Ben Avuyah

Welcome to the Pardess.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I have not used this blog in so long I had forgotten my password.... I can't believe it still works, testing.... testing... 1,2,3

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chametz Umatzah

“SHMULEY……Do you have any idea”, said my mother in a voice at the edge of tears, “how embarrassing it will be for me to sit next to Rebetzin Freundlich in Shul….”

“Mom…”, I tried to interrupt, but who can interrupt a force of nature?

“…What? Having just been called in to meet with her husband, the mashgiach, about MY son the troublemaker” ?

Shame bloomed in deep red blotches I could feel warming into rosy petals on my cheeks.

I involuntarily lowered my head as if lead weights were attached to my chin, and stared at the perfection of the lavishly set table where I sat. Glancing at the floor I traced the toe of my black penny loafer on the crisp cornrow lines the carpet cleaner had left as a sign of his fine work.

“It will be the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room, if we don’t talk about MY son…and of course all of our relatives will be sitting right next to us, so now the whole family has to know…”

“It wasn’t even my fault….”, I struggled to mount some type of a defense for myself.

“‘Not his fault’ he says”, quipped my mother in immediate parody, speaking more to the foodstuffs that crowded the kitchen counter between us, than to me.

“Should we think”, she asked the lettuce, “that its some how…uh…”, she waved her hand with the butchers knife about, as if somehow exploring the realm of possibility with it’s sharp edge, “out of your control to show up on time for minyan…or to make some kind of a effort in your chavrusahs…hmmm?…is that it?”

Thwack !

The blade fell cutting deeply into the Yom Tov brisket that seemed to be paying a heavy price for my sins.

My Sins….

I was not a great fit for the yeshiva mold. Where the hanhalla saw nareshkiet, I saw fun. When the menahal looked for serious effort, too many times I was found to be still sleeping in bed. When hasmadah was valued, my particular brand of zitsfliesch usually involved a fiction novel.

My poor mother shook her head back in forth and spoke quietly to her self for a moment, her head bizarrely mimicking the lids on the simmering pots that surrounded her; each kettle top lilting to and fro, letting out an angry hiss of steam when they just couldn’t take it any more.

What a strange mix of emotions I felt.

The smells of Yom Tov brought with them such a sense of celebration. The fresh earthy aroma of charoset, as if each ingredient had just been pulled from the ground. The deep hughes of the meats, the thin, oily, hint of their flavor on the air enough to make my mouth water. The astrigent tickle of the marror on my nose, daring me to try even a nibble at my own expense. It was a combination that linked every Pesach in my life together in one happy melded ideal of joyous family festivities….and now to have ruined it. To have transformed this moment into something which would always carry the stain I had spilled upon it.

“I’m sorry”, I said, “I’ll try harder….I’ll do better.”

My mother paused from her preperations to look at me and her eyes softened. I could read my mother pretty well, and if there was a dial that could measure her mood it just dropped a notch or two from danger levels.

“Not to lessen the blame on you”, she clarified, the direction of the blade in her hand confirming my guilt, “but lets face it…your father is not exactly what we would call a good example in this area…”

“Oy…”, she turned her head so as to speak in strict confidence to the potted plant in our living room, “but that’s another story.”

As my mother stewed in harmony with her pots, my Zaidy made his way through the doorway to the dinning room, listing as always, like a building with poor foundation. His sense of balance leading him to lean this way or that on a constant basis, as if gravity just felt like pulling him in another direction than everyone else, leaving him to appear as if he were always stumbling sideways up a hill.

“Gut Morgin”, said my Zaidy, and in his traditional routine, “Epis… a bissel coffee….mit creme”

He shuffled into the dinning room and it must of taken a moment or two before my shape registered as being distinct from the chair I sat in, through the coke bottle glasses that were eternally glued to the end of his nose.

He turned to my mother holding up a finger of discovery, “Shmulik g’kimen tzrik, frum da Yeshiver.”

“Yes Papa”, said my mother wiping tears from her face.

Marror or misbehavior?

“Hi Zaidy”, I said, embarrassed to be caught in the act of making my mother cry. He waved a hello by holding an open palm in the air. He held up a finger of caution to my mother, “coffee…”

“It will have to wait, Papa”, said my mother loudly as she returned to the cutting board, “it’s erev pesach and we all have work…”

“Voooos”, said Zaidy louder than a passing tractor trailor.

“It’s almost Pesach”, my mother screamed like she needed to be heard from behind the engine of a 747 during take off; seeing this my Zaidy adjusted his hearing aid, the screatch of which made my mother and I wince, covering our ears in momentary pain.

“Your coffee will have to wait, Papa.”, screamed my mother close to the natural limitation of her lungs and voicebox.

Zaidy nodded, happy to have gotten his point across, “Yuh”, he confirmed “mit creme.”

My mother’s lower lip shook momentarily with a twitch of futility. How could the world have conspired against her in this way ?

I watched my mother pause from her work as my Zaidy shoveled over the impecably arranged silverwear in front of him to make room to read his sefer at the table. She had a look of impossible contradiction on her face, as the unstoppable preparations for Pesach ran headlong into the imovable habits of my grandfather.

Then the cleaver rose and fell, frustrations succesfuly transfered to a pickle that knew not how to beg for mercy.

The front door swung hard on it’s hinges; thrown open with a reckless disregard that could only mark the entrance of my Father. He burst through it so engulfed by the number of boxes he held, that it seemed the entire cluster of white cardboard containers was being magically moved by a black hat and a pair of shoes.

“I got the shemurah matzois”, he exclaimed, attempting to carefully place thirty boxes on the floor simultaneously.
“No…no…I got it”, he said,waving off help and trying to talk louder than the sound of cracking matzo, “I got it.”

“At the last minute before Pesach of course…”, said my Mother full of scorn.

“Wha…What last minute”, said my father fumbling to find his watch as more matzo boxes landed a little too hard on the floor.
Thankfully for their marriage, my father had innate immunity to my mothers criticism.
Tatee looked genuinely confused at my mother’s concern when he found his watch; “plenty of time”, he said correcting her mistake and breaking into his carefree smile, “we’ve got plenty of time”.

My mother was shaking her head, abandoned as she was, all alone in a world of responsibilities and deadlines.

He saw me.

“Hey Shmuley’s home”, he exclaimed, “Ehhh !!! Back for Bein Hazmanim, of course, come here.”
I always got a big bone crushing hug from my father, it was as much a custom as gefilte fish.

“Oh. That’s the welcome he gets after the meeting we had to have with the mashgiach last night”, said my mother, “he’s hanging on by the skin of his teeth over there.”

“What… don’t worry about that…”, said my father.

“What do you mean, ‘don’t worry’”, said my mother with some pretty impressive tone.


I wanted to warm my father, whose imagination fell short of conjuring mom-o-meter levels.
We are in the Red.

“Ehhh ?”, said my father with a big grin, a gapping smile that let us know how far ahead of the curve he was, “take a look at this”, he said pointing to the boxes.

There was the look of incredulity on my mothers face, and the early suspicion, that in addition to a renegade son, her collapsing life would be complicated by a mentally decompensating husband.

“Our son is about to be thrown out of Yeshiva….and you want me to look…at a bunch of broken matzo ?”


I wanted to tell to my clueless father.


She’s gonna blow.

“Wha… ?”, said my Tatee, “there’s no broken….no broken…No…in the other box! The other box!”

He found his way to the middle of the boxes and pulled one from the pile.

It must of been good, cause my Tatee held that box high, like inside was the cure for cancer, solution to world poverty, and the recipe for a better potato kugel all wraped in one.

My mother placed her hands on her hips letting him know that it better be.

For my part I was divided, half curiosity half dread. My “problem” was going to be solved by something inside a white cardboard box?

I didn’t have to wait long as we all gathered round to peer into the innards of the white container of mysteries untold. Even Zaidy managed to ascertain that something was happening, and listing at a forty five degree angle and trudging as if close to the summit of Everest, he came to join us as we gathered around it.

My Father pulled off the cover, and yanked it out of the box oblivious of the directions and styraphoam packing peanuts that fell all over the floor.

“My carpet”, wheezed my mother, as if the pain was too great to allow her to do anything other than gasp her last words, “…my carpet.”

“Relax”, said my Father, “well get to that in a minute… Here… Take a look at this.”

Perched in his hands was a silver cylinder roughly resembling the size and shape of a hot water urn, with a few buttons and switches protruding from the side.

“What is it”, asked my Mother skeptically, refusing to part in any way from her specific knowledge that my father had never solved a problem until now.

But I already knew.

I felt sick.

I wanted to run away. To bolt for it before it was too late, but there was no where to go. Even had I had safe haven to which to flee, my legs were numbly stuck to the floor, and I began to gawk at my own upcoming traffic wreck in much the same way I did a five car freeway pile up.

“Just watch”, said my father, flicking the main switch. The whole thing hummed for a moment in my Fathers big hands, and then like magic before our eyes floated gently from my father’s palms, like a bouy bouncing happily on tranquil seas.
“Ahh”, said my father as the shiny new acquisition left his grasp.

“But… it… can’t be”, said my mother.

“Never say never”, said my father sauvely, with a wink; momentarily mistaking himself for someone who said things like that.
“But we can’t afford this”, said my mother, postponing the longing she felt to own the shiny object that bobed playfully in front of our eyes as if suspended by invisible strings.

“It’s returned once, but good as new, Shlomo at the office knows somebody who knows somebody…so…here it is.”
For the first time, a ray of hope appeared over my mothers face. I watched her features thaw as heartfelt warmth loosened and relaxed every line on her brow and cheeks that had been frozen so tensley in place, as if she had been in a dark cave for years, and now, here, she had finally caught a glimpse of blue sky and sun.

“Tatee”, I said to my father, eager to rescue myself before things got out of hand, “get rid of this thing. I know two kids in yeshiva who have it, they don’t even want to go home anymore.”

My father was gripping my shoulder.

“It’s not just for you…its for all of us. I think your mother could tell you.”

He paused to look at her around the floating cylinder, where she smiled back at him, “we could all use a little kick in tuchus around here, myself included…now I think this will be good for us.”

And so there we stood… assembled around the hovering new addition to our house, it’s polished surface returned the mirror images of our faces, distorted into fun house charicatures with oversized forheads and tiny chins.

“Calibrating”, said the floating metal cylinder, so suddenly it shocked us.

“It’s calibrating”, my mother informed us in case we had not heard.

“Calibrating”, it repeated in it’s hollow metalic tone.

“Boruch Hashem”, said my mother, unable to find words of her own, distracted by the unusual feeling of…joy.

“Boreech Hashem”, said my Zaidy, almost as happy as mother as he reached out to the floating cylinder with his shaking, aged, hand; holding a ceramic mug that clattered against the bottom of the new gadget, “vere da coffee come out from ?”, he asked expectantly as he twisted a dial.

“No Papa.”, said my Father, moving him aside, “there’s no coffee from this.”

“No” ? , said Zaidy, with a deep look of suspicion and mistrust on his face.

“Sit at the table Pop, sit down with your sefer…”

“What did he touch”, asked my mother, who was overly cautious around anything with more than an on/off switch.

“Nothing, I.. I think it’s the frumkeit meter…sheesh he twisted it all the way up to “lakewood”, hold on a second”, my father said twiddling with the dials, “It’s no big deal…. I’ve got it…..I’ve got it right here…”, he trailed off in frustration as the knob came free in his hand. He twiddled it in his thick fingers for a moment.

“Is it broken?”, asked my mother, panic striken.

My father shrugged his shoulders, “No, actually it’s better than ever”, he sommoned a reassuring smile, “ lakewood eh? Just what the doctor ordered.”

“Calibration complete…” said a hollow tone from the gaget’s middle, “and Mazel Tov on your acquisition of The Automated Mechanical Mashgichus Co-ordinator… from Smartscroll. Please visit your local store to find out more about our other Smartscroll products.”

“I can’t believe it”, said my mother in near tears, her hands on the sides of her face, “our very own Mechano-Mosh.”

“And they are 20% faster than the Religi-Bot series from last year”, beamed my father statistacally, basking in the unusual situation of recieving compliments from my mother.

I think we all jumped back a step as the front panel slid open on the cylinder, disappearing into the dark interior of the canister.

“What was that”, asked my mother holding one arm stifly by her side and massaging it as if it were a sickly child with her other hand, “What’s it doing….. Herschel, I think it’s empty inside.”

“Empty”, said my Father incredulously, peering ever closer to the opening of the device, “Oh, believe me, I’ll take it back to the store faster than you can say melavah malkah…”

“Ahh!!!”, said my father jumping back as static and frizz erupted inside the metal cylinders hollow interior.

“I knew it wouldn’t work”, said my mother returning to her more natural pose of assured despair, “I…I just knew.”

“Thank goodness”, I said from the heart, feeling my tense innards loosen and my shoulders relax, the bullet succesfully dodged. I turned to my parents, “we don’t need it, I’m telling you we don’t.”

As a dreaded last resort my father was going through the styraphoam peanuts looking for the directions, “wait a second”, he said, his voice strained as he stooped over, his fingers combing through the squeaking ‘s’ shapes, “wait just a second.”

“Herschel”, said my mother, a little bit of fear and excitement creeping back in her voice, “Herschel, I think it’s doing some…..I see something….It’s a face, oy I can’t believe, it’s mamesh a face”!

I knew my mother was just imagining it, but the more I looked the more I did see something that looked like a shape in the hollow interior of the contraption. I blinked my eyes and pushed my glasses back up to be sure. Yes. It was a face, growing distinct from the static. I could make it out now, the ghoulish feeling of a new presence rising with my certainty.

Where before there was just the background noise of black and white dots, now came the crease of an eyelid running into a thick fleshy nose, pinched only where thick glasses squated territorilly mid-proboscis. The skin, a pale shade of white, never having seen the sun. The whole of him, eerily familiar yet unrecognizable, his head tilted with eyes closed as if in an unplanned midday nap.

“It’s creeping me out, turn it off”, I said, with a little involuntary shake.

“Is it sleeping”, asked my mother cautiously, “does it…he… sleep” ?

My Father slowly arose from his rumageing crouch to stand face to face with our visitor and wrinkled his brow in concentration, “I don’t know…”


We all jumped back in fear as the eyes snapped open and blinked to attention.

I was the first to recognize our guest and blurted out my terror reflexively, “It’s Reb Lieb…It’s his head….It’s Reb Lieb, it’s…it’s my mashgiach’s head…”

“Gut in himmel”, said my father in shock, “Shmulik’s right….it’s Lieb Fruendlich’s head.”

My mothers two hands flited about like birds, trying to do more jobs than she had fingers for, “Reb Lieb”, she said adjusting her shietel, buttoning her collar, and tugging her apron into place simultaneously, “in our house…it’s so unexpected…”

“Ta”, I said staring at Reb Lieb’s unblinking eyes and expressionless face. How could I make my father understand that I couldn’t have the floating presence of my mashgiach watching over me in my house. How could I convey the dizzying, tightening, bewildering turmoil in my soul as the comfort of home rolled too easily into the tension of a principals office.
“Ta”, I said, “I don’t want that thing staring at me all over Pesach.”

“Staring? That’s all he’s doing is staring”, said my Father as surprise gave way to early frustration. He tapped on top of the Mechano-mosh cylinder, making it bob up and down, and waved his hand in front of Reb Lieb’s unblinking eyes, “Hello…any one home in there.”

“Where did I put the directions”, said my father turning to me, “maybe there is some kind of activation key, like, ‘gut morgin’ or, ‘gut yom toff’…”

As my Tatee pratled on I watched the soft doughy skin on Reb Lieb’s face. So life like, so impeccably real. The hologram captured every last detail, the unruly tufts of beard hair, fresh from habitual chewing, the hat pulled low, just shaddowing the top of his glasses frame, it’s rim sprinkled with a believable amount of dandruff flake. His dark eyes staring past me as if in deep concentration…

“Or it could be a numerical code…”, said Tatee finally fishing the directions out, “613”, he shouted in Reb Lieb’s ear, pausing for a moment to look for response, “Hey…Mister….”, he said rapping on top of the canister with his knuckles, “…I said…. 613!”.

“Why won’t it do anything”, asked my mother, still clutching her apron about her body.

“Why is it MY mashgiach”, I said, too afraid to take my eyes of it.

“It says bipherish right here”, said Tatee, flipping through the manual as he squinted at it, “That’s our model number, It’s the Freundlich 3000.”

“So why won’t it start”, asked my mother.

I think it heard. It must of heard. Because even as the words left my mother’s mouth, Reb Lieb’s eyes rolled slowly, white over black, to find me.

“AHHHHHHHHHH”, I screamed.

“Hello Shmuley”, said Reb Lieb, in Reb Lieb’s voice.

“Holy Moly”, said my father jumping back as startled as I was, “that nearly scared the farfel straight out of me.”

“It’s his digestion”, my mother explained to Reb Lieb’s head, hoping to reclaim a little of our families first impression, “it’s not what it used to be.”

Reb Lieb’s eyes rolled from me to my mother, “Rebetzin”, he said breaking into a toothy smile, “thank you for having me as a guest in your home.”

My mother was fanning herself with the hand not fidling with her apron, “he called me Rebetzin”, she told my father.
“Reb Lieb”, beamed my father, moving closer to the floating head of my mashgiach.

“Reb Herschel”, said my decapitated Rebbi, “It’s good to be here.”

“It’s our pleasure to have you here, I can’t tell you how much we need your help”, said Tatee placing his hand jovially on the top of mechano-mosh’s lid.

“Errr… Rev Herschel.”


“It’s probably best”, said Reb Lieb’s head, glancing at my father’s arm, “to treat me in the same way as you would treat a sifrei kadosh, or better yet, a sefer torah.”

“I am so sorry, my good Reb Lieb”, said my father removing his hand and waving it as if it had just been on a stove.
“No no no…it’s fine… it’s fine”, said Reb Lieb’s head in good nature, nodding up and down inside his can, “but just think of it this way…in my memory banks, I contain every word of torah ever written….period. And my entire personality chip is modeled after a godol bitorah and a torah true yid.”

“It’s amazing”, said my mother, “it’s just amazing.”

“I can’t shake the sense that I’m talking with Reb Lieb”, said my father shaking his head, “it’s uncanny, just uncanny…to be just a head..Hey….Hey….Reb Lieb”, said my father smiling too wide, a sure indication of impending grade school humor….
“Did someone else buy the Freundlich 1500…” he said, having difficulty talking through his mirth as he marched in place in demonstration of what a disembodied pair of legs might look like, “to walk the kids to shul…”

“Herschel”, scolded my mother.

“The 750…” he said too caught up to stop, solitarily amused, and glancing at me as potential co-conspiritor, he made quick circles with a lone hand, “you know, Shmuley…to help with the dishes…”

I donated a thin sympathy smile.

“Enough”, said my mother.

“Rav Herschel”, said my mashgiach.
“I’m so…”

“Like a sefer…”

“I’m so sorry”

“No no no, it’s fine, it’s fine, but think of me like a sefer torah….farshtiest !!”

“I got it”, said my father, “don’t worry…. I get it now.”

“You know”, said Reb Lieb’s head conversationally, bobbing unaturally to it’s own magnetic wave, “you can ask me shailos, I am a qaulified posek for a twenty four hour period until human verification is performed.”

“Now that’s going to be a time saver”, said my father snaping his fingers and sobering up, “not having to wait to see the Rabbi to find out the halachah…this is paying for itself already.”

“Oh I’m already hard at work making your life easier”, said the mechano-mosh, “I’ve remotely reset all alarm clocks in the house to have everyone up and ready an hour before shachris.”

“It’s just wonderful”, said my mother.

My father was scratching his head.

“Awww”, I said.

“Shmuley”, said my mother harshly.

“I have restructured your bank accounts so that your shul dues are paid through to the year 2052, as well as automatically detucting ma’aser from your direct deposit.”

“Hey…now…”, said my father looking a bit pale.

“Rav Herschel, try and understand”, said mechano-mosh, shaking his head back and forth in his canister, “I’m not Reb Lieb who sits across from you in shul…I’m a synthetic personality…and fully adherent to the laws of robotics with the 2034 religious exemption module.”

My father now looked a bit pale and a bit confused.

“Herschel, Herschel…I cannot cause, or through inaction allow you to come to… spiritual harm”, said Reb Lieb lovingly, “that means…it means your neshamah is in my hands now…”

“It’s like having a safety net, where you can’t fall”, said my mother in translation.

My father looked only partially convinced.

“Rev Herschel, your hishtadlus was to get me in your house, the rest….the rest I take care of for you. Ha’Ba Li’Taher….Misayin Oisoh…”

My father slowly started to nod his head in agreement.

“Nu” said Reb Lieb so authentically that I was forced to imagine his hands waving in small circles with thumbs up at his side, “let’s avoid bitul z’man, we’ve got alot of work to do here…”

My mother had her hands pressed together, “It’s a fresh start…just in time for Pesach…”

My Father was looking over at her and smiling, “Just in time”, he repeated with a wink.

Seeing my parents gel into such a solidified edifice of converging opinion made the acrid aspirin taste in my mouth all the more bitter.

How could they do this to me ? This wasn’t Bein Hazmanim…it was Mussar Seder concentrated times ten to be adhered to 24/7….I would break…I would snap…

Turning on my heel, I ran to my room, fleeing the scene in an escape that led me a full three feet down the hall and quick left into the small spot I called my own. I heard my parents calling after me but I paid it no attention.

“Shmuley”, said my father.

“Where does he think he’s going ?”, said my mother.

“It’s all right”, said Reb Lieb’s voice in quiet wisdom fading in and out of my ability to hear it, “Let me….I’ll…..teaching……”
I kicked the door shut with the back of my foot, loud enough to make a decent slam.
Wasn’t it bad enough to be a known underachiever every day in Yeshiva ? Did the feeling have to follow me home in a stainless steel jar?

I flopped into bed and shifted my glasses to my forehead, rubbing my eyes because I was tired…not because I might cry. I opened them and viewed my room through the comfortable blur of nearsighted focus, the sharp edges of life dulled and melded into meaningless soft color. From the doorway I saw movement, and I squinched my forehead droping my glasses back into place.

“Hey”, I said, more out of shock than out of the need to comunicate anything in particular.

It was Reb Lieb…his head, that is to say, gliding effortlessly through the opening door…his eyes found me and he smiled so genuinely, with so much caring.

How did he……?

“Shmuel”, he said moving towards me and shaking his head back and forth in a way that created the uncanny illusion of him swimming through the air by some unnamed neck stroke.

“You can’t”, I said almost breathlessly feeling the last delicate dew drops of privacy dehydrate into vapor, “I mean… don’t you have to knock…”

“I’m not a person”, said Reb Lieb, all brilliant smiles, “that you could be embarrassed from…come on…let’s talk.”

“No”, I blurted angrily, “this is my room…”

“Shmuley….be reasonable…we’ll talk it through.”

“I don’t want to talk with you…”

My mother appeared at the door followed by my father.

“Shmuley”, said my mother, “you said you would try harder…you told me you would do better…why not start now…”

I saw no way to make it through the day with my Mashgiach’s head following me around like an unwanted puppy, but the look in my mother’s eye told me I had already promised her something and I had to keep her faith.

“OK…fine…I don’t even know what this Robot wants anyway…”

“Watch your mouth”, warned my father, sternly, nodding in solidarity in Reb Lieb’s direction, “this is the err…”

“Embodiment”, said my mother coaxing the sentance from his lips.

“Yes”, said my father, “the embodiment of a sefer torah, and we’ll treat it…him…that way.

“Shmuley”, said Reb Lieb’s head, floating to a level at which we were eye to eye as I sat at my bed.

He wasn’t exactly solid. If I looked hard enough through the dark eyes I could make out the inner back end of the canister, the serial number, and the warranty sticker. And he flickered, the light sources that created his hologram dimming and lightening, like an artificial pulse. But as I talked with him, watching the chubby cheeks flex and stretch over his wide mouth, his eyes flicker and wayne with sincerity, I had to admit I was drawn into the illusion.

This was Reb Lieb, or at least as close as it could be to him without the rest of his body.

“Shmuley”, he said with pride, floating just a few inches from my face, “you’ve taken the first brave step to a brighter future…all on your own…but you have to seal it…with a positive action !”

“He’s talking in riddles” I complained to my parents, “I don’t even understand…”

“Shmuley”, said Reb Lieb floating so close I could smell the metal and plastic of his housing, staring deeply at me with those piercing eyes, “I have scanned your room and found one fiction novel of a Goyishe nature that could be detrimental to such a developing mind, as your own.”

“Awwww”, I said to the mechano-mosh, “this stinks, don’t I get any privacy.”

“Now we are getting somewhere”, applauded my mother, clasping her hands together at my doorway.

“It’s clean up time, Shmuley”, said my father apologetically, “we are all going to have to run a tighter ship from here on in.”
I couldn’t believe this.

It was like mutiny. My mother, father, and this flying tin can all ganging up on me.

“Shmuley”, said the mechano-mosh in a deeper, sweeter tone like molasses, “Yiras Shemayim, is about making your own judgments about your relationship with the aibishter, you are going to have to come to terms on your own about what it means to be mevatal your zman with narishkiet. When you begin to think about it, you will know what to do with that book. A small part of your growth as a Ben Torah will hinge on this realization.”


“No really….think about it…”, said Reb Lieb with a friendly wink.

“I will.”

“It’s…He’s… so reasonable”, said my mother.

“It davkah has a real personality to it”, said my father, eager for another chance to brag, as they both watched from my doorway, “it’s no coincidence he’s the best selling model.”

Reb Lieb winked once at my parents.

I hated them all for a moment.

“Did you think about it?”

“No…I mean I’m thinking…”, I said.

“You should seriously consider it in T minus 5 seconds.”


“A good time to come to a conclusion would be approximatley T minus 4 seconds.”

“This is crazy…”, I said, “this flying toaster is threatening me.”

“Don’t be a michutziv”, said my father quickly.

“Is it so crazy to get results ?” asked my mother.

“Gashmius destruction comencing in T minus 3 seconds…”

“Shmuley”, said my father, “I think you better get your book.”

“Fine”, I yelled, “you see what you did”, I said, as I walked over to my bookbag, unzipped it and chucked my latest Asimov into the trash hard enough to make a bang, “now I have no place to be myself, my whole life is a commercial for better yeshiva living.”

“Shmuley, your over reacting,“ said my mother, “give it a chance and you’ll see how you start to feel better…”

“No, Mom, I’m not going to feel better..”

“Please….let me handle this…”, said the Mechano-mosh, “I have over three thousand collected mussar shmusen and parables from the Rabbinic lights of our generation and the past.”

“Awwww”, I said.

“Once in a small town in lithuania”, said Reb LIeb’s holographic head in apparent deep thought, “there was a young man, who wanted nothing more that to meet the prince…”

“This is a bunch of cr…”, I started.

“Shmuley, you better start listening”, scolded my mother, “this is going to be the way it is untill you shape up.”

“…As it turned out”, Reb Lieb continued oblivious to my interruptions, “the prince wanted nothing more than to be a regular..”

“Tatee, can’t you do something, this is ridiculous.”, I pleaded.

“…One day at the market, the king sent the prince and the young man…”, continued Reb Lieb, unwilling to be derailed.

“Shmuley, come on, wise up kid-o, listen to your mother, you can’t go on this way forever…I know how hard it is for you, but the only path is the path up, you gotta find a way through your problems…trust me there is a light at the end of the tunnel…”

“…The prince and the young lad were both amazed to find the treasure right beneath their feet…”, continued Reb Lieb, his holographic head looking both surprised and elated at the stories end.

“This isn’t facing my problems”, I told my father trying to talk louder than the mechano-mosh in a rare moment of father son honesty, “this is ignoring the idea than problems can exist…this is pretending one right way is the only way for everyone.”

“…And so we see…”, said Reb Lieb, his simulated brow furrowing at the lesson at hand, “that sometimes, the greatest treasures are the treasures right in front of our eyes, that we did not see… before we tried to look…in the right way… using the glasses of torah and maasim tovim…”

“Shut up you crazy robot, get out of my face”, I exploded.

“Shmuley”, said my father sternly, “haven’t you been listening….you have to treat Reb Lieb’s…uhh… head… here, with the same kovod you would give a Rabbi, it holds the collected works of kol hatorah kulah, you want that kind of avierah on your hands….come on.”

A red light began flashing on the side panel of the mechano-mosh, and Reb Lieb pouted and began to look around from side to side in confusion.

“Oh great, you michutziv”, shouted my mother, “now you broke it …him… with your nivel peh.”

“No I didn’t”, I said, uncertain if such a thing could happen.

“Alert”, said the Robot Lieb, in a voice that sounded much more mechanical, his eyes now dreamy and distant.

“This would be coming out of your allowance”, scolded my father, “if you had one.”

“Alert”, said the mechano-mosh, “four hours untill pesach, commencing emergency bedikah”, and with that he floated up and away forcing my parents to part like the red sea as his canister passed between them on it’s way to the kitchen.

“Huh ?”, said my father.

“But the house is already spotless for Pesach, I’ve been scrubbing for weeks”, complained my mother, with a look of shock on her face that such a detail could ever be doubted, as she hurried to behind the mechano-mosh, my father and I quick on her heels.

As he reached the counter, Reb Lieb looked as if he had eaten something he needed to cough up.

“System overide….Initiating chametz deep scan…”

“Uhhhh…I don’t like the sound of that”, said my father, “maybe we should all go wait in the den.”
My mother shook her head, stranded in some foreign land between the welcome relief of our new family member and a new…growing… outrage.

Though my father had surrendered his ma’aser and morning snooze, and my Asimov now rest in the garbage bin, there was one member of the family who awaited correction, and my Father and I turned in trepidation towards my mother.

I almost wanted to warn Reb Lieb…didn’t he have a chip for qauntification of impending danger?

“Den ?? Oh…I’m not leaving my kitchen”, my mother informed us, Reb Lieb, and the world in general; with her arms folded in front of her in a sudden change of aliegence, “There is not so much as one crumb of chametz in MY house”, she said.

“Do you have any idea”, said my mother to Reb Lieb’s head, with the telltale quiver of deep emotion on her voice, “how hard….HARD…I worked to get this place spotless….how many meals, yes meals, I’ve eaten on my outdooor front steps, how many moldy crevases I’ve cleaned with a toothbrush, how many appliances, too heavy for a workman to lift, I’ve crawled behind and cleaned goo you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole…” she trailed off near to tears…but not a drop spilled. It was more anger than sorrow, more fierce opposition than apologetic.

“Chametz…” said Reb Lieb looking sharply over my mother’s shoulder and furrowing his brow, “…detected.”

They faced each other then, for just a moment. Like two windblown gunslingers of the old west, except instead of swift fingers tracing the handle of a classic colt, my mother’s practiced hands found their way to the wooden charoset spoon. She grasped it then in preparation, her eyes never leaving Reb Lieb’s, while they squinted down to angry slits in challenge.

But Reb Lieb showed no signs of swerving in this game of chicken and from the bottom of the mechano-mosh extended a soft redly glowing orb, not more than a marble for size, but bright enough to hurt my eyes.

“Initiating….Bedikah”, said Reb Lieb’s head, his holographic gaze locked on my mother.

“You stay out”, said my mother sharply, “not one foot…er…head in this kitchen”, she snapped, “you hear that” !!

“Chavah, chavah”, pleaded my Tatee with outstretched hands ready to remind my mother about what it meant to have a sefer torah in the house, until he was silenced by the death stare my mother shot at him.

“Rebetzin”, pleaded Reb Lieb’s head, “I know how hard you worked…boruch ha…”

“No you don’t”, said my mother, “NO YOU DON’T”

“The miracle”, said Reb Lieb, “Is how much chametz you DID clean…”

“Don’t you cross this line”, threatened my mother drawing an imaginary boundary in the air with her wooden spoon as Reb Lieb floated forward, “Not one more inch…”

“You can’t expect yourself”, said Reb Lieb in his most soothing tone as he trespassed into kitchen air space, “to catch every pico-gram of chametz with human eyes…”

“Back”, threatened my mother winding the spoon up at shoulder length like she might be aiming to swat a fastball to the fences, “you stay back now”.

“But I can help you”, continued Reb Lieb’s head, drifting Lazily over the counter, “I couldn’t…. NOT…. help you, If you were Chas Vesholom oiver on Bal Yeraeh…”


“….or Bal Yimatzeh, on my watch”, Reb Lieb was shaking his head in regret and sadness even has he contemplated this possibility, “better to just get rid of some risidual shmootz than chance an issur dioiriesah !!!”

Reb Lieb focused an aiming beam in the deep chasm between the refirgerator and inbuilt kitchen cabinetry.

“Don’t you dare…”, said my mother with a crazed look in her eyes, as they darted about searching, perhaps, for any one else in the room foolish enough to take her on in her own kitchen, “DON’T YOU DARE !!!!”

“One quick bedikah”, said Reb Lieb as if he were preparing my mother for her flu shot, “and we are all through…”

It happened quickly then, almost too quickly for me to process.

I think my mother swung first, she must have swung first, becuase when she hit the mechano-mosh with the charoset spoon not only did the loud “gong” sound drown out his yell: “OY- my head !”; but he also misfired the laser, probably because the force of the blow spun him halfway across the kitchen.

The laser…well, that laser didn’t hit any chametz at all, and missed it’s mark by at least a foot landing not in the dark crevase next to the fridge but insidie the open refrigerator door, where upon meeting a uniformly tinfoiled interior, it bounced back out, straight into the tinfoiled cabinets on the otherside of the room.


Which was when my wide eyed Tatee must have yelled:

“Duck !!”

Which I did.

Although, he must of yelled it before doing so himself, and that laser rebound from tinfoiled cabinetry to tinfoiled counter took his hat right of his head in transit.

“Son of a…”, said Tatee grabbing to keep his Yarlmulke on his head as his knees involuntarily ducked for him.

“Bizzzooouuuuu!!!!”, screamed the deflected laser as it scitered off of the kitchen coutner tinfoil ripping through the air into the dinning room where it ricoched next off of Eliyahu’s Kos not ten inches from my Zaidy’s face, who magically remianed oblivious to anything but his book.

“Mmmm”, said Zaidy to his sefer, stroking his beard and turning the page, “dos is a chidush ???”

“Bzzzaaapp”, It must of hit the bottom of the Silver Kiddush cup, I didn’t see it, cowardly hugging the floor as I was, but it must have hit the rounded bottom and deflected down, because the frying, sizzling, chametz-intended, fizzle that it created occured dead center in one of the freshly cleaned corn rows of our white living room carpet, a small puff of smoke grandly introducing the giant burn stain on the frazzled carpet fibers.

Everythig was quite for a few seconds then and …. I don’t know….

I’m thirteen and quite aware, but I’m not an expert in human emotions, I don’t have any degrees or even a high school education. I barely even know what the Yeshiva told me I’m supposed to know; which is: who’s fault is everything when a Shor falls into a Bor.

But as I watched my mother I knew something.

I knew I was watching something breaking. I don’t know what people have in their heads, or what keeps it together, but I saw a snap, two things pulling apart that won’t be put back together.

I guess she just stared at that carpet for moment, letting the dark spot on the fabric imprint itself on her brain in some deeply primitive way, tatooing itself, perhaps to her very soul.

“My carpet…” said my mother with barely an expression on her face, “ perfect, white, carpet.”

“Oy”, said Reb Lieb, finally managing to stop from spinning in a circle, “It will be a Nes if I don’t need some maintenance…”

“You”, said my mother, finally managing to tear her eyes off the carpet to look at Reb Lieb.

“Enough”, said Reb Lieb firmly, “Sofo shel dovor, you have twelve picograms of chametz in two locations, and seven microscopic bugs on your romaine lettuce…we can make a big deal about it….”

“You”, said my mother with blank eyes as if she were talking to us from some far away place, “did this….”

“Or”, said Reb Lieb, “we can tidy it up…”

Not the response anyone had perhaps expected, “Aggghhhhh”, said my mother, leaving go the conventions of speech and reason for something more basic and raising the spoon in a fashion that would have made virile viking warriors run for the hills, “Aggghhhh”

“This isn’t in my programing”, said Reb Lieb’s head nervously as he dodged a spoon swipe that would have crushed him like a wad of aluminum foil, “perhaps a story from the Dubno Maggid would help…”

“YOU”, screamed my mother as she jumped to place one sturdy hit on his canister as he floated at top speed to the relative safety of the high kitchen ceiling.

“STOP”, I yelled, surprised to hear myself speaking. It must have shocked everyone, because Reb Lieb paused from attempting to Zap the bugs off of our vegetables, and my mother loosened her whitened knuckles from their grip on our heavy salt shaker, that she had cocked like a catepult to bean Reb Lieb in his…well…head.

“Stop”, I said more quietly.

“Rebbi”, I said to Reb Lieb, “you CAN’T create rules that are impossible for people to follow…it’s…it’s tirchah di’tziburah….it’s not what hashem could have ever meant for…a halachah that’s impossible for the kihillah to complete….you can’t create a standard that no one can follow….”

“You see”, said Reb Lieb to my parents from the safety of high altitude, “look how much better Shmuley’s remembering from his chavrusahs, and I’ve barely been here an hour…it’s Gevaldig !’

“He has a point”, said my father finally caustiously rising up, from where he had hidden in a crouch behind the counter, with his hat in his hand, “that’s a nice little shtickle toirah…”
He had more to add, but accurately determining my mothers body language allowed him to duck back behind the counter before the salt shaker was launched at him.

But I had more Asimov in mind than I did lessons from the shulchan Aruch.

“But you HAVE to clean the bugs and clean the chametz”, I informed Reb Lieb, “because you can’t allow us to be over an issur.”
“That’s true too”, said Reb Lieb nodding his head, even as he warily eyed my mother, “My central programing would not even allow me to turn on circuit number one in my CPU if I didn’t protect you from issur. “

He looked thoughtful for a moment, “Perhaps the answer is that when two pesukim contradict each other…you need a third to be machriah beyneyhem..”

“But you CAN’T ask us to clean microscopic bugs and dirt”, I said more loudly now, ignoring him, “because you can’t create a religion that humans can’t follow…”

“I’m sure there is a sugyah that deals with this”, said Reb Lieb shaking his head in confusion, “I’ll reference my memory banks.”

“But you HAVE to clean the chametz”, I screamed, “because you can’t allow us to be oiver an issur dioriesah.”

“I have a terrible sinus pressure”, complained Reb Lieb as he began to drift slowly down from the level of the ceiling fan, “like my hat is too tight on my head.”

“But you CAN’T intend for us to clean up microscopic chametz and bugs”, I said loud enough to feel the scrape of the words on my throat, “because you CAN’T create a religion that humans cannot follow.”

“I’m sure….a…parable…could explain…”, said Reb Lieb, as he drifted listlessly over to our dinning room table.

“But you HAVE to clean up…”

“Enough…”, said Reb Lieb’s head looking ill, “DLL error 7 78 1…Oyyy.”

And like that… he was gone.

His canister…empty.

Vacated of his presence the empty contraption dropped the last few feet from where it floated and landed with a thud on the dining room table, cracking it’s delicate innards, and sending out a thick stream of black oily goo, like a well pressurized water fountain, that covered half of the gleaming silverware on the table, with a wondrous new speckled pattern of motor oil. A little bit even landed in my grandfather’s cup.

“My silverware…my table…” mourned my mother, awaking from insane anger into a fresh emotion of sadness beyond condolence.

My Zaidy, finally distracted from his sefer, anxiously peered at the black sludge in his mug, and catching my mothers eyes as she surveyed her paradise lost, he voiced his dissapointment.

“Mit creme”, he stated simply, banging his fist on the table in wonderment as to why his simple request could be so difficult to fulfill, “dos is schvartz coffee… ich viest nisht….coffee….mit a bissel creme.”

The last straw landing on her back my mother simply fell to her knees.

And she cried.

It was hard to understand her through the tears, but my Father and I listened.

We listened very closely.

“Is it too much to ask….just to have a time to be together with my family…”, she said, and now she was smiling a sad smile, “MY brothers and sisters…their children…to be together.”

“And to have just that little time together…I have to work my fingers to the bone ?”

She was shaking her head, “For what ?” she looked over at the empty container of the Mechano-Mosh, “…for him ? Floating around and barking orders…Look at the mess he’s made”, she said looking around at the destruction her Erev Yom Tov had become.

My Father looked uneasy and unsure as to what the answer to such a question could be. It almost seemed to broad for him to get his arms around. He clenched and unclenched his large fists as if he needed to wring the life out of something but couldn’t pin down exactly what it might be.

“It’s….” said my father, “It’s…that Robot…that crazy Robot…”

My mother began to nod in agreement, “We were fine until that crazy Robot tried to come into our lives and control everything…”

My father grabbed the remnants of Reb Lieb’s holographic transport container off our table and slammed it harshly into the garbage.

“A piece of junk”, he yelled more loudly than I was used to hearing, and hunched over the trash and almost out of breath I saw him start to piece things together.

“Where’s the siechel”, he said shaking his head over the remains of our new technology, “How did I get it into my kup, that a tin can, with no soul, could guide a yid with a neshamah; what’s even the haavah aminah that something that can only compile and catalouge rules into more rules and spit them out….could guide a mishpachah…my mishpachah”.

“It could never work”, agreed my mother standing back up, “even on the surface it doesn’t make sense…”

My father was grinding a fist into an open palm and his teeth were clenched, “What was I thinking that this flying chulent pot could tell us what to do ??? It’s…It’s not even thinking about what it’s saying…”

“Of course not”, said my mother, “How could it without a brain…it’s just a head.”

“It just follows..”, My father struggled on, “some kind of a …”

“Algorithim”, I said.

“No”, said my father.

“Formula”, said my Mother.

“Not that”, said my Father, “you know….mamesh as if you just drop in a number…”

“A variable”, said my Mother.

“A function”, I suggested.

“No, no”, said my Father trying to get around an idea that was to big for him, “how do you describe a chochmah that…that follows the rules but can’t see itself at work…can’t look at itself from across the room…can put the numbers together all the while unable to grasp the end result….”

My Father truly looked in deep frustration at not being unable to express what was so clearly tying his psyche in knot. The idea that his life was enforcably governed by an archaic matrix of barely logical connectors, was so close to the tip of his tongue, and yet so unspeakable.

“It was a stupid….Robot.” Said my mother offering what was her take on the final summary of events.

“That’s it…you got it….that’s it”, said my father first holding up a finger and then pounding his fist into his hand. He accentuating each word by giving the garbage a hefty kick, “It was a stupid…stupid….Robot.”

We stood there for a moment then…unbound and unsure. Almost as if we had unraveled our life enough, sifted deep enough through the dust to be at some long forgotten and deeply buried fork in the road. The next steps forward seemed so unclear…

“Oy Herschel”, said my mother breaking the silence, “look….look at my house, my kitchen, my carpet…ruined…ruined…”
I tried to think of something to say to comfort my poor mother, all her hard work now in shambles around her, but it was my grandfather who found his way over to her doing his best to speak in english.

“I help to clean up”, he offered stooping to the floor, his stiff arthritic fingers doing their best to coax a few styraphoam S’s back into the mechano mosh’s box, “See dat…”

“Yeah, me too”, I chipped in grabbing a big handful and dumping them back into the container.

My fathers anger turned quickly into a well harnessed energy and he truly beamed, “we’ll have this place cleaned up in no time…”

My mother actually began to look a little relieved…and looked around at us with eyes that wanted to believe it could be so. And for a moment we felt so much like a family.

“I tell you”, said my Zaidy, “You don’t need dat”, he said pointing at the fallen hologram in the garbage.
“In de alt country…we don’t have it…”

He pointed at my father and mother in turn, his small watery eyes moving back and forth between them, “You…unt you….you in the charge…no ??”

“Pop”, said my father, “you’re so right, Pop”

“A lifetime of Toirah study”, said my mother, “that’s where wisdom comes from…”

“It’s really true”, said my father, looking at his father with admiration.

I suppose we could have healed then…

Probably could have taken a path with our families needs at the center, who knows, maybe my parents would have been a little kinder to themselves, and a little happier.

But my Zaidy, oh Zaidy…he had one more piece of wisdom to offer.

“Also, da coffee dat ting makes”, said Zaidy shaking his head, “Feh ! Don’t drink it …terrible…not good for nothing….”

“Papa”, said my mother in confusion, “you didn’t drink…..”

“Pop”, said my father, “Oy…Pop.”

“Should we call the Doctor”, I asked.

“Call the hospital….Who knows what was in there”, screamed my mother, until a second, more dire realization hit her.

“Herschel”, she said quitely, perhaps trying to control her dawning terror by keeping it as close to a secret as possible.

“Herschel…that stuff is everywhere…my silverware…my table….what’s…what’s in it ????”

“No”, said my Tatee, immediately sensing what was pushing my mother to the edge of unrecoverable panic, “It’s not a shialah at all…it’s not even Rauy liachilas kele…..”

He trailed off as he watched my grandfather try to wipe the oil out of his mustache.

“Terrible”, Zaidy confirmed.

And as quickly as we had come together…we unraveled.

My mother had balled her hands in to fists next to her face, “My family will be here in an hour and my house is ruined and full of chametz !!!!”

My father was burning through the instruction manual, “It would say”, he stuttered, “it would have to say…”

“Forget that !” screamed my mother, “Get Rav Hahnemann on the phone, he’ll know…”

“I got it”, said my Father lurching to grab the telephone of the wall and hit the speed dial, “I got it right here….”

“YOU don’t have anything”, screamed my mother as the panic flooded her like ice waters numbing the body and mind.

My father was already yelling into the phone, “I don’t care if he went to the Mikvah, fish him out, we’ve got an emergency situation here..”

“It’s under control”, my Father pleaded with my mother as he cradled the home phone on his shoulder and dialed on his cell phone with the free hand, “Yes”, he said loudly in to his cell, “Information? Yes! Yes, I need an emergency carpet cleaning…EMERGENCY!!!”

My mother was shaking her head.

“No”, said my father loudly into the first reciever, “Of course, I don’t wan’t Rav Hahnemann to clean my carpet….listen….listen….I have a very important shailah about some motor oil that is all over our house, and my Father drank it…he drank it, do you hear, he mamesh drank the motor oil…so the shailah…”

My father had the confused look of hearing two seperate conversations at once, and he yelled back on his cell, “No! Yes! No! I don’t need an Emergency room, you heard my right the first time, Carpet cleaning… Emergency carpet….”

He paused for a moment holding both mouthpieces away from his beard, and giving my mother a nod of confidence, “Taken care of…we are set…totally set, it’s fixed… right now”, he said with a tone that implied that all would be resolved with enough time to read the paper and maybe play a round of gin rummy.

“Oy”, said my mother, as the suffocating world closed in around her, “We are not going to make it in time for Pesach…we are not going to make it…there is no way we are going to make it….”

I looked back and forth between my parents as the self imposed madness took hold.

My mother locked eyes with me.

“And don’t for one second think this gets you off the hook”, she seethed.

“Awwwwwwwww”, I said.

Sunday, January 25, 2009



Will you just take a look at the dust that has gathered on this unused blog? I’m letting half years and full years slip through my fingers, without so much as paying heed to my former love.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the blogs as well. I just stopped by XGH...still going strong there.

I can’t help but notice the tragic irony. He keeps threatening to quit, but can’t ever seem to stop....I keep threatening to write, but never end up getting around to it.

In part it is for the good. Better job, better research, better salary....less time. But I have to say I do feel something missing.

I started this blog because I had a bone to pick with religious dogma...that score I settled some time ago. But what I discovered in the process, quite serendipitously, was a joy for writing, and despite better satisfaction in the arena of professional accomplishment, I still feel like a piece is missing.

In any case, just stopped by to sweep off this dust, and see if I still remembered my password....who knows when inspiration may coincide with the rarity of a few minutes of spare time.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Well, it appears I have not written anything on this blog for at least six months, probably nothing of substance for much longer than that...for shame, for shame.

A portion of my excuse for what appears to be late homework, I shall blame on my almost two year old daughter, whom, in addition to saying “hot” “ball” “car” and “colors” in the most adorable fashion; also recants the dreaded “no” to almost anything she is presented with. She, on a regular basis, runs rampant in her huggies, rounding our house with blistering speed, creating our private version of the indy 500 pediatric style,  during which our walls become smartly streaked with  smears of chocolate, egg, crayon and .....“unidentified substances”;  whose ever-present nature, despite my frequent hand wiping interventions, has led me to believe they must actually be secreted from her fingertips.

Sure, being no better than the next man, I was of the mind to sink in to a sulking semi-defeat of sorts; and try to find a comfortable perch from which to watch my dwelling reduced to some barbaric, pre-civilized afghani hut, thatched with whatever was in todays baby gerber can; but the circumstances of my life are unforgiving. 

I am moving, and doing so in one of the worst markets to date. My house must be pristine, host to whichever buyer’s realtor might call on a whim and say, “We’d like to come at that OK for you”?

“Sure”, I might say, glancing over my shoulder at a living room most resembling a stretch of land over which a tidal wave had just receded. Left in the awful wake the scattered flotsam and jet-sum of my little tsunami...a veritable stew of half eaten crackers, broken crayons, scattered books, and a generous sampling of this weeks “ages 18 months and above” toys from the consignment stores.

At those quiet, dark, moments of the night when I am of a mind to jot down my latest science fiction theme ideas, I will often envision the barnacle that has settled over my living room floor, as a protoplasm, as pre-life...thriving, seething, vibrating, growing...within it the vaguest glimmering of sentient intelligence....did something move there in the corner?

But in the more practical moments there is only the reality of the frenzied cleanup, the stress, the time crunch, and the hurried evacuation of a dwelling narrowly turned from a toddlers romper room to home and garden extraordinaire.

So it is no surprise that my wife and I have colonized the local Targets, Whole Foods, and Publics stores, where, when called upon to abandon our home at a moments notice, we unleash our little rapscallion upon the unsuspecting gentility of the public marketplace.

I do confess, I think my little girl believes Target to be the larger room of her day care, with far better amenities.

I tell you this to explain why I spent most of the weekend shuttling between Barnes and Nobles and Whole Foods, while two families spent most of their weekends looking at my house. 

I love bookstores and once my daughter was happily engaging her powers of destruction in the children’s section, I took the rare chance to flit around through the isles engaged in one of my all time favorite pastimes, perusing for books.

I did stumble past Hitchen’s God is not great, but hesitated before picking it up. 

I have not been very motivated by the religion vs secular war recently. I feel that after so many years on the blogosphere I have heard, and probably argued every argument there is to be had, most of them over and over again. I have made my peace with my own opinions and my place in judaism and turned my attentions to other endeavors.

But old habits die hard.

So I picked it up and thumbed through the first ten to twelve pages. I’ve never been a huge fan of his, I think his pomposity undercuts his argument. And the book was no surprise. Sharp prose, a little too reckless with his blade for my taste, but the essence of his arguments where familiar to me, I’d probably paraphrased some arguments in blogosphere debate over the years... I hadn’t expected to find much new, and hadn’t by the time I observed a shadow making a slow ark through my peripheral vision.


“She’s throwing toys”, complained my wife, as I crammed Hitchen’s amidst the Tween fiction section, sure to shock the pants off some poor kid looking for Harry Potter.

During the short “time out”, and hasty exit from the bookstore that followed, I wondered aloud to my wife if we were on a department store most wanted list, our grim faced photos part of a portfolio of those blacklisted for disturbing the peace.

On the bright side, the next encampment of our sojourn through the wilderness was a nifty little Whole Foods in my neighborhood that has free WIFI, and since I had Hitchens on the mind, I did a little surfing through You Tube to watch some of his debates, whilst dispatching my evil little apprentice with her mother to name fruits, and possibly throw fruits, in the produce section.

Of the two or three video’s I perused, I noticed two of the questions for Hitchens were identical. One was a video debate with Al Sharpton, in which I believe Sharpton leads with this question, and seems to act as if this is the true clincher for the demise of atheism. The identical question was chosen by Chris Mathews in his interview with Hitchens as a selected viewer question.

The question is a familiar one and goes something like, “How could you ever sentence a man to death, or inflict a heavy penalty, when you don’t believe there is a higher power and absolute wrong and right.”

Hitchen’s didn’t get flustered by the question but I don’t think he got the answer out very well either. I do think this is the question that most often confuses atheists or agnostics and they generally make attempts at justifying their reasoning regarding organic, innate morality and why it has value of it’s own.

I’m not interesting in spending a great deal of time on what I feel the answer to that question is. I think, to put it simply it is fair to admit that human criminal ethics and the morality of crime and punishment is complex, has areas of uncertainty, and that we don’t have a truly objective yardstick, though if reason can be relied upon for objective conclusions and can be at least in part applied to the human  traits of equity, empathy, and equality there is reason to believe that logic may contribute to  some bare standard from which to work, which I believe is the foundation of the secular rule of law that in fact we all abide by, and rely on daily for the administration of justice.

But I think where Hitchens started to go, but was never really allowed to arrive due to the unfortunate sound bite nature of the debates, was the utter absurdity of the question, coming from a religious believer.

Restated with it’s assumptions hanging on the outside the query reads as follows: I religious believer in x, who believe/know via the mechanism of faith that there is absolute good and evil, and who believes/knows via the mechanism of faith that I am privy to knowledge about absolute good and evil and how to judge them from my earthly vantage point...would like to know what right you, who admit to no definite possibility of absolute evil and good, and admit that your mechanism for moral judgment may be subjective, have in making important decisions regarding moral punishment decisions regarding others.

I believe what Hitchens began to say but did not really get to follow through on, was to point out that religious belief, that is to say the mechanism of religious belief, i.e. faith, results in a unanimous opinion of absolute good and evil, but a heterogeneity regarding the details, so stunning as to produce one set of believers who know the premeditated murder of, lets say those in the world trade center, was absolute evil, and another group who knows with certainty that it is absolute good. I believe this observation encourages the believer who is willing to make some type of leap towards honesty, to admit that his claim of certainty should be dimmed to a level of something lower than absolute, given the fact that everyone who uses his mechanism of faith comes up with conflicting directives. An honest person should likely concede at this point, that though he believes he is right, he will concede to back away from the terminology of absolute good and evil given the difficulties apparent in using faith to determine them accurately. Thus there may be absolute good and evil, but we can’t get there. And without this absolute certainty the question loses all it’s teeth and needs to be rewritten as, “How dare you make life and death judgements with your subjective morality, only I with my absolute knowledge of right and wrong should be meddling with that, though I admit that when I step back from my particular beliefs there appears to be the possibility that I am dead wrong.”

Doesn’t even make much sense.

Luckily for them, most religious people are not reasonable and are happy to tidy up their viewpoint with something like, “people who don’t believe in my religion are wrong, and there error doesn’t detract from my 100% certainty that I have accurate knowledge of absolute right and wrong.”

At this point the typical atheist tactic is to point out the fact that almost everyone believes in the religion they were born into, and that the odds of one’s certainty being based on fact or judgment rather than bias in light of this observation are all but laughable.

But this typically does not sway a believers focus either...sure they will reply...but mine could still be the right one !!!

Of course, for a reasonable person, who chose to insist this, he would probably be expected to either relinquish some degree of certainty or some degree of intellectual can’t hang on to both with landing into a big pile of the absurd.

I don’t want to beat the question and answer to death, either you see it’s flaw by now or it probably will not become apparent to you in the near future. But what amused me was what the question really boils down to it when you think about it. It is an attempt to accost the atheist for being intellectually honest.

A dishonest atheist, or one who were as comfortable with the murky logics of religious consumption, as a truly religious devotee is;  should simply answer this question by saying: I know/believe that my estimates of right and wrong create and represent absolute right and wrong, and there need not be any higher being to define them.

I think this answer would be roughly on par with regard to unsupported assumptions, and liberties in “how we know what we claim to know”, as is the religious viewpoint. It as actually the willingness of an Atheist or agnostic not to rely on such shoddy mechanisms that gives the opening for religious attack.

I’m not really looking for a debate on this topic, I’m merely sharing something that interests me about the religious psyche. I think to most rational people the flaws of this attack strategy are extremely apparent, it almost makes one cringe to watch Sharpton and others throw this stone out of their glass house. It makes me wonder if there is not at least some degree of egomaniacal and infantile behavior requisite to hold this position in light of it’s flaws mentioned above; a little bit of the grey matter that sits with it’s fingers in it’s ears screaming, “but I’m right, but I’m right”, so as to drown out all else. 

But to lead with this question on national television as your thundering might, to see your own position as some powerful castle of steel rather than the thin plexiglass that barely supports your  weight, implies an unearned hubris of ideology powerful enough to dull the eyes, seductive enough to plug the ears, and dangerous enough to dim the wit, to which only the faithful can rightfully lay claim.

Nice to be back on the Blogosphere again, it feels good to type.

Well, I think I hear clean up in Isle seven.....that’s my cue....

I hope there is a Shop-Right nearby !

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tick Tock

Wow, I was just looking over my blog, and I realized it has been a year and a half since I last wrote a, "memoir of a yeshiva misfit."

To be remedied shortly......

Oh...almost forgot....happy new year everyone :-)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Young Love

“Shhh…” Cane’s already deepening voice urged through the silent darkness that surrounded them as they waited tensely.

The grain shed in which they hid measured no more than a few feet on each side, and lined as it was with leather and peat, it gave off an odor as foul as if it were some ancient wounded beast, decaying mightily over a hundred years, ever refusing to die.

“I cannot abide it anymore”, complained Eros nasally, with her fingers firmly pinching her nose shut, “I can taste it…” she spit dryly into a corner that still housed a few kernels of last year’s grain.

“Come now…she is upon it…Look”!

Eros forgot her complaining and crowded next to Cane at a thin tear in the leather where the beams of light pierced the darkness of the tanned walling like a brilliant blade.
The two of them kneeled in silence, their faces pressed to the aged hides to see the world outside; watching and waiting.

Outside the small hovel that hid them in its womb, stretched the low flatlands of Eros’ family. Acre upon acre of sown wheat and spelt now harvested and collected; winnowed chaff from seed, and brought for storage for the cold months ahead.

It would have been an uninterrupted view of soft rolling hills colored hayseed yellow and green, stretching to the horizon like a gentle ocean of earth slopping downwards towards them, had it not been for the intrusion of Eros’ family’s hut, that crested the waves of land, like an orphaned bit of wood and thatch, floating at sea.

A lonely figure occupied the space between the dwellings and the shed, toiling bitterly in the late day chill to place the last of the grain in the low cool earth under slats of wood ,leather, and tar; sustenance for the long winter ahead. In the absence of human company the woman’s face had taken its natural state; a scowl of distaste worn across the sharp features of an angular nose and jaw, an eternal bitterness that sought to crawl out of every pore of her body.

Even as Eros viewed her older sister in the field she felt the welts and bruises over her back and legs from the beating she had received this morning, and the image of her elder sibling became distorted, despite the thin, crisp, December air, as the first large tear rolled down her cheek.

Cane’s hand was on her shoulder.

“Watch now”, he whispered, as Eros’ sister opened one of the last few bags of grain, and there sitting as planted: Cane’s pet frog. A sagaciously large specimen of toad, shinning, oozing, and bewarted as fit it’s breed, and now, poor devil, startled by the light, he leapt in fear… high into the winter air.

“AAAgghhh”, screamed Eros’ sister, her distaste for both crawling things and slimy things, compounded now, by this miserable creature.

The scare would have been payment enough for Eros, who felt a smile spreading across her face, as her sisters hands pulled close to her cheeks, framing her face in horror. Even had the laws of gravity not been auspiciously aligned that day, her sister’s initial fright would have sufficed.

But as fate would have it the frog’s trajectory sent it wobbling, webbed flipper feet over bulging eyed head, in its short but highly arced flight, directly into the soft landing pad provided by the ample bosom that her sister kept on perpetual display.


The second scream that filled the air was more languid, and carried lower notes of disgust and contamination as she tried to pluck the thing from forbidden pastures while all its animal instincts called for it to burrow inward toward darkness and safety.

Cane and Eros burst into laughter a little too loud for the short distance of their hiding place, and it was but a moment before her sister’s hawkish eyes came to rest upon the shed in the backfield that seemed to have overcome it’s inanimacy to mock her from afar.


“EROS…I can hear you…you little wench”, cried her sister, discarding the frog with a toss to the wind and grasping in her hand the heavy wood winnower that had so often left its mark on Eros’ thin skin.

Cane’s hand was tight on her shoulder now, and although there was barely light in their confines she could feel Cane looking at her.

“Fly”, he said, and so did they both, bursting from the darkness of the shed into the cool brightness of the day.

Cane’s twelve winters gave him longer legs and greater strength than Eros’ eleven, and as he pulled ahead of her he reached back a hand, grasping hers and gasping, “run…or we will both feel a beating tonight.”

Their feet beat down quickly upon the hard earth path, as they ran the semicircle around the yard to the front of Eros’ family tent. From there it would be empty fields and pastures as far as their little legs could take them.

Eros stole a glimpse of her sister cutting across the yard towards them swinging the heavy implement in her hand, lips pursed in anticipation. She quickened her pace and felt a sense of relief as they rounded the corner of the hut towards freedom.

“Head west”, Cane breathed heavily as they ran, turning his head to her, “towards the highlands… we will be safe enough…”

His last words were cut short as the wind was knocked out of him. He had run headlong into the thigh of an impossibly large man, who stood as stone in his path.

Eros herself stopped short of the monolith of woolen cloth and knotted muscle that she immediately recognized as her father. And the hot blood that pulsed so quickly in her veins turned cool with fear, a moments dream of freedom turned quickly on its heel to defeat.

Her father grasped Cane by the arm and flung him a like a sack of loose meal into the nearby brush where he landed heavily.

Her father moved quickly before the situation even fully registered in Eros’ mind, and he gripped her wrist in his meaty hand in the wink of an eye, squeezing the bones of her arm together like a steel press. Off in the distance her sister’s cries of rebuke carried mutedly to the front of the house.

Eros dropped to her knees in pain as her father bent her to submission. Had not Cane been face down in the weeds he might have noticed the look on the man’s thickly bearded face went beyond discipline; there was a blood thirsty craving for violence…and there was lust. Since Eros’ body had begun to change into that of a woman there had been too much unusual attention from her father, a man known to take his pleasures when and wherever he saw fit.
His voice was deep as he spoke, “You will hold still for your sisters training today…she is to make an obedient woman of you before the spring comes…”

There was probably more to this speech, but all Eros noticed was that her father was suddenly off balance.

It was Cane!

He had thrown his full weight to the back of her father’s knees, diving for the tackle head first. The hand that gripped Eros involuntarily shot back and into the air as her father tried to steady himself from falling.


Eros did. She broke into a sprint before the word left Cane’s mouth.

Cane himself scrambled to his feet and jolted close at her heels, they ran until the air hurt their throats and chests, till their feet ached, and their bodies were sore.

When they reached the edge of the Western wooded land, at the end of Farm country, Cane collapsed at the roots of the first great Oak, stretching himself to his full length to better allow his lungs to take their full share of air. Eros fell next to him. Her ears were frozen to the touch and her nose was running. Her breaths came in involuntary spasms, as if her lungs needed a new home outside her small chest.

“I cannot go back”, said Eros in between gulps of air, realizing now that her childhood had reached the end of its days.

Cane had recovered somewhat from the run, yet whatever color had returned to his face was again drained away, as if he were more afraid now than when he had dove headlong at her father’s feet.

“Come with me”, he blurted nervously, “…we will make a new life for ourselves, I will bring you into my family..”, he stated, trying to stick to the well established phrases of courtship, yet realizing he had blundered onto the sore spot of his existence…his family.

In place of words he put his hand gently over the mark Eros’ father’s hand had left on her arm, waiting for her reply.

Eros felt herself melt under Cane’s warm stare, and felt the irrational urge to adjust the one piece sack that made up her garb so that it covered the right places. She had loved Cane since she had remembered feeling love, and out of breath as she was she nodded her rosy cheeked head once with a smile to say she felt the same.

Hand in hand they resumed their walk, now cutting through the wooded land.

“My father may come looking for me”, she said to Cane whose attentions were consumed by divining the proper route to his families estate.

He turned to her, “I will hide you”, he said smiling, “don’t worry, you will be safe…I swear it.”

“Ah”, said Cane smiling as they passed a large red Acacia with many knots on its trunk, “here we are”, and as they rounded the great sapling the castle of Cane’s family came into view, larger than any tree or rock that surrounded it. There were none like it in all the land.

Eros hesitated for a moment as she saw, for it returned to her the many Rumors about Cane’s family, and the illness that possessed them. Eros looked over her shoulder back towards her own family but dusk had already fallen and a layer of dark clouds gathered at the horizon behind them, as if providing the sign that the way back was forever closed. She looked back at Cane, who saw the confusion in her eyes…

A bolt of lightning split the air at some distance behind them lighting the sky and thundering it’s mighty roar making them both jump…and then laugh, as if that little bit of pure fear was necessary to put their petty anxieties in proper perspective.

“Come…let’s get you to shelter, it will be harsh weather by the look of it tonight…follow me.”

Cane led her by the hand along a circuitous route that purposefully missed the fires and camping sites of his family in front of their castle, and instead took her on a wooded trail that crept along the side of the building to reach its entrance.

As they walked along the perimeter of the great dwelling Eros allowed her hand to gently trace across its side, her fingertips thrilling along the alternating wood slats and the sticky gloss that held it together. When the terrain was plain, and empty of rock and twig, she would take her eyes from the path in front of her, and allow them to stare up along the side of the monolith until its highest dimensions passed the leaves of the tallest tree beside it.

Cane was watching her absorb it all and he smiled as he led her to the great open door at its front. He momentarily turned a piercing gaze towards the tents of his family, and once again certain they were unobserved, he took her hand and brought her inside.

Eros’ eyes filled with such sights as she entered, visions she had never imagined, so that her mind did not remark on them as much as try and take it all in.

They entered into a long hall, such an enormous enclosed structure of wood Eros had never seen. Along its length ran a table, and the walls were adorned with pots, pans, jugs, and cooking utensils. There was an earthenware pit for flame and coal, and every few breadths was a door, each leading off to the unknown.

At once Eros’ mind was full of questions for Cane, “Why do you dwell in the tents outside if you have created this cave out of wood”?

But Cane was not listening, as his eye had caught movement out by the encampment.

“Quickly now”, he said, “let’s get you properly out of sight”, and in saying so, led her out one of the doors of the great hall up creaking wooden steps, the likes of which were previously unseen to Eros, and at their zenith another door, opening in to darkness and the scent of hay.

Eros stepped hesitantly into the darkness, and as her eyes adjusted she stopped, sensing the large forms in front of her. She took a step back to the safety of the doorway.

“Do not be afraid”, said Cane as he stepped forward boldly, laying a comforting hand on one of the great beasts.

“This is Thunder”, he said of the horse whose main his hand caressed, “and this is Flame. They are tamed by the hand of man, and they will not hurt you.”

Eros’ curiosity overcame her fear more quickly than she would have imagined, she had seen carvings of these marvelous animals before but to actually see them…
As she joined Cane her hand rose up to the mare’s mighty side and she could feel the gentle power of it.

Cane left her side and arranged the hay in the corner into a make shift mat, “rest a while over here, I will bring you food from the tents when the coast is clear, you need not worry of your father finding you in here”, he said, his hand tapping on the thick wooden infrastructure that surrounded them.

Even as Cane left, Eros found her utter exhaustion more compelling than the foreign beasts that shared a dwelling with her. She curled on the hay with her eyelids already seeking to shut, barely having the strength to wonder what sort of illness made a family live outside placing their beasts within…as sleep turned her fears to the softer stuff of dreams.

Cane, having seen to Eros’ safety, headed quickly for the encampment knowing he was late, well past the time to sup. And as he exited the enclosure he saw his father walking toward him, tall and thin with his great bow worn as always across his back.

Even before they reached each other the reprimand began, “Foolish child”, scolded his father, “what colossal waste of time has bidden you to delay your whole family.”
Cane knew better than to argue with his father so he lowered his head in submission, “I am sorry father.”
“Canaan”, said his father using his full name to relate the seriousness of his error, “you are almost a man, it is time for you to leave the games of youth and accept the mantle of adulthood…”
Cane raised his eyes and looked straight at his father, “I will”, he said, finally knowing that he meant it.

Cane’s father nodded and put a hand on his shoulder in reconciliation. Behind his father the rest of his family made its way up the hill, lead by the patriarch, whose long grey beard and ashen white robes distinguished him from the rest. His progress was slow and aided by a large staff, yet none of the younger members moved ahead or aside of him.

As Cane’s grandfather reached them he looked only at the ground, as if the weight of the world had been resting on him heavily and he had been bent by it in turn.

The elder placed a hand on Cane’s father’s shoulder much as his father had done to him a moment ago.
“Is you family gathered to you”, he asked gravely.
“Yes”, answered Cane’s father.

With this, the aged man allowed himself to look at the horizon where the clouds had turned deep black, occasionally illuminated by the glow of lightening within them. Even as he watched the air filled with a mist. Sharp stinging droplets that burned as they hit ones face.
The rain brought panic with it to those who gathered round, save for the elder, whose face only showed a sadness.

“It begins”, he said to Cane’s father, and then shouting so that everyone in the group could hear him, “It begins”!
Now the elder was more animated, and he strove with lively steps up the ramp to the enclosure.
“Cham”, he said calling Cane’s father by his given name, “take Canaan, stand at the entrance here”, he pointed with his staff to a position a few feet removed from the porthole.
“Yafes”, he yelled now, the whole ordeal beginning to resemble military efficiency, “grab that rope at you feet”.
“Shem”, he shouted, “the other mooring line…get it…now the both of you….pull…pull with all your hearts.”

As they stood in the great hall and pulled the ropes attached to the furthermost edges of the ramp to the enclosure, it ripped free from the grass and roots that held it to the earth all this time and creaking a deep groan of discontent it lifted into the air.
Shem’s wife’s brother was still upon it as it lifted and he strode inwards with several other members of the extended family.

“Back!” yelled Noah rapping his staff against the doorway, “this is not your journey.”
As their brother in law hesitated at the gateway, Shem protested even as he hoisted,”Father”, he yelled, “have but an ounce more mercy…”
Noah the patriarch turned now to Cane’s father, “Cham, the bow…”

Cham started at his father aghast, looking between the great patriarch and the face of his brother in law with whom he had just shared bread.

Cham was an expert archer with eyes as sharp as a hawk and steady hands that knew neither delay nor mistake in their movements. As a child he had mesmerized crowds by plucking an apple from a volunteers hand at twenty paces, and anyone who had joined him on a hunt knew that the moment the arrow was notched the doe was all but felled.

“Forgive me”, Cham said tersely to his brother in law as he loosened the strap to his long bow allowing it to hang at the ready of his swift arms.
The sight of that terrible black bow was enough to clear the ramp, and uncles and relatives shook their heads and stepped back to the ground.
Shem looked at Cham as if he had just placed poison in his soup.

“PULL”, shouted Cane’s grandfather at the top of his lungs, for the rain had changed character now and stung them like pellets at high speed, making them feel as they had just braved a hive full of bees with no honey to speak of.

Even within the enclosure the rain flew at them from all directions, rattling the pots and pans off the walls, shattering earthenware into pieces on the floor, even the sturdy wooden chairs at the table fell from the force of the winds.

Outside the family remnants crouched to the ground or pressed themselves to the ark with their hands covering their heads, limiting their exposure to the onslaught.

As the great door passed its fulcrum it began to rise more easily, and Noah stepped forward to grasp the lowest plank and help its ascent. He pressed his face close to it, and his great beard flowed un-tethered at the mercy of the winds, his robe billowing around him like a sail at sea.
“Pull”, he whispered in the effort to bring the giant gate forward, and as the wind got under it, it came all at once, smashing into the doorway with enough force to shake every piece of moss, dirt, and loose twig from between the slats of wood that had served as a ramp until now, showering the participants below with a hail of debris and grit for their hair and clothing.

Noah sunk back from the wall, feeling for the floor below him with his hands before he sat on it, he put a hand on his forehead and breathed a sigh of relief.
He stood now, after having his moments rest, and motioned to Yafes. “Take the last of the tar and the pitch that you brought with you”, he said wearily,” it must be tight to water before the hour is out.”

He turned then to the womenfolk, “be of some use…clean up this mess.”

He looked back at the door as it had made a strange noise, and then shook his head. Yafes stood in shock with his feet glued to floor.

“Pitch, man, pitch”, yelled Noah, “gather your senses, my child…”

The door separated from the doorway an inch or two at the very top, allowing some rain to spill in with a small cascade not unlike a waterfall, and then it opened further letting water coat the inner doorway deepening the color of the dry wood like a layer of dark blood.
“They are opening it from the outside”, said Cham, the first to solve the mystery.

Noah looked frantic for a moment with his eyes bulging he stared at his gathered sons.
“Cham” he commanded, “grab Yafes’ line and pull…Shem...pull…Yafes, you fool, seal it before we all drown in this wooden coffin.”

Noah himself ran to the long wall behind them and grabbed the bracing board from its hooks, surprising everyone with the ability to lift the thing mightily off of the wall and carry it across the room to the door.

Inertia and physics were on the side of the ark dwellers and the force Shem and Cham placed on the ropes slowly brought the door back into place…but not before they heard the cries of the rest of their family.

“For pity’s sake...” cried an uncle.

“Do not leave us to die…” cried the womenfolk.

For a moment the tide was reversed and the door opened more than it had originally as Shem’s brother in law managed to slide his thick arm in the side of the door.
“My child”, he yelled, “take my child, he knows no sin, he…”, but his plea ended as he withdrew his arm in pain and the great door closed once again.

Noah dropped the large bracing wood into the hooks on the door, locking the ark from the inside.

Yafes still stood as if bewildered by the world in general, a stance that was not all that uncommon for him.

“Useless beggar”, Noah muttered in condescension as he plucked the bucket of pitch from his eldest son’s hand.

“Help me” he said to Shem and Cham as water started to seep through the bottom of the doorway, “quickly now, get it sealed.”

Cane watched his father and uncle work diligently turning the great hall to a structure impregnable to water.

Noah seemed vexed at the raw execution of the whole ordeal, possibly having imagined it happening in a manner that was more free of human emotion.

They stood there silently, the raw power of the rains punishing the wooden exterior, and filling the ark with an odd resonance that did more than jar the ears, but tickled ones tongue and irritated ones nose, as if the vibration was jostling every bit of the sensory apparatus.

Cham turned to his father when the foul black goo had been spread over every crack.
“It is done.”

Noah righted one of the overturned chairs of the long table and let his weight sink into it. He rested a weary head in the palm of his hand with an elbow on the table, and used his free hand to search through the folds of his clothes for his pipe. A trace of fear momentarily crossed his face as he conjured that it had been left in the camp, but then his fingers felt its familiar form; and he pulled it from his robes eagerly lighting it from a nearby lantern.

“Careful with that”, said Yafes, eyeing him from across the long table, “we dwell now in a tinderbox awaiting its first strike.”

Noah looked sharply at Yafes from across the table through the tendrils of smoke that lazily rose from his pipe and nostrils. He had to speak loudly to be heard above the drone of the rains.

“Careful…yes”, he said to Yafes, “that is what you are… aren’t you..Why did you not pitch the door as I asked you to.”

“Because”, said Yafes, “I didn’t know if it was right.”

Noah turned away from Yafes who only ever caused him perpetual confusion.

He looked over the tiny remnants of his immediate family, the women hard at work cleaning the damage from the winds and water, Yafes as always perplexed with his latest conundrum, and Shem and Cham, standing ready to do his bidding, with nothing to distract them from the calls to mercy from outside the door.

Noah especially noticed the fear in little Canaan who stood so close now to his father’s side.

He clamped his pipe between his teeth and motioned them inwards from the door with his hands. His patriarchal instincts telling him it was time to gather them for a talk.

“Children, children”, he said calling them to the table, “you too Canaan, you are almost a man now.”

They took seats around the great wooden table that spanned the room each struggling to focus on Noah rather than the ruckus from the world outside.

Noah sat at the head of the table, grasping his staff in his right hand as his left tended his pipe, which he brought to his lips now, in consideration of the careful words that were needed to settle his family. The family he had not been able to bring close enough to God to truly understand their purpose.

“What we hear now”, he said through the plume of smoke that exited his lips with each spoken word, “are the sounds of an ending so horrible, only humanities evil to itself could have brought it, for God has no such ill will to man.”

The smoke filled the room, plugged as it was to the outside with tar and pitch, turning their living quarters into some mist filled morning too close to the moors. Noah spoke with great care, enunciating each word so that it’s critical importance was conveyed by both its meaning and the deep lines of concentration on his forehead.

Noah motioned his lit pipe to the door, “hearing the end…makes it difficult to realize that ends are necessary for new beginnings”, and he pointed now with the back of his pipe’s mouthpiece to each man at the table, “ you assembled here, are that new beginning, your seed…to sow the new worlds only fruit.”

Cane alternated between horror and confusion, “then you mean this storm..This flood…will cover all the earth under its waters.”?

The elder patriarch nodded his head solemnly.

Yafes was shaking his head, “It is wrong…it is a boast of evil from within a heart of our creator that should be filled with good, with mercy even …as mother to child.”
Noah had lost patience with Yafes years ago, as his eldest could not seem to heed the simplest of lessons.

“The great thinker then, has not familiarized himself with justice? With reward? With punishment?”, scolded Noah, “would you have a murderer walk free, a rapist carry on with his daily errands…have you not looked around you and seen humanity fallen to its knees in despair”?
Noah ground his teeth into the stem of his pipe as his anger flowed toward Yafes, and his eldest son fell silent under his critique.

Yafes as always was slow to answer, pondering every question as if he were chewing over a particularly stringy bit of meat, treasuring the flavor and texture of each bite.
“He intervenes now”, said Yafes slowly, “after remaining hidden through endless atrocity, and then punishes the guilty with the innocent crushing the both under one mighty hand?”

Yafes was shaking his head, “this is not justice…killing the worlds innocent children cannot be justice.”

As was often the case, Cham, Shem, and Canaan would sit and watch these debates with little interest, and their tired eyes shifted from one end of the table to the other as Noah and Yafes sparred at a sport that they could at best consider themselves to be captive spectators of.

Noah shook his head slowly at Yafes’ simple thoughts, as he eased his pipe in and out of his mouth, “Spoken by a man, with a man’s justice in mind”, he replied, “It is often that God takes a child back to heaven, and then as now we trust his judgment in having done what was needed. We do not trust in the hands of man that which we trust in the hands of God. He takes us all in the end, young and old, and makes the evils of our lives right and fair in a place beyond the bounds of our knowledge.…”

“Like David”, said young Cane, interjecting into the conversation, feeling his chance to participate had arrived.

“David?”, said Noah quizzically, straining memory to find a face that fit the name.
The look of earnestness on young Canaan’s face made Noah feel that it was all the more important that he remember.

“You’ve become confused, my father”, said Yafes, carrying on his conversation despite Canaan’s interruption, “for the justice of God there is room, but he does not have rights to destroy or cause suffering to the innocent on a whim simply because he has created us, or because he will treat us to just rewards in the life that takes place after…nor does the Lord believe himself so entitled…though the natural world may bring with it pain, the Lord himself wishes mercy on every child.”

Noah was ignoring Yafes’ prattling by now, and concentrating on Cane, “David..” he wondered again out loud while blowing another plume of smoke into the air.

“…and the Grindstone”, Cane prompted his grandfather.

“Oh”, said Noah, with the rush of the tragedy returning to him, “Of course”, David had been a childhood friend of Cane’s who, upon the fruition of one youthful afternoons play, had happened near a loose millstone that fell with the weight of a hundred men upon him crushing him from the waist down. Cane had waited with him there, and comforted him through the course of the night until death finally delivered him from pain.

“Yes, child”, said Noah, remembering the long talk they had had after the incident. “God has a special place for the innocents who suffer such tragedy..”

“And he would have helped if he could”, prompted Cane longing to hear his Grandfather proclaim the words of a benevolent God, as he had that night, in a voice louder than the deafening rains, “he would have lifted that stone if he could.”

Noah spread his hands wide to give Cane an idea of the measures they were speaking of, “God”, he said, “is a being of mercy and benevolence that are boundless…boundless. His good will..His intolerance of pain and suffering are as great as his might and his knowledge..Immeasurable. They are so large we cannot imagine the container that they might fill, and yet they overflow its sides.”

Noah silenced Yafes’ opening mouth with a finger in the air, “Yet the Lord has made a world with natural consequences, that has given man the free will to choose how he will live, for it is for this purpose alone that the universe exists, and for this purpose alone that God will contain his power and mercy behind a wall, lest man descend into a state of slavery, where he sees only God ;and choice diminishes to a mere word that proceeds what he knows he must do.”

Canaan seemed satisfied with Noah’s answer and began to feel a little better about the being that seemed to be in control of his family’s destiny.

“And is that, yet, not my point”, said Yafes ignoring the stern warning Noah had given him to silence, “If the small act of God lifting the millstone off David would have been so great a blow to natural order and free will so as to prohibit him from quenching his thirst for mercy…is it not clear, that here, at the end of all things, God in this great act, has revealed himself and shattered natural order and free will to kindling wood in the process” ?

“He who is bidden to silence, speaks, but talks not sense”, scolded Noah.

“Then listen carefully”, said Yafes, “that I may unfold it for you…if the Lord’s unlimited mercy is bound by the prudence of an undisturbed natural order and the maintenance of free will, then now…of all times we should witness it unbound from its constant harness, as a force beyond any forces ever encountered. the Lord reveals himself and destroys nature and free will, let us witness him as he is. Let us see him as we imagine him in our prayers and our hearts. Let us behold an act of kindness for the innocents equaling the act of destruction for the sinners, an act of mercy to the young and blameless more potent than even the waters that crush the guilty.”

“You speak riddles, as always”, Noah complained, “But it is not because you have fathomed the depths of knowledge, it is because you are trapped in your own misunderstanding of it. Indeed, it is with God’s mercy itself that he purges the world of evil and renews it for man.”

“What do you ask”, Noah continued in exasperation, “shall the lord make a rock he cannot lift, shall he turn a triangle into a circle for your amusement, shall he split the waters to spare the innocent and punish the guilty…”

“Why not” ?

“Because the Lord does not bend nature..”

“Yet behold it is broken…”

“Silence the both of you”, cried Shem, staring at the door in fear.

They all turned then, eyeing the entrance to the vessel meant to take them to the world made new, and strained their ears to be able to hear above the din of the rain.
It was a banging noise, weak and difficult to hear above the force of the waters, yet unmistakable, and it emanated a few feet above the top door jam, easily twelve feet from the ground outside.

“Anakim…” whispered Noah, looking at that moment as old as his six hundred years, his beard quivering as he spoke, his greatest fears realized.

“What is it father”, cried Canaan in fright, as he spun out of his chair and moved back towards the wall.

Cham’s face was pale with terror, but his hands steady and sure as he pulled the great bow off his back. His eyes stayed upon the entrance as he spoke to his son.

“The giants of old, my son, from the generation of Enosh they have roamed the earth”, said Cham through terse lips, “behind me, all of you”

“The inhabitants of Bashan”, murmured Shem as he dug through his belongings for his broad sword, pulling it franticly from its scabbard, “twice the size of a grown man, now they look for passage to the new world that will be born from this destruction.”

“Calm yourselves”, said Yafes observing the panic his family had slipped into, “it is all myths and storytelling, there are no giants…”

There was banging again from above the doorpost.

“That was a cubit higher than the last”, said Shem crouching low to place his weight below the sharp edge of his drawn sword, “Og himself may stand behind this door.”

Shem glanced at Cham, “prepare yourself my brother.”

Never removing his gaze from the doorway, Cham notched an arrow drawing the bow string with strong arms till the feathers at the back end of the shaft nearly tickled his eyelashes.
“Come then children of Kayin”, spoke Cham with icy calm, “we await you.”

“Madness all of you”, cried Yafes, grasping a frying pan from off the wall, he stepped boldly to the doorway.

“The fool has finally lost his mind”, cried Noah of Yafes, as his son tapped along the doorway with his frying pan, “will he do battle with the denizens of Bashan, or cook them breakfast,,, his mind is as weakened as his words suggest…back, child, back, stand behind your brother Cham.”

Yafes turned to his family, his investigation completed, “It is simple I assure you”, he stated, “ the water level has risen above the door, and those members of our family who cling to the arks outer dimensions in hope of safety are now well above our heads.”

Yafes taped the frying pan against the door again level to his head and listened to the dull thud, then grasping a plank for leverage and lifting himself into the air with one leg braced to the door, he taped above the post, where only hollowness echoed.

“Come closer”, said Yafes to his brothers, “and you will still hear their cries.”

Shem and Cham declined his offer and put away their weapons with chagrin.

Yafes returned to the table, never the look of perplexity leaving his face.
“My son”, said Noah, relieved not to be facing the terrible foe he had imagined, “there is wisdom in you..why must you remain so confused about the Lord.”

“For the God I pray to is one of unbounded mercy, he cannot be unmerciful any more than he could be less than all powerful and all knowing. When the constraints of free will and natural order are removed, I expect…omnibenevolence…a force of mercy so undeniably a part of the lord that it would be as apparent as the destruction that surrounds us.”

“Spare us your blabbering “, said Shem to Yafes, tiring of philosophical diatribe, and sore at being shown up by his brother. Even the terror of giants held more promise than this.

“But the act of mercy you await is upon you even as you do not see it”, said Noah aiming to lead his eldest back to the path, “God must destroy what has rotted to its foundation before he dares build upon it, the innocent life that may cry in fear outside this door is the necessary evil that accompanies the Goodness of returning humanity to a harmony in which it may finally realize the purpose of it’s very creation.”

“Father, I cannot imagine an all powerful God that suffers from the demons of ‘necessary evils’, for these are the troubles of men and lesser beings who cannot achieve that which they fully desire. If there be but one babe clinging to its mother in this awful tempest, that God cannot…nay, will not help; then all these years, my prayers have been directed to a being I have not fully known until this day.”

Noah smiled at his firstborn, “You have a kind soul in you, Yafes, and it pleases me to see it shine, but you view this miracle from too narrow a perspective, seeing through human eyes, that which is Divine wisdom.”

Noah continued, “above and beyond the concerns of any individual, innocent child to murderous adult, there are the grand concerns of the universe. Purpose child, purpose. What God accomplishes here makes suffering of children dim in perspective of the brightness that will be
achieved by a humanity that can choose its own ends…for the good.”

Yafes raised his hands to symbolize the world outside their enclosure, “this..”, he said, “this is not purpose.”

He let his hands drop to his sides in near exhaustion, “God’s purpose is to create a world where humanity may once again find its soul. What we see outside is not the purpose, but the method chosen by the Lord to accomplish it. He is a being who may choose from any method to accomplish his purposes because he has at his disposal unending power and knowledge. The fact that within this infinity of possibilities he has chosen to crush the babes with the sinners, makes me weary with sadness, for now I must worship a God whom I can only assume does not measure pain and justice by any scale I could ever want to be familiar with… and remain a human who is concerned for the suffering of others.”

“Child, you are so close to the truth, yet you cannot grasp it”, said Noah, almost pleading for Yafes to take the final leap of faith, “ the very fact that God has chosen this method to end the world shows without question that this is the path of maximum mercy, and minimal cruelty to the innocent ,through which his purposes could be accomplished…do you see that now…do you understand it now? It is simple…there is no other way.”

Yafes lowered his head in final resignation, nodding that he had in the end been convinced, yet his brow still remained furrowed.

“Yafes”, said Noah dubiously, “what yet could there be that would still trouble you” ?
“It is another matter, father..”

“Heavens above”, said Shem heatedly, “will you figure it out for yourself then, how long will you impetuously question the Lord who saves us and destroys all this his thanks? Why not get down on your knees and beg his mercy for questioning him when you should be thanking heaven that you still breathe air instead of water.”

“Stay your harsh tongue”, Yafes said to his brother, “I merely puzzle over the ark at this point.”

“Speak, my son”, said Noah, never tiring of being the compassionate teacher.

“ you needn’t ask him”, mumbled Shem almost to himself, “he will continue to babble, bidden or not.”

“ I cannot fathom”, said Yafes, “how the water level could be so high, yet the ark be mired still in the soil, I would of thought once the waters were over the first deck we would..”

As if his words commanded the workings of the world, they felt a sudden emptiness in the pits of their stomachs, a soft rolling nausea followed by the need to grab the object closest to them that offered stability. The pans and vessels that lined the wall, hanging on nails and hooks, leaned first forward, than clashed back against the dry boards of the far wall.

“She moves”, cried Noah, standing with legs spread wide for balance, leaning heavily on his staff. And even as his family one by one crouched for safety or hugged the walls in desperation the ark filled with the frightened calls of the animal world, as countless denizens of the wild awoke in alarm.

“Get up, get up”, Noah urged his family,” we must tend to the animals, the domesticated must be calmed, the wild….must be double checked to be sure they are caged…especially those that could consume a man or child…quickly now.”

“It is too late”, cried Shem, and even as he stood, the ark swiveled on its axis, dropping both he and Cham back to the floor.

“There”, cried Shem pointing to the far hallway and fighting the urge to regurgitate his dinner, “something stirs outside of its cage” !

In the distance, a bare whisper above the rain, rung the sound of creaking steps, and whatever beast might of loosed it’s cage, padded downwards to Noah and his family.

Cham struggled against the vertigo that consumed him to free his bow, fighting his way to one knee he held his weapon horizontally reaching back to his quiver for an arrow.
“Do not kill it”, cried Noah, leaning now for stability against the table, though it slowly slid across the room, “the animal must be returned to its cage…destroy it..and destroy its kind forever!”

“What then”, cried Shem, finding his sword and holding it close, “shall we offer our necks to the lion gratefully..what of our kind, what of our lineage?”

Noah found his feet and his voice all at once, “have faith my child”, he said, “all that happens on this journey is a part of plan that has already been laid out for us.”

The beast tumbled down the last few steps in animal confusion and rolled out the doorway in puff of hay and had become trapped in a feed sack from which it’s appendages jutted.
Seeing the small size of it Cham dropped his bow and pounced landing squarely upon it.

“It is just a swine”, yelled Shem in relief.

“Aaagghhh”, yelled the swine under Cham’s heavy grasp.

Even stuck pigs don’t squeal as this one did, and the family gathered about it, on unsteady legs, in curiosity and confusion. As Cham pulled the sackcloth down from the head of the thing, he was shocked to see the face of a little girl.

Noah’s face was inscrutable for a moment, as if the image did not register with him.

“No”, he said simply, as the child observed them in fear, “it is not possible.”

“Eros !”, said Canaan, running to her side, and pulling her from his father’s grasp.

As Noah observed her, his brows pulled low covering his eyes, and dark thoughts brewed and fermented the stuff from which dark deeds take root.

“She is with me”, said Canaan, sensing the dismay in his family.

At last Noah looked at his grandson.

“Child”, he said, “what have you done?”

Canaan opened his mouth to speak but Eros’ small frightened voice fell upon their ears first.
“It’s not his fault”, said Eros as she began to brush the twigs and hay from her hair, returning her countenance to that of humankind, “he has helped me run away from my father and sister who are evil to the very core, it is only through Canaan’s kindness that I am here.”

“I am sorry to disturb you in your wooden cave”, Eros continued addressing herself to the great elder before her, tilting her head all the way up to look at his face, “but I felt the earth move under me ,as if I were falling even though my feet touched ground, and the great beasts beside me near trampled my head.”

Noah saw the little thing shaking with fear, and merciful as he was, spoke to her, looking down on her small figure before him.

“What is your name, little one.”


Noah’s eyes were hidden behind his thick brows where they stayed shadowed for none to see.

“Are you hungry, child” ?

Eros hesitated for a second, wondering if she were overstepping her invitation… or lack thereof.

“Yes”, she said, starvation typically being the better motivation over manners.

“Canaan”, said Noah magnanimously, “take Eros to the table, and see to it that the womenfolk give her what to eat.”

Thrilled with Eros’ quick acceptance by his grandfather, Cane smiled at her, and led her by the hand, both walking on unsteady legs unadjusted to the ebb and flow of the waters that buffeted the ark like a small speck of dust on their surface.

As they carefully lowered themselves into their chairs at the table, bowls were placed in front of them with warm vegetable broth poured from leather flasks so that steam rose invitingly to their nostrils.

The days harried events made it easy to fall quickly into the feast, and it was only between slurps of soup and with a slightly scalded tongue that Cane managed to speak to Eros.
“Are you alright”, he asked, the spoon in his hand poised before his lips.
“Yes”, said Eros, though she was badly frightened, “I think I am…now.”
“”Do not worry”, said Canaan, “tonight I will show you things of amazement of which you have not even dreamed.”
Cane was smiling as he slurped another spoonful, “there are beasts in this dwelling, the likes of which defy the minds ability to understand.”
Eros looked at Cane, eyes wide, “I believe you”, she said, “all around me I can feel their movement, your castle is swayed to its very roots by the force of them.”
Cane was shaking his head, “No, that is another matter, Eros…do you hear the rains that surround us?”

Eros nodded, as their entire conversation took place with raised voice over the basal hum of the pounding waters.
Cane leaned closer to almost whisper it to her in a harsh rasp above the rains, “They cover the earth…dowsing it…cleansing it of human and beast!”

Eros looked confused, “Then everyone…”
“Do not think of them”, whispered Cane, “their time has passed for this earth, it begins again with us!”
He placed a hand over Eros’ and was happy that she smiled in return.

As Canaan and Eros talked and ate, Noah and his sons gathered at the far end of the long hall, their bodies slowly growing accustomed to the see saw motion of travel upon the newly formed ocean that had swallowed the earth whole. Noah leaned heavily on his staff, his body swaying to either side of it like a pendulum as the boat rocked.

Noah spoke in low tones so as not to be overheard by the youngsters.

He was shaking his head, “I cannot piece it together”, he complained, “what is the meaning of this intrusion…it is a conundrum that leads me only in circles back to the start of my thoughts.”

“What is there to think on”, hissed Shem, as he leaned against the wall for support, “her place is under the dark waters that surround us, as commanded by the Lord himself…”

“You do not know the Lords mind”, cautioned Yafes, “it is possible she is meant to be here, an innocent that will be an example of God’s mercy to his creations.”

“Fool”, said Shem to Yafes, “I do know the Lords mind, as revealed to our father and now become truth and fact before our very eyes. Whether by the waters smothering curse or by the edge of the blade…his will be done.”

Shem was fingering the hilt of his broad sword.

“Stay your hand and know this”, said Cham abruptly, “she who sits and dines with my son, is under my protection.”

Shem’s face was red, “Then I hope your arrow reaches far enough to strike the very heavens, for it is God’s wrath that you incur upon all of us.”

“This riddle knows no answer”, Noah said bitterly, “If she was meant for the waters than why hath the lord placed his burden on our backs. Nay…it is not the place of man to destroy man. If the Lord deem it fit he will see to it himself.”

Shem ‘s face had turned from red to the livid purple of rage that is barely contained.

“Aye”, he said, his voice choked with emotion, “Save it was you, father, who took care to close the door, you, who denied entry of my wife’s brother, you, who refused his innocent babe.”

Shem punctuated his reply by pointing the back of his sword at his father menacingly, “do not fain innocence in front of those very eyes that have witnessed your actions.”

“You”, said Shem pointing at Cham, “cleared the way with the threat of an arrow to the heart, and you, old man”, he said tapping Noah on the chest with the large handle of his weapon, “closed the door upon the world, innocent and guilty alike. Even the endless waters of God’s rage cannot wipe the blood off your hands.”

“I did as instructed by the Lord himself”, protested Noah.

“Well then, for the diligent pupil, one task remains”, said Shem.

“He may speak truth”, said Yafes slowly, even as Shem and Noah stared each other down in anger, “though I like not where it leads, we have indeed entered a pact with the lord, and have agreed to be his new humanity, willingly we have joined our hands with his and cooperated in the exclusion of our brothers and sisters, even when closing this great ark door meant their very extinction. We were not asked, not did we proceed to gather the young and free of sin at the outset of this journey… ”

“What we face now may be more painful to our hearts..” said Yafes, “But if this is the singular way that the Lord may return humanity to its purpose…”

He shrugged his shoulders, leaving the last unsaid.

“What tiny god is this”, said Cham angrily, “whose great plans are flummoxed by a women child of nary eleven summers?”

Cham shook his head and fingered his bow, “He would have to be a mouse of a God…I would put him in my pocket and feed him cheese.”

“Bite your tongue”, said Noah harshly.

A bolt of lightning split the air just outside of them jarring even the bold bowman to a start.

Noah spoke again, “do not underestimate the power of one human life”, said the patriarch, “ the name of this child speaks to me of the evil of women, she could be the poisonous seed that destroys humanity for a second time.”

Noah spoke more quietly now, barely audible above the savaging winds outside, “I have seen dim visions of the future, my children, upon those times when the Lord dwells with me.”
“I do not know if they are dreams of what could be or what will be, but I have glimpsed times when but one evil man, may change the course of all men’s thoughts, to the destruction of many.”

“Aye, then”, said Cham, “this God has only one method to train a child from evil to good…the sword? Are you sure he has the great powers then that you always speak of?”

“His power is all around you”, said Noah shaking his head, “do not question it. It is a sad path the lord has asked us to walk to our better future, but such is our destiny.”

“Father”, said Yafes, “Although I understand the Lords purpose, I fear that if we take the life of this young child, we ourselves may become the poison of the new world, each of us a bitter seed that will sow only future generations of murder and fear.”

Noah nodded his head, recognizing the problem.

“It is too late for your concerns, Yafes”, said Shem, “for this poison is already thick in our veins. We have already as best as committed this sin a dozen times today, I did not hear your protest as the door of this vessel closed, when my family begged for mercy; and I have no ears for your belly aching now.”

“It was all of our families”, corrected Cham, “we have all had to make this sacrifice for God’s will.”

Shem locked eyes with Cham before he spoke, “Yes, my brother”, he said, “and it appears you and Canaan will have to make it one more time.”

“Enough”, said Noah, adding finality to the conversation, “this noose around our necks has no easy knot to untie, and yet there is work to do.”

“Shem…Cham…forgive each other your words of spite, and check on the wild beasts that they are caged, use your weapons as a deterrent, wound if you have to, but save the lives of our precious cargo.”

“Yafes”, continued Noah, “you and I will split the lodgings of the domesticated beasts, make sure they are calmed and fed..”

“Tonight”, said Noah, “I will pray to the lord, that he may visit with me and provide a way out of this darkness.”

“But for now”, said Noah, “No harm shall come to this child.”

Canaan watched from the table as the group broke up to accomplish their various tasks, and was quick to pull Eros away from her soup in search of new adventure.
“Come with me”, he ordered, pulling her along by the hand, “horses and hay are the least of this boats miracles, I will show you true wonders.”
So despite the wagging fingers and shaking heads of the womenfolk Canaan and Eros slipped out the nearest doorway leading them up and to the right.

Both Eros and Canaan used their hands against the walls as they ascended the stairs, as it was difficult to climb as one was being tossed like a salad. The doorway that they reached was sealed shut with a smelting of carved wax and filler of woven flaxseed strands, with an overlying pitch gloss, that closed the entrance as if a spider had spun a half melted web over the portal. In its middle was stone of clear crystal which Canaan pressed his face to.

“Look”, he urged, as Eros pressed her nose to the makeshift window.
Inside stretched an opening that made the great hall look as if it were a cramped closet. It was Acres that stretched out before her, she felt she might be looking out over her family farm at dusk, the far wall was at the end of a horizon length of empty space.

“It is impossible”, she said simply.

“It is space”, said Canaan, “that the Lord has bent to make it bigger”, his repetition of Noah’s explanation falling short of the true complexity, but enough to satisfy Eros.

“Then nature is a plaything to him, he breaks it at a whim.”

Canaan nodded.

“Why has he created such a wondrous empty room and placed nothing within?”

“It is not empty”, replied Canaan, the beginnings of a smile starting to peak out from his mischievous face, “look again.”

Eros peered hard through the crystal window, allowing her eyes time to adjust to the darkness. She noticed that the walls and floor were not hard but mossy, with fuzzy borders, and even as she stared off into the distance the frantic legs and abdomen of a beetle the size of her head scampered across the clear glass.

“Aaahhhh”, screamed Eros, giving into the visceral need to pull her face from the window in a motion so abrupt it hurt her neck.

Cane was strategically placed to catch her, laughing at her discontent.

“I hate you” she complained, “and that room is disgusting.”

Cane released his grip on her shoulders reluctantly.

“It is every creeping insect of the world.”

“How can that be?”, she protested indignantly, “it would take a hundred years to collect half of those...crawling..”, she shivered rather than finishing her description.

“My grandfather has been collecting for six hundred years”, said Canaan, “my Uncle Yafes likes to say that several species were already living in his beard… so he had a head start.”

Eros smacked his head while he laughed, “If you don’t stop being disgusting I won’t continue on your tour.”

“Come with me”, said Canaan undiscouraged, and lead her up a level on a spiral stair case that made them both dizzy. At its apex was the ceiling in the form of a trap door, which Cane pushed up with all his strength.
Eros entered the abode above her in such wonder that for a moment her mind knew no words to describe her surroundings, an enormous dome of a room of which she could see neither end, all around her were potted plants, many as large as trees, and upon every branch perched a winged creature.
The color of it literally exploded from every angle, the pink pelicans, the parrots, the finches, the…
Even her heart paused with her mind, as the enormous eagle flew majestically over her head eyeing her as a curiosity that had entered its world.
Humming birds buzzed swiftly past her ear, even as she turned to witness a majestic peacock, strut haughtily up to them.
“I could live here all of my days in happiness”, murmured Eros, as she found her words, but Canaan was already leading her down and away from heaven as he closed the door behind them he smiled at her.

“There is more to see.”

He led her lengthwise through the ark now, walking her swiftly through cramped wooden corridors. Ducking under doorposts that ran low and slanted, until he finally reached one of the arks few bits of metal in the steel bars that made up the entrance to the room in front of them. Even seeing the Iron unmolested by their tempestuous journey, Cane could not shake the tension as he walked towards the door in front of him. Sensing his fear, Eros slipped behind him, only her head peeking out from aside his shoulders.

The Lion that obliged their spontaneous meeting did not need to roar to instill fear, for as it walked slowly to the gate of its cage it towered over Cane, it’s enormous head filling the width of porthole. It’s flat yellow eyes knowing only death, it’s mind bent only on the hunt. It made Cane feel weak just to look at it, and no matter how many times he had stolen his thoughts to bravery his legs felt queer and flat when he approached the lion, as if caught in a dream where one is chased but their feet are too heavy to lift off the ground and run.

Eros was hiding completely behind Cane at this point, and she whispered to the back of his head, “let’s go…let’s go.”

The Lion produced a slow deep murmur from inside his throat a soft grumble that sounded like thick iron chains sliding passed one another, it was almost hypnotic, and Cane stood, mesmerized by the very power of the thing that wished his brutal death in its heart.

Nature’s mercy froze him in place before the great killer, in recognition that before such power there was only submission and acceptance of one’s fate.

The spell was broken by Cham’s bow rattling against the bars, startling both the lion and his son.
“Back!”, he yelled fiercely at the lion, showing no fear, crashing his bow against the bars again, “Back!”

Shem then joined him from the side passage that had brought them to the same location as Eros and Canaan. He walked with a limp, and there was blood on the handle of his broadsword.
Cham grabbed Canaan by the lapel and pushed both his son and Eros back even as he eyed the beast, holding it’s gaze, one hunter to another.

Canaan noticed the blood on his father’s chest even as his father spoke, “Shem”, said Cham, “check the integrity of the bars.”

Cham notched an arrow and took carful aim at the lion over his brother’s shoulder, as Shem pulled harshly on every rung.

“It holds”, he said, warily eyeing the king of the jungle.

Cham turned to his son, “it is not safe for you or Eros to wander now”, he said, “we have just re-caged a cougar on the third deck, and it was no easy task.”

Looking thoughtfully at Eros, Cham continued, “there are beasts here” , he said, shifting his gaze to his brother, “who could easily kill a child like yourself.”

Shem stared back at him with eyes as black as polished onyx.

“Bring Eros to your mothers quarters, she will bed there the night, and close the door after yourself..”

“but father…”

“Do it…and be fast about it.”

Shem spoke to Cham in a voice that was both weary and fearful, “which fate will you choose first, my brother, the gorillas, or the panther, for death may find us at either door.”

Cham wiped the sweat from his brow, and motioned to his brother, “come, we will see which dwellings we happen on first, and meet fate as men.”

As the two men brushed by them Cane and Eros descended the steps back to Cham’s quarters, where Cane dutifully placed Eros under the care of his mother, and she turned to look at him and wave goodnight as she disappeared behind the curtain of beads that hid the world of women.
Cane himself went to his father’s room and rested himself on his father’s bed, a simple mat of straw in the corner of the room.
It was several hours before his father returned and Cane’s eyes had grown heavy from the long day.
“Where there many more animals?”, asked Cane, rousing himself with curiosity.
“No child”, said his father as he sunk to the ground leaning against the post of the doorway balancing his bow across his lap, “there is nothing left here that hunts you.”

Cane felt more secure now, “then come rest, father”, he said rolling over to make more room.

“I will rest myself here tonight”, said his father placing his quiver beside him at the doorway.

“Are we not safe”, said Canaan raising his head to ask the question.

“We are”, said his father uneasily, “Take some rest my son”, he said smiling at his boy, and sleep took Cane quickly.

Morning broke with confusion, as his father shook him from dreams and warmth. “Come quickly”, he said, as Shem waited in the hall.

“Where is it”, asked Cham urgently of Shem.

“ I lost it near the second deck”, he said out of breath, “the wound on my leg has stiffened overnight, and I could not keep it’s pace.”

“Rest yourself”, said Cham, as he pulled a dagger from his belt.

“Canaan”, he called his son, “take this and hold it close to your body, the time to be a man is upon you.”

He turned to face his son as he handed him the blade by its handle.

“Quick jabs at the face, and the nose, and the pads of the paw…never show fear…never show hesitation.”

Cane felt himself begin to tremble involuntarily.

“The Lion?”, he asked

“Chewed through the wood next to the bars”, said his father as Shem nodded.

Even as Cham started out the door Cane hesitated, “but father”, he said, and then became embarrassed to speak in front of his uncle, “I am…”

Cham stood impossibly tall and strong before his son, “do not fear, my boy”, he said, his character built out of confidence itself, “how do you think that mangy beast was put in a cage in the first place.”

Cham winked at Canaan, and Cane followed him down the hallway.

As they left Shem looked after them, and as they turned the corner he walked to the women’s dwelling and pushed back the curtains and beads that gave them privacy.

“The girl”, he commanded simply, and as Eros appeared at the doorway, freshly awoken with her hair askew, he smiled at her, “the great elder wishes to see you…”

As Cane followed his father down the hallway his father spoke back to him, instilling the experience he had gained as a man of the wild.
Cham navigated swiftly through the maze of hallways with his back to the walls and his bow at the ready.
“Canaan, listen carefully, the lion rules the jungle through fear, because he is not as powerful as his name suggests. An elephant may trample him, his pride may turn on him and rip him to shreds…”
“Fear is his most potent weapon”, said Cham, “it is what prevents him from being challenged , and to master him you must shed your fear of him.”
“But he might tear me to bits with one paw”, said Canaan, not realistically envisioning himself losing fear in the near future.

“Child”, said Cham, “a being of true power does not need to rule through fear, the Lion does it because deep down he is a lazy beast, most interested in eating and mating, in truth he does not even hunt, but scavenges from the kill of the lioness. He wants to sleep more than he desires the sting of a good fight, and when you remind him that you know his true nature his power turns to dust.”

Cham bent to the floor and sniffed the ground.

“Do you track him” ?

“No”, said Cham, “I detect no scent at all.”

“Follow me”, said Cham to Cane, “we will track him from his cage.”

Cham bounded up the steps to the lion’s den with his bow poised like some beautiful instrument he might play, the twang of its string the last note for a lullaby of eternal sleep, but he stopped short at the bars of the lions gate where the beast sat eating it’s meal behind the steel of the enclosure.

“But…”, said Cane.

Cham’s head fell forward in shame, and there was anger in his eyes when he lifted it again.

“Father I do not understand…”

“There is not much time…”, said Cham, “and I fear Eros is in danger.”

“But the lion sits behind steel bars?”

Cham looked at his son’s innocent eyes, sad that the evils of the world would visit him so young, “my child, there are more fearsome monsters than lions and tigers, and oft they dress in the skins of men.”

“Where is Eros”, said Canaan in a scared voice, not understanding his father.

Cham thought for a minute and then understood.

“The Aviary.”

Canaan could barely keep up with his father as he raced through the halls.

“I love this room above all else”, said Eros to Shem, as he opened the trap door and the cries of birds filled her ears, “It is a small taste of heaven.”
“Then let it be the first taste of many to come”, said Shem, as he walked toward Noah at the far end of the room, sealing the door behind him.

“Dear child”, said Noah walking forward from a small figure in the distance until they reached him, ”come, there is something I would like for you to see.”
“As you wish”, said Eros, glad to be extending her relationships beyond Cane and his father, even Uncle Yafes was present at the far wall.
Noah escorted her by the hand to a patch of leather that covered a bit of the far wall, and the four of them clustered around it.

“What is it?”, asked Eros of the great elder.
Noah cleared his throat, “it is…the one defect in the wall of the ark… a window through which we will send a winged emissary after the rains, to see if the world is once again safe for human life.”

“It will be exciting then”, said Eros, running he hand over the leather covering to the outside world, her hand feeling the pitter patter of rain against it, “to step forth and rebuild the world anew, I am proud to be amongst your family, and greatly honored that you chose to speak with me, my lord.”

Noah fingered his staff uncomfortably, surprising himself by glancing at Shem for reassurance.
“But, my child, that is just the problem, you see, and there is no potion to make this easier to swallow, but”, Noah grasped his staff as he reached the point of his talk, “you were not meant for the new world, my dear, you are not a part of the future that goes forward, but you are a part of the past that must be left behind…”

Eros turned pale and felt her stomach churn, “but you cannot mean…”

“He does”, ventured Shem, having little patience for ceremony, “so let’s get on with it.”

Eros began to realize she was fighting for her very life, “but how can you be sure”, she argued.

“He can’t” said Yafes, putting a hand on her shoulder.

“We can”, said Noah becoming angry, “God has visited me many times and specified the exact number to be included on this voyage, and has done so again last night”, he let out a sigh, “make no mistake, it is the will of the Lord.”

Yafes shook his head, “it is a test of your morals you old fool, hold fast to what you know is right.”

“How is it a test”, cried Shem, “when every other child sinks low in the waters, their bellies full of silt, as we speak, by the hand of lord himself.”

“Leave your cruel descriptions for another time”, said Noah to Shem, “listen to me child, and pay not head to my sons, there is another life after this one… a better one, and your road towards it lies at the bottom of the dark waters that surround us.”

Noah pulled harshly on the leather trimmings that surrounded the opening in the wood, and they fell, revealing to the assembled a land shattered by the hand of god. Dark and cold, covered by the thick clouds and night air, a rain so potent each drop looked like a fist, and the waters hissed as they were beaten to a boil by the constant bombardment from the heavens above.

“My child”, said Noah, staring at her from behind a long beard, his face buried under it, his eyes rimmed with kindness and understanding, “spare us the sin of sending you over, choose for yourself the destiny you have been appointed by the master of the universe himself.”

Eros looked at the large men that surrounded her, Shem was nodding his head, holding as always the broadsword secured at his hip. Yafes, shook his head, warning her of perils she could only too easily see.

She turned to Noah, “I believe that which you say, for you are a prophet of the Lord no doubt, and I have seen his miracles, he is no simple conjurer of coins and rabbits, but…”

“Yes, my child”, said Noah.

“but…I am afraid”, said Eros finally giving in to tears, as she looked at the world outside, “because I don’t know how to swim.”

“Have mercy, lord, mercy”, prayed Yafes to the God of the angry skies.

“My patience is through”, said Shem to Eros, “little woman, it is not to swim that we send you, but to sink like a stone to the depths of the sea.”

“Shem”, scolded Noah.

“What father, what is it you wish”, cried Shem, “let us fulfill God’s will, lest he turn this craft to lead, and remake Adam from dust as in the beginning.”

“You may not kill this child”, said Yafes.

“Nor will we”, said Shem, “we place her back where the hands of her maker intended her, he may do with her there, as is his wish, as he has done to every other innocent child that walked the earth. You have said yourself, free will and natural order are corrupted by this miraculous event, so god will be free to do with her what he will.”


Cane’s muted cry came from behind the locked trap door.

Shem turned now to Noah.

“This is the last chance to do God’s will, in a moment the great bow of your son will be upon you, and before you can tell him of God’s decree, we may all have been pierced by the sharp end of his arrows.”

The look on Noah’s face was terrible. It was pain and conscience, duty and regret, all at once.

His staff rose to touch Eros’ belly as she stood before the open window.

“Please”, she begged, looking at his eyes, “I am scared.”

“Forgive me…my child”, he said, and with a gentle push, no more than nudge, she fell silently into the darkness below…

“I am sick”, said Yafes, and he slowly crouched to the floor by the window.

The trap door burst open and birds flew in every direction, squawking and showering multicolored feathers in abundance. Had Eros been present she surely would have enjoyed the sight of it.

It was Cham’s strong shoulder that broke the door and he came up first, easing in to a run across the great room, followed by Canaan close at his heels.

Cham opened his mouth to shout inquiry of Eros, but fell silent as he saw Yafes curled at the open window…for in his heart, he already knew…

“Eros”, screamed Canaan in ignorance, “where are you?…what have you done with her?…”

Noah tried to intercept him before he reached the window, but he dodged his grandfather’s arms and leaned his upper body out into Armageddon itself.

“Eros!!”, he screamed searching the black oceans for a sign, as the rains pelted his back.
As lightning kindled a fire in the heavens he thought he caught sight of a bobbing head among the foam caps of the waves, and upon instinct dove to save his beloved.

But the sharp grip of his father was upon his ankle, with hands as strong as steel that has bested cougars and tamed lions.

Even as he let his son struggle till his strength was spent, Cham spoke to Noah, “I will serve you on this journey as I have sworn, but when we reach land, broken will be the bonds of our family, and expect neither mercy nor respect from your son.”

Noah bowed his head in anger, mumbling curses.

Cham pulled Canaan from the window, for his son was limp and sobbing, and carrying him like a babe, he walked away from his assembled family.

Shem patted Noah on the back, “you have done what is right in the eyes of the lord, and walked in his ways… I will always be your son, and you may always call on me.”

As Shem took his leave, Noah turned and lowered the leather covering of the window, closing the episode in his mind as best he could.

He reached a hand out to Yafes and helped him from the floor.

“Are you alright , my son”, he said.

Yafes looked at him with red rimmed eyes.

“Are you, my father?”

“Yes”, said Noah, “for I have done what the lord has asked.”

“You have killed a child.”

“No”, said Noah, “I have returned her to the lord’s wrath, where she belongs.”

“You must find a way out of your doubts”, said Noah to Yafes, “the lord does that which is right.”
“Yes, father”, said Yafes, “I will worship, always, his power, and fear him all my days, and I have come to understand him much……….better than I did before his great miracle.”

“Good, my son”, said Noah rubbing some warmth into Yafes’ back with his hand, “Good.”

For Eros the fall down the side of the Ark was short, and the intense fear she felt was replaced almost instantly by a shocking sensation of cold as she hit the waters. She quickly discovered that swimming was but thrashing about in fear for one’s life, and by instinct alone she made for the side of the Ark, hoping to grasp onto it and re-board. But even as her fingers tried to grip the sides they slipped over its slimy exterior, and the waves quickly washed her away.

For a moment she thought she heard Cane’s voice, and she screamed his name in hopes of what she did not know, perhaps just to be heard…but there was no answer.

The Ark seemed to be propelled by some force greater than the currents, and as each flash of lightening lit the horizon it was further and further away, until it faded from the dot it had become on the horizon.

Alone, Eros felt tears surge once again, and she conjured that she added to her own demise by a few ounces that dribbled down her cheeks into the watery bath where she would end her life. The worst of it was the solitude, for in between the bolts of lightning she was alone in the cold and dark; So black and empty, that she could not tell if her eyes were open or closed. And having never faced death before, the terror of it made her close her eyes and wish even for the hard hand of her sisters discipline, just so that it be in the warm sunlight of her backyard.

Finally her arms grew tired and her fingers and toes numb, and she spoke to the lord, imagining how angry he was at her for having contributed to the world gone wrong, to have punished her to her death.

“I am sorry, my master”, she said, her words forming vapor in the cold air. “And I hope you have a warm place for me in the life that takes place after this one.”

“Though”, she added, as she began having trouble keeping her head above the waves, “if you could find it in your graces to spare me the swallowing of this salty ocean, I would return to you my honest thanks and praise…”

Eros spoke with God for as long as she could, figuring that he must have a spot of compassion for little girls who fell off of Arks.

Eros waited quietly and patiently for an answer, trying not to let terror take her heart as she realized that she could no longer feel her arms and legs and that they could no longer support her. She spoke with God again, but by now was fairly sure that he was occupied with his miracle, and could not listen.

It was a terrible sensation when the final moment came, as her neck craned to keep her nose above water, for she had the certain knowledge that she could not maintain this pose forever, and she knew the salty waters that burned her throat and made her cough would soon fill her body, and she feared the moment she would not be able to gasp for air.

She thought of Canaan and it calmed her that perhaps she would meet him again in another life. She wondered if he would be the same mischievous child, planting frogs and bugs and scaring the devil out of everyone. She hoped he wouldn’t change a bit. She wondered if God had once been in love with humanity, like the love that she had for Cane. A feeling that was young and new, and full of forgiveness, and why he had lost it and turned to anger.

Eros felt sure that even though God had no mercy available for her in this world, that he might be far more giving in the next one, and as her head finally slipped under the waves, she felt nothing but love for God, and faith in his justice.