The Four Who sought to Enter Paradise
by Y. I. Hi (Yitzhak Hayut-Ma'N)
(init. 09.04.95 revised 6.10.95)
Have you read the introduction to this short story?
Tree of Life and the Dwelling among the Two Cherubs
There is a famous such tale in the Talmud. The following is another. If pressed about its origin, I'd admit that it was found in a chamber in a deep cellar in the Old City of Jerusalem, kept by the Wakf . This cellar was torturously connected to the Bab il Silsilah (the Chain Gate) street which leads from the intersection of David's street and the Cardo (Old Jerusalem's Byzantine center) to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. I walk that street almost daily, and one day I suddenly noticed that the small iron door under the archway upon which our Academy is situated, and which has always been locked, was opened. Unable to resist my curiosity, I slipped in, and found myself in a series of neglected underground halls and chambers. In the last dark and dusty chamber that I dared to enter, I found a deep dusty niche, and in it an old box which I then dragged to the entrance which was illuminated from a great height from an opening just by the tiny inner court of the Academy. Through this opening I hoisted up the old box by a rope. After much work, we managed to bring the parchments I found there to legibility. It purported to be crammed by manuscript notes made by a Templar-monk who called himself "Logi-Luni". I admit that this was very strange because, whereas the handwriting seemed almost uniform and the parchments of about the same age, events reported in it stretched for almost two thousand years - while the narrator always stayed the same person. Anyway, here is one sample from that trove.
It came to pass in the times of one of the late reprobate Kings of Judah, that four young priests in the Temple of Jerusalem conspired to enter the forbidden inner chamber of the Holy of Hollies to inspect the Tablets and quell their doubts about the veracity of the Torah they were taught.
They had all already learnt much of the unwritten mysteries of the Lord YHWH, and have even been to a term in one of the 18 inner Temple-cells surrounding the Holy of Holies. In these Temple-cells, they became prophetic and saw the nearing doom of their proud kingdom of Judah. Now it was the very veracity of the Torah they have learnt before which they questioned - will the Torah of Israel prove infallible in this future exile? They felt they had to ascertain this now!
But since the institutions of the priesthood became so venerable - and self seeking too - there would be no way to contravene the (rather suspicious, when you come to think about it) prohibition of never approaching God's secrets inside the Ark of the Covenant in the totally dark room. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest alone enters the dark Holy of Holies, and he was not supposed to stop and inspect the Tablets. In fact he made a great banquet if he only survived the ordeal. So he is not likely to increase the peril of God's wrath by such indiscretion.
"I was privy to their deliberations" related the ever-present Logi-Loony, "and can vouch that their motives were sincere. It was their great love to the People of Judah and their horror at the disappearance of their brother tribes in the Assyrian exile that made them question the authenticity of the Torah of their fathers. The other tribes, this was clear, did not keep the Covenant of YHWH. They worshiped idols and kept no social justice, so their sad fate was understandable. But would the Judaic society keep any better under an exile in Babylon? Was the Torah they held a divine covenant or a man-made truth? For if it was a man-made work - they better go fast to work to improve it before the Day of Ire comes! They made a vow that they will risk their lives to find out.
Owing to their good standing within the system of priesthood, they managed one night to be the majority of the night-term priestly guard of the Temple. They drugged the others to sleep and slipped into the forbidden chamber. But I saw it, and some years later I questioned ben-Yoseph, the only survivor and threatened to divulge his secret breaking into the Holy of Holies, unless he told me what happened there. The following was all that that he agreed to tell me at long last.
"I believe you know of the sad fate of my mates" he started. I told him I knew of their dire fate: Ben Aza became reprobate and as dead to the name of Zion. He returned to Gaza and worked to reconstitute the Philistine identity (long assimilated into Israel) as an alternative to that of Israel in its claimed title to the land. "When we reconstitute ourselves into the Philistine nation" he taught, "we shall not be exiled by the foreign invaders, who will see us as their natural allies, for does not the name Plishtim (Philistines) means just that "invaders"? Ben Rachav went bonkers and claimed that all gods where fabrications of men. It was the fate of Elisha be-Avoy that I did not know. Was it true that he became a kind of an intellectual prostitute, selling the inner secrets of our faith to the multiplying Gnostic New Age sects?
"I tried to warn them", related ben Yoseph. "as we were about to enter the Hall of Holies of the Temple, I told them about the marble tessalations of the floor of that hall and warned them not to be deceived by any appearances. They should keep quite and not proclaim what they seemed to see, because from this portal on, no opinions were tolerated, only the immutable Truth. Just relating whatever there seemed to hit their senses could easily make us lose our minds in that state.
And indeed, as we entered the dark all, barely illuminated by the incense altar, the sparks of the torch we carried were reflected and refracted by these tessalated clear marble prisms, and refracted from them to the walls and reflected off the gold leaves that covered the walls and then reflected again by the transparent marble prisms, until we felt we were walking inside a crystalline golden sea, like the Children of Israel walking inside the Red Sea. We kept quite and approached the Pargod, the screen that separated the Holy of Hollies from the Holy Hall, with the Keruvim embroyded upon it.
Then suddenly ben Rakhav broke the silence and said "I saw, even if only in my mind's eye, that by overpowering our partners, even if temporarily, we have touched the dreadful two-edged sword". We hushed him, and went in beyond the Pargod. Soon the two Keruvim were seen in the sparks of light off the torch we carried. The two beautifully winged youth, male and female, were not in coitus, as I presume we all suspected to find and disturb them. They were side by side and turning their backs to the entrance and to the intruders. The sparks of light reflected from their huge golden wings, and between them was some tenuous fog in which another pattern of lights seemed to shine...
This was the end of this parchment. We are still seeking to translate the next one - If there is a demand. If so, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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