Ben Avuyah

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Daniel's Dilemma

Bang, Bang, Bang.

The knocks fell like thunder, reverberating around Daniel’s neoprene room with a sonic force that jiggled the sparse collection of knick-knacks on his shelves to and fro.

Daniel stirred from the deep bliss of sleep, that precious abandonment of consciousness, and awakened into the world; sitting up in bed, hair all askew.

Who would call upon him at this ungodly hour, and who, devil take them, would pound on his flimsy eggshell of a door rather than ring the bell?

Ah, but don’t be fooled. Daniel wasn’t fooled as he scratched his head and slid lightly out of his thin cot. He knew full well who might come knocking at his door.

It was a suspension of belief that allowed him to scowl in disregard at an unidentified stranger awakening him from slumber, as he performed the bare minimum of perfunctory morning hygiene.

He walked the full length of his apartment in two short strides, and glanced at his face in a small mirror. It stared back at him a dulcet green, backlight by the sun piercing through a thin atmosphere of cloud and pollution, a lonely beam of which poured through the single window in his cubicle. Dust motes frolicked in this solitary ray, flitting about in their happy randomness, and Daniel could not help feeling he had stepped accidentally into the spotlight on some unseen stage. He washed his face with water from a thin spigot and smoothed back his hair.

He noticed his hands were shaking.

Bang, Bang, Bang.

“Daniel.”

The voice sounded far away from behind his door, but it was unmistakable. And it fell on his hears with some secret pattern, a code to his mind, unlocking the bungled emotions of his upbringing, and allowing them to rumble about, unrestrained.

How long had it been?

Ten years, or more, Daniel figured, as a sense of dread made his stomach feel as if it carried a small satchel of lead in place of last night’s dinner.

He steadied himself by placing his hands on the corners of the sink, feeling almost to weak to stand upright. It all came back to him now….his past, his destiny, the dream of his future. Amazing how he had been able to banish it from his daily thoughts for all these years.

There in his mind the memory had lain untouched, for so long ignored in the depths, that it returned now with a tactile force that actually allowed him to feel the white linen table cloth under his hands, smell the thick aromas of Friday night chicken soup steaming upwards, tickling his nostrils, the salty taste leaving a heated trail from his throat to his stomach. From a place inside, he heard now, the gentle rhythmic melodies, the chants of hope and faith in languages no longer spoken.

He remembered sitting crowded so tight around the table that all consciousness seemed to fuse into one will. And in this amalgam of his childhood, all experience seemed condensed into a blur of late nights of study, of bearded faces huddled too close to his; teaching him the great lessons of life, stressing the importance, the critical nature, the absolute necessity….


“Daniel, Daniel”, sung the disembodied voice from behind the door, as if an old song from better days, “I know you are in there, open the door..”

…. necessities he had let go of some time ago, dreams that no longer held for him any promise.

Daniel took a deep breath…

“Daniel.”

And flipped the switch that allowed his door to slide open.

There he stood, cane poised for another set of shattering assaults on the door.

He had aged since Daniel had seen him last, and the two stood face to face now, a picture of anachronism incarnate; the ancient thrust upon the world that had left it behind.

Daniel noted the lines on the face, the dark furred hat from antiquity, the wispy strands of beard that trailed down the front of the mans pitch-black knee length silk coat. But most of all the sharp blue eyes that pierced the world around them. He met those eyes but could not face them and turned away.


“Daniel”, said the man as he gripped Daniel’s shoulder and hung on as if having recovered an object of immeasurable worth, that he would now and never again have to part with.

Daniel looked into those eyes and saw the love and the hope of long awaited dreams reaching their fruition.

“Rebbi”, he said with a great deal of trepidation in his voice, as if the guilt of his nonobservance could not be kept from the timber in his tone; a telltale heart throbbing to life through his vocal chords.

Rabbi Gold’s cane returned to the floor with a sharp thump as he nodded his head up and down and took in Daniel, his eyes covering every inch of him, perceiving the soul of the man. He had the look of a disapproving father, bitterly sampling what has become of his fallen son. He took his time and allowed the air to clear of his disapproval, and a twinkle returned to his eyes.

“Daniel”, he said, stroking his long beard with his hand, “your time has come!”



















Now, Professor Cornelius was a portly man, to put it mildly, and in a day an age where calories where more of a choice than a necessity, one would be hard put to say it was not an affectation, presented purposefully to complete the image of the consummate academician.

He tapped his watch impatiently now as he paced back and forth behind a small podium. It was time to start, well… past time to start, but the rows of chairs in the large lecture hall stared back at him with a painful emptiness.

Of course, there were his sycophants, gathered amongst the front rows, ready to appear breathless with excitement as long as grant monies lay at the end of the rainbow. He had expected them, as one expects a particularly irritating case of colitis.

What was more disturbing than the academic hierarchy at work, was what lurked in the back rows, behind the seats. If Cornelius strained his eyes through the darkness he could see them. Murky figures, lost by time. There, to the left stood one fully clothed in his ceremonial garb, hat pointing to the sky, with a robe so long it dragged on the floor. There were others too, lingering just out of sight, milling about with tension and excitement. They were the last of the zealots, he supposed, the last few vestiges of believers in their ancient crafts. Cornelius had long wondered if any such peoples still lived amongst the masses, and here was his answer.

“Poor Fools”, Cornelius whispered under his breath, but enough of their plight… they had sentenced themselves to grasping for straws where none existed. It was time to begin his presentation. And though his audience might be lacking he nonetheless intended to give a performance that befitted the awesome nature of this day. A day that would be remembered by history even if at present humanity did not have the wherewithal to appreciate it, distracted by a focus that looked away from the past for answers.

He walked up to the podium and cleared his throat. He knew this session would be recorded for posterity and he intended no detail to be left from the show. He would deliver his monologue with the full knowledge that historians, archeologists and scientists the world over would forever view this moment as one of the greatest discoveries in all of history. For it would shed light on the pinnacle moments of organized civilization.

“Ladies and Gentleman, may I have your attention please!”













The elevator careened down the side of the building at dizzying speed encased in its glass tubing. Daniel was used to the vertigo induced as the layers of surrounding buildings whizzed by in an analgesic blur, but his Rebi clutched the railing as a psychological crutch against the illusion of flight.

It dimmed his wit not at all, for he stared at Daniel, stared at him like a mission that must not be failed.

“You have lost your faith”, he said flatly, a statement of fact, as the skyline of buildings spun ever downwards behind him.

Daniel sighed. He had known this would be coming one day, yet he had not truly ever prepared himself for it.

“Rebbi”, said Daniel, pausing to shake his head in dismay, “it’s not that I have lost it…it’s that I never really had it.”

His old teacher’s grizzled brows raised in surprise, “but I have known you from the day you were born, we taught you, we have always taught you…”

There was more than concern on Rabbi Gold’s face, there was personal hurt…betrayal.

“But that’s just it, Rebbi, you instilled in me your ideals, but now I have grown to have my own…”

“No”, said the Rabbi definitively, tilting his head to the side, “they are not your own, they are those of the society around you, the society at large. They are views of convenience, ideals that lead nowhere, but the selfish gratification of personal indulgences.”

Daniel knew his difficult life had never functioned as a source of pleasure, and with this certainty, found courage, and with it a bit of anger, “the views of the modern world are based on logic, Rebbi, rationale. People believe in things when they make sense, not just because some old tradition insists upon it…”

“Our old traditions! Yours and mine.”

Reb Gold’s face was turning red now.

“But that is just ethnocentrism”, Daniel struggled, “why can’t you see it, I know it is your life, but why can’t you understand that belief in any other religion is just as justified based on faith alone. Why can’t you see that people of any faith feel just as you do…”

Reb Gold’s hand was gripping his elbow tightly, his eyes shown with a fierce light, “No. Not the same as us. Not the same. You know this because you feel it. You understand it because it is inside of you. Your yetzer hara leads you astray and uses reason as its tool.”

Daniel shook his head in resigned disagreement, but found no words. If the reasons in his head where the tools of an evil entity what hope lay in intelligent thought, and from what basis could anyone argue with such a corrosive principle.

“Look at me, Daniel”, said his Rebbi, orating from some fiery place within his heart, “You are part of an unbroken chain, a link, a last link, Daniel. You can feel it, can’t you, how else could we be standing here all of these thousands of years after God revealed himself if it wasn’t true. Daniel, you have gained knowledge, but not wisdom. Have the courage to trust what your soul is telling you!”

“But it tells me that I don’t… believe.”

The elevator came to a sudden halt, and Rev Gold silenced Daniel with a motion, and spoke with a look of anguish on his face, “Daniel, you have had a terrible struggle with your faith, as have many, but your struggle is over now.”

“But what are we doing here? This is the twenty third floor, I work here…”

“It’s no coincidence, Daniel”, said his Rebbi, “the days of coincidence are over, a new time is upon us, a better time…come.”

Daniel reluctantly followed his Rebbi down the hall.















“Light”, said Cornelius with gusto, making sure to put in the appropriate pause for effect. “We have studied the stars by their light for thousands of years, perhaps since the dawn of humanity.”

He glanced briefly at his notes and then at the time to make sure he was on track. His dramatic ending wouldn’t work unless he timed it just right.

“But what is it that we see when we look at the stars? Why, it is a history more than anything else. An image of the past preserved in the night sky. The universe as it was untold billions of years ago. For the light that reaches us has had to travel across the vast expanse of space and time. What we see is a snapshot of ancient history.”

Behind Cornelius a large screen lit up depicting the vastness of the cosmos, galaxy upon galaxy swirling into view.

“It is with sadness, and indeed with much humility, that we admit the feebleness of exploration of this great realm of mystery. Mankind has not so much as dipped his toe into this giant ocean before us. Even the nearest star, hopelessly outside our reach.”

Cornelius touched a control on the podium and the seemingly random array of galaxies on the screen changed to a bird’s eye view of the Milky Way.

“But for every battle we have lost in terms of propulsion, we have achieved tremendous advances in our ability to analyze and collect…..Light…. and preserved in this medium, like fossil in sediment, is the information our explorers so ardently seek.”


Cornelius toggled another switch, “Most will likely recognize a familiar genre of picture from the late 20th century…”

A picture of rows of houses came to the screen, it was grainy, with poor resolution, “This of course is a satellite photo,” said Cornelius in explanation, “a picture taken from space, and one of it’s great limitations is piercing the atmosphere, a distorting media to say the least.”

“But as mankind’s interests turned away from what his neighbors were up to, imaging abilities were turned outwards, to the great expanse that surrounds us, and over time our ability to gather light from the black depths of space grew. As did our ability to image the planets in our own solar system. Indeed with enhanced magnification and resolution, we gained the capability to image rock formations on Mars, stunning volcanic activity on mercury…”

Cornelius flipped nonchalantly through the photos, after all, this was just introduction, preamble to the discovery of the millennia.


“Until, one day, a telescopic satellite, orbiting Jupiter, returned this image…”

The screen behind Cornelius flickered with what was perhaps the most well known photograph from space. It’s clarity was poor, but an astute observer would see forms within the grainy emulsion, figures posed unknowingly recording their lives for the sake of future generations. One stood with a hand raised as if shielding sensitive eyes from the sun, another clutched a jar, holding the jug as if it’s precious contents required a tight grip.


Cornelius knew he had his audiences attention know, for this was the true beginning of a special line of understanding, the birth of a field, the origins of a science. Of course everyone in his audience was well schooled in the history of this particular photo, but for the purposes of a complete retrospective, he felt inclined to indulge them with the history of the thing.

“Even very respectable scientists felt they had discovered intelligent extraterrestrial life, given the satellites proximity to Jupiter when this image was recorded,” said Cornelius with a smug down turning of his lip as he indulged in a feeling of superiority to his ancient predecessors.

He got a chuckle from his fellow academics in the front rows as they offered their own condemnation of this well debunked and outdated theory. But from the back rows came silence. The silence that comes from an ingrained philosophy of waiting, of yearning. They were not here to enjoy the trivialities of Cornelius’ monologue. This was something different for the religious occupants of the room, something far more personal, something that would vindicate the painful years of servitude to ideologies vastly a field from their fellow mans.

“Of course,” said Cornelius, turning again to the dim figures etched in the picture “this photo, turned out to be something so unexpected, no one grasped it’s actual meaning, and for many years it circulated through the highest academic circles causing nothing more than empty speculation of the possible inhabitants of Jupiter, and their uncanny resemblance to man, and the impossibility of such a phenomenon. Even the skeptics felt the need to call this, ‘an artifact of the photograph itself’.”

“That was of course, until one institution,” he cleared his throat, “the Catholic Church, no less, realized the truth….a truth that has brought us all here today….”

















Daniel had trouble keeping up with Rabbi Gold as he walked briskly down the hallway to the main office of inter solar imaging. His Rebbi exuded excitement, it emanated from him like the ancient glow that had once shown off of the face of Moses. A bit of Gods heavenly brilliance touching the earth.

“Come, Daniel, the time is near, and we have none to waste.”

“Rebbi, I don’t think I can do this, I just don’t have the same outlook on all of this that you do….”

“Oy, Daniel, the Reboino shel oilam has left you with just the tiny strand of faith that is pulling you down this hall, Rachmono Litzlon, I know it is hard for you and it is all you have left,” Rabbi Gold turned to him fiercely and gripped his elbow, “but just have enough emunah, in me, if not in God Almighty, Yisbarach Shemo, to see this one deed through today !”

As Daniel entered the main office, he realized he was being escorted by an untrimmed octogenarian, who likely appeared to everyone else as if wearing some form of bizarre fetishist bath robe, bottomed out by white stockings. The dead, dried out, beaver fur hat on his Rebbi’s head wasn’t helping much either.

The secretary at the front desk, to whom he exchanged a curt nod with, on most mornings, did a quick double take at seeing him propelled in, on his day off, by this unruly mystic.

“Daniel?”, she asked quizzically, wondering if the fall season might have brought in a new fashion of headgear she had somehow missed out on.

“Uh Ginene”, said Daniel, blushing as his ritualistic past smacked headlong into his rationalist present, threatening to derail both ideologies from the track, “this is my….teacher….uh… and we would like to…”

“What we demand”, Rabbi Gold corrected in a loud voice, waving a finger in the air to underline, highlight, and punctuate his arguments as if they floated, suspended in rabbinic ether, a foot and a half in front of his beard, “ is admittance to the great revelation of our times,” he was talking more to Daniel now, “our confirmation of The Aibishters holy Bris with Am Yisroel, our Matan torah…”

To the credit of secretaries everywhere, Ginene, kept a look of practiced disinterest on her face, while dealing with what appeared to be the clinically insane.

“Mat and who? From which department?” she reiterated in a tired tone, as she dutifully pulled up the directory on her console to search for an employee she knew didn’t exist, all the while daydreaming about what was for lunch.

The ruckus attracted Daniel’s direct supervisor who walked over to the front Desk.

“It’s alright, Genine,” said Dr. Savoy, as she approached with easy confidence, “you aren’t the first visitors we have had today.”

She turned to Daniel, “You are looking for Professor Cornelius’ lecture, I imagine.”

Daniel nodded in the affirmative.

Sarah Savoy could only be described as attractive in a petite and orderly way. What one perceived while looking at her was mostly a woman striving to represent herself as a no nonsense scientist of the highest order, and it was no disguise. Dr. Savoy was a scientist first and last, bones to britches, and it was more than just her work, it was her personality, ideology, and politics all rolled into one confluent philosophy of being.

Right now she couldn’t hold back from playful conjecture, “Daniel, we have had quite a few religious figures come to view the data records of satellite MES352, but I had not imagined to find you among them…you never mentioned to me that you were deeply religious.”

“Well I’m not…” said Daniel abruptly, only then glancing over at his Rebbi to confirm the stare that he felt boring into the back of his head, and feeling the full depth of the schism in his mind for the first time, “but I was raised to be…”

Dr. Savoy was raising her eyebrows in surprise to Daniel’s response as Rabbi Gold gripped his cane with enough force to forge diamond from coal.

His lips were terse as he addressed Daniel’s supervisor, “Do you have any idea who are you are talking to? Do you know who this young man is standing before you?”




















Cornelius was sure that his entire audience knew the story he was about to tell, and it was not out of pure pomposity that he sought to reiterate it. It was that he felt very strongly that the recording of this lecture would become histories most important document and he wanted it to be complete for the future viewers who’s first introduction to opto-history might be this very didactic.


“Yes,” he said trying to make eye contact with the back row so that they could feel that their part in this story was being brought to the light, “the Catholic Church.”

“You see,” he announced, becoming pensive in his reverie, and leaving his notes behind to pace the length of the floor, “as men of faith, they believed that their could be no life on other planets, they felt that humanity alone was God’s creation, a singularity in an incomprehensibly large universe.”

“It was this faith, and a basic knowledge of Geometric principles that led the Church’s scientists to the truth when no one else even knew where to look. The same faith that nearly rent the church asunder during the crisis of evolution, ultimately acted…well, as a guiding light so to speak.”


The screen behind Cornelius lit up with basic Euclidian Geometry, and Newtonian optics.

“Angle of incidence, angle of refraction, the basic principles of high school geometry and optics and yet the higher echelons of secular science are bent on photons and energy, forgetting their humble roots…you see the Church realized something…”

Cornelius struggled now regretting his departure from his written script. He loved this story, but in his own enjoyment of the tale he worried about reciting it succinctly.

“They realized…that someone viewing the earth from light years away….would be seeing our history, the earth as it was years ago, in fact all scientists of the twenty first century knew this….but the particular brilliance of the Church, was the realization that the past was preserved in light, held hostage there for all who might see..”

Cornelius felt despondent, he wasn’t getting the point across as well as he had hoped, and even thought the nodding faces of his admirers in the front rows encouraged him to move forward, he struggled to add the full explanation.

“You see, they were the first to put the pieces together, the first to understand, that light can be reflected, refracted, bent into a direction, that is determined by how it strikes an object. They intuited that, while most of the light that had shown on earth from our brilliant sun, was reflected back into deep space, forever lost, that some small part of it, really just a hint of the total amount…remained within our solar system….right here.”



“Look here”, said Cornelius, as if annoyed with a student too slow to tolerate, loosing his academic cool in his desire to communicate his point.

The display flickered to life behind him again.

His finger pointed sharply at the screen, indicating with body language just how simple this was going to be…



















“Yes, I do know who am speaking with,” Sarah replied, never loosing her perspective as she looked the Rabbi over. She was speaking with someone who had not hashed out the basic elements of standards of evidence, nor the weight of legends and lore versus fact. A cortical suicide case, in her opinion, one who has chosen an elective course of lack of brain function, a self administered frontal lobotomy, as a jilted rejection of the difficult world around him.

“And I do know who this gentleman is right here,” she continued, “ in order if importance he is my employee,” she smiled, “Daniel Dayan, twenty six years old, a bright and promising optical engineer.”


“No”, said Rabbi Gold with a certainty owned only by the faithful, “that is who he was…”

Daniel stared down at the floor, feeling the capillaries open in his face and the heat of his blush as his body temperature rose and sweat begin to collect in the folds of his clothing. He had imagined this scenario many times since his youth, and in his younger days it was a crowning moment of achievement, an instant of unbelievable joy and happiness. But as he had grown older, he began to dread it’s arrival, to hope that it was a bad dream, an exaggerated fairy tale that would never come to fruition, or that if it did materialize, it could be someplace private, a meaningless ceremony for those already initiated. But not here. Not where he worked and would likely need to continue to work…


“You are in the presence of Daniel Dayan", said Rabbi Gold with a mix of pride and euphoria that made his voice quiver, "Eighth generational, and only male descendant, of Rabbi Moshe Dayan, author of the Yashir Moshe, a scroll that tracks his lineage as the eighty fifth generational male descendant of King David himself.”

Rabbi Gold pulled a faded copy of the Yashir Moshe out of his robes and held it aloft as a knight holds his sword in the air as a sign of allegiance. He held it there to offer it as proof to the unforgiving deity of science and rationale.

Rabbi Gold looked at Daniel now as a dream realized, he reached for him, and touched him lightly on the shoulder, caressing a treasure mightier than all riches. There were tears in his eyes, and Daniel saw that he was his teacher’s entire world, that every hope and every dream of the man who had all but raised him rested now on his shoulders.

A tear fell from his Rebbi’s eye, “an unbroken chain, from the malchos beis Dovid, a last true heir to the throne…Bimherah Biyamenu…”

Employees had come out of their cubicles to watch the spectacle unfold and they stood there in bewildered silence as his Rebbi grasped him in a tight hug, joy streaming in tears down his face, “in our days, Daniel", he wishpered with reverance, "Our days.”

Daniel, put his arms around his Rebbi, because he understood that in his own way, no one loved him more than Rabbi Gold. But how could he ever explain to his Rebbi, what he had learned in the secular world, how could he ever reverse the roles of teacher and student and show his Rebbi what a real inquiry into the truth meant.

As Daniel stood there trapped between his two worlds he realized that he could not back down from the destiny Rabbi Gold had in store for him, he could not hurt him in that way anymore than he could carry on in a movement in which he was the main character, all the while sensing it was a charade….

Sarah Savoy remained unmoved by the display of tears and emotion as the embrace ended.

“Well and good,” she said, “Just as long as his majesty here, remembers to hand in his TPS reports on time… come on, I’ll walk you to the lecture hall.”
.




Cornelius was moving too quickly through his slides, and he knew it, but he was caught up in the moment of it, the transmittal of information that would become history itself.

“The Oort cloud,” he exclaimed unable to stop pointing at the beauty of it, “why just look at it…a sphere of asteroids, shiny, smoothly polished silicates, frozen to a fine sheen, surrounding our solar system, encasing it in a veritable eggshell of tiny reflectors.

The slide switched, “The Kuiper Belt…”, and switched again, “the major asteroid belt…all systems of frozen rock, reflecting the earths light back upon us…”

His head snapped sharply from one shoulder to the other as he viewed the room harshly, daring any one not to put two and two together.

“Of course, what the Christian scientists realized was that they had stumbled upon a beam of light collected near Jupiter, a very old beam of light, reflected many times, likely in the main asteroid belt, yet still remaining in our solar system, that held within it a very old image of the earth, and of the earths inhabitants.”

Cornelius was practically foaming at the mouth now as the climax approached.

“Our history, it was found, was floating, around us all this time, preserved in its original form. A treasure trove of archeology, paleontology, sociology at our fingertips yet slowly bleeding away from our solar system as statistically more and more of these ancient rays are lost to deep space rather than reflected back in. The shear ratio of empty space to reflective asteroid demands a process of decay and eventual loss of all information of our past.”

Cornelius finally stopped and took a breath

“It should come as no surprise then, that the original, and enormous financing for the process of this retrieval came from the Christian right, which was at that time...", he paused to scan the back rows, "was a power to be reckoned with."

"Later, in the developmental phase, Jewish philanthropists became involved as well."

"This effort was never grounded in the historical… to the contrary, it was a thinly vieled attempt to validate sources of ancient religious lore.”


“Of course, it was another hundred years before the albedo of the earth, its specific light signature, was narrowed down enough to be appropriately targeted and collected for. And another fifty passed as the atmospheres concentrations of nitrogen, oxygen, and methane; and the change of their ratio’s over the years , and their resulting effects on our light signature, where understood well enough to allow for a search for light that corresponded to a particular era.”

“But in 2207 in the first and only joint venture of the Catholic Church, the Jewish private sector, and NASA, the MES352 inter solar telescope was launched on a mission to collect the history of the ancient near east.”

“ Indeed it was likely as a result of the Jewish contributors belief, that knowledge of the past would spark a new era of worship, that the entire endeavor was eventually dubbed…. the Messiah Project.”







“The Messiah ?” said Sarah Savoy, as they careened further down the building in an internal elevator, “but I just thought you said he was king of the Jews.”

Rabbi Gold looked like he was tired of the incessant questioning, “he is the last of the bloodline of kings, so he is eligible to be the Messiah.”

Now Sarah was an optical engineer par excellance, but she had minored in archaic theology, and was as such overtly fascinated with Rabbi Gold.

“But then how do you know it is him,” she asked astutely, “ It might just as well be his unborn son.”

Rabbi Gold had no scrap of personal charm left to cover his impatience with, “It was told to us by one of our great Rabbi’s with the Ruach Hakodesh, the holy spirit in him, that the time is now. End of story.”


Daniel himself stayed out of the crossfire of the discussion, allowing the conversation to occur about him as if he were an inanimate object being toted to its destiny. He was lost in his own thoughts, working on his own insoluble dilemma. He saw their lips moving but his internal monologue was louder than the world a round him.

Could he find solace in fulfilling the dreams of his childhood? Was there enough “truth” in satisfying the lifelong commitments of those who had loved and believed in him from the begining? Was it not enough that their strange belief system had not been broken after all of these years? Could he provide hope for them of a better future, and a past that could now at least be spoken of as having reached a justified conclusion? Or was that path to be viewed as an undignified charade?

Did his destiny lie in the cold misery of his little cubicle alone in a world where he imagined no greater force than his own feeble efforts to survive, was on his side? A rational existence, complete with the painful knowledge that he was a well-evolved chunk of moss, mobile and animate, with little other function than placing food in his mouth and reproducing. Could embracing the emptiness of cold truth be enough to fuel his existence?

“Holy Spirit”, asked Sarah, “isn’t that a Christian term.”

“Not when we are talking about it, when we talk about Ruach hakodesh, believe me it is very Jewish.”

Sarah felt the Rabbi’s impatience, and like a good engineer looking for the root of a problem she went straight to the power source.

“So why is it that it makes a difference, Rabbi, why are the revelations of one holy Rabbi so true, but not the revelations of the Priests, or Clerics, or Seeks. Is it any thing greater that prejudice and isolationism; sectarianism run amuck. Is there anything more to it then that ?”

“Yes”, said Rabbi Gold not deigning to respond in full to his adversary, “a lot more.”

“Like what”, she pressed on.

“Listen to me”, said the Good Rabbi, “you want my proof I will give it to you.”

He took a deep breath, reinvesting himself in the conversation.

“The person I respect most in my life, was my father, who was also my teacher, who believed with complete belief that he was a direct recipient in an unbroken chain of the mesorah, a teaching that comes down uninterrupted from the time of Moses. Now if he respected his father as much as I respected mine, and had as much reason to respect him as I did, then there is no doubt that the truth is being transmitted down through the generations.”

“That’s your evidence” ?

Rabbi Gold shrugged, “Yes.”

“But surely you must realize that all cultures have myths that were believed and fought for, and died for, by their ancient practitioners, you must realize that not all of these can be true.”

“I know my father, and I know I trust him, what more do I need…it’s called emunah, trust…. faith, if you want. I know as deep in my heart as I want to search, that what I am doing is true, without question and without fear of being wrong.”

“And a Christian who believed for the same reasons ?”

“He would have the right to believe if his father was truthful, but he would be wrong.”

“How? How can you know he is wrong and you are right?”

“Because my tradition involves a mass revelation, his is a story made by one man.”

Sarah smiled, “that doesn’t solve your problem, Rabbi, the nature of a myth is that it is created by a small sect and is later adapted by the whole group. It is never any bigger than the first person to believe it....you are no better off than followers of Christ.”

Rabbi Gold smiled and stroked his beard in confidence, “says you, but I know that the transmission I have received is faithful, know it more than I know any fact in my life. You on the other hand can never really be sure your not a brain in a jar, or, for that matter, someone else’s brain, thinking that it is a brain in a jar, or a third persons brain thinking that it might be thinking of…”

“O.K. Rabbi”, said Sarah cutting him off, “empiricism has it’s pitfalls, but look at the big picture…science has accomplished while religion has fallen into hidden sects; A banished form of thought, how do you explain that…”

“A necessary trial for the faithful, that is about to change forever…”

“And Daniel”, she said, realizing she was contending with a mind that had happily ossified in a circuitous pattern of self justification, “what does he believe?”

Daniel snapped out of his reverie in time to see Rabbi Gold looking irritated, “Why do you bring Daniel into this, he is not your concern.”

“To the contrary, you have my main network specialist convinced he is the Messiah, come Monday mornings meltdown… it’s very much my concern.”

“It’s a trivial matter,” shot back Rabbi Gold.

“Daniel,” she prompted him, “do you believe you are to lead the Jews to redemption, or are you going to be splicing cable for me tomorrow morning? This is hell of a lot shorter notice than two weeks, so what’s it going to be ?

The elevator came to a sudden halt and the doors gently opened.

“You won’t need an answer from him,” said Rabbi Gold, “soon enough you will have all the evidence that you need.”

Sarah shook her head in dismay as they exited the elevator. A few steps away stood the entrance to a lecture hall and they entered one after the other, allowing a few moments for their eyes to adjust to the darkness.


Daniel’s first impression was that he was in a sea of hats, tall hats, short hats, broad hats, hats that put his Rebbi’s shtriemel to shame.

Sarah took in the abundance of clerical practitioners surrounding her with a bit of revultion. She turned to Rabbi Gold, “looks like you are not the only one who believes he is in possession of the sole truth.”

Rabbi Gold placed a finger to his lips requesting silence.

At the front of the room a portly man was in the midst of speaking.


“The culmination of the Messiah project is what brings us here today,” said Cornelius, knowing he needed to finish his talk as his clock read only a few more seconds before data transmission.

“After sixty years of gathering, and analyzing and organizing light, from every reach of our solar system, I am pleased to report that we will now witness, the unfolding of the visual history of the ancient near east in what has culminated in seventy two hours worth of still and joined movie frame photography…”

Cornelius had more to say but he hurriedly left the stage as MES352 reached broadcast range and the screen behind him began to crackle with digital transmission.

“Daniel”, Rabbi Gold whispered in his ear, his face a vision of holy ecstasy, eyes wide with expectation, “what you are about to witness, is the redemption, the second occurrence of unquestionable Godly revelation, the world will see a nation of Jews receiving God’s holy torah, as has been foretold by the Rebbi, and with your presence here we will usher in a new era in which God’s hand is seen by all peoples…”

Sarah was still standing at his side, “what you will see, Daniel, are the customs and civilizations of the ancient near east, and possibly some scary weather and primitive brutality, but that will be all.”

Sarah and Rabbi Gold glared at each other as Daniel, heir apparent to the throne of Judah, raised his eyes to the bright image that dawned upon the screen like a new morning, never having felt so sure that the truth was beyond his reach.

68 Comments:

At 5:04 PM, Blogger The Hedyot said...

And....?

I hope this is a part 1 of more, because I don't really get it if it's not.

Cliff Notes?

 
At 5:54 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Sorry hedyot, I don't think there will be a part two to this story.
I wanted this story to highlight the pull that many of us feel both to the secular and the theistic. And I wanted to dable in science fiction as well.
I wanted the story to showcase the secular and religious viewpoints and how difficult it is to have a discussion between two such differing world philosophies.

I ended the story with Daniel's realization that evidence could really only figure in as an afterthought to belief, for most people who have already made up their minds.

But I suppose if that didn't come across I realy didn't do it right.

Shucks....it was worth a try !

 
At 6:57 AM, Blogger Chana said...

Completely fascinating. In some ways, this reminds me of The Da Vinci Code, actually..well-written, fast-paced, conflicted characters, religion, etc.

What intrigues me is that the professor is not infallible either. Both the professor and Rabbi Gold have their faults...that's excellent.

As everyone has already told you, you should write a book. Maybe you already are an author incognito! :)

(I also want a sequel, though. I agree with the hedyot...)

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...

That was excellent and fascinating.

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger The Hedyot said...

Well, it most definitely was interesting and compelling writing. I'm just not that great at symbolism and subtle nuance, although I did pick up some of the allusions.

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger Mis-nagid said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger Mis-nagid said...

So long! I'm going to have to print it out and read it over Pesach. ;-)

 
At 9:53 AM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Very cool. :-)

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi Chana, thanks for the comments, and the encouragement, I was a bit nervous trying something this weird and science fictiony...

I had been thinking of keeping the series going ever since hedyot suggested it, but, I guess I will think some more !

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi ezzie, thanks for coming by the read, I am happy that there is an audience for the bizarre genre of ortho-science-fiction !

Mis-nagid, be careful bringing that stroy with you...it's not kosher for pesach !


JA, thanks for reading !

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Meredius said...

Although you did a masterful job balancing the perspectives of science and religion, I believe your story had an inherent bias toward Judaism. It appeared that many religious figures were gathered in the back of the lecture hall for the purpose of confirming their own faith. The Rabbi, however, attended the lecture for the sole purpose of proving to Daniel the authenticity of the Jewish tradition. As opposed to the other religious figures, only the Rabbi was secure in his faith and his tradition.

I am curious as to whether or not the revelation by the professor would have changed anyone's views. Would any of the religious figures forsaken their beliefs on the basis of this lecture? Would the scientist suddenly believe in god?

Overall, this story is as well written as all your other wonderful material. Like hedyot I was struck by the ending. What happens to our troubled protaganist?

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Meredius, you are certainly correct, the stroy is terribly wieghted towards judaism, an unfortunate side effect of the authers knowledge base ! I imagine many of the other religions offshoots of christianity and Islam who might find benefit in the solidification of Abrahamic traditions, but you are right, I did not go into the personal quests of any of these people except for the Rabbi...

>>I am curious as to whether or not the revelation by the professor would have changed anyone's views. Would any of the religious figures forsaken their beliefs on the basis of this lecture? Would the scientist suddenly believe in god?

I think this question ties into the chicken and egg dilemma that I tried to represent in the story. Once one's beleif is set it is very hard to interpert any new data without coaxing it into the box of one's preconcieved notion.

This is what I tried to make daniel intuit at the end. That the facts would not inform his beliefs, but quite the opposite.

As far as what happens to poor Daniel, I am embarresed to admit that I intended his usage for the sole purpose of demonstrating the above point.. but since you are amongst the majority to be irritated with a story left hanging, perhaps I can resurrect him to a second episode !

 
At 3:09 PM, Blogger Nice Jewish Guy said...

I wonder if the telescope showed a large, looming black monolith.....

(TPS reports, eh? Give me back my stapler!)

 
At 4:57 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Hey, I'd look forward to a Part II. :)

It's funny how everyone is understanding the ending slightly differently (good writing). I presumed that everyone would be satisfied with whatever happens [I assumed it was Har Sinai] on the mountain: The Rabbi would say it's proof; the scientist would say the people were overwhelmed by the lightning/etc., and while they were gathered, it's not proof of anything Divine; and the other religious leaders would have no problem with it, because it's the forebearer to their own religions, and "proves" the Divinity of the Old Testament for them.

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Nice Jewish guy,
who can resist pluging that movie?

Ezie,
I had in mind very much what you concluded

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger Meredius said...

After re-reading the ending with your comments in mind I realized that Sarah and Rabbi Gold were not even looking at the images! They were too busy glaring at eachother to ascertain who was correct. Truth was not objective, rather it existed in their own mind. Only Daniel was looking toward the images to determine the truth, and that is why only he felt distant from it. The more he delved into the discovery of truth, the less sure he was of its viability.

>>This is what I tried to make daniel intuit at the end. That the facts would not inform his beliefs, but quite the opposite.<<

I think almost the opposite. Facts are not the foundation of their belief systems, but it could be of Daniel's. He is caught in the vise of opposite worldviews and only the facts, the "revelation" of the lecture, will determine which one is correct.

 
At 6:04 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Meredius, that is a very novel take on the ending. It was not exactly what I had in mind when writing it, but it is equally valid, And perhaps a bit more interesting :-)

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger Ayelet said...

Fascinating. Ezzie sent me here and it seems I'll have much work over Pesach catching up on your other writings. Truly fascinating. Should I worry if I found myself frowning over the Rebbi's arguments? I was putting myself in Sarah's shoes, and, let me tell you, I wasn't buying a word he said!

p.s. when you go to publish, call me to edit. I'm a spelling/grammar freak.;)

 
At 7:31 PM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I don't think it needs a part II at all. "It ended the only way it could have." -- a paraphrase of part of a review I remember about a great story called "People Like That Are the Only People Here," by Lorrie Moore. (It's about cancer, just a warning.)

 
At 7:53 PM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Wow, I just read your previous post. I sincerely regret passing over your posts in the past because I thought they were "too long." You're great.

I went to a MO high school, but I definitely experienced the showdowns with the principal, with all the manipulations and sneaky conversational tactics on both sides, almost exactly as you describe. Scary.

 
At 11:26 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Ben,

You are by far the king of all Orthodox Judaism themed science fiction work. ;-)

I remember Heinlein had a time traveling character who after a long period of searching could only conclude that Christianity was founded on crucifiction, but I've never seen Judaism so explored.

Well done!

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Wow, this is a great read! the concept is brilliant! But a cliffhanger ending that will never be resolved? :-(

I agree with Chana that it reminds me of Dan Browns books. Good stuff!

Finish it, Ben Avuyah... your fans want closure, lol.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Wow, this is a great read! the concept is brilliant! But a cliffhanger ending that will never be resolved? :-(

I agree with Chana that it reminds me of Dan Browns books. Good stuff!

Finish it, Ben Avuyah... your fans want closure, lol.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi ayelet, thanks for reading, don't wory too much if the Rabbi was rubbing you the wrong way, he was something of a fundamentalist. I will certainly keep you in mind for editing, I was tragicaly born missing the part of the brain that spells..

JA, I'm glad I could finaly rope you in to read some of this stuff !!

Orhtoprax, You nailed it !! I am currently the leading author of chasidic science fiction !! I'm standing all alone on top of my little ant hill over here.

Actually, a freind of mine told me he once read an orthodox sci fi, about a religious family being upset about their daughter marrying a martian, I'd actually like to check that out some time.


Hi Frumgirl, thanks for reading, I'll take that as another vote for sequel !

 
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At 3:06 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Ben,

Harry Turtledove had a short story about a future marvel of genetic engineering - a pig that could chew its cud and the consternation it caused this Conservative Rabbi.

As an avid science fiction fan myself I see Jews being mentioned here and there, but no writer has your personal experience to write convincingly about the issues surrounding OJ and skepticism.

I dabbled with the idea of writing some Jewish themed science fiction myself, but I never wrote much. I have a few interesting ideas though...like the Halachic difficulties of building a succah while under the sealed glass of a future Moon colony.

In all seriousness though, if we ever do become a space-bound species then many Halachot will have to bend to make room for quite a few unusual situations.

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Oh, and I'm going to use the opportunity to promote Turtledove's "In the Presence of Mine Enemies."

It's a great book and I think many people here would like it. Look it up online.

 
At 5:34 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Orthoprax,

>>I have a few interesting ideas though...like the Halachic difficulties of building a succah while under the sealed glass of a future Moon colony.

I think that's awesome. You should write it ! Just imagine how hakafos would look, when earth north, east, west and south, are all basicly....down !! And who even knows what to do with spheka diyoma !!

>>Oh, and I'm going to use the opportunity to promote Turtledove's "In the Presence of Mine Enemies."

Just one day to late for Amazon overnight in time for Yom Tov. Ah well, thats what the second days are for...

Happy digestion,

Ben

 
At 4:34 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

This was amazing. And while I'd read a sequel, and probably enjoy it, I don't think you should. The story stands by itself, and it raises questions.

This is what life is like. Not everything gets wrapped up into a neat little bundle at the end. Questions like these don't always get answered.

I'm going to add my voice to the people calling for you to write more. I have a print out of a collection of your stories sitting on my bookshelf right now, but I'd buy it if it was in the bookstore.

You should really check out lulu.com. You can self-publish there for free, because they do print-on-demand. I'm doing that myself.

Thanks for writing. It's eerie reading stuff from a yeshivish POV, but I'd like more.

 
At 11:46 AM, Blogger TgdyCmdy said...

Please get published. You are a wonderful writer.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=nb_ss_gw/104-0718021-5527147?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=writers+market

 
At 12:21 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Lisa and TGdycmdy, thank you for your supportive comments. With encouragment like that, I may actualy get down to onerous job of editing, and shopping for a publisher. I will certainly check out the links you have both provided, thank you.

The problem for me, is that writing, is something I look forward to all day, and perform with all the enthusaism of a favorite hobby. But editing...that's a second job I have to do after my real days work is done...
Thank you for your enthusiasm, it may just give me the boost I need to get moving.

 
At 9:14 PM, Blogger TgdyCmdy said...

That is what editors are for :)

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger David Guttmann said...

Excellent! I will now read the others.

I have an ongoing argument with my son who buys Rebbi's argument as the strongest for judaism and I have been taking your side(Sarah's). That is why rambam's approach is intriguing when he posits that the whole episode at Sinai could have been a non physical event. Light would therefore not record it.

You should publish.

 
At 5:30 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi David G, I am glad you stopped by to read ! It's pretty admirable that you are able to have a discussion like that with your son!

 
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At 12:34 AM, Blogger shira said...

I just wanted to note that I think that usage of the name "Daniel" was genius. One is constantly oscillating between the Hebrew and English pronunciations of the name. His identity is pronounced differently by his Rebbe and his boss. The reader has to hear in his/her head the dialogue between the Rebbi and the boss, hear the different pronunciations of the name. In that sense it emphasizes the already personal nature of that story against the cosmic drama of the content. This is a story about "Daniel", about origin and nature and language. The same letters. Objectively, you look at it and it is the same word. Just like what the image would have been to both the Rebbe and the boss. The question is how you hear it, how you pronounce it, the linguisitc meaning it carries to you. It is a story about individuals grappling with their worldviews through the character of Daniel and the conflict that he represents. And obviously, the main question is, how does Daniel pronounce his own name? Where does he place himself?
Additionally, was the name chosen for its Biblical significance?
Ben Avuyah-when I was Shana Bet in Israel we saw this great short film at the Talmudical village Katzrin about Alisha ben Avuyah, and at the time I was reading As A Driven Leaf... and my whole apartment would get together at night for "cherem story hour" aka excerpts from the making of a gadol, and alisha be avuyah sort of became our "shana bet mascot", so "acher" has an honorbale mention on our shana bet t-shirt.
I assume that your choice of "ben avuyah" is meant to connote the destiny of alisha to follow his heretical father...as opposed to focusing on the individuality and the experience of alisha himself...which in a sense if giving into tradition and destiny and negating reason and indiviudal autonomy...:)

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi Shira, thank you for the very in depth comment, You know, I never thought of that aspect of the name Daniel, but your right, it's spelled the same way in yeshivish or english !

I actually named the protaganist after the blogger "orthoprax" whom I have seen refered to as Daniel sometimes. He seems to personify a very honest and open attitude towards the facts as opposed to the many agenda's out there, including my own :-)

>>>I assume that your choice of "ben avuyah" is meant to connote the destiny of alisha to follow his heretical father...as opposed to focusing on the individuality and the experience of alisha himself...which in a sense if giving into tradition and destiny and negating reason and indiviudal autonomy...:)

Very clever, but your much more of a thinker than I am... aside from the heretical association, I just liked the sound of it !!

 
At 5:37 PM, Blogger shira said...

I like the way it sounds too:) I just figured I would take my stab at it. Are you in school, and if so, what are you studying?

 
At 5:29 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi shira,

Nah I'm not in school anymore officialy, but I just took a jewish history course with my wife, just for the heck of it ! School is a lot more fun when you can just shrug off the homework :-)

 
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