She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live. – Annie Dillard
Publisher: Laurel A. Rockefeller
Publication Date: November 22, 2017
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Teacher. Philosopher. Astronomer.
Born in 355 CE. In the aftermath of Constantine's reign Hypatia of Alexandria lived in a collapsing Rome Empire, a world where obedience to religious authorities trumped science, where reason and logic threatened the new world order. It was a world on the edge of the Dark Ages. As libraries burned, she dared defend the light of knowledge.
A few hours later sunset burned rose-orange over the house of Asher ben Nathan. As promised, Hypatia returned with both Orestes and Synesius one pace behind her. Reaching the dining room Orestes offered a bottle of wine to Rachel, “Thank you for inviting us. I hope you do not mind. I found this at a wine merchant a few blocks away. He assured me that it was suitable for your table and approved by the rabbinate as such.”
Rachel looked at the label before handing it off to her husband, “A fine vintage most generously given. Asher and I drank this vintage at our wedding. It has very special memories!”
“My lady said this was the right one to buy,” remarked Orestes.
“Hypatia has an excellent memory.”
“Yes, she does,” agreed Asher. “Daphne, will you prepare the wine for our dinner?”
Daphne took the bottle, “Of course, my lord!”
Asher beckoned everyone to sit while he stood, “Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. Blessed is Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, who hallows us with mitzvot and commands us to kindle the Hanukkah lights. Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-olam,she-asa nissim la-avotenu ba-yamim ha-mem ba-z’man ha-zeh. Blessed is Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, who performed wondrous deed for our ancestors in days of old, at this season.” Prayerfully he lit the first and second candle, “Tonight as we celebrate Hanukkah together, we are conscious of the precious gift of family and friendship. So often we take one another for granted, forgetting to express our love and devotion. As we kindle these festive lights, let us rededicate ourselves to sharing our interests and time with one another. Like the Maccabees of old, let us always face the troubles and joys of life united by those we love.”
“Amen,” answered Rachel and her children.
“Amen,” echoed the guests.
Rachel turned to her husband, “Asher, Hypatia was kind enough to give us a beautiful menorah as a gift. Shall we light it as well?”
Asher kissed her, “Certainly, matok!” Rising he fetched Hypatia’s menorah from the living room and put it on the dining room table in front of everyone. Daphne brought in a set of candles which Asher set into each cup expertly. Lighting the shamash candle for Hypatia’s menorah from the shamash on the original menorah, he lit the first two candles, “Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.”
Orestes studied the gifted menorah, “You gave this to them, my lady?”
“I recognize the craftsmanship. It was made by the finest silversmith in Alexandria.”
“Nothing is too good for my dear friend Rachel. We’ve been friends since childhood,” explained Hypatia as she took a sip from her wine glass.
“My lady is truly most generous,” added Synesius.
“Jew, Christian, Pagan—there is no difference between us,” asserted Hypatia. “We are all in search of truth beyond human understanding, with a greater connection to the Divine. Does it truly matter what name or names we use, what languages we speak, or how we worship? Surely God or the gods care less about how we worship than how we live. Actions, not words, matter most.”
“Theophilus disagrees,” declared Synesius. “For him and his followers everyone must believe and worship in accord with his ideas of orthodoxy. There is only one true belief, only one way of correctly worshipping. He preaches in the agora a most fiery and impassioned manifesto, one that often calls for enforcement of Christian orthodoxy upon those who disagree with it—Christian, Jew, or Pagan—all must live, worship, and believe as he interprets the Bible.”
“Has anyone of his congregants acted on his words?” asked Rachel.
“Not yet, but they may sooner rather than later. Saturnalia is nearly upon us,” answered Synesius.
Rachel stared at Synesius, “Saturnalia? I do not understand the significance in this context.”
Asher’s face grew grim, “In the Empire, Saturnalia is often a time for murder. Many promotions come out of Saturnalia assassinations.”
“Will the legate intervene?” asked Rachel.
Orestes met Rachel’s eyes, “It depends on who is killed or at least targeted and who the attacker is. The legate is a politician first. If there is nothing to gain and something to lose by acting you can be certain he will do nothing.”
“Orestes is right about the legate. I can easily see him standing by and allowing one or more than one of Theophilus’ congregants get away with murder,” affirmed Hypatia.
“Will he attack the school at the Temple of Serapis?” asked Rachel.
“Possible, but not likely,” answered Asher. “It’s too big a target and he lacks sufficient support to get away with it—for now, at least. Burn the temple or the Caesareum and he’ll have to answer to the prefect for it. No, he won’t move against either, not yet. Saturnalia violence is small-scale. An attack on any institution like your school costs him too much right now to try. But I promise you this: the moment the prefect and his legates waiver in their protection, our houses of worship and houses of learning will fall to Theophilus and his frenzied thugs he calls Christians.”
Born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska USA Laurel A. Rockefeller is author of over twenty books published and self-published since August, 2012 and in languages ranging from Welsh to Spanish to Chinese and everything in between. A dedicated scholar and biographical historian, Ms. Rockefeller is passionate about education and improving history literacy worldwide.
With her lyrical writing style, Laurel's books are as beautiful to read as they are informative.
In her spare time, Laurel enjoys spending time with her cockatiels, attending living history activities, travelling to historic places in both the United States and United Kingdom, and watching classic motion pictures and classic television series.
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