Monday, October 23, 2017
The vampires attack Uman on Rosh Hashanah knowing that they would find many Jews with a demonstrated predilection for the dark side of idolatry and antinomianism. Rebbe Frost quickly converts the class to vampire Judaism. The only survivor is Chananya Yom Tov Lipa Katznellenbogenstein. (I know that he is a Shmuel Kunda creation, but bear with me.) Because of the events of the Magic Yarmulka, Chananya has become an excellent punchball player and a committed rationalist. He no longer believes in magic (yarmulka or otherwise) and strives to improve himself by working hard enough to match his God-given intelligence. He had refused to go on the class trip to Uman, saving his soul twice over.
Chananya is left in a deep spiritual crisis. How could it be that his rebbe and the entire class would so easily abandon halakhic Judaism? Does not the existence of vampires prove that magic exists and refute science? Chananya decides to follow in the rationalist footsteps of the spy Caleb, who resisted the call of the antinomian spies by visiting the Cave of Machpelah to pray. He refuses to go to Rachel's Tomb because he found the Abie Rotenberg song to be idolatrous. God forbid that a monotheist Jew like Chananya would even think of praying to the patriarchs. On the contrary, Chananya only wishes to better contemplate their pious example so that his faith in reason (and the source of all reason) can be rectified.
It is therefore to Chananya's great surprise that he meets the patriarch Jacob, who had been living his undead existence in the cave for more than three-thousand years. Chananya expresses his ambiguous feelings in joining Team Jacob with "I Want to Know."
I want to know if I should care
I want to know if there is cause to fear
Chananya wants to know if there is any point in continuing to struggle against vampire antinomianism. He also wants to know if he should be afraid that a vampire like Jacob might bite him.
I've searched for days
And thought for nights
Chananya has searched for spiritual daylight to help bolster his intellectual rejection of vampire antinomianism that he has thought through.
Could my whole life been a meaningless plot
Could it be true, I am only half a man
Using post-modern meta-narrative, Chananya questions whether this whole musical is ridiculous and whether he is simply a screeching Jewish kid.
Then I met him, he brought me the signs
How blind I have been not to see the light
Show me the way, the only way
I've waited long for this day
Chananya met Jacob, who offers to instruct him in the Guide for the Perplexed and its esoteric vampire fighting secrets. (As a patriarch, Jacob has the chronological defying power of knowing literally all of Torah.) Chananya laments that he was never taught actual rationalist monotheist Judaism in yeshiva. He begs Jacob to instruct him in this one true religious way that allows for so many different ways.
And now I now that I should care
And now I now that there is cause to fear
But I would like to know what can I do
Now Chananya knows that there is objective truth known to reason that he should care about. He also knows that there really is a God worth fearing. This leaves Chananya, though, with a dilemma. What can he do against the vampires? He does not know the location of their secret headquarters nor does he know how to defeat such powerful enemies.
The first problem is solved when Chananya realizes that it is pashut p'shat in Dracula that the town of Klausenberg, a city with a strong historic Jewish presence, is close to Castle Dracula. This must be the place where antinomian Jews and vampires first made their unholy alliance to take over the world. Though Chananya is eager to slay his rebbe and all his former classmates, Jacob cautions him to take heart as to the true way to defeat vampires. Together they sing "Sunshine." The song mixes their two distinct pains of loneliness, Chananya's recent and raw loss of his rebbe and classmates with Jacob's long-enduring agony of thousands of years of being a vegetarian vampire cut off from both the Jewish community and philosopher's heaven.
Though the world's astray
And has slowly lost its way
With the goal of virtue fading
The world has been led to follow vampirism, abandoning any sense of Aristotelian virtue ethics, with its sense of objective good and bad action, in favor of brute power.
There's a steady light
That has kept away the night
With the brightness it's creating
Can we bring the world it's only sunshine
Only Torah yields the hope for mankind
Let the beauty of our song
Find the good in everyone
Through the darkness shines our faith in our times
At a practical level, it is only the rationalism of the Mishnah Torah that can defeat the vampires. Being a Maimonidean frees you of superstition and allows you to recognize that there is nothing supernatural about vampires. They are nothing but a virus that can be eradicated. Even at night, they can be defeated with UV lights. The supposed superhuman strength of vampires is no match for a philosopher on the Maimonidean diet. At a spiritual level, Maimonideanism is a necessary antidote to vampirism. As long as people think of religion in terms of power and becoming immortal, they will inevitably be seduced by the allure of vampires and their offer of power and immortality.
Though we number just a few
We radiate the truth
Through the darkness shines our faith for all time
Maimonideans have always been a very small minority even within the Jewish community. It is really hard for them to even put a minyan together. But the moral power of their positions is so great that it radiates outward keeping idolatry in check. Even pagan Jews have to pretend to believe in God.
Chananya journeys to Klausenberg and enters the secret underground vampire crypt. He quickly finds himself surrounded by Rebbe Frost and his former classmates. Rebbe Frost mocks philosophy as the destroyer of faith and asks Chananya what he believes in now his position is so clearly hopeless. Chananya confounds the vampires with the Averroesistic hymn, "B'siyata D'shmaya." These lyrics appear to endorse superstition while really being an ode to science.
Have you ever felt there is nowhere to turn
Things seem feel confused
No one's concerned
The times we live in are o so dark
The faith alights a spark
There is a vision, eases pain
Hope arises again, hope arises again
Everyone feels confused on occasion by the mysteries of the universe. A philosophical diety seems to lack the personal touch of mysticism with its idols and antinomianism. One might even turn to the darkness of vampires at a time like this when they appear to dominate. Faith in reason is a spark that protects you from the pain of a vampire bite. The philosopher with his hope that his consciousness will become part of the eternal mind will arise even after death, unlike the vampire who will not arise once properly staked but will turn to dust.
B'siyata D'shmaya, whatever I do
When I need him to help me, he always comes through
Never will I feel alone
Without him who can stand on their own
The Truths of physics, as embodied by the movements of the heavens, will never let a rationalist down. Chananya, even by himself, is never truly alone and has no need for the vampires' achdus hivemind.
Prayer after prayer, tear after tear
Begging for help, for heaven to hear
When Hashem at his side
Every door is open wide
Our only hope is to look to the sky
Where he waits for our cries
What else produces tears like praying over some especially dense philosophical prose? One needs to open one's mind to hear the rational music of the heavens. When you place yourself on the side of universal, you can understand anything. There is no hope in looking to mysticism for understanding, but only in looking at the manifest laws of the universe seen in the heavens, which wait for us to cry out eureka.
What follows is the bloodiest, most elaborate and coolest fight scene in the history of Jewish musicals.
Next, comes a punchball duel with Simcha Stark, which explains why it was only rational for Chananya to want sunglasses in an underground crypt. Rebbe Frost is shocked that the best boy in the park could lose at punchball. He pretends to do teshuva, singing the song from the Marvelous Middos Machine. Chananya responds that he always thought Abie Rotenberg was an idolater and performs the quadruple Death by Bais Din combo needed to kill senior vampires.
The musical ends with "Kumt Shoin." These are the last lines of the Mishnah Torah, indicating the importance of Maimonides. They also are a rejection of the kind of apocalyptic political messianism that can only lead to antinomianism and ultimately vampirism. The rabbis as opposed to the "true tzadikim," never desired the Messiah to take over the world and rule over the gentiles. On the contrary, they honestly wished to be left alone to study God's Torah.