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Menorah Files, Light VII: The Battle

Menorah Files, Light VII: The Battle

Flaming Wonders and the Angel of Athens

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Official Report Card: OutaNowhere Proposal

Pros:

  • Strong precedent.

  • Consideration of human factors.

  • New miracle on each day.

  • Superb coffee.

Cons:

  • Lack of coordination between team members.

  • First day of Chanukah provides no oil miracle. Forced to rely on lower-level miracles for that day.

  • One major halachic concern: The oil in the Menorah is required to be oil squeezed from an olive. This proposal provides a substance that has all the qualities of such oil, but is actually produced overtly ex-nihilo.

Rating: 4 wings

Flaming Wonders knew they had two tough acts to follow. Yet, by their assessment, their presentation had what it takes.

A flurry of high-distortion, heavy-metal sound, a blinding flash of light and the whole of heaven was aflame. To the astonishment and sensory overload of every member of the court, miniature bonfires were dancing out of their coffee mugs. Then, with a mighty whoosh, one giant flame appeared at center-floor. A sales rep stepped out and strutted over to a solid gold Menorah (real, physical gold), squeezed oil from olives into the cups (natural, earth-grown olives), and with a flourish of his wings set flames dancing across the cups.

It was then that, in the 3D-projection atrium, appeared an image for which all the angels rose in reverence and awe. It was the image of none other than Moses himself, staring at one of the Flaming Wonders flames dancing within a bush. In utter awe, he could be heard whispering to himself, “I must turn from my present, naturalist mind-set to attain cognizance of this new observation, that this bush is aflame yet there is no combustion of its carbon!”

As the ear-ringing music reached its apex, all the flames in the chamber rushed together over the heads of the audience and in magnificently choreographed motion converged into the “Flaming Wonders” logo, with a subtitle, “Do We Have Your Attention Now?”

The entire heavenly court applauded, ecstatic to see that, yes, there was a solution, and one that could satisfy even their hyper-rigorous human consultant. Or so it seemed.

The sales rep, remained there, smiling. “Need I say more? I believe you have seen with your eyes, we have filled all the requirements. We did it once, we can do it again: Just as a bush both burned and didn’t burn, so too, the oil of the Menorah will do the same! YES, Heaven Incorporated can fulfill the halachic requirements of Yosef Karo!”

“No,” sighed an exasperated Yosef Karo. “You need say no more. You have already said it. Or at least, we have all heard Moses himself say it.”

“And what better authority on Torah-compliance than that?” ventured the sales rep.

“Quite correct,” added Yosef Karo. “And since he clearly acknowledged that you fail to fill a basic requirement, I suppose you can take your little presentation and go back to your desk.”

“But, Rabbi Karo!” pleaded a stunned senior judge. “You insisted that the oil not be consumed, and these angels are providing just that. What could now be lacking?”

“Moses said clearly that the bush was not burning,” answered Rabbi Karo. “No combustion of its carbon.”

“And that’s just what you wanted,” countered the sales rep.

“So if the bush is not burning, then where is the flame coming from?!” demanded the Rabbi.

“It’s just there!” the sales rep exclaimed, obviously having already lost his cool. “What do you care where it’s coming from?! Do we really need a whole new technical discussion with the charts and schematics and more talk about infinite light and spiritual engineering? It works. It has a track record. It fulfills everything you’ve talked about until now! It even provides a constant miracle at every moment! So just go with it!”

Yosef Karo took a deep breath and replied, “The Torah states, ‘...pure olive oil, crushed in order to be a luminary, to raise up an everlasting flame’. That irrevocably implies that the flame must be produced by the combustion of the oil.” Now his voice rose again. “But, in your case, as Moses clearly stated, there is no combustion at all!”

“But that’s what you asked for!” exclaimed a row of unison-angels in unison.

“I asked for halachic compliance, and I have not budged!” was the calm, yet firm reply.

By now almost the entire heavenly court had turned in exasperation against the rabbi. Consternation and bewilderment were on the faces of many as they waved their wings to each other in frantic discussion. Some, such as the ChairAngel, tried to justify Rabbi Karo’s position, but in vain. Indeed, few were his friends at that hour.

“How could you please such a man?” they argued. “First he tells us the cups must be full each day with the very same oil as was originally placed in them. Then he demands that the oil be burning. Burning. I.e. being consumed. Mass diminishing as it produces heat and light. So is the oil to burn or is the oil not to burn?! The man has to make up his mind!”

That’s when the Sar Shel Yavan saw his chance. Amidst the commotion, he crept surreptitiously forth towards Rabbi Karo. At about two meters, he began his attack.

“This,” he stabbed, “is precisely the attitude that has gotten you stubborn Jews into all your trouble until now. Cannot you relent and see? If the stick is too long to hold at both ends, then grasp one end alone!”

His eyes began to shine, the polish of his marble glistening in the sharp light of the Chamber. One moment he was a spirited dramatist, the next, with a slight shift of tone, a soulless philosopher.

“Even I would be ready to accept what you call a miracle. It would take some convincing and explaining, but as long as there is some semblance of internal logic—albeit not the logic of our world, perhaps the logic of a higher realm—I am always open to hear anything that could make sense.”

“But you,” he pointed accusingly at Yosef Karo, “you Jews will not suffice with common sense!”

He paused. His tone became more civil. “You profess wisdom and rationality. Yes, I have admitted many times that your Torah is full of jewels of insight into human nature, a marvelous system of critical analysis that—although quite distinct—nevertheless complements our own. It is, as stated within, ‘...your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations’.”

His tone then changed sharply to a pleading voice. “We could have blended so beautifully together!” He began to cry. “A Judeo-Hellenist Ethic! Your spiritual wisdom, coupled with our Science of Nature...”

The power of Greek drama in its pristine source now unleashed in all fury.

“But no! Like the olive oil we discuss today, you refused to mix! You refused to recognize your Torah for the marvelous pinnacle of human wisdom that it is, clinging to this archaic, primitive doctrine that it is something G–dly, something that defies—as if it were at all possible—the very Laws of Logic that set the parameters of the universe, of nature, of the gods and of all that is.”

“When I saw your rituals, I learned many things from their wisdom. But there were those I could not fathom. When I inquired about them, your reply always boiled down to the same irrational, ‘Because our G–d, the G–d of Israel has so commanded.’”

“I begged you to describe for me this G–d we could not see, a G–d who commands things beyond the intellect of his subjects. You told me He has no description. No explanation. ‘He just is,’ you said.”

“‘That which cannot be described and cannot be explained cannot exist!’ I exclaimed. Yet you persisted. You claimed that existence cannot be explained either—despite all I had taught you of science and philosophy.”

“When I saw those things, I felt moved to enlighten you. I had mercy upon you by abolishing those commandments that perpetuated this crude, backward doctrine of yours. But, like little children, you couldn’t swallow the medicine the doctor prescribed for your own well being! You forced me to take an extreme position. I decreed upon you, ‘Engrave upon the horns of your oxen that you have no portion in the G–d of Israel!’”

“But that drove you only further. You abandoned logic and good common sense, as though all this Torah of yours had nothing to do with that, as if it were no more than an irrational bond between you and something that cannot exist. You sacrificed your very lives and the lives of your loved ones as though nothing else mattered but this nonsensical, blind vision!”

“So you see, I too sincerely desire that your light should shine forth! Let the oil of your wisdom burn and illuminate the entire world! But first we must ensure that it complies with human reason. At the very least, it must fit neatly within the realm of logic, and not step beyond.”

Yosef Karo’s eyes widened, awakened by a realization. “So you defiled the oil on purpose,” he uttered quietly.

The Sar smiled smugly. Karo went on, as if thinking to himself out loud. “You wanted the Maccabees to light the Menorah with impure oil, as a symbol of Torah compromised with human intellect. This would have been your underhanded victory!”

“And tell me,” the Sar countered, “not using the oil simply because a soldier may have touched it with a ten foot pole makes sense?”

“Reality does not require the approval of your common sense!”

“THERE YOU GO AGAIN!!”

“Excuse the interruption.” A hand waved from amongst the engineers’ bench, accompanying the polite Danish accent. “My job is empirical science, especially in the area of quantum physics. And I must say I am forced to agree with the rabbi.”

Don't stop here: Light VIII: Darkness Shone

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.
Yoram Raanan takes inspiration from living in Israel, where he can fully explore and express his Jewish consciousness. The light, the air, the spirit of the people and the land energize and inspire him. His paintings include modern Jewish expressionism with a wide range of subjects ranging from abstract to landscape, biblical and Judaic.
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