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|The Menorah Files|
Published and copyright © 1997-1999 by by Tzvi Freeman
In memory of Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen o.b.m.
Light 1: The Contract
This message somehow appeared in my email. Not quite sure what to do with it, but thought I'd pass it on. Will let you know if more comes by. In the meantime, Chappy Chanuka.
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Subject: Contract Tender, Menora Miracle Date: Kislev 25 3:29:15.036 PM From: email@example.com To: MiraclesRUs@engineering.hvn, QualityMiracles@engineering.hvn, OutaNowhere@engineering.hvn, FlamingWonders@engineering.hvn, MikesMiracleShop@engineering.hvn, MiraclesUnlimited@engineering.hvn, SeaSplitters@engineering.hvn, MadeInHeaven@engineering.hvn, PhysicsBusters@engineering.hvn
Background: In direct consequence to the overwhelming success of the Maccabee project and as a sign of appreciation to the courageous Maccabees who made that success possible, the administration of Heaven Inc. has decided to provide yet another wondrous manifestation of the truth behind the cosmos, a.k.a. a miracle.
As is well known, the Maccabees yesterday regained control of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Greek Army, and spent most of today sweeping away the broken beer bottles and associated mess. In answer to the sincere search of the Maccabees for ritually appropriate Menora oil, Heaven engaged the services of Hidden Surprises Inc., who were successful in engineering yet another miracle, the discovery of a flask of pure olive oil hidden in the ground and sealed with the seal of the High Priest.
Now, another miracle is needed. The flask discovered contains only one day's worth of oil. Although it will take eight days to prepare new olive oil, nevertheless, the Maccabees have decided to go ahead and use this oil immediately. In response to this inspiring display of alacrity, zeal and devotion, the administration has been instructed to perform one more miracle and insure this oil will burn for all eight days.
We are presently accepting proposals on the implementation of this miracle. All applicants should prepare a detailed description of the mechanics of their proposed implementation, as well as their qualifications to perform such services.
Note that requirements surrounding this miracle are quite stringent:
- Eight Days: All applicants must demonstrate that their proposal will not just burn for eight days, but also provide a miracle on each of the eight days. Since the flask found by the Maccabees already contains enough oil for one day to begin with, some creativity will be necessary to provide this effect.
- Fair Compensation: In consonance with a long-standing policy on all heavenly matters, often known as the "measure-for-measure" policy, the miracle should reflect the attitude and acts to which it is resultant. Applicants should insure their proposal blends smoothly with the general theme of the Maccabee vs. Hellenist episode and the no-compromise strategy of the Maccabees.
- Halacha: At least the fundaments of halachic requirements for the Menora of the Holy Temple must be taken into consideration, with extra points for fulfilling all requirements, and bonus points for extra-compulsory details.
Please submit your proposals and all correspondence to this address. Adjudication of presentations by all bidders will commence today at 3:29:15.536 PM. AV equipment for presentations will be provided by Heaven Inc.
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Light 2: The Consultant
The scene up there is far beyond the capacity of our earthly imaginations, since we imagine everything in coarse material terms. Perhaps I can attempt to explain it in whatever terms we share, as long as you promise to keep in mind that in truth, it is something far abstracted from any of what I might say.
On the appointed day, an angel of wisdom, known as a "maggid", stood in still reverence, waiting for the assembly to be called to order.
His eyes scanned the 70 members of the Heavenly Supreme Court. They stood (nobody sits up there- it's just not in the repertoire) at a semi-oblong table, allowing all to see one another. But the central position of this table is not locatable, beyond dimension or place, since it is the (un)space of The Chief Magistrate of All Things.
To the right hand of The Chief stood the ChairAngel (a.k.a., "Av Beit Din"), a powerful radiance about his face and magnificent robes flowing down from his shoulders. To the left stood the next wisest of the angels and from that point on, in either direction, the remainder of the esteemed judges stood solemnly by rank in G-dly wisdom.
On cue, the maggid made his case.
"My lords, esteemed masters of justice and righteousness," he spoke, moving his hands gracefully, "Today you convene to discuss a matter of serious, practical implications for every generation of the Jewish people from now unto eternity. Indeed, whereas the lights of other festivals may at times of darkness be all but extinguished, and eventually are destined to be entirely absorbed within the great light of the World to Come, the lights of Chanukah are constant and eternal- as per the talmudic gloss of Nachmanides and his commentary to parshat Behalotecha."
"We are well aware of the gravity of our meeting today," patiently interjected the ChairAngel. "Is there anything in particular you feel has not been taken into account in our planned adjudication?"
The eyes of the maggid widened. "As you know, I am the maggid appointed to instruct an illustrious student, one by who's light all the Community of Israel shall proceed through the thick darkness of the last leg of their exile until the final redemption. He is none other than Yosef Karo, illustrious author of the Beit Yosef as well as the Shulchan Aruch, the most authoritative code of Jewish Law."
Angels are an excitable group. At the mention of that holy name, heartbeats accelerated, ethereal wings began to flutter and amidst the scattered exclamations of "Yosef Karo!", "the Beit Yosef!", a spontaneous chorus of audio-oriented beings burst into harmonious accolades of praise and appellations upon the aforementioned.
Eventually, the court was called to order.
"My illustrious student," continued the maggid, "will write about the very issue we are gathered here today to discuss in his halachic gloss, Beit Yosef- "the House of Yosef". Indeed, the matter will from that time on be known by his name, 'the Difficulty Posed By the Beit Yosef'. It is only appropriate therefore, that he be invited to sit in on our proceedings as an outside consultant."
The ChairAngel scanned quickly the faces of the assembled heavenly judges, noting their unanimous approval. "Clerk!" he called, "Bring us Yosef Karo!"
The clerk looked back, bewildered. "But, your honor, Yosef Karo does not live for the better part of another two millennia!"
"Bring us Yosef Karo," the ChairAngel commanded firmly. "This is heaven. And we need him now."
An Angel of Sympathy who stood near the clerk's post read his confused face, leaned over and whispered, "If we don't consult with him now, eventually we're going to have to retro-write history according to his decision anyway."
The clerk shrugged and walked out the door, still shaking his head. But he was back in no time. Trumpets blasted in royal fanfare and drums rolled as the entrance of Yosef Karo, was announced. The entire heavenly court rose in awe and glowed in neon colors. The vocal ensemble once again joined together in celestial chorus.
Then he entered. In jeweled turban and flowing robes, his piercing eyes shining like sapphires, he walked forth in all humility, yet with the elegance and majesty of a mighty king. A heavenly court clerk rushed him a portfolio and a nametag and led him to his place at the consultant's desk.
The proceedings commenced.
Light 3: Quality
Quality Miracles is known for their high-end, lavish presentations. This one was no let-down. The upbeat, surround-sound music came on, the lights dimmed, and in a sprinkle of sparks, a sales associate dramatically appeared at stage center cupping in his hands a small golden unlit lamp.
"Brother angels, behold with your eyes!"
His hands opened and the lamp came in full view of all the court. The enlightened beings gasped in unison.
"Yes, you all recall! It is the holy lamp that was lit by those most transcendent and magnificent of beings, the Matriarchs of the Souls of Israel, Sarah and Rivka!"
Now the 3D video came on. The image of Sarah leaning her shining countenance of beauty over the Shabbat lamp in the pre-twilight of the Negev brought tears to the eyes of the Angels of Sensitivity. The hearts of the most judgmental beings were captured as, with breathtaking focus and inspiration, she uttered the words as though counting golden coins,
"Blessed are You, ______ our All-Pervasive Force, Master of the Cosmos, Who has made us wholly transcendent through His mitzvahs and enjoined us to light the lamp of the Holy Shabbos."
Then, as she waved gently her hands over the flame, serene light flashed out in all directions, illuminating upper and lower worlds.
"And so," the agent from Quality continued, "you must remember the great and wondrous miracle that occurred then, how the Natural Order of Things was transcended so the pure light of this magnificent being could illuminate all the worlds for an entire week, every week, for her entire life, and for the life of her heiress Rivka, as well! To this day, that miracle empowers every Jewish woman and girl to light up her world just the same!"
In a brilliant twist of suspense, the music found its way to a sudden silence, the video halted on a still frame. "And who engineered that miracle?" The sales rep's voice echoed through the marble hall.
With eye-riveting form, the still image morphed into the logo of "Quality Miracles" as the multitude of high-res amplifiers burst forth with "Quality! Quality Miracles! The natural solution to all your miracle needs!"
The music ended on a sharp climax, the video faded away, and the crowd burst into applause as the lights came back up.
The Quality Miracles VP of Development strutted forth. Riding on the excitement in the air, he began promptly. "Of course, the Chanukah Miracle project presents certain features that were not present in the Sarah and Rebecca scenario. We've noted the two most significant: The Sarah and Rebecca lamp only burnt for seven days- this miracle must occur for eight. Secondly, the Shabbat Lamp was a single miracle spread over an extended duration of time, whereas, in our case the Menora must be rekindled every afternoon, thereby providing eight distinct miracles."
The wise members of the court stroked their silvery beards and nodded their heads in heedfulness. Rabbi Yosef Karo only stared intently, as though precipitating every word.
"We believe our previous implementation can be easily extended to fill these requirements. And now, here is our senior engineer for an explanation of the technology behind this amazing accomplishment."
A complex chart appeared at the presenter's position as the senior engineer stepped forward. It was one of those charts that only an angel could read, describing in multiple dimensions the links and chains that serve as the backbone of created entities.
"Over here," the engineer pointed, "we see the letters, or combination of forces that form the word 'shemen'- meaning 'oil'. This connects with the Divine source of olives, as we see in this link, here. Note the intimate connection with the sphere of Wisdom of the World of Emanation, which is preserved throughout the creative process. As this linkage descends below, olive oil is manifested in each of the worlds, in each according to the parameters of that world. Finally, as it descends into the lowest world, the 'World of Action and Physicality', it becomes an actual material substance, derived by the crushing or squeezing of physical olives."
"As you are well aware, most miracles are performed by invasive fiddling with the mechanics of such links and letter combinations. Turning water to blood, dust into lice, vinegar into oil are all examples of such 'rearrangements' of the system."
"Our strategy is far less invasive: You'll notice there is quite a bit of leeway in the quality dimension of this particular linkage. This explains why every olive produces its own quality of oil, with a wide margin of variety, especially in combustibility. Our technique is to hyper-extend that quality margin, thereby manifesting in the target olive oil down there an enormous capacity to burn- even to eight times the original average power."
It was obvious the judges were impressed with the professionalism, thoroughness and high entertainment value of the presentation. Heads turned towards each other, sharing comments and nods of approval. The VP of Development strutted back on stage and opened the floor to questions.
Yosef Karo alone appeared unmoved. He looked about him, shook his head almost with disdain, and spoke asser-tively at the VP. "Being from a practical world, where nitty-gritty details matter, I am still unclear on your proposal."
The engineer got out his charts again, preparing to explain things in greater depth.
"No, I don't mean your schematics, or your software code or any of that. I'm talking about the human interface. How does this actually get implemented?"
The Quality Team members looked a bit shaken. They were experts in high tech solutions. Humans were a necessary component in implementation, but not one that got a lot of attention.
"To be specific," continued Yosef Karo, "what exactly are the Maccabees supposed to do with this oil on the first afternoon they light it?"
"Well," answered the VP slowly and cautiously as though sensing a trap, "They put the oil in the cups of the Menora, like they always used to do, and they light it."
"And how much oil do they put in?"
The engineer jumped in. "One eighth! Why should they put in any more? They only need one eighth, so that's how much they'll put in!"
Now one of the judges took a stab. "But how are they supposed to know that one eighth is going to last through the entire night?"
The VP was struggling to hold his cool as murmurs were heard throughout the assembly. An employee rushed up to whisper something in his ear. "Yes, we've taken that into consideration," he continued. "There's a contingency allowance to sub-contract Echo Communications, a firm that deals in supplying earthly beings with minor levels of prophecy, sometimes known as 'Ruach Hakodesh'. You'll find that clause on page..."
The employee who had done the whispering could no longer contain himself and interjected, "Actually, they'll probably figure it out on their own. They'll say, look, if the Almighty only gave us one flask of pure oil and of course He knows we can't get any replacement for eight days, it must be this is super-eight powered oil."
Most of the judges were not impressed with this response, being rather skeptical of the mental capacity of most earthly beings. The VP glanced over his shoulder at his employee with a biting cold stare, then turned back to his audience swiftly donning a warm smile. "By the way," he noted, "you'll observe that with this solution there is a separate miracle each of the eight days. Each night only a little bit of oil burns an entire night. Every night a new miracle, for eight nights just as the contract tender required."
"The eight days is just wonderful and some minor prophecy is fine with me." The voice of Yosef Karo broke through the confusion, commanding silence. "I have a different problem with your solution." The VP's neck was outstretched as Yosef Karo continued.
"As you know, the Torah does not state a precise quantity of oil to be placed in the Menora for each lighting, only that there should be enough to last for the longest nights of the winter. Our sages determined this amount to be a little over six fluid ounces. Just so happens, that's the amount found in that little flask down there. Which means, they're going to have to put the whole thing in."
"Aha," the ChairAngel spoke now, "that would be true in general, but here, remember, with this oil, one eighth is the appropriate amount for the longest nights of the winter! On the contrary, putting more would mean a violation of the halacha you just cited!"
"With all due respect to his honored chair, I've yet to finish," continued Yosef Karo, calmly, "There is another halacha that applies to all the vessels in the Holy Temple. Out of respect for their sanctity, whenever they are filled they must be filled entirely."
The VP beamed, oblivious to the trap laid for him. "So we will have them fill the entire thing the first night! And then, only an eighth will burn the first night, another eighth the second..."
Karo pounced like a tiger. "But didn't the ChairAngel just declare that to be a violation of the halacha!!! You'll have eight times the established amount the first night, seven times on the second, and so on."
The hall burst into an uproar of debate. The brilliant counter-offence of Yosef Karo had the entire heavenly court ignited. With Quality's solution there seemed no way out: You could fulfill one requirement or the other - but there was no way to fulfill both.
Above the confusion, another judge yelled out, "Filling the vessel to the brim is an non-compulsory requirement! Let them fill up only an eighth, since that's all they can do!"
"First of all," Yosef Karo replied, commanding immediate silence, "the whole thing is non-compulsory to begin with. The Maccabees really could light with impure oil. When the entire community is in a state of impurity, such as they are after a war, impure offerings are permitted as per the Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim, folio 80a.."
"So what's the whole deal with this contract tender for a miracle?!" The VP waved a paper in exasperation.
"Think for a minute," Karo reasoned. "Why did they search so hard for ritually pure oil when they could have used any old oil given the circumstances? And why did the Almighty contract the previous miracle of providing a hidden, untouched flask? Wasn't it all in order that they should perform the Menora lighting in the most perfect way, not just 'so-so and get it over with'?"
"And that is the job of Heaven, inc.," he declared. "To perform a miracle that allows the Maccabees to go beyond the letter of the law, as they have committed themselves to do, for the sake of the eternity of the Jewish Nation!"
The judges were enthralled with the insights of Yosef Karo. Fascinated, they took in every word.
Lowering his voice mischievously, Karo continued. "Furthermore, who says they are allowed to fill the Menora only partially each day, when they could fill it to the brim?"
The VP from Quality timidly ventured, "And with what will they fill it to the brim each day if they only have one flask?"
"With impure oil!!" shot back Yosef Karo. "Since that is perfectly permissible under these conditions."
The entire court exploded into animated debate, reviewing, shaking their heads and waving their wings frantically. Once again, the ChairAngel called for order.
"I humbly propose," he advised his colleagues, "we consider another proposal."
Light 4: Quantity
Official Report Card: Quality Miracles Proposal.
- Excellent multimedia presentation, esp. audio effects.
- Provides a miracle for each of the eight days.
- Elegance: Supernatural miracle produced without disturbing the natural order.
- Fulfills most halachic requirements, such as use of authentic olive oil and natural burning of oil to produce flame.
Rating: 3.5 wings
- Lack of coordination between team members.
- Actual implementation not well conceived. Little consideration given to human interface issues.
- One major halachic concern: The Menora regulations require that precisely the amount of oil to burn through one winter night be placed in the cups of the Menora. It is also preferable that the cups all be completely filled. With Quality's proposal, there is no way both these conditions can be mutually fulfilled. It has even been proposed that, under such conditions, the use of impure oil in proper quantities would be preferable over using the limited amount of pure oil that was miraculously discovered.
The man from OutaNowhere appeared from out of nowhere pushing a trolley cart with coffee and Danishes. "Your esteemed judges have been having an intense session here," he announced. "Let's all take a break for refreshments!"
The judges noticed coffee mugs on their desks. The sales rep held only a tiny coffeepot, but proceeded to fill cup after cup with heavenly coffee- not stopping for a single refill.
Continuing to pour, he started his spiel: "Yes, esteemed judges, I'm sure you'll agree we've got a supernatural, nifty technology here. But don't imagine this is some useless gimmick! As a matter of fact, OutaNowhere technology was originally developed to fulfill a real need. To fill you in on the history of our product, just listen to this testimonial from our first successful client, none other than the prophet, Elisha!"
All eyes turned to the 3D video, now filled with the scene of an agent of OutaNowhere sitting on the edge of a sofa in the Garden of Eden, interviewing Elisha who sat across the coffee table from her.
"Elisha, you are well known for your compassion and wonderful acts of kindness in the earthly realm. Much of your good work was possible due to your ability to transcend the present tense and see matters from a higher time-definition. You also developed an amazing and unique repertoire of record-breaking miracles. But there was one time you turned to OutaNowhere technologies for assistance. Why?"
"Truthfully, everything I know I received from my teacher, Elijah. But then came a very difficult case, a woman who's husband had been a member in good standing of the Professional Prophet's Association until his premature passing. The poor woman was left with two little boys to support, no pension, no real source of income. Neither her landlord nor the rental board had any sympathy. By the time she came to me, she had in her hand a notice that if she didn't pay the rent fast, her two boys would be seized as payment!"
"That's horrifying! But couldn't you just co-sign on a long term loan or something?"
"That wouldn't be professional. I'm a prophet. My job is to help people discover their own inner wealth, not breed dependence, as you suggest. So I followed standard case analysis technique and asked the lady to describe her assets."
"Which were two boys..."
"Which I understood as a reflection of the love and sense of awe within her. This, however, was apparently in real danger- as reflected by the collection notice mentioned earlier."
"So all these material concerns and details were all merely reflections of a higher, spiritual drama?"
"You're with me now. She also had a small flask of olive oil, reflecting her essential spiritual self. I needed some way for this inner spiritual wealth to release itself to the point of becoming manifest in her earthly domain."
"Now, how could you do that?"
"Well, that's when I remembered a business card I had been handed just the day before, while wandering about the higher spheres. I checked my pocket, and there it was, 'OutaNowhere Technologies, inc.'."
"Was OutaNowhere responsive when you needed them?"
"Their tech support was fantastic. Immediately, we put together a plan whereby all the lady had to do was visit her neighbors and borrow their jugs, pots, pans- any types of physical-realm vessels and containers. We realized this was basically what she was missing- tangible, practical ways to express her inner soul. She gathered all this stuff in her house, closed the doors, let down the blinds and then started filling everything up with her little flask of oil."
"That must have been an exciting scene."
"It certainly was. The little boys were running back and forth, back and forth, bringing containers and more containers, while the oil just kept pouring and pouring out of the flask. Finally, she asked for one more pot and her boys told her there wasn't a single one left. And neither was there any more oil."
"And what happened to that nefarious landlord?"
"With sales from the oil, she was able to pay him off, with enough left over that she could just live off the interest."
"So, thanks to support from OutaNowhere, another great act of compassion was accomplished in the physical realm."
"Not only that. This episode was reported and discussed in all the major prophetic journals. It was recorded as a classic for all times in the Book of Kings. You see, it wasn't just that lady who was helped. Since that time, anyone that is in a dire state of spiritual poverty is able to overcome his or her situation by doing the same as she did- but in spiritual terms. By temporarily ignoring their state of spiritual poverty and just collecting vessels of mitzvahs and acts of kindness and allowing that essential self to pour into them, unlimited- eventually all those deficiencies are spontaneously overcome. I'll challenge everyone in our audience to just try it out and see."
"And that message to the world is all thanks to OutaNowhere."
"That's right. Like another cup of coffee?"
The shot of Elisha pouring a cup of coffee for his host spun out to make way for an animated "OutaNowhere" logo, accompanied by a snappy "OutaNowhere- there when you need us" jingle.
As the judges were sipping their heavenly coffee, Yosef Karo was busy taking notes. Once in a while, he stopped to shake his head. It was obvious something about the presentation was bothering him.
Light 5: Prozac
OutaNowhere had learned their lesson from what had occurred with Quality. You could tell that from their presentation.
"We're not going to bore you with all the technical details behind this tremendous feat of spiritual engineering," continued the sales rep. "After all, we're an end-user oriented company. We've put a lot of thought into the practical, nitty-gritty - the things that count in the physical world where our target user resides. Here's our human interface expert to discuss ground level implementation."
The H.I. expert stepped up in front of the 3D-video display area. "Actually, we've got two options to present. The first option you've seen a demo of already, but here's a short animation that will demonstrate how far we've gone into the details. You'll also observe the virtual model of the Temple Menora here next to me."
A life-size image of a Hasmonean Cohen holding a jug of olive oil in front of the Menora appeared. This being heaven, with more than 3 dimensions available, the image displayed that the jug was full.
"Here's the initial state. Now observe what happens as the Cohen fills the cups of the Menora on the first day."
As the Cohen filled each cup, the jug became successively emptier. But then, just before the last drop poured out, the flask suddenly refilled itself. The Cohen froze for a moment, puzzled, stared into the jug, and then ran out of the Holy Chamber yelling, "A MIRACLE! A MIRACLE!"
"Note," the HI expert commented, "that as this scenario occurs each of the eight days, we have in effect eight separate miracles. This is in direct contradistinction to certain other solutions that offers only one miraculous state-change of the olive oil, which then remains consistent over the next eight days. Obviously, you can see the superiority of our..."
"You call that superiority!?" yelled a snide voice from the back of the room. It was the VP from Quality. All this time he had been sitting in a back row, arms folded, waiting for his chance to jump back into the ring. Now, completely out of protocol, unable to contain himself any longer, he grabbed it.
"Why, with your solution, the only ones who ever see a miracle are those who are there at the time of the lighting! After that, it's just everyday burning of olive oil. Our solution provides any witness at any point in time a clear view of a miraculous state, every day, at every moment!"
"But you must agree," replied the OutaNowhere expert, smugly, "that the actual miracle only occurs once in your solution. Once your oil is set to its high quality level on the first day, it just remains there. Here, every day, a miracle must occur for new oil to appear!"
"What does that have to do with the project requirements?" shot back Quality's VP.
The Chair Angel called for order, chiding Quality's VP for his disruption of protocol. But the HI expert was delighted his competition had provided the opportunity for him to fully present his thesis.
"The success of a miracle," he explained, "must be measured by the end user experience. Consider here the impact upon the human psyche. A continuous state of miracle would become accepted as natural routine within a single day. The sense of wonderment would rapidly wear out. By calling for spaced, intermittent miracles, we hope to sustain the wonderment factor for a much longer period. This, after a careful study of human psychology..."
"Psychology shmykology!" shot back the Quality VP. "Who are you kidding? What do you know about human psychology? What do any of us know? We're angels, for heaven's sake!"
"That's right," replied the expert. "We were on the design team."
"Design team!? Design team!?" mocked the VP. "Haven't you read the Adam Files?! If it were up to us, the Earthly Human Project would never have gotten beyond the World of Emanation stage!!"
The judges were enjoying the entertainment, but the ChairAngel finally had to interfere. "We have a human subject right here," he remarked. "Why don't we ask him?"
Rabbi Karo was reluctant. "I believe your test would be more meaningful if performed on a more skeptical specimen," he suggested. "Perhaps you have a Hellenist about here somewhere? Or maybe even an authentic Ancient Greek?"
"Your honor," ventured one of the lesser judges. "Perhaps we could call in the Sar Shel Yavan?"
The ChairAngel's face glowed with delight, as did the faces of the others. "Yes!" they cried out, one to the other. "The Sar Shel Yavan! Who else could we call to test end user experience?"
In the data processing protocol of heaven, there are only seventy nations. Over each of these is appointed a "sar" or "officer", somewhat lower than a full-fledged angel. "Yavan" is the name by which the Ancient Greeks are known. Thus the "Sar Shel Yavan" - the officer appointed over Ancient Greece.
He came hobbling on crutches, covered with wounds of war. His substance was as the walls of the chamber, that heavenly version of marble. You could still see the beauty and gracefulness for which he had been known, but military defeat and shame had taken its toll.
We won't get into the details of the user testing, at least in this edition. Suffice it to mention that the Sar refused to acknowledge any miracles, attributing everything to natural causes. When pressured, he began to accuse all the heavenly court of being "no better than those superstitious Jews, believing in things that make no sense, relying on empirical evidence rather than the truth of the natural sciences."
At any rate, he stayed to audit the rest of the hearings.
"Truthfully," the ChairAngel commented to Yosef Karo, "We've never had much success with end user experience. On occasion, we went through ten iterations of miracles before achieving our goals - and even then only with partial success."
The other judges nodded, resignedly.
"We even," the Chair Angel hesitated, "had to...drown the test subjects at the end of that procedure...to cover up the data."
Yosef Karo took over. "However, I would like to go back to the scenario presented in your detailed animation," he continued. The OutaNowhere expert was relieved, feeling he was back on a more solid cloud.
"On the first day, that is the afternoon of the 25th, a miracle occurs, correct?"
"A very startling miracle, your honor. At least, certainly to the Maccabees for whom it is performed."
"And on the second day, the afternoon of the 26th, the same miracle?"
"And so on, all the way until the eighth afternoon?"
"And then what happens?"
"On the ninth?"
"No, on the eighth. What miracle occurs on the eighth? Remember, there are eight days of Chanukah. Or are you proposing to change that?"
"Well, just the same as the seven days before could occur." The human interface expert passed a quick, nervous glance over to the other members of his team.
"I'm sorry," countered the ChairAngel. "But we have a policy concerning such matters. Miracles must always serve a practical function. Nobody, not even Heaven Inc., is allowed to make miracles just for the heck of it. And in this case, since new oil will be arriving on the ninth day anyway, there is no need for your miracle on the eighth. The Cohen can just empty out his entire jug on the eighth day, with no need for your miraculous auto-refill out of nowhere."
The sales rep from OutaNowhere was motioning wildly to the HI expert. All those dealings with earthly beings had dulled his angelic intellectual brilliance. But finally the puzzled expression on the expert's face resolved into glee, as he exclaimed, "Yes! Oh yes! That's why we have solution #2. Here it goes:"
Another animation began. The initial state was the same, but this time, the jug emptied entirely. The animation collapsed the next 12 hours into a few nanoseconds, during which the oil progressively decreased in quantity. Then, just as it hit the last drop, oil returned suddenly to the cups of the Menora. A Hasmonean Cohen entered the Holy Chamber that morning - technically day two of Chanukah - to prepare the Menora as per Temple ritual. He looked in the cups, saw the oil and ran out waving his arms and yelling, "A MIRACLE! A MIRACLE!"
"Now, you'll observe in this scenario," concluded the expert, "since the miracle occurs the day after, instead of immediately, the miracle must also therefore occur on the 8th day of Chanukah, in order that the Menora may be lit on that afternoon!"
"You'll also notice," pitched in the sales rep, "that we've provided all of you with auto-refilling coffee mugs to demonstrate this wonderful application of our technology. We're not limited to refilling the source - we can even cause the recipient vessel to auto-refill!"
Yosef Karo sat poker-faced, astonished by the trap OutaNowhere had laid for itself. "And what about the first day?" he softly queried.
"The first day?"
"Yes. You said the miracle doesn't occur until the day after. What miracle do we celebrate on the first day then?"
The expert was by now searching his pockets for his Prozac. His team members had their heads practically between their knees. The CEO of OutaNowhere could no longer take it. He jumped up there in a last ditch attempt to save his company.
"Gentle Angels," he said, feigning suave and good humor. "I'm sure you yourselves have realized the most obvious solution, so simple we didn't feel need to mention it!"
Light 6: Miracle Whip
We left off with OutaNowhere in a bind. No matter how you looked at it, they provided 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. "Of course, they could also count their miraculous victory over the Greek army," he added. "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 guerilla tactics. They knew the territory well. They had higher morale and greater conviction."
The people from Underdog had been sitting in the wings ready for just this situation. 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 appeared in the projection area. They didn't look like guerilla 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 think will be more successful in battle."
The judges were thrown out of their seats by the wild beat of raunchy Hellenist music, as thousands of fierce warriors danced in wild frenzy about huge bonfires, swinging their swords recklessly, guzzling gallons of beer, hollering and laughing 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, and the 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 a 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 this 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'VE GOT ELEPHANTS! WHOOOOOEEEEEEY!!!"
"Direct liability! That's what it is!"
"They've almost entirely entered the valley right now."
"Yes! The entire army is in the valley below us! They'll find us soon!! WE'RE MACCABEE PURÉE!"
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.
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 Menora.
"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?"
"I thought you just told us it's miracle oil. So it didn't come from olives, then."
"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. This 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 their 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. Rabbi Karo, however, was unimpressed.
"You've yet to answer my question. So is it olive oil, or is it Miracle Whip?" he reiterated.
"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 your very name suggests."
"But everything comes out of nowhere!" cried the engineer. "You and I and olive oil and everything that exists all come out of absolute nothingness at every moment!"
"True," admitted Karo, "but that's not the end-user experience. The user-experience is induced by a facade of a natural order, by which trees grow, olives develop, and then they are squeezed by live human beings to extract their oil. In my meek understanding, that's the sort of oil the Torah requires be used in the Menora."
The entire assembly-on-high was utterly floored. Finally, one of the judges spoke 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!"
"I also wish to see a very great miracle," Yosef Karo replied, his confidence unshaken. "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 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 H.I. 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 exploded 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."
All eyes were once again on the OutaNowhere team. The CEO was already on his cellular, talking with his lawyers. The sales rep leaped forward. "Actually, we were going to take the name, 'Miracles Unlimited', but it was copyright already, 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..."
"I'm sorry to say, esteemed judges, but this is not what I expected." It was the voice of Yosef Karo, once again, 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 Menora with impure oil, although, as stated earlier, this would have been perfectly permissible considering the circumstances. They searched every nook and cranny 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 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 resounded through the Marble Chamber, pounding upon the ears of its court members. The very walls shook, and the most exalted of the angels looked for somewhere to hide in shame.
"As for the issue of whether this is to be a miracle or a natural event, 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? 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 Menora 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 speak 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 Menora full for all eight days. I move we hear them out."
The motion was passed and 'Flaming Wonders' began their presentation.
Light 7: The Battle
Official Report Card: Quality Miracles Proposal.
- Strong precedent.
- Consideration of human factors.
- New miracle on each day.
- Superb coffee.
Rating: 4 wings
- 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 Menora 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.
Flaming Wonders knew they had two tough acts to follow. But they figured their presentation had it made.
A flurry of high-distortion, heavy-metal sound, a blinding flash of light and the whole of heaven was on fire. Hollywood-style flames were dancing out of the coffee mugs of every member of the court. With a mighty whoosh, one giant flame appeared at center-floor. A sales rep stepped out. Elegantly, he stepped over to a solid gold Menora (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.
And then, in the 3D-projection area, 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 Wonder flames dancing within a bush. In utter awe, he could be heard whispering to himself, "I must turn from my present, humanist 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."
"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 lost his cool already. "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 worked in the past. 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 luminance, 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 angels in unison.
"I asked for halachic compliance, and I have not budged!" was the firm reply.
Now the whole court was in an uproar. 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.
"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. That means being consumed. It's mass diminishing as it is 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 dramatist, the next a 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 compliments our own. It is, as stated within, '...your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations'."
His tone suddenly changed. "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. And 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. The Sar had enlightened him. "So you defiled the oil on purpose," he uttered.
The Sar smiled. Karo went on. "You wanted the Maccabees to light the Menora 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."
Light 8: Darkness Shines
The Sar turned with an imposing glare, but the scientist meekly continued.
"We don't use philosophy. We are empiricists. Meaning that we accept the data, whether it fits our current conceptions or not. Once we have the data, we try to make sense of it - not the other way around."
"As a matter of fact," the scientist grinned slightly, "we have observed certain phenomena very basic to the common reality that appear to counter common sense altogether."
"But they are measurable, nonetheless."
"Yes, but with a caveat. You see, as soon as we start measuring anything, the reality is impacted by our act of measurement. After all, just by saying that we are going to measure something, we are already bifurcating the reality. We're saying, 'there's us, and there's the thing we are measuring - and then, of course, there's our act of measurement, which is a third thing."
"So nothing can really be known in an absolute sense. That leaves a lot of room for what they call miracles - when you are dealing with unknowable states, well just anything could happen. There's no absolute rule of cause and effect, as you Ancient Greeks like to believe."
The Sar now demonstrated his mastery of sophistry, able to debate even on another's ground. "But it is measurable none-the-less - perhaps not precisely, but measurable."
"Everything, to be a something, must have some sort of measure to it," the scientist conceded.
"Idiot!" The Sar shouted. "Is then what these Jews believe empirically observable in measurable terms?"
The scientist was unperturbed. "A scientist's job is to measure according to what he is able to perceive with the tools available to him," he observed. "The job of the rabbi is to heighten the consciousness of the observer so that the inner world also becomes perceptible."
"And therefore?" insisted the Sar.
"In a strictly material world it is true there is no perception of ritual impurity or purity in the oil. But up here, in the inner world..."
"But they believe in things that are inherently immeasurable!! Not in their world and not in any world! Because they implicitly deny measurement!"
"They themselves admit that this G-d of theirs is immeasurable. And they believe in a Beginning! Creation ex nihilo! Now, go ahead, tell me you can measure and observe that the entire cosmos came out of nothing!"
"Nothing is immeasurable."
"Precisely. And now, have him tell you about the Holy Ark they claim to have, that is 2.5 cubits wide but takes up no space whatsoever in the 'Chamber of the Holy of Holies'."
The court members looked at each other with widened eyes. They knew about that room, and on occasion certain beings were permitted entry. But they were never allowed to measure. That place was strictly His territory.
"But you have lost!" retorted Yosef Karo. "The Maccabees did not fall for your ploy! They refused to do the rational and searched instead for the impossible - for an untouched flask of pure oil!"
"One more small defeat in battle," the Sar sighed. "But the war I shall still win. For you have gone too far. You are attacking the very basis of logic, and that battle you cannot win."
"Let me explain something, since I am the master of mathematics and logic. In our world, one plus one is two. I am ready to accept that a world could have been created where one plus one could be three, or five, or seventeen, or whatever its Creator wishes it to be. I can even accept a world where two conclusions, or even more could be drawn from one equation, as your friend the quantum physicist here wishes to posit. As I said, as long as there is a logic, whatever that logic might be. As long as there are true statements and false statements, there is logic and there is reality."
"But what I cannot accept is that one plus one should equal two and the same one plus one should not equal two. That a statement should be both true and false at once. That is a denial of logic. If that could be so, then you and I and all our world and all that exists has no true substance!"
Now he began to scream again, in a maddened, desperate shrill tone. "And that is precisely what you are demanding! You want that oil should burn, yet not be burning! That the laws of nature be preserved, yet a miracle occur! You are demanding darkness to shine and yet remain darkness! But it cannot be!! You cannot defy the very binary foundation of reality, of being!!"
"Yes," the scientist piped in. "Reality is definitely binary. The whole cosmos is built on 'is' and 'isn't'. If the Rabbi wants us to abrogate that to have his miracle, well, it just can't be done. Not even by Heaven, Inc.."
Yosef Karo swung about to face and command the court in royal form. "Esteemed masters of judgement! Empowered to do the work of the Infinite Master of All Being! Could it be that the hand of heaven is limited in any way? Perform the Miracle of Chanukah in utmost perfection as the Torah so demands!"
Quietness was all he received in response. Quietness, the echo of his own voice and a room of pale faces. His eyes flashed from one angel to the next, to the next, this one in tears, another's face covered with shame, some shaking their heads in sorrow, wings drooping, the glow of heaven all but gone from their countenance. Finally, the ChairAngel spoke up.
"Illustrious Rabbi," he forced out his words, as though reading from a script. A glistening tear rolled down over his cheek as he spoke. "We thank you very much for coming today, and enlightening us with your unique perspective. It is with deep regret, however, that we inform you we are unable to process your request. However, we assure you we will do our best to hire the applicant who comes closest to fulfilling the requirements you have laid out before us."
For a moment, Karo was still. He bit his lip, perhaps he shivered - it would be hard to tell. Then he turned ever so deliberately towards the center of the assembly and stepped in awe and trembling towards that point in the epicenter that transcended place, time and consciousness. The Divine Spirit of the Infinite Light And Beyond overcame and enveloped him, as he raised his hands and cried out in a piercing, mighty voice, like the massive waves of a storm crashing upon the shore, "You Who dwells in darkness as You do in light, Who is found in concealment as in revelation! Beyond Being and Not Being, You who unites all things and for whom all things are one!"
And then, even louder, unbearably, tortuously... "Almighty Father in Heaven, have compassion upon your children who have given their lives to the slaughter for the sake of Your Great and Awesome Name!"
The echo of his voice pounded the walls of the chamber, shaking them to the ground. The supernal beings of the heavens stood in their places as though stunned. All mouths were closed, all wings held their place in readied stillness.
And then the glory of the Holy One, Blessed be He rose in all worlds. A light that shone with equal intensity in all places, in all realms, for it knows no place or time.
"It is the Ohr haGanuz!" exclaimed the ChairAngel in reverence. "The light of the first day of Creation that was hidden until the Time to Come! We must all descend below to see from whence comes this light!"
So it was that the entire Supreme Court of the Heavens descended into the Holy Chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem - the physical one on this earth - to witness the miracle of the Menora, as the oil burned to produce a flame, but did not burn; combustion occurred, but did not occur; oil was consumed and none was consumed; transforming darkness into light while remaining darkness.
Silence reigned. And the silence was also Light.
"This is my G-d," whispered Yosef Karo, "and I will praise Him."
And all the heavenly court and the whole host of heaven, indeed all of G-d's creation and infinite emanations burst into the song of Hallel, the praise of the Ultimately Infinite.
Including, noted Rabbi Karo, the Sar Shel Yavan.