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Chapter 18: That The Children Of Jerusalem May Be Saved From Slavery (Passover Bonus Chapter)

And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the user control whether or not to memoize thunks
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I.

April 10, 2017
San Jose

“Why are we celebrating Passover?” asked Bill. “Are any of us even Jewish?”

“My father was Jewish,” I answered.

“Doesn’t count,” said Bill.

“I’m Jewish,” said Ally Hu.

“You’re Chinese,” corrected Bill.

“My great-grandmother came from the Kaifeng Jews,” said Ally. “They have been in Asia for many generations.”

We all stared at Ally. We’d never heard about this before.

“We’re celebrating Passover,” said Erica, bringing in a plate of brisket, “because we’re freedom fighters, and Passover is a celebration of freedom. It binds us to everyone across history and around the world who has struggled to escape bondage, from the Israelites in Egypt to the proletariat of today. Across thousands of years and thousands of miles, we’re all joined together, saying the same words, eating the same foods – ”

“Pyramid-shaped cookies?” asked Zoe, skeptically.

“The pyramid-shaped cookies are adorable,” said Erica.

“You’re supposed to avoid anything with flour in it!” I protested.

Jews are supposed to avoid anything with flour in it,” Erica explained patiently.

“You’re supposed to have matzah!”

“I have matzah!” said Erica. She brought in a plate of matzah. It had been cut into the shapes of little frogs and locusts. They had little eyes made of frosting.

“Ally, back me up on this,” I said.

“Frosting is not a traditional Passover food,” said Ally.

“Thank you!”

“Traditional Passover food is sweet-and-sour chicken, boiled peanuts, and rice.”

I glared at her.

“Sour to represent the sourness of slavery in Egypt, sweet to represent the sweetness of freedom!” suggested Ana. Ally nodded enthusiastically.

“Why the boiled peanuts?” asked Erica.

“Sixth plague,” Ana answered.

“Why the rice?” asked Eli.

“Thi-” I started, just as Ana said “That’s racist.”

“You didn’t even hear what…”

“I know how you think,” said Ana.

Erica came in with the bottle of Manischewitz and poured out nine glasses.

“There are only eight of us,” Bill corrected her.

“One for the Prophet Elijah,” said Erica.

Pirindiel had been looking unusually glum this month, ever since one of the big theonomics had rejected his attempt at a business deal, politely explaining that “angel investor” didn’t mean what he thought it meant. Now he brightened up, and almost seemed to bounce with excitement. “Elijah!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t know he was coming! It’s been ages since the last time we – ”

“He’s not coming,” said Erica. “It’s a metaphor.” Pirindiel’s face fell. He stared down at his plate in what I thought was embarrassment.

Erica finished pouring the wine and went to the head of the table. “We are gathered here today,” she said, “to celebrate how the Israelites went from slavery into freedom. Yet in a sense, we are still slaves. Wiliam Blake said: ‘I must create my own system, or be enslaved by another man’s’. We are no longer slaves to a Pharaoh, but we are slaves to a system, a system that takes the work of our hands and minds and forces us to toil for its benefit. We celebrate tonight not only our current freedom, but the freedom yet to come, when the Names of God will be free for all the people of the earth.” She raised her glass. “To freedom!”

We all drank to freedom.

“Now, Aaron is going to lead us in a traditional Passover song…”

II.

“The Lust Of The Goat Is The Bounty Of God”, by Aaron Smith-Teller
Published in the 2017 Passover bonus issue of the Stevensite Standard

There’s an old Jewish childrens’ song called Had Gadya. It starts:

A little goat, a little goat
My father bought for two silver coins,
A little goat, a little goat

Then came the cat that ate the goat
My father bought for two silver coins
A little goat, a little goat

Then came that dog that bit the cat…

And so on. A stick hits the dog, a fire burns the stick, water quenches the fire, an ox drinks the water, a butcher slaughters the ox, the Angel of Death takes the butcher, and finally God destroys the Angel of Death. Throughout all of these verses, it is emphasized that it is indeed a little goat, and the father did indeed buy it for two silver coins.

So far, so good. Lots of cultures have dumb childrens’ songs. But somehow this song made it into the liturgy for Passover, one of the holiest of Jewish holidays. Rabbi Azulai notes that the last person to say this was silly got excommunicated, and further notes that he deserves it. Jews put up with a lot of stuff, but you do not mess with the goat song. After that everyone assumed it must have had some sort of secret meaning, but no one ever really agreed upon what exactly that might be.

Rabbi Emden of Hamburg suggests that the goat represents the human soul. The goat was bought with two silver coins because the soul makes two journeys to arrive in our bodies – first from Heaven to the mystical plane of Galgalim, then from this mystical plane down to Earth. The various animals and objects, in this system, represent various challenges faced by the soul progress as it passes through life. Just to choose some random examples, cat represents the animalistic nature of the undisciplined infant, and the fire represents the burning lusts of puberty. Finally you get to the Angel of Death – played by himself – and if you’re lucky, God judges you worthy, destroys the Angel of Death, and carries you to eternal life.

(Mark Twain once said “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” I think he would have liked Kabbalah.)

Rabbi Reuben Margolis relates the song to a Midrash. King Nimrod of Sumer demands Abraham worship the Fire God. Abraham refuses, saying that rain extinguishes fire, so if anything he should worship rain. Nimrod says okay, fine, worship the Rain God. But Abraham refuses again, saying that wind drives away the rain clouds, so if anything, he should worship wind. So Nimrod commands he worship the Wind God, and then other things happen, and finally Nimrod tries to kill Abraham and God saves him. The lesson is that all hierarchies end in God, who is above all things.

Rabbi Moses Sofer says that the song is a coded reference to the appropriate rituals for celebrating Passover during the Temple Era. The goat represents the Paschal sacrifice of the lamb, which is rather like a goat. The cat represents singing prayers, because this is in the Talmud somewhere (spoiler: everything is in the Talmud somewhere). The dog represents nighttime, because it barks at night, and nighttime is the appropriate time to hold a Passover meal. And so on.

(I hereby propose “Sofer’s Law”: the number of correspondences you can draw between any two systems increase exponentially as a function of your laxity in declaring that things represent other things.)

Rabbi Eybeschuetz of Prague writes that the entire thing is a historical prophecy. The goat represents the Jewish people. The two silver coins represent the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, with which God “bought” the Jewish people for Himself. The various animals and objects represent all of the misfortunes of the Jewish people over history. When the cat eats the goat, that refers to the conquest of Israel by King Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria. When the ox drinks the water, that’s the Hellenic Greeks taking over the newly re-independent Israelite state. Finally, at the end, God comes in and solves everything, the Jews return to Israel, and the Messianic Age begins.

(Four rabbis in, and we’re at King Tiglath-Pileser III. We have to go deeper!)

As far as I know, no one has previously linked this song to the Lurianic Kabbalah. So I will say it: the deepest meaning of Had Gadya is a description of how and why God created the world. As an encore, it also resolves the philosophical problem of evil.

The most prominent Biblical reference to a goat is the scapegoating ritual. Once a year, the High Priest of Israel would get rid of the sins of the Jewish people by mystically transferring all of them onto a goat, then yelling at the goat until it ran off somewhere, presumably taking all the sin with it.

The thing is, at that point the goat contained an entire nation-year worth of sin. That goat was super evil. As a result, many religious and mystical traditions have associated unholy forces with goats ever since, from the goat demon Baphomet to the classical rather goat-like appearance of Satan.

So the goat represents evil. I’ll go along with everyone else saying the father represents God here. So God buys evil with two silver coins. What’s up?

The most famous question in theology is “Why did God create a universe filled with so much that is evil?” The classical answers tend to be kind of weaselly, and center around something like free will or necessary principles or mysterious ways. Something along the lines of “Even though God’s omnipotent, creating a universe without evil just isn’t possible.”

But here we have God buying evil with two silver coins. Buying to me represents an intentional action. Let’s go further – buying represents a sacrifice. Buying is when you sacrifice something dear to you to get something you want even more. Evil isn’t something God couldn’t figure out how to avoid, it’s something He covets.

What did God sacrifice for the sake of evil? Two silver coins. We immediately notice the number “two”. Two is not typically associated with God. God is One. Two is right out. The kabbalists identify the worst demon, the nadir of all demons, as Thamiel, whose name means “duality in God”. Two is dissonance, divorce, division, dilemmas, distance, discrimination, diabolism.

This, then, was God’s sacrifice. In order to create evil, He took up duality.

“Why would God want to create evil? God is pure Good!”

Exactly. The creation of anything at all other than God requires evil. God is perfect. Everything else is imperfect. Imperfection contains evil by definition. Two scoops of evil is the first ingredient in the recipe for creating universes. Finitude is evil. Form is evil. Without evil all you have is God, who, as the kabbalists tell us, is pure Nothing. If you want something, evil is part of the deal.

Now count the number of creatures in the song. God, angel, butcher, ox, water, fire, stick, dog, cat, goat. Ten steps from God to goat. This is the same description of the ten sephirot we’ve found elsewhere, the ten levels by which God’s ineffability connects to the sinful material world without destroying it. This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence. Had Gadya isn’t just a silly children’s song about the stages of advancement of the human soul, the appropriate rituals for celebrating Passover in the Temple, the ancient Sumerian pantheon, and the historical conquests of King Tiglath-Pileser III. It’s also a blueprint for the creation of the universe. Just like everything else.

III.

April 10, 2017
New York City

“Mr. Alvarez,” asked Brian Young, “why are we celebrating Passover? I don’t think any of us are Jews.”

“In a sense,” said Dylan, “we are all Jews. The Jews of…”

“In a sense,” said Clark Deas, “every time Dylan says ‘in a sense’ I mentally replace it with ‘not at all’.”

“Mr. Deas!” said Dylan. “Open the Haggadah and find the entry about the Wicked Child, who says that these rituals and customs do not apply to him! Take a careful look at the fate it says is in store for such a child!”

Clark reached for the Haggadah, but Dylan was faster and snatched it out of his grasp. “It says,” said Dylan, “that such a child would not have been rescued from slavery in Egypt! Do you understand, Mr. Deas? If you had been a slave in Egypt in 1500 BC, you, and your children, and your children’s children would have remained in the country forever. And today, slavery would be completely abolished throughout the world, except for you! You, Mr. Deas, would still be in Egypt, building pyramids, with all the rest of the twenty-first century population staring at you confused and wondering what was going on. Passover is important! It’s about bringing us together! Across thousands of years and thousands of miles, we’re all joined together, saying the same words, eating the same foods – ”

“Is there anything in the Haggadah about The Child Who Wouldn’t Shut Up?” asked Clark.

“And given that we’re a terrorist cell,” said Michael Khan, “are you sure we want to be brought together with other people?”

“In a sense,” said Dylan, “Passover is a holiday entirely about terrorists.”

Clark was mouthing the words “in a sense” while furiously making sarcastic quotation marks with his fingers.

“Consider,” said Dylan. “The government is oppressing the Israelites. The Israelites have already tried nonviolent resistance, to no avail. So Moses tells his spokesman Aaron to send a threat to the government: give in to our demands or we’ll poison your water supply. The government refuses, says they don’t negotiate with terrorists. So Moses turns the river to blood. Then he sends another threat: give in to our demands, or we’ll release biological weapons. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and again he said ‘we won’t negotiate with terrorists’. So boom. Frogs, lice, wild beasts, cattle disease, locusts, boils – you know what some archaeologists think caused the boils and cattle disease, by the way? Anthrax. Look it up. Then he sends another threat: give in to our demands, or we’ll sabotage the electrical grid. Pharaoh’s heart is hard, he refuses to negotiate with terrorists. So boom. Moses plunges the entire country into darkness. Then Moses sends his final threat, and it’s a classic: give in to our demands, or we’ll kill innocent children. Pharaoh says again – we don’t negotiate with terrorists. So Moses kills the Egyptian kids, and Egypt gives in to his demands, and Moses and his followers flee over the border where they can’t be caught. The perfect crime.”

“I think God was involved somewhere,” said Brenda Burns.

“Oh, because terrorists never invoke God,” said Dylan, rolling his eyes. “Invoking God totally disqualifies you from being a terrorist. My mistake! Discúlpame por favor!

Brenda, Clark, and Michael facepalmed.

“But you know what?” asked Dylan. “It doesn’t matter! We’re not just terrorists, we’re placebomancers! We make our own narratives! Freedom to make whatever narrative you want – in a sense, isn’t that what freedom is?”

Clark continued making sarcastic finger motions to no avail.

IV.

March 30, 1991
Gulf of Mexico

“Uriel, why are we celebrating Passover? I’m not Jewish, and you’re an archangel.”

“IS THAT ONE OF THE FOUR QUESTIONS? I DO NOT REMEMBER ALL OF THEM BUT IT SEEMS VERY SPECIFIC.”

“No! This is my question!”

Sohu sat at a table suspended several hundred feet in the air, putting her about eye level with Uriel. Two plates had been set out, despite the fact that the archangel did not eat and was far too big to manipulate anything upon the table anyway. They were definitely intended to be seder plates, but they looked like they had missed something in the execution.

“And what is this on the seder plate? I am like 99% sure that is not lamb.”

“I DID NOT HAVE LAMB, SO I USED LAMPREYS. KABBALISTICALLY THEY ARE VERY SIMILAR.”

“They have icky little mouths!”

“THEY USE THOSE TO SUCK THE LIFE JUICES OUT OF OTHER FISHES.”

“Uriel, why are we doing this?”

“THE MOST IMPORTANT KABBALISTIC SOURCE TEXT IS THE TORAH. THE CLIMAX OF THE TORAH NARRATIVE IS THE PASSOVER STORY OF SALVATION FROM EGYPT. IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE KABBALAH, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND PASSOVER.”

“What does Passover have to do with kabbalah?”

“THERE ARE TEN PLAGUES WITH WHICH THE ISRAELITES WENT FROM THE LAND OF BONDAGE TO THE HOLY LAND.”

“And?”

“HOW MANY SEPHIROT ARE THERE THAT GO FROM THE MATERIAL WORLD TO ULTIMATE DIVINITY?”

“There’s…oh…I think that’s a coincidence.”

“NOTHING IS A COINCIDENCE. EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. AT PASSOVER THINGS ARE ESPECIALLY CONNECTED. THE PASSOVER RITUAL BINDS ALL THE KABBALISTS OF ALL AGES TOGETHER, FROM SHIMON BAR YOCHAI TO TODAY. ACROSS THOUSANDS OF YEARS AND THOUSANDS OF MILES WE ARE ALL JOINED TOGETHER, SAYING THE SAME WORDS, EATING THE SAME FOODS…”

“Lampreys?!”

“…EATING KABBALISTICALLY SIMILAR FOODS.”

“Will you tell me the story of Passover?”

“YOU ALREADY KNOW THE STORY OF PASSOVER. YOU HAVE MEMORIZED THE BIBLE.”

“I like it when you tell me stories.”

“YOU ALWAYS MAKE FUN OF THEM.”

“That’s how I show that I like it!”

“I WILL TELL YOU THE STORY IF YOU EAT YOUR LAMPREYS.”

“They’re disgusting!”

“I AM CERTAIN THEY ARE FINE.”

“Uriel, have you ever eaten food? Any food?”

“UM. I HAVE PERFORMED SEVERAL MILLION COMPUTATIONS SIMULATING THE BINDING AFFINITIES OF HUMAN GUSTATORY RECEPTORS.”

“I’m not eating the lampreys. Tell me the story of Passover. Your book on education says human children like stories, right?”

“WELL…”

V.

Springtime, ???? BC
Mt. Sinai

With a final grunt of effort, the old man crested the ridge and came to the summit of the mountain. He leaned on his staff for a few seconds, catching his breath. He had come such a long way. He let his eyes drift closed…

“DO NOT BE AFRAID,” came a vast booming voice from directly behind him.

Moses screamed, tried to turn around, lost his footing, and fell down in a heap upon the blue rocks.

“SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY.” The source of the voice was a vast entity that towered above him, a humanoid creature with great golden wings protruding from its back and eyes that shone like the sun. “SORRY SORRY SORRY.”

Moses pulled himself into a more dignified kneeling position. “My Lord,” he said reverently.

“UM,” said Uriel. “I AM SORT OF FILLING IN FOR HIM. HE DOES NOT DO VERY MUCH. IT IS HARD TO EXPLAIN.”

“My Lord,” repeated Moses. “With a mighty hand, you freed my people from slavery in Egypt.”

“UM,” said the archangel. “IT IS SOMEWHAT MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT. THE EGYPTIANS WERE BUILDING THESE PYRAMIDS WHICH THEY THOUGHT TAPPED INTO THE COSMIC ENERGIES OF THE UNIVERSE. AND THEY DID TAP INTO THE COSMIC ENERGIES OF THE UNIVERSE. NOT FOR THE REASONS THEY THOUGHT, WHICH WERE PRETTY MUCH THE WORST SORT OF PRIMITIVE HOCUS-POCUS, BUT JUST BECAUSE ANYTHING BIG AND GEOMETRIC IS GOING TO MESS UP THE FLOW OF DIVINE LIGHT IN UNPREDICTABLE WAYS. I ASKED THEM TO STOP BUT THEY WOULDN’T. I TRIED FRIGHTENING THEM BY TURNING THEIR RIVERS TO BLOOD, BUT THEY JUST MURMURED SOMETHING ABOUT “PHYTOPLANKTON” AND KEPT DOING IT. THEN I SENT THEM A BUNCH OF FROGS, BUT THAT DIDN’T HELP EITHER. FROGS NEVER HELP. THEN I GOT KIND OF CARRIED AWAY.”

“But when our people reached the Sea of Reeds, and we thought that all was lost, I prayed to you, and you parted the sea, so we could cross freely.”

“THEN I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, HOW ARE THEY GOING TO BUILD PYRAMIDS IF THEY DON’T HAVE A LABOR FORCE? SO I PARTED THE SEA SO THEIR SLAVES COULD ESCAPE. I THINK IT WAS A GOOD PLAN.”

“And when the last among us had stepped out from the waters, you sent them crashing down upon the Pharaoh and his army, destroying them and their wickedness forever.”

“I HAVE NOT WORKED OUT ALL OF THE BUGS IN THE PART_SEA FUNCTION.”

“Now we have come to you for advice. It is through your grace that we are free, but we know not what to do with our freedom. The people demand laws, a code to live by, something to bring meaning and structure to their lives.”

“UM. I THINK YOU SHOULD PROBABLY JUST BE NICE TO EACH OTHER. UNLESS BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER WOULD CAUSE SOME SORT OF HORRIBLE PROBLEM I CANNOT ANTICIPATE RIGHT NOW. THEN YOU SHOULD NOT DO THAT.”

“Please, O Lord! You must have more advice than that, advice which can sustain us in spirit as we cross this scorching desert.”

“WEAR SUNSCREEN?”

“Lord, the Egyptians are the mightiest people in the world, but they are mighty because their priests rule every minute of their lives, from the ritual ablutions they perform upon waking up to the prayers they say before they go to bed at night. If our people are left adrift, without laws and rituals to connect them to You and thank You for your gift of freedom, I fear they will go astray.”

“AH. I THINK I UNDERSTAND. ACTUALLY, THIS TIES INTO ANOTHER PROJECT OF MINE. I AM GRADUALLY SHIFTING THE WORLD FROM ON A SUBSTRATE OF DIVINE LIGHT TO A SUBSTRATE OF MECHANICAL COMPUTATION. THE MECHANICAL SUBSTRATE HAS A LOT OF POTENTIAL BENEFITS. FOR EXAMPLE, IT IS PERFECTLY PREDICTABLE. FOR ANOTHER, IT ALLOWS EVEN LOW-LEVEL USERS SUCH AS YOURSELF TO COMBINE PHYSICAL FORCES IN NOVEL WAYS TO SOLVE YOUR OWN PROBLEMS AS THEY ARISE. MOST IMPORTANT, IT IS MORE ROBUST AGAINST DEMONIC INTRUSION. IN FACT, ANGELS AND DEMONS ARE PRETTY MUCH INERT ON A MECHANICAL SUBSTRATE. IT INVOLVES VARIOUS INTERACTIONS BETWEEN SEPHIROT AND KLIPOT. ARE YOU FAMILAR WITH THESE? IF NOT I CAN EXPLAIN.”

“The laws, O Lord?”

“RIGHT NOW COMPUTATIONAL RESOURCES ARE THE MAJOR BOTTLENECK IN THE PROJECT. I HAVE A LIST OF STEPS THAT END USERS COULD TAKE TO SAVE COMPUTATIONAL RESOURCES.”

“And these would be the laws?”

“I PERFORM SERVER MAINTENANCE ON SATURDAYS. THIS MEANS LOWER CAPACITY. SO PLEASE AVOID HIGH-LOAD ACTIVITIES LIKE BUSINESS TRANSACTIONS, AGRICULTURAL WORK, AND ELECTRICITY USE DURING THAT TIME. SO YES. THAT IS A LAW.”

“My Lord, what is ‘electricity’?”

“SO IMAGINE THAT EVERYTHING IS MADE UP OF THESE TINY OBJECTS. YOU COULD IMAGINE THEY ARE SORT OF LIKE BILLIARD BALLS WITH SMALLER BILLIARD BALLS CIRCLING AROUND THEM, EXCEPT THAT THEY ARE NOT ACTUALLY CIRCLING. THEY ARE MORE LIKE A POSSIBILITY OF THERE BEING A BILLIARD BALL, AND THE POSSIBILITY FORMS A CIRCLE. UM. A SPHERE. EXCEPT THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS A SPHERE. THE FIRST TWO LOOK SORT OF LIKE SPHERES, BUT THE NEXT THREE ARE KIND OF LIKE FIGURE EIGHTS AT RIGHT ANGLES TO ONE ANOTHER, AND THEN ANOTHER SPHERE, THEN THREE MORE FIGURE EIGHTS, AND THEN MORE COMPLICATED THINGS THAT ARE KIND OF HARD TO DESCRIBE. UM. THIS IS ACTUALLY MORE COMPLICATED TO EXPLAIN THAN I THOUGHT. ELECTRICITY IS KIND OF LIKE STARTING A FIRE. YOU WILL KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT.”

“Um, yes, my Lord. Anything else?”

“YES. DO NOT MIX DIFFERENT KINDS OF FABRIC IN YOUR GARMENTS. IT COMPLICATES THE TEAR RESISTANCE CALCULATIONS.”

“And?”

“DO NOT BOIL A GOAT IN ITS MOTHER’S MILK. I KNOW THAT SOUNDS STRANGE, BUT EVERY TIME SOMEONE TRIES THIS, THE ENTIRE SEPHIRAH HANDLING THE CONTINENT WHERE IT HAPPENS CRASHES. I HAVE SPENT AEONS OF SUBJECTIVE TIME TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THE PROBLEM AND I HAVE PRETTY MUCH GIVEN UP. JUST DO NOT DO IT. DO NOT DO ANYTHING SORT OF LIKE IT. JUST AVOID THAT ENTIRE CATEGORY OF THING.”

“And?”

“UM. I FEEL BAD ABOUT THIS. BUT I AM TRYING TO ASSIGN EVERYONE A UNIQUE SOULMATE. RIGHT NOW I AM USING A VARIANT OF THE GALE-SHAPLEY ALGORITHM, BUT IT IS VERY RESOURCE-INTENSIVE. I THINK LIMITING THE ALGORITHM TO MALE-FEMALE PAIRINGS WOULD MAKE IT RUN MUCH MORE SMOOTHLY WITH ONLY A SLIGHT PENALTY IN OPTIMAL MATE ALLOCATION.”

“I don’t understand.”

“THE ALGORITHM WILL WORK BETTER IF YOU TELL PEOPLE NOT TO HAVE SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS.”

“I see,” said Moses. “It is an abomination.”

“IT IS JUST VERY KLUDGY AND VERY SLOW. I CAN REMOVE THE LIMITATIONS ONCE I HAVE MORE RAM.”

“We can sacrifice some to you once we build a proper Temple,” said Moses.

“UM,” said Uriel. “I AM ALMOST CERTAIN YOU CANNOT. BUT I APPRECIATE THE OFFER.” He stood for a second, lost in thought. “THERE ARE MANY RULES. IT WILL TAKE ME A LONG TIME TO THINK OF ALL OF THEM. YOU SHOULD GO CHECK ON YOUR PEOPLE. COME BACK UP IN A FEW WEEKS AND I WILL GIVE YOU A COMPLETE LIST.”

“Yes, my Lord,” said Moses.

Forty days and forty nights later, the old man trudged back up the slopes of the mountain.

“UM,” said the archangel. “SO. I MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN A LITTLE BIT CARRIED AWAY…”

VI.

April 7, 2001
Colorado Springs

In a dimly-lit chamber two thousand feet underground, quiet as death, seven people sat at a table. Seven seder plates. Seven cups of wine.

The Comet King spoke first, barely above a whisper. “Why are we doing this?”

His eldest daughter, Nathanda: “We’re doing this because you made us promise to help you stay human. This is what humans do. They celebrate holidays with their friends and families. Across thousands of years and thousands of miles, we’re all joined together, saying the same words, eating the same foods. Come on, Father. You know you need this.”

“I shouldn’t have come.” He started to stand, but Nathanda put her hand one one of his shoulders, Father Ellis on the other, and they gently guided him back to his chair.

Nathanda motioned to Sohu. She was the youngest by virtue of being perpetually eight years old. Sohu stood up.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?”

The Comet King said nothing. Sohu looked at the other Cometspawn, then at Father Ellis, then at Uncle Vihaan, waiting for someone to answer. All of them ended up looking at the Comet King. Finally, he spoke.

“On all other nights,” he said, “we remember that we failed. We remember that God does not answer prayers. We remember that those we love are still in bondage and can never be saved. Tonight, we lie.”

“Father,” said Nathanda, with a pained look. “Please. Just let us have a Seder together. As a family.”

The Comet King stood up and pointed at the table. The various foods and glasses started moving, re-enacting the Seder in fast-forward. The vegetables leapt into the salt water to dip themselves. The matzah broke itself in half, the afikomen flying out of the room. The plates started spinning around, serving themselves in order, the food leaping from serving tray to plate and back to serving tray faster than anybody could follow, the pages of the Haggadah turning themselves like they were blown by the wind, the door swinging open then slamming shut.

A cup of wine flew into the Comet King’s hand.

“Wine for the tears of the suffering,” he said. “Blood. Frogs. Lice.” At each word, a spherical droplet of wine shot up from the cup. “Beasts. Disease. Boils.” When the droplets reached the ceiling, they burst apart. “Hail. Locusts. Darkness.” A final drop, bigger than the rest. “Death of the firstborn.” The last droplet exploded like the others in what looked like a shower of blood. “And for the suffering yet to come – ”

He threw the cup itself into the air, then pointed at it. It exploded, shooting pieces of silver across the room. A moment later, every other wine-glass in the world exploded too.

“There,” said the Comet King, his voice still calm and distant. “Across thousands of miles, everyone joined together. Feeling the same things we feel. Am I more human now? I don’t know. Maybe I am.” He picked up a sliver of wine-glass, held it up as if in a toast. “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Then he turned to lightning and flew out of the room.

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203 Responses to Chapter 18: That The Children Of Jerusalem May Be Saved From Slavery (Passover Bonus Chapter)

  1. Daniel Blank says:

    And two silver coins or gold coins?

    • nightpool says:

      Yeah, the text consistently says two silver coins but the quoted part says gold coins twice.

    • Kinetic_Hugh_Reeve says:

      The quoted text is adjusted for inflation?

    • Jacob says:

      I think I have solved theodicy.

      In project management there is an iron law: “Cheap, fast, good. Choose two.”

      The world is cheap – God bought it for merely two coins. The world is fast – God made it in a week with a day to spare. Thus, the world can’t be very good.

  2. Pickle says:

    Also, oh hey: Father Ellis is Elijah? After Pirindiel’s comment, I was assuming Elijah would be showing up as Sandalphon, but the Comet Seder has seven wine glasses and a dude named “Ellis,” so.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      …you know, that would make sense, actually, as a way of explaining how the Comet King is “born of the heavens” and yet also largely human. If Elijah (or alternately Enoch?) somehow had children (with who??) while in heaven, and then they returned to earth.

    • Pickle says:

      Seven wine glasses with seven people in attendance, that is.

    • Good point. Awesome if true. Does anyone have any ideas about Uncle Vihaan?

      Also, seven people sitting down but only five mentioned (TCK, Ellis, Vihaan, Nathanda and Sohu). I’m guessing there are a couple of other children (since “cometspawn” and “the west children” seems to imply more than just Nathanda and Sohu). Also probably no wife (what did happen to her?), since the job of handling TCK’s dark moods fell to the uncles (also, his dark mood does sound kinda widowerish).

      Also, now that we have confirmation that Sohu ends up staying eight forever: Uriel offered to make her grow older every year. Did she reject the offer? Did something happen to one of them?

      • kechpaja says:

        Well, “vihaan” is the illative of the Finnish noun “viha”, which means “anger” or “hatred”. It’s a stretch, but we know how coincidences work in this universe…

        • fubarobfusco says:

          Vihaan is also a Sanskrit name meaning “dawn”. (But unlike the name “Dawn” in English, it’s a masculine name.)

          Ellis is indeed the English form of Elijah … by way of the Greek Elias and the Crusades.

          Nathanda could be related to Nathan, the name of the prophet who reprimanded King David for adultery and murder.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Scott has already told us that in this context “Sohu” means “star”, so with Vihaan we seem to have a bit of a celestial theme.

          • Daniel says:

            Also, the Greek Ηλιας is non-coincidentally close to Ηλιος = “Sun”!

      • azariah says:

        Vihaan is an anagram of HaNavi (“the prophet”). Eliyahu HaNavi (“Elijah the Prophet”) is a traditional Passover song.

        But we already have an Ellis in attendance.

        This is confusing because everything is confusing.

        • Daniel says:

          On the other hand, see John 1:19-21:

          This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” […]

          “I am not the Messiah.”

          And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”

          He said, “I am not.”

          “Are you the prophet?”

          He answered, “No.”

        • Okay, this is getting weird.

          • John Cowan says:

            Scott, it’s always been weird. You may have written the book, but that doesn’t make you the Author of the Story. As R. Northrop ben Herman says:

            The poet may of course have some critical ability of his own, and so be able to talk about his own work. But the Dante who writes a commentary on the first canto of the Paradiso is merely one more of Dante’s critics. What he says has a peculiar interest, but not a peculiar authority. It is generally accepted that a critic is a better judge of the value of a poem than its creator, but there is still a lingering notion that it is somehow ridiculous to regard the critic as the final judge of its meaning, even though in practice it is clear that he must be. The reason for this is an inability to distinguish literature from the descriptive or assertive writing which derives from the active will and the conscious mind, and which is primarily concerned to “say” something.

            Part of the critic’s reason for feeling that poets can be properly assessed only after their death is that they are then unable to presume on their merits as poets to tease him with hints of inside knowledge. When Ibsen maintains that Emperor and Galilean is his greatest play and that certain episodes in Peer Gynt are not allegorical, one can only say that Ibsen is an indifferent critic of Ibsen. Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads is a remarkable document, but as a piece of Wordsworthian, criticism nobody would give it more than about a B plus. Critics of Shakespeare are often supposed to be ridiculed by the assertion that if Shakespeare were to come back from the dead he would not be able to appreciate or even understand their criticism. This in itself is likely enough: we have little evidence of Shakespeare’s interest in criticism, either of himself or of anyone else. Even if there were such evidence, his own account of what he was trying to do in Hamlet would no more be a definitive criticism of that play, clearing all its puzzles up for good, than a performance of it under his direction would be a definitive performance.

          • LPSP says:

            That’s a very long winded way of saying that art is an implicit message that not even the sender totally understands, and is intended to be unpacked by many audiences. Or, in short, it is a socio-emotive experiment.

          • beoShaffer says:

            Even shorter; “It is not in heaven.”

        • David says:

          Confusion exists in human understanding of kabbalah, not in kabbalah itself. A blank page in the Talmud does not correspond to a blank section of the divine plan.

      • Ezo says:

        He didn’t offer it to her. He just said that *he could* do that. But then he said that ‘he’s not a very good friend’.

  3. Sniffnoy says:

    Typo/editing thread – this sentence is confusing:

    He started to stand, but Nathanda put her hand one one shoulder, Father Ellis on the other, gently guided him back to his chair.

    I think it should say something like “Father Ellis put his on the other”. Right now it sounds like Nathanda is putting Father Ellis on one of the Comet King’s shoulders; I had to read it several times. Probably also there should be an “and they” before “gently”.

    • Ethan Bradford says:

      “There,” said the Comet King, his still calm and distant.

      I think we need “voice” in there, replacing or before “still”.

    • Ezra says:

      “DO NOT MIX DIFFERENT KINDS OF GARMENTS IN YOUR FABRIC.”
      Should probably be “fabric”, “garments”.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      …OK, since absolutely nobody has said it so far, I’ll go ahead and do it: “This chapter hasn’t been put in the table of contents.”

  4. 75th says:

    Why does this site not appear on Google at all? The robots.txt seems to be okay. Is the site blocking Googlebot’s user-agent string in PHP?

    It makes it very hard to cross-reference previous chapters; I think 2001 is after the Comet King allegedly died, but my only option seems to be checking each chapter manually, which is not what I want to do on a phone.

    (While I’m talking about website stuff: Any chance we can get Next/Previous links at both top and bottom of each chapter?)

    • Celti says:

      It’s very simple, really: every page on this site has the following meta tag:
      <meta name=’robots’ content=’noindex,follow’ />

      I’d say someone should fix that but it’s probably kabbalistically significant.

      • Anders Sandberg says:

        Ah, yes, The Unsearchable Name.

        (The only name known to be impossible for Lull to find even in principle.)

    • Celti says:

      Also, Chapter 12 implies the Comet King died before the year 2000.

      As usual, it was the Comet King who had made it happen, meeting with President Bush and Governor Deukmejian back in the late 80s and agreeing to upgrade one of the old Amtrak routes into a true high-speed railroad like the ones they’d had for decades in Asia. It started in San Francisco, crossed Nevada and Utah, continued on to Denver a hop and a skip from the Comet King’s capital in Colorado Springs, cut straight through the Midwest, and ended up on the Atlantic Coast.

      That worked for about five years. Then there had been another sudden drop in the efficiency of technology, and parts of the route needed costly refitting to use the Motive Name. Then the Comet King had died and the security situation went to hell, in some cases literally. The smoking ruins of the Midwest had been taken over by warlords and barbarian chiefdoms – Paulus the Lawless, the Witch-King of Wichita, the Oklahoma Ochlocracy – who wanted tolls to pass their territory. The Other King seized Nevada and demanded another toll plus the promise that the train wouldn’t be used to lift the siege of the West children in Colorado. The smouldering conflict that had troubled the East Coast after the election of 2000 had devolved into guerilla warfare that made the whole Appalachian area dangerous.

      Late 80s, plus five years, plus a bit of extra time…

      • Sniffnoy says:

        It’s not clear that this means the Comet King died before 2000. It could be that the conflict had been troubling the East Coast since 2000 as a background fact, and it’s just at the mentioned time that it devolves into warfare making the route dangerous.

      • Finn says:

        That doesn’t follow at all. The Comet King could have died at any time after the trains moved to the Motive Name.

        Example:

        The Soviet Union collapsed in the early ’90s, and many predicted it would lead to “the end of history”, a gradual development all across the world in the direction of liberal democracy, a new age of peace and prosperity. Then the United States got involved in two lengthy and costly wars that it couldn’t seem to extract itself from, and, well, that theory pretty much went out the window.

        The “Then” in that passage refers to events happening over a decade later, but I don’t believe that the word functions in a misleading way by somehow connoting that there was only a short period of time between the events of the first sentence and the events of the second second.

        So in the sort of brief summary of events given in the passage of the story that you quoted, I don’t think “Then the Comet King died” means that he must have died a (relatively) short time following the events of the preceding sentence.

      • jeorgun says:

        My new crackpot theory is that the Comet King never actually died, but just went into hiding (addendum: maybe he’s Ngo?).

      • Kinetic_Hugh_Reeve says:

        I think he is dead here. Dead, but not quite gone. Maybe his shade could not be restrained in hell. Maybe he was always more than only human. Maybe his illumination, secret knowledge, and powers are such that his personality and ability to affect the world persist after death. He can be corporeal from time to time, and his family struggles to keep him grounded. But he has fallen to utter despair, where he was once quite the idealist, if Sohu’s memoir is accurate.

        • I suspect the comet king never died. This is implying he was locked half a mile underground, which may just have led people to think he died.

          (Not directly related but interesting: Note that Thamiel didn’t mind trying to provoke Uriel into a fight, but tried pretty hard to avoid TCK, which is why he avoided doing Sohu any physical harm).

    • Blast_Farmer says:

      For searches specific to this site, go to /?s=your+query+here

    • Celti says:

      I have… not a theory, but an intuition. The Comet King died sometime after April 7th, 2001 and possiblybefore March 27th, 2002.

      This tuit I think comes from

      “And for the suffering yet to come – ”

      followed by

      “Next year in Jerusalem!”

      The Valley of Hinnom lies outside Jerusalem on the south and west. The Valley of Hinnom is also known as Gehenna, i.e., Hell. The Comet King is known to have besieged Hell.

  5. Doug says:

    Fun fact: As an economics teacher I can confirm that homosexuality can indeed break Gale-Shapley. It’s not a question of computing resources though, but that it can create the potential for no strange equilibrium. Heterosexuality is guaranteed to create a stable outcome.

    • Doug says:

      *Strange= stable

        • Anders Sandberg says:

          It turns the stable marriage problem into the stable roommates problem, where there is a single group rather than two. In that problem there are preferences without stable pairings.

          • lerjj says:

            What about if you have the more accurate situation not where everyone is okay with everyone (one group) but where you have a simple divide between straight and gay i.e. we now have four groups split along orientation and gender. Does that help?

          • Rob says:

            Sure, it works fine for the heterosexual group. But there’s no guarantee the homosexual group will have stable pairings. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stable_roommates_problem

          • Anders Sandberg says:

            If you have exclusively heterosexual males and females, gay males and lesbian females, then the problem turns into a stable marriage problem and two independent stable roommates problems. If there are bi people involved, then we are back at a big stable roommates problem. So there is a chance of no stable pairings existing.

          • No, because you still have the roommate problem for the gay subset (You can now solve the problem for straight people separately, though).

        • Jacobian says:

          Here’s an example of Gale-Shapley not working for breaking homosexuals (or any single group) into stable pairs:
          Aaron prefers Ben > Chris > Dan
          Ben prefers Chris > Aaron > Dan
          Chris prefers Aaron > Ben > Dan
          Dan prefers not to shower.

          Whoever is matched with Dan prefers any other option, and one of the two guys in the other pair has Dan’s match as his highest preference so the pairing is unstable. Fun math fact: it works the same for lesbians!

          • ThrustVectoring says:

            You can simplify the example by removing Dan and leaving someone unpaired (who, again, immediately prefers any other pairing).

        • ThrustVectoring says:

          Because it lets you draw a triangle in a directed graph where the vertices are people and the edges are the favorite pairing for that person. That is, if Aaron would prefer a relationship with Bob to any other relationship, you draw an arrow from Aaron to Bob. If there’s a similar arrow from Bob to Charles and from Charles to Aaron, then you’ve got issues. No matter what pairing you make, someone has a more-favorite pairing that they’d rather have.

          If you have a bipartite graph, then that forbids at least one leg of the triangle, and the counterexample no longer works.

    • Fail-Shapely-More-Like says:

      I believe the implication was that with more computing resources Uriel will become able to use some better algorithm (one that maximizes utility instead of just finding Pareto efficient allocations, maybe?), not that more resources would make Gale-Shapely always end up working

      • Chrysophylax says:

        The Irving efficient mechanism for the stable roommates problem is a variant of Gale-Shapley. The problem is that they both run in O(n^2), but for stable roommates, n is the number of people, and for stable marriages, n is the number of people *in one group*. That is, the Irving mechanism takes about four times as many steps to complete.

    • bassicallyboss says:

      Gale-Shapley assigns to women their least-preferred acceptable mate (or to men, if the women do the asking).

      “Least-preferred but acceptable” seems like kind of a crummy way to assign soulmates. I haven’t studied any other algorithms for stable marriage, so I don’t know if a better solution is possible. But if one is, maybe Uriel should have used that one.

      • There’s a tradeoff though, where more preferred for women means less preferred for men.

      • Rand says:

        I’m not sure what you mean by “least-preferred acceptable mate”. There is no “acceptable” vs. “unacceptable” distinction in the problem’s specification.

        Gale-Shapley assigns to women the best choice from among the men who have proposed to them. This isn’t necessarily the best, but far from necessarily the worst among any non-empty set. (Assuming the orderings are symmetric, everyone get’s their top pick!)

        • Sniffnoy says:

          It assigns to them their least preferred that they could get among any stable matching. That’s not in the definition of the algorithm, but it is a consequence.

        • They get the lowest-ranked mate for which there exists a stable matching that pairs them with that mate.

    • Nuño says:

      Thank you, people above.

  6. anon says:

    Would Sohu really use “like” in the Valley Girl style in 1991? I am not sure that had caught on then, but my pop culture history is fuzzy.

    Also, because I am an ignorant (of this) Gentile, I sometimes find myself wondering if Aaron’s theories have anything to them. The goat song is one of these times.

  7. grort says:

    I can’t tell if Sohu is (was?) actually learning kabbalah from Uriel, or if mostly it’s just him enjoying having company.

    • Allan53 says:

      Both. Kabbalah is all about connections, and company is about forming connections. By engaging in interpersonal connections we learn to see the universe as it truly is – an infinite series of connections.

  8. c0rw1n says:

    “the number of correspondences you can draw between any two systems increase exponentially as a function of your laxity in declaring that things represent other things.”

    “…God, who, as the kabbalists tell us, is pure Nothing.”

    This is so, SO MUCH fun 😀

    • Decius says:

      Not exponentially though. The number of pairings increases faster than the busy beaver function as the laxity increases.

      Go ahead, try to claim that is is computable.

  9. Anders Sandberg says:

    So much of the content of the law is simply to reduce computational overhead, and perhaps make things easier to optimize?

    Kaj Sotala just posted a post on a new convergent instrumental goal: simplifying the environment. If an agent can change the environment so it becomes more predictable in a way that aligns with their goals, then that becomes a reasonable sub-goal. AlphaGo apparently trades some points for lower variance sub-trees that are easier to compute.

    This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

    • The Warren Peace NFL Report says:

      The bit about not wearing clothes of more than one material caused a literal LOL.

  10. Sniffnoy says:

    So this chapter really is outside of any book, huh? I mean, this chapter is great, but it seems a bit much to screw up the overall structure to include it. Will there be other inter-book chapters between the other books as well? Maybe if we’re lucky those will also align with major holidays! Alternatively he could just go through 4 of them in order… obviously he’s using the old-style calendar year since he’s starting with Passover. I guess the others would be Shavuot, the High Holy Days, and Sukkot?

    On that note, here’s something people might not know: Seems it’s in the Mishnah that the Jewish year has four new years (like Time Cube, I guess?). The obvious two are Rosh Hashanah on 1 Tishrei and the old-style calendar new year on 1 Nisan. But inbetween there’s also 15 Shevat (Tu Bishvat), the “new year for the trees”, which though a familiar holiday I’m not sure most people think of as a “new year”. (Also, Isaac Luria invented a Tu Bishvat seder.) And then finally on 1 Elul there’s “the new year for the animals”. Which OK I guess just really relates to when you should pay your animal tithes if you’re living in ancient Israel, but would certainly be interesting to see taken further.

    (And yes you could take it further in just a way of “let’s all celebrate animals!”, much like Tu Bishvat is these days celebated as a Jewish Earth Day… but you know what else is a new year, or near one? Christmas. Sure, it’s the wrong part of the year, but, well — I’m thinking here of the old Christian tradition that on Christmas Eve, animals can talk, and they tell us things we’d rather not hear…)

    The spacing of these is odd. Three are on the 1st of a month, but one is on the 15th. And the months aren’t at all evenly spaced, either. So the time gaps between these (ignoring leap years, and just counting the 15th as “the middle of the month”) are (starting from 1 Nisan) 5 months, 1 month, 3.5 months, and 2.5 months. I have no idea what to make of this.

    • “So this chapter really is outside of any book, huh? I mean, this chapter is great, but it seems a bit much to screw up the overall structure to include it. Will there be other inter-book chapters between the other books as well? ”

      I have a strong opinion on what chapter I want to start Book 2 with, so I might just edit things later to make this the second chapter of Book 2.

  11. Fj says:

    Is it possible to subscribe to comments without commenting? Or do I have to leave a dummy comment, then delete it?

    • Sukil says:

      I think you can’t subscribe via e-mail, but you can certainly subscribe via rss. But I suppose that you can look for a service which forwards rss items to your e-mail (for example IFTTT)
      All comments: Subscribe to http://unsongbook.com/feed/.
      Individual post’s comments: Apend /feed to the URL of the post.
      Hope this helps!

  12. Daniel Blank says:

    Now that we know that the Comet King is Sohu’s father, perhaps this will be relevant: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_West

    This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

    • lerjj says:

      Where did it say that TCK was Sohu’s father? All it said was that she was the youngest one there. She could simply have been invited, or she could be a niece etc

      • Alex says:

        Aside from context, the line

        The Comet King said nothing. Sohu looked at the other Cometspawn, then at Father Ellis, then at Uncle Vihaan, waiting for someone to answer

        implies that Sohu is also Cometspawn, i.e. a direct descendant of The Comet King.

        • Deiseach says:

          Now that we know that the Comet King is Sohu’s father

          But we don’t know that. “Father” is not likely to be used in the sense of “Catholic (or other denomination) priest” in this context, and since Sohu so far has referred to her father as “Father”, it’s probably most likely that Ellis is her father, Vihaan is her uncle, Nathanda is the Comet King’s eldest daughter and we don’t know what relation to Sohu (is Ellis the Comet King’s son? that’s a possibility).

          “The other Cometspawn” could mean “the children of the Comet King” or simply “the family members descended from the Comet King” which would include grandchildren, which Sohu may be.

          • Daniel Blank says:

            Update- from the above, Sohu is not necessarily the Comet King’s daughter, but is probably descended from him in some way, making Comet West and its discoverer Richard West still possibly relevant.

        • Aaron Martinez says:

          In context “other Cometspawn” could mean “the Cometspawn that are not Nathanda”.

    • Daniel says:

      7 people at the table – 1 Comet King – 1 Father Ellis – 1 Uncle Vihaan = 4 “Cometspawn”, probably; meanwhile,

      As the comet passed within 30 million km of the Sun, the nucleus [of Comet West] was observed to split into four fragments.

      • Daniel Blank says:

        With the new chapter out, the Cometspawn could in fact be spawned from the comet as it fragmented.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Oh, good call. Yet only one became and/or fathered the Comet King. I’m tempted to say that the four fragments are North, South, East, and West — scattering them across the globe — except of course that the comet itself is already Comet West, suggesting that the four pieces represent something else. Or it could be that they are North, South, East, and West, and the fact that it’s Comet West indicates the West’s primacy over the others (that seems to be the one that became/fathered the Comet King).

  13. Chametz says:

    Wow, I wish the Comet King came to my Seder, would really speed things up.

    • Moshe Zadka says:

      Just invite a Hebrew-speaking Orthodox. I was raised as (kinda?) one. We’re usually kinda lax with the time, but when optimizing for time (ok kids have enough let’s wrap this up) we can be pretty damn fast…

  14. Anomalocaris says:

    Ok, but seriously, how do you cut Matzo into shapes without shattering it? I can’t even spread jam on it without it breaking.

  15. Eliezer says:

    A kabbalistically interesting feature of Pesach: On every other holiday, the liturgy says “by the word of G-d” or “by the action of G-d” or by some intermediary we were saved. On Pesach, however, we see “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, G-d took us out of egypt” and “at that time, we witnessed the majesty of G-d”.

    Rabbi Winters says that this is not a coincidence. It is common knowledge that angels are the words of G-d, and that the words of G-d are actions. Pesach, then, is a breaking of the system. He continues to explain that when G-d took us out of Egypt, we witnessed the incomprehensible glory of G-d. On a halechic note, this is the reason that Pesach is the only time where lay jews are encouraged rather than forbidden to speculate on the nature of the divine – because at that time is when they have a chance to succeed.

    Rabbi Scheller says that even the manner of the miracles broke the rules. Normally, a miracle is set up in such a way that if one is determined, one can ignore it or attribute it to natural causes (He has a theory that as humanity got smarter, there became less room for miracles). On Pesach, however, G-d revealed himself for one of only four times: Creation, Pesach, The Giving of the Torah, and (possibly if we don’t get the ideal path) The Final Redemption.

    IDK how all this relates to the story, but nothing is a coincidence.

    • This very much relates to the story. Check back here after the chapter “Now Descendeth Out Of Heaven A City” (probably going to be 24 unless I change things around more).

    • The Warren Peace NFL Report says:

      “…because at that time is when they have a chance to succeed.”

      What an alien way of thinking about the world! Why would someone assume that the time of year was the key factor in G-d showing himself, or being knowable? I have a dozen other guesses that I would rate as more likely.

  16. MMM says:

    I am intrigued by kabbalah from the point of view of digital universe hypothesis. Which, by the way, elegantly resolves quantum mechanics vs relativity paradox.

    So the question which keeps popping in my head is this. If Ten Sephiroths is just 10 Sephiroths. And which is … Yes 1 and 0. Everything and Nothing. The one and only thing from which everything can be computationally derived in digital universe

    • Sniffnoy says:

      But “10” only makes ten because you’re writing it in base ten. Kind of question-begging, isn’t it?

      • MMM says:

        Right but “nothing is coincidence”!

      • every base is base 10 😉

        • Sviga Lae says:

          You must instead have to say “base succ(succ(succ(succ(succ(succ(succ(succ(succ(1)))))))))”

          The digital Kabbalah of the duality of creation works, because the choice of base (9+1) is derived from our number of *drumroll* digits, which are fixed as part of the Adam Kadmon.

      • MMM says:

        For example ponder on this
        10 decimal = 1010 binary

        Which can be interpreted as 10 repeating itself. Of course 1 and 0 are merely symbols. Which makes the possibilities even more!

        • fireant says:

          Indeed, and 42 = 101010b 🙂

          But the thing with the 10 is that it can be any number, depending on the base, because it is simply 1*base+0. Now you might say that base 10 (decimal) is special (for whatever reason), but at this point you have already said that 10 (decimal) is special, and so you might just skip the numerical representation, because that works the same in every base

    • lerjj says:

      Which, by the way, elegantly resolves quantum mechanics vs relativity paradox.

      Does it though? Simply stating that below a certain size, physics stops happening is not at all elegant. At least string theory when it suggests that our laws start changing at a certain level says that that’s the size of new “strings” – just imposing an arbitrary cut off point is the opposite of elegance.

      • Max says:

        Well I tend to think that universe as a product of digital computation is a lot neater model than strings and multiverses. They remind me of epicycles in geocentrism. I mean the fact that E=mc2 and the speed of light has fixed limit is kinda dead give away that our universe is the effect. Not the cause

        • The Warren Peace NFL Report says:

          Or, this is a clue that the speed of light is something fundamental to existence. Like electricity is magnetism, and space is time. Mass is the speed of light?

          I asked about the coincidence of c showing up in e=mc2 on a physics board, and someone answered: the real coincidence is that it’s c and not 1/2c or 1/5c or something.

  17. MMM says:

    Ohh and thanks for great thought provoking book. If you ever publish ebook on amazon – instabuy (provided price is under 10)

  18. Typo thread!

    “I AM GRADUALLY SHIFTING THE WORLD FROM ON A SUBSTRATE OF DIVINE LIGHT TO A SUBSTRATE OF MECHANICAL COMPUTATION.”

    The “on” after the from seems unnecessary.

    • AnthonyC says:

      I’m too lazy to try to do it myself, but has anybody tried collecting all the unfixed “typos” we’ve been pointing out and analyzing them? Nothing is a coincidence, after all…

  19. The Froggy Ninja says:

    This is not directly related to the chapter but I found it interesting. I was in a US History class and there was this huge list of weird connections between Lincoln and Kennedy and when the teacher said that it was just a bunch of weird coincidences I immediately responded with “None of this is a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.” I wonder how the Kabbalists would connect them to other things.

  20. birdboy2000 says:

    Just caught up, this is an amazing story.

  21. Psy-Kosh says:

    If the project to move the world to a physics substrate was gradual and started late, performed on the world “already in motion”…

    Why can’t Uriel do it all over again? That is, instead of trying to repair the repairable machine, rebuild it from scratch just like the first time around?

    • Desertopa says:

      I thought the implication from earlier was that if he tried again, Thamiel would be aware of what he was doing and try to stop him.

      The first time, this might have been too much of an outside-the-box tactic to see coming.

      • Psy-Kosh says:

        Ah. Hrm… Could Uriel pass the construction details to someone else with the power to build it, then he himself keeps Thamiel busy and distracted, even “pleasing” thamiel by using up some of the stored energy to fight him, while the machine is being rebuilt?

        • Sniffnoy says:

          There are other reasons Uriel might need assistance — chapter 2 seems to imply that angels can’t use names, meaning any plan might well need human help — but I would suspect that if the problem were as simple as him not being able to do it alone, that’s something I would have expected he’d have thought of.

  22. Inty says:

    Mary’s Room reference here?

    “Uriel, have you ever eaten food? Any food?”

    “UM. I HAVE PERFORMED SEVERAL MILLION COMPUTATIONS SIMULATING THE BINDING AFFINITIES OF HUMAN GUSTATORY RECEPTORS.”

    Uriel seems to refute Daniel Dennett’s response to Mary’s Room- that someone with her level of knowledge would not gain any new information.

    I mean, there’s more to it than receptor affinity, but presumably he’s done that too.

    • ton says:

      This also seems to refute the notion in previous comments that Uriel couldn’t think of things that humans can; if he can simulate them, he should be able to.

      • Aaron Martinez says:

        And yet he didn’t realize that lampreys would be disgusting

        • Daniel says:

          In Uriel’s defence, some googling tells me that when people actually eat their pile of horrific thousand-fanged worm-monsters like a good little girl, they find they’re quite tasty!

    • Daniel says:

      I had to look up “Mary’s Room” and was informed that it is a derivative of “a thought experiment where an archangel has unlimited mathematical competences”

      • Huh! I didn’t know that! Interesting!

      • roystgnr says:

        In the Mary’s Room thought experiment, the answer seems to me to be that Mary does gain new information, about herself. She may know everything there is to know about color, but that doesn’t mean she knows how her brain will react to sensing color.

        This is in some way unavoidable, because she can’t know how her brain will react to *everything*, because it’s finite and can’t be isomorphic to a subset of itself, which sets a limit on the quality of introspection. She can predict that lighting up a red apple will make a line around 700 nm in her simple spectrometer, but she can’t predict what feelings it will stir up in her complicated brain.

        An infinite archangel mind *could* be isomorphic to a subset of itself, though; does this imply that archangels don’t necessarily have qualia?

        • Aegeus says:

          I think someone arguing for the existence of qualia would say that knowing what regions would light up in your brain is still different from actually having those regions light up in your brain. Even if Mary had some awesome brain-simulating computer where she could see exactly how her brain would react to a simulated red light, she wouldn’t know what red looks like.

          • Aaron says:

            Aegeus: you seem to be saying that knowing how an experience will effect you is not the same thing going as being effected by the experience. This seems fairly obvious to me. I am OK at estimating what ice cream is going to taste like as well as how it will make me feel, but I still choose to eat ice cream. I don’t eat ice cream to fill in a knowledge gap, I eat ice cream because I enjoy the experience.

            That having been said, I think this is a very poor argument against materialism.

    • Yossarian says:

      A bit offtopic for this particular thread, but… about Mary’s room. Am I the only person to find this sort of thought experiment really unconvincing? I mean, give me five minutes, and I can write a program that can effectively take Mary’s place in the experiment and produce the exact “ooh, it’s not physical – must be qualia” result…

      • Aegeus says:

        I don’t get what you’re saying here. You could write a program that knows everything there is to know about the color red in five minutes?

    • Aaron Martinez says:

      It seems to me that the entire disagreement over the “Mary’s Room” thought experiment is due to disguised queries of the meaning of “knowledge” and the meaning of “learn”. The thought experiment includes questions like “does she learn anything?” and “does she gain any knowledge?”. If we ask “does Mary’s brain change states?” the answer becomes, clearly, yes. Then we can ask questions like “Does this state change constitute learning?” and it becomes clear that the debate around the thought experiment is entirely about what counts as “learning”.

  23. Daniel says:

    User Gadit asked for a sufficiently goyish reader to link to their UNSONG fanfic today, so here y’all go! Kindness within Kindness.

  24. Haggai says:

    “Thi-” I started, just as Ana said “That’s racist.”

    Racist, and also hilarious. Thank you for including subtle jokes that make me laugh out loud and also feel clever for understanding.

  25. Shouldn’t the Comet King have stormed out of the room?

  26. Ezo says:

    How could Uriel acquire more computational power?

  27. tcheasdfjkl says:

    Off topic, but today I learned Oakland has a Holy Names University. Where kabbalists go to study?

  28. dsotm says:

    Great stuff

    The thing is, at that point the goat contained an entire nation-year worth of sin. That goat was super evil.

    It turned out not to be cabalistically sustainable to have super evil goats roaming the countryside and was later
    changed to chickens which only absorb one individual’s
    sins and are promptly killed.
    At the same time this kind of fungibility of sin is one Judaism’s major points of disagreement with Christianity, go figure.

    BUT JUST BECAUSE ANYTHING BIG AND GEOMETRIC IS GOING TO MESS UP THE FLOW OF DIVINE LIGHT IN UNPREDICTABLE WAYS.

    I’d expect it to actually be more predictable than something big and not-geometric on account of be light-transport calculations being simpler – this light is very weird.

    Re. the comet king seder taking place two thousand feet underground in Colorado Springs probably refers to the Cheyenne Mountain bunker, if Sara turns out to be skynet this would be cabalistically appropriate.

    Re. the duality of God – in the pardes story it says that out of the four who entered only Rabi Akiva came out in peace – Ben Azai died, Ben Zuma went insane, and “another” became a heretic, “another” is Elisha ben Abuja and there are several attempts to explain the exact source and nature of his heresy, one of which is that while in the pardes he reached the conclusion that good and evil come from equal and independent gods, this had some severe repercussions on his career.

  29. Murphy says:

    I’m starting to wonder whether Scott has actually worked in a software company…

    Quite wonderful. Giggling gently at the justifications for the rules.

  30. moridinamael says:

    Don’t you just love that

    > UM. I THINK YOU SHOULD PROBABLY JUST BE NICE TO EACH OTHER. UNLESS BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER WOULD CAUSE SOME SORT OF HORRIBLE PROBLEM I CANNOT ANTICIPATE RIGHT NOW. THEN YOU SHOULD NOT DO THAT.”

    is followed shortly by

    > WEAR SUNSCREEN?

    Giving good advice is hard, Uriel.

  31. Sniffnoy says:

    I think Aaron’s analysis of Chad Gadya is missing something. Sure, sure, 10 sephirot via which the divine light flows down from God to the material world. But I think Aaron has missed that in Chad Gadya, the process is reversed; it seems to be indicating something like a flow of evil back up the stream towards God. Consider — the cat eats the goat; in eating it, it absorbs it and its evil. The pattern isn’t totally consistent — the stick beating the dog seems impossible to fit in — but maybe we can brush that over; the point is, a number of the steps involve one thing somehow eating, consuming, absorbing the previous, or at least doing something that can be interpreted as such. So the evil flows back up the chain, with God at the end. To put it another way, God may have bought the goat for two zuzim, but it seems that actually delivering it was not so simple.

    (Meanwhile in real life, the “historical conquests” interpretation is what I keep actually seeing in haggadahs, so it seems strange to me that Aaron would write as if this interpretation were not already familiar to his readers.)

    • Susebron says:

      Hypothesis: Destroying the evil-containing entity results in a transfer of its evil to the destroyer. The result is that God is contaminated with evil by destroying the Angel of Death. However, since God is by definition pure Good, God ceased to exist, and was replaced by an entity with similar power but which was not wholly Good. The result was the Archangel Uriel, who maintains the world.

  32. Rob K says:

    Mother Night (Vonnegut’s best book, in my opinion) opens with the protagonist in an Israeli jail awaiting trial for war crimes and chatting with his guards, one of whom is very interested in archaeology and Tiglath-Pileser III.

    To simplify, the book is the story of a man who was recruited as an American spy during WWII, took a job as a German “Tokyo Rose”-style propaganda broadcaster, and encoded secret messages from American agents in Germany to the allied forces in his broadcasts. He is reviled and eventually put on trial after the war because the world despises the overt content of his broadcasts and is unaware of their hidden content, the existence of which he cannot prove.

    Don’t know if the reference was intentional, but if so it would hint at the question of to what extent the hidden meanings unveiled through Kabbalah can conflict with the overt meanings of the texts studied, and what it means if and when they do conflict.

    • Susebron says:

      The other thing with Mother Night is that even when some Germans became aware that he was a spy, they let him keep going because the effectiveness of his propaganda outweighed the impact of his spying. The question then becomes: is he guilty of aiding and abetting Nazi atrocities, even if he was also working against them? Was his impact overall helpful for the Nazis? If it was, can he be held responsible?

  33. anon says:

    I cracked up at “ELECTRICITY IS KIND OF LIKE STARTING A FIRE. YOU WILL KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT.”

  34. Ninmesara says:

    After Uriel has stabilized the universe sufficiently, he has probably allowed for the possibility of same sex marriage. The “Sacred kabbalistic marriage of minds” (SCABOM) for short, is clearly a newer addition by Uriel, after the problems with the original matching algorithm were solved. Because Uriel took its time in stabilizing the algorithm, the passage was only later added to the bible. But, as Ana says, it doesn’t make it less valid. Of course, the name didn’t work with Erica and Ana because they weren’t soulmates (not because they are both women, which should make no difference now). If this theory is true, it does confirm that Aaron and Ana are really soulmates.

  35. Subbak says:

    So here’s the funny thing.

    There’s a French children song about a goat that bears a striking similarity to the one mentioned here. But there are a few differences:
    * There is no mention to the goat having been bought
    * The cat is replaced by a wolf (are they kabbalistically similar animals?). The Angel of Death by the Devil (although I guess they’re close enough), and there is no mention of God (the song stops at the devil).
    * The song revolves around getting the goat out of a cabbage, but she doesn’t want to go. That’s why they bring a wolf to threaten to eat her, but the wolf doesn’t want, so they bring a dog to threaten to bite the wolf, but it doesn’t want either, and so on.
    * At the end, the devil accepts, so the whole chain of threats comes into effect (yeah, the water had to be threatened into quenching the fire…) and the goat gets out of the cabbage.

    Besides telling kids that invoking the Devil is a appropriate solution for problems such as “I have a goat sitting in my cabbage”, I wonder what kabbalistic interpretations could be obtained from this song With or without Sofer’s Law… :p

    • Daniel says:

      It’d be fun to close the loop as in “Hole in my Bucket”: the Devil will only do his part if you sacrifice a goat!

      • Subbak says:

        Ooooh, good one. Although that would probably require the conxent of the person making the sacrifice (or according to that song’s logic, the knife), not the goat. But in a song that attributes agency to a stick, fire, and water, it’s best not to think too much about this.

  36. Nornagest says:

    Duality in God

    Damn it, I knew I’d heard that name somewhere.

    From Wikipedia:

    “To Thamiel, “there are two demons that are attributed to stress the view that the demonic opposite of Kether is duality instead of unity and are Satan and Moloch or Malech”.”

    So Thamiel shares his office with Scott’s favorite demon god. This is not a coincidence, because nothing is ever a coincidence.

  37. R Flaum says:

    The goat song is a tragedy.

  38. Texas says:

    It could be that “cometspawn” is something metaphorical or something indirect instead of them actually being the biological or directly linked family. That they’re tied together by unusual events of similar circumstances happening to them, or a club or something.

  39. Rand says:

    “The goat represents the Paschal sacrifice of the lamb, which is rather like a goat.”

    Whoa! Hold on! Exodus 12:5 man!

    “Your seh is to be a year old male without blemish. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.”

    “Seh”, generally translated “lamb” ought more properly to be translated “lamb/kid” or “young member of the Caprini tribe of the subfamily Caprinae within Bovidae”.

    Point is, Aaron Smith-Teller ought to know better.

  40. Aran says:

    boiled peanuts […] Sixth Plague

    I get the “boiled” part, but where do the peanuts fit in?

    • YumAntimatter says:

      Peanut allergies? Do those cause boils?

      I feel like the peanuts don’t mean anything, Ana was just trying to make up reasons for Ally’s Passover foods.

  41. Sniffnoy says:

    Thought: So Aaron isn’t Jewish. That’s interesting, because some people were saying earlier he presumably must be Jewish due to his use of euphemisms like “elokeinu”.

  42. hnau says:

    …huh. I hadn’t noticed that. Apparently Erica has met Dylan Alvarez? Or she’s talked with her boyfriend since he joined BOOJUM? Either way, this is information that Erica’s previous chapter concealed. And don’t try to tell me it’s a coincidence…

    • hnau says:

      Oops, commenting fail. The thing I hadn’t noticed is that Erica says “in a sense” in her speech.

      • Marvy says:

        I’m not so sure that it proves much; it’s a reasonably common phrase. Also: notice that her usage could also be replaced by “not at all” 🙂

  43. VNilla says:

    A callback I caught:

    “I TRIED FRIGHTENING THEM BY TURNING THEIR RIVERS TO BLOOD, BUT THEY JUST MURMURED SOMETHING ABOUT “PHYTOPLANKTON” AND KEPT DOING IT.”

    From the Prologue:

    All ten thousand lakes in Minnesota turned to blood; scientists blamed “phytoplankton”.

    Good to see humanity hasn’t changed since the time of the Ancient Egyptians.

  44. Mike says:

    So, why was it called the Gale-Shapley algorithm thousands of years before Gale and Shapley lived? Is this the first known instance of time travel inside the story?

  45. Pingback: Link Archive 4/1/16 – 5/31/16 – Death Is Bad

  46. Chrysophylax says:

    Something I only noticed on re-reading: God buys the goat for two silver coins. He *gives away the coins to get the goat*. That might be saying that he pays for evil with duality, but it might also be saying that he gave up the coins (whatever they are) to get the goat (probably evil). This seems like it might be the subtle clue that points to the correct interpretation of Had Gadya, which I think will turn out to be important.

  47. Lazarus says:

    It would be really, really hard to cut matzoh into the shape of animals. It would just crumble. Unless Erica knows the Matzomorphic Name.

  48. Jon Marcus says:

    So…the URL for this chapter (chapter 18) is …chapter-17-that-the-children-of-jerusalem-may-be-saved-from-slavery/

    And the URL for the previous chapter (17) is …chapter-18-no-earthly-parents-i-confess/

    Typo, or…?

    • anon says:

      Scott reordered them at some point and for whatever reason decided not to fix the URLs, even though his fanbase is full of the kind of people who would notice.

  49. Jack says:

    “Two is […] diabolism”
    Diabolism is not δίς (two) + ābols (apple) + ism. It is διά (across) + βάλλω (throw) + ism.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%B1%CE%B2%CE%AC%CE%BB%CE%BB%CF%89#Ancient_Greek

  50. My wife just pointed out to me that the narrator’s name is “Teller”. >_<

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