Monday 20 August 2012

Radiance 28 - Proclaim Liberty

    By the time Emma finally reached the inner sanctuary, the court was already in session. Angels lined the viewing gallery, standing raised above the ground, hovering on wings upon wings. Scrolls and leather-bound volumes were strewn across marble floors and wooden tables, with parchment and paper coloured by age and long use. Candles over ten feet tall stood haphazardly around the room, shedding flickering but brilliant light and dripping golden wax. On the left, at the front of the court, an angel dressed in black stood at a lectern, consulting a dozen tomes, his face contorted deep in thought, while on the right an identical lectern was dark and empty. In the middle sat a divine being, neither angel, nor mortal, upon a chair of inlaid wood, a half-smile upon his shining face, while behind him, far at the front and wreathed in shadows, a colossal throne glittered dully, overseeing the entire court. And seated upon the throne, impossible to make out in the gloom, seemed to be something like a human figure, crowned and enthroned.
    As Emma timidly strode into the chamber, the room was bursting with song, snatches of Hebrew verse and prayer, but as she walked down the central aisle and approached the centre of the court, a hush fell on the angelic host. Myriad eyes followed her footsteps across the marble.
    How long she had been walking, Emma could not say. She had long since forgotten the taste of food, the feel of breath entering the lungs, all washed away in a haze of fire and ice. But it was the eyes that burned in her mind, all the angels she had passed with their near-unpronounceable names and roles, whose gaze had burrowed through her skin and to the very depths of herself. It seemed that she had not always been alone but could not trawl the memories from her mind. Amid the heat and the cold, something had been lost forever, and Emma could not even say what it had been.
    Only one thought remained written large inside her brain, dominating all others - Asher. Though so much of her mind seemed empty, some memories still flickered and burned - the first time she had held her son in her arms, mewling and wailing, his first words, his first school concert. This was why she had come, because Asher’s life was held in the balance.
    Delicately, carefully but with growing confidence, Emma strode towards the front of the room, her face a mask of determination that she thought might conceal the bitter exhaustion within. Before another word could be said by anyone, she had reached the right hand lectern, and found it suddenly illuminated by a soft blue glow.
    “Who enters the court of the most high?” proclaimed the man on the wooden chair, turning his bright countenance towards Emma.
    “Emma, daughter of Chava,” she said, in a voice surprisingly clear, that rang out and reverberated through the silent chamber. “I am here to speak on behalf of my son, Asher, son of Emma.”
    The court erupted in a blister of conversation, as the angels turned to one another expressing profound surprise. The man on the chair only smiled more broadly and stroked his beard as if in admiration.
    “But my Lord Metatron,” protested the angel dressed in black standing opposite Emma across the court, “this is highly irregular. The session of the court is nearly complete - Asher son of Emma has already been found guilty and the sentence passed. And besides, no son of man has set foot in this court for a thousand years or more. ”
    Metatron did not take his eyes from Emma. “And Emma, daughter of Chava, how do you respond?”
    Emma took a deep breath. Though The Book of the Chariot had given explicit and clear instructions for every step of the journey, there had been no advice on how to actually appear before the King of Kings, and after all, what could one say?
    “Lord Metatron, members of the court of the Most High,” she began, “I have come a long way for the sake of my son, my only son, the one I love - Asher. I ask only that you give me a chance to defend him, that someone should speak in his defence. Please, let me speak.”
    “My Lord Metatron,” the angel in black continued, gesturing to various tomes and scrolls laid out before him, “procedures must be followed.”
    “Friend Satan,” replied Metatron, still smiling blissfully, “you are correct that procedure must be followed. And yet, while the sentence has been passed, it has not yet been carried out. Should mortal man have cause to say that the Judge of the earth does not do justice? All has been foreseen, and Emma daughter of Chava shall have her chance to speak.”
    Satan nodded his head in acquiescence, and seemed almost pleased to have been overruled.
    “May I know the case against my son?” Emma asked.
    “Indeed,” Metatron answered, “Satan will restate his case for the benefit of the defence.”
    Satan nodded once more, opened a long scroll and began to read a list of charges - Asher had told lies, broken the sabbath, knowingly eaten unkosher food, defied his parents, and more, and more. At each item on the list, a vivid picture formed in Emma’s mind of the situation being described, piecing together snapshots of Asher’s entire adult life; and along with the images came the sensations themselves, how Asher had felt as he made each decision, whether consciously or unconsciously, by commission or omission. And the list kept coming - he had learnt about his tradition and then knowingly gone against it, broken into the Lower Temple on the sabbath, denied the power and reality of God, squandered his divine powers without gain. Through Asher’s hesitation the Palace of Understanding had fallen, through his direct action the Leviathan had been unleashed on the world, and soon, because of him, everything would revert to primordial chaos.
    Hot tears coursed down Emma’s worn cheeks unchecked and unhindered, tears for a son who seemed lost forever.
    “Do you contest the charges?” asked Metatron gently.
    “I must have a moment,” Emma said, “just one moment.”
    “Of course,” said Metatron, “the Book of Remembrance lies open for you.”
    Emma stood at the desk and thought, opened her mind to the books that lay in front of her, that opened themselves and turned slowly as she went over the years of her son’s life, all joys, all fears, every thought and action poured forth before her. But how to argue that he deserved to be saved? It seemed that his life had already been measured and been found lacking, empty and light. Yet she was certain that he deserved to live, that not only did he have an important destiny in the world, but that he was a good person and deserved another chance.
    And as that thought passed through her, the Book of Remembrance turned to a new page, and she saw Asher sitting in a taxi in New York, chatting with the driver as they drove through the cold, and white, and grey. Emma watched him reach into his pocket, and give the driver fifty dollars towards health care for a stranger’s eyes.
    Emma’s face brightened as a smile spread across the wrinkles of her face.
    “My lord Metatron,” she said, with a sparkle in her voice, “what honour and greatness has been done for Asher for this act of charity?”
    “Nothing has been done for him,” answered Metatron while Satan smiled broadly, nodding his head.
    And Emma understood.

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