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Community Blog The Building of the Laser: An Halachic Purim Spiel

By Naomi Stephenson
Teen Beit Midrash

At Teen Beit Midrash we study Talmud, which means we examine questions of human behavior from many perspectives. We explore the connection between Jewish thinkers of the last two thousand years and our lives today. The Talmud teaches us to anticipate people’s motivation and actions and to suggest solutions to situations that may or may not arise in our lives.

When Naomi, one of our students, heard about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s suggestion that Jewish lasers caused forest fires in California, she decided, in the spirit of Purim, to explore how the Talmud might go about discussing and legislating their use. Naomi’s flight of fancy is part of the serious fun that teens at TBM enjoy. Happy Purim!

— Rabba Claudia Marbach, Director, Teen Beit Midrash of Hebrew College

The Building of the Laser: An Halachik Purim Shpeil

Now that it has been revealed that there is, indeed, a Jewish Space Laser, the accompanying Masechet Laser has also been revealed. It is a relatively short masechet revealing the piercing nature of the subject, and it has been secretly passed down for generations.

On the Kosher Use of the Space Laser

  • The construction must be overseen by a Rabbi.
  • Each component of the space laser must be blessed individually.
  • If any components of the space laser are found to be with blemish, the project is to be declared treif and must be started over.
  • A debate has risen over whether tefillin can be worn during the construction of the space laser. Some sages have pointed out that having full mobility of one’s arm would be useful in conducting complicated mechanical engineering. Other sages argue that to deny one’s spirituality while partaking in such a project is not to be considered. A lively debate continues in modern Jewish communities.The Launching of the Laser
  • Upon launch, the traditional blessing for safe travel is to be recited by a rabbi.
  • A minyan must be present for the launching of a space laser.
  • Certain Ultra-Orthodox communities have argued that women should not be allowed at the launch. Egalitarian communities have lambasted this argument as pure nonsense.
  • Once the laser clears the lower atmosphere, it is considered to be in the same time zone as Israel.

    The Operation of the Laser
  • The laser is expected to be crewed by a team of at least 10 people at all times.
  • The Ultra-Orthodox community has argued that women should not be permitted on the laser. Egalitarian communities have pointed out that there is nothing in the Torah to support this idea.
  • The laser may not be fired on Shabbat. However, setting a timer is permissible as long as there is no big red button that needs to be pressed on Shabbat.
  • To operate the laser remotely from Earth is forbidden.
  • If the laser causes unintentional damage, the astronaut who pressed the aforementioned big red button is liable to pay for the damages for the impacted communities.
  • Some sages point out that this astronaut shouldn’t be held liable, as it’s possible that they were acting on orders, and the person who delivered these orders should be held liable instead. Other sages point out that the astronaut still had the free will to press the big red button and it’s ultimately still their fault. Other sages suggest that the astronaut and the boss should settle this matter in traditional unarmed combat.
  • If the laser is fired on Shabbat or any other chag, it must be immediately decommissioned.
  • The astronauts are to be changed every seven years.
  • If an astronaut is taken ill or dies on the laser, a replacement may be sent in a rabbinically-approved rocket probe.
  • A debate has emerged on when this astronaut should leave the spaceship. Some sages argue that this astronaut should serve a full seven years like everyone else. Others point out that this astronaut is technically carrying on for the ill/dead astronaut, and should therefore leave when they were supposed to. Most adhere to the second opinion, as keeping track of when everyone arrived would be too tiring.
  • In order to recognize the global impact of the space laser, Jews around the world are expected to fast the day after it is fired. 
  • In the ancient times, if an astronaut made an error in the operation of the laser, they were stoned, had their head shaved, and were put in isolation for a month until they were declared pure. Nowadays, this routine is recognized as inhumane and inconvenient, and a good telling off is considered sufficient.
  •  The food packs on the laser must be certified kosher by a Rabbi.
  •  The Talmud recognized the dangers of adding extra weight to the laser by sending up a second set of dishes and a second kitchen in order to ensure the separation of meat and dairy. They settled this by only sending up high protein vegan meat substitutes.
  • Astronauts who complained were suddenly declared unfit by the rabbis and were surreptitiously sent on a mission to the secret Jewish commune on Jupiter.
  • It is permissible to not light Shabbat candles on the space laser, as setting things on fire in a pressurized environment in space is recognized as a stupid idea.
  • It is agreed that essential work for the safe operation of the laser is permitted on Shabbat, with the understanding that work that is essential to life is always permitted on Shabbat.
  • If the laser is fired during the Days of Awe, it must be immediately decommissioned and no space laser may be built for a generation.

    The Decommissioning of the Laser
  • After 28 years, the space laser is brought back to Earth.
  • The laser is crashed into the ocean in order to ensure maximum safety and stealth.
  • Hillel argued that the laser should be crashed in the Pacific Ocean, as it’s further away from Israel. Shammai argues that the laser should be crashed into the Atlantic Ocean as there are fewer precious coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. The rabbis declared that Israel is more important than coral reefs and went with Hillel’s argument.
  • All astronauts must leave the laser twelve days before it is brought down to Earth.
  • Some sages pointed out that this means that these astronauts will not be fulfilling their seven year stints on the laser. Other sages pointed out that practicality should win over arbitrary time limits. In the case of crashing space lasers, practicality won out.
  • There is a debate on the correct disposal of a space laser. Some sages argue that each component must be disposed of individually, referencing how each component is treated individually during the construction process. Other sages pointed out that such an enterprise is a waste of time and the priority should be disposing of the flaming wreckage as quickly as possible. Rashi proposed an illogical cleaning method that would probably get all the engineers killed if actually put into practice.The space laser is a treasured Jewish tradition, passed l’dor va’dor, from generation to generation. Let us celebrate the space laser, and pray for its continued protection and general awesomeness. Next year on Jupiter!

Naomi Stephenson is an eleventh grader at Belmont High School and a participant in Teen Beit Midrash of Hebrew College


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