROCK & ROLL DAMAGES!!”

Within an hour or so, the Greek army was demolished. Those not buried under the rock and soil or killed in battle by their own troops simply ran home in utter confusion and trauma, with no idea how to explain any of this to their king, their people or their wives.

The Maccabees eventually determined the liability issue was more complex than it had originally seemed.

© Natalia Kadish
© Natalia Kadish

The Underdog reps were all slapping the back of the team angel that had played the boulder in that episode. And the heavenly court determined that, yes, this indeed was a great miracle.

But Yosef Karo was not finished. He was up from his desk, examining the virtual model of the Temple Menorah.

“What’s that oil made of?” he asked.

“Why, that’s olive oil,” the CEO answered.

“From olives?” Karo persisted.

“Olive oil comes from olives, right?” the CEO replied.

“I thought you just told us it’s miracle oil. So it didn’t come from olives, then, did it?”

“Well,” the CEO looked a bit perplexed, “I’ll have one of my engineers explain.”

An engineer came up in his OutaNowhere sweatshirt and laivees (as they are known up there), with all the charts needed to explain the technical stuff the team thought they wouldn’t need to explain.

“As you are all well aware,” he began, “the physical world is the ultimate in finite creation. Yet it is actually only a crystallization of the finitude which begins in the higher, spiritual realms. What OutaNowhere has discovered, through close observation of the workings of the cosmos, is quite astounding. Apparently, the energy source of this finite creation is 100% infinite. And that infinite force is continually invested within the finite, sustaining its existence and vivifying it.”

“We all know,” interrupted one of the angelic judges, “that The Boss, Blessed Be He, is infinite in every way. And we know that everything comes from Him. But, how could an infinite energy source power something finite—all the more so, be invested within it? Simple logic dictates that a large thing cannot fit into a smaller one, never mind infinite within finite. The energy within the cosmos must therefore be finite.”

“That was our original hypothesis,” explained the engineer. “And I’m sure that’s what the Sar Shel Yavan still believes, and is one of the reasons he has such difficulty accepting the supernatural. However, the data we collected overwhelmingly points to an infinite energy source within the finite creation.”

“Some examples?” asked a wide-eyed angel.

“As the Talmud states clearly, there is no evidence of the forces of the cosmos weakening over time, or of the sum whole of the mass of the universe diminishing. Furthermore, we see infinite wisdom in each finite detail of the creation. When we saw earthlings tapping into this infinitude by means of the mitzvahs, we were convinced. There are many other pointers, but let’s get to our implementation.”

The engineer shone a narrow light beam on his chart, which looked vaguely similar to those the engineer from Quality had shown.

“Here, you’ll recall, is the source of olive oil. It produces light, does not mix with other liquids and yet permeates everything—all this due to its close link with the Sphere of Wisdom, as my colleague before noted. Whereas Quality’s strategy was to increase the quality property of this node, we are able to unleash the power of the infinite that creates the quantity factor of this element.”

There was no doubt the judges were in awe. Unleashing the Infinite was heavy stuff to throw around up in heaven. OutaNowhere’s stocks were rising rapidly.

Yet Rabbi Karo seemed unimpressed. “You’ve yet to answer my question,” he interjected. “So is it olive oil, or is it Miracle Whip?”

“It’s olive oil! It comes straight from the same place that olive oil comes from, just the same way!” The engineer was exasperated. The CEO jumped in to help.

“Look, it tastes like olive oil, feels like olive oil, has all the spiritual and physical properties of olive oil. Because it is olive oil!” he pleaded.

Rabbi Karo didn’t flinch. “As I understand, in my very simple, mortal-being, non-angelic terms, olive oil is that which comes out of an olive. Not oil that comes out of a miracle.”

The OutaNowhere team members were holding their heads in their wings again. Rabbi Karo continued, “But this oil comes out of nowhere, as the very name of your outfit suggests.”

“But everything comes out of nowhere!” cried the engineer. “You and I and olive oil and everything that exists all emerges from absolute nothingness at every moment!”

“True,” admitted Rabbi Karo. “But that’s not the end-user experience. The user-experience is induced by a facade of a natural order, an order by which trees grow, olives ripen, and then are squeezed by live human beings to extract their oil. In my humble understanding, that’s the sort of oil the Torah requires be used in the Menorah.”

The entire assembly-on-high was struck dumb. Finally, one of the judges managed to speak up.

“We are at a loss,” he complained. “We fail to understand what Rabbi Karo is demanding. We’re here today to plan a miracle. He seems to be demanding preservation of the natural order. Rabbi Karo, please make up your mind!”

Rabbi Karo’s confidence was visibly unshaken. “I also wish to see a very great miracle,” he replied. “I’m only requiring that all halachic considerations be fulfilled. Is that too great a miracle for the Heavenly Court?”

The question dropped like lead on the heads of the heavenly court.

“No,” very softly replied the ChairAngel. “Nothing is too great for heaven. Why, we have the Power of the Infinite. Is that not correct, my fellows?”

He looked about both at his colleagues and at the engineering teams. They were forced to nod.

Finally, an erudite-looking angel, positioned not far from center, cleared his throat and spoke.

“If it is halachic compliance you demand, Rabbi Karo, then I believe we can settle this matter quite simply with no modifications to the design under review. I had actually imagined these fellows had taken this into consideration when I noted the refill action.”

“Excuse me,” he gestured to the HI expert from OutaNowhere, “could you play that second animation sequence again. Stop just before the oil refills.”

The OutaNowhere engineers eagerly fast-forwarded the animation to the frame where the oil was down to the last drop.

“Yes, stop there!” the erudite judge motioned. “Now, move ahead frame by frame…yes, so you see, there are a few drops left when the new oil appears! It is not appearing out of nowhere. It is simply an extension of the oil that was there from before.”

“And just what difference does that make?” his neighbor turned to him impatiently.

“A world of a difference!” he replied. “You see, there is a general principle applied in various circumstances throughout the Talmud that...”

“An outgrowth is classified with its source!” piped in an excited younger angel, proud to display his Talmudic knowledge.

“And liquid which comes into another liquid acquires the same considerations as the original liquid!” joined in another.

The angels were getting excited again. Talmud is a hot topic up there. They have always been jealous that such abstract matters were officially the domain of coarse earthly beings. Once again, debate and discussion burst out in all directions.

“So, what’s with the name, ‘OutaNowhere’?” demanded one angel above the commotion. “If it’s out of nowhere, it’s not olive. If it’s only an outgrowth of the original olive, then we’ve got you for misrepresentation.”

Eyes shot towards the OutaNowhere team. The CEO was already on his mobile, talking urgently with his lawyers. The sales rep leaped forward. “Actually, we were going to take the name, ‘Miracles Unlimited’, but it was already a well known trademark, and since the user experience—”

In a bolt, before he could put his foot in his mouth, the CEO had his sales rep off the floor.

“Gentleman,” he announced, “it’s all settled. It will take a few days for the paper work, but our company name is now officially Miracles Unlimited. Now if we could just get around to the terms of the contract, I have my attorney on the phone…”

Once again, a commanding voice broke through the commotion. “I’m sorry to say, esteemed judges, but this is not what I expected.”

It was the voice of Rabbi Yosef Karo, and all were stilled as it echoed through the hall.

“I cannot hide that I am deeply disappointed. Here, my fellow Jews, the Maccabees went far beyond the letter of the law to challenge the mighty Greek army. I might add, if they had asked a competent halachic authority whether they were obligated, nay, permitted to put their lives and those of all the Jewish people in definite danger on the highly improbable chance they might win, the answer would have been a resounding ‘No!’”

“Furthermore, they refused to compromise with the apparent reality to light the Menorah with impure oil, although, as stated earlier, this would have been perfectly permissible considering the circumstances. In their desperation, they searched every crack in the Temple’s wall and overturned every granite stone for pure oil, and the Almighty showed His appreciation and endearment to them, providing them with such. Everything until now has been a striving for the most immaculate service of G–d which reaches beyond intellect and reason.”

He paused. And then with a biting irony in his powerful voice, like a mighty sword piercing metal, “And you, the Court of Heaven, are requiring that they rely on a flimsy kvetch and twist of the Talmudic thumb to burn oil on the second day that did not come out of an olive? This you call the Power of the Infinite?! This you call the Kingdom of Heaven!?”

His voice pounded upon the ears of the court members. The very walls trembled. The most dignified of the angels scrambled for a place to hide in shame.

“As for the issue of whether this is to be a miracle or a natural event, I ask you: Did the Maccabees ask that question when they went to battle against skilled men of war riding upon elephants? Did they say, ‘Well, if the Almighty wants miracles, let Him perform miracles without us, and if He wants us to fight, then what are these elephants doing here?’ No! They knew a G–d to whom miracle and nature are one, a G–d who wishes His world to know that physics, too, is miraculous!”

“You engineers!” the rabbi pointed sharply towards the sweatshirts and laivees in the OutaNowhere-now-known-as-Miracles-Unlimited-team. “Didn’t your eyes open to this when you discovered that the world He made is an impossibility, a marriage of the finite and the infinite?”

The team nodded their heads, like so many nodding dashboard dolls.

“Then why is it so absurd to require that power here?”

“If He wanted only an open miracle with no trace of physics, then why did He require the Maccabees to search for a flask of oil? Let it simply fall from the heavens!”

“And if He wanted just vanilla physics, without any miracle, then let them find eight days worth of oil!”

“But no, He, in His masterful scheme of things desires both. He desires harmony of the natural and the supernatural. He desires that the lighting of the Menorah be performed by natural means, with natural olive oil—from olives, and yet be a miracle by burning for eight days. That is not my requirement, that is His. And you as His agents are charged with fulfilling it.”

The ChairAngel struggled to bring the words out of his throat. “I believe we have one more bidder to hear out. Apparently, they plan to use only the pure, natural olive oil with no miraculous additives. They also purport to keep the cups of the Menorah full for all eight days. I move we hear them out.”

The motion was passed and ‘Flaming Wonders’ began their presentation.

Next installment: Light VII: The Battle

From Heaven Exposed by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. For bio, info and more articles by this author, click here. To order Tzvi's books, click here.
Imagery by Natalia Kadish. Natalia is a surrealist artist inspired by the joy received from learning Torah and contemplating the infinite. See more of her art at NataliaKadish.com.
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miriam August 14, 2014

thanks for clarifying! i guess we'll grant you some literary talmudic license :) Reply

Tzvi Freeman August 14, 2014

For Miriam Well, not really—but there is a discussion of damage by indirect cause (fire versus arrow) that would seem to apply to this case. Reply

miriam August 14, 2014

loved all 8 + 1 (the shamash?) of this series; the end of the marketing meeting is absolutely beautiful! im just wondering: is this discussion about the liabilities of rock-rolling in the gemara? and the practical demonstration that occured in the battle? Reply

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