The Klonymous Chronicles
Is the following story true? It may be and it may not be. The best time to know or not to know is sometime during the Purim seudah (festive meal)
I was driving through the Pocono Mountains the Sunday before Purim in my beat-up station wagon. I was meandering through side roads on the way back to New York. I saw a small weather-beaten sign with the words "Klonymous Encampment" and an arrow pointing right, I impulsively turned onto the semi-paved road. I had a vague recollection of reading about that place in a travel guide. I continued for two miles as the road turned to dirt. At the end of the dirt road, there was an imposing old mansion perched precariously on a cliff. I parked the car in front and walked to the impressive front doors. I pressed the ornate doorbell and waited somewhat anxiously. I wondered what my curiosity had gotten me into this time.
I heard movement behind the door. There was a grinding noise of the lock tumblers opening and the door creaked open. In the doorway stood an elderly Jewish man with a long, well-groomed white beard.
"Come in," he said with a smile. "Youre the first person visiting this mon. eh... today."
"I saw the sign. This is some kind of museum?" I asked.
"You could call it a living museum" he answered.
I warily stepped into the house and found myself in a huge, cavernous room. It reminded me of a medieval castle with stone walls. It had, however, electric lights and radiators. Throughout the room there were exhibits of historical events related to the Jewish people.
Gingerly I leafed through some ancient manuscripts of old Talmudic commentaries. Fascinating. I came to a section where there were old Megillot Esther (Scrolls of Esther). The letters on the parchments were expertly written and some had detailed colorful illustrations. Each came with a beautiful cover.
Impressed, I remarked, "Mr. Klonymous, these megillot are exquisite! How did you get them?"
"Just call me Mutty," he replied. "Some of them were written by members of my family and others were gifts. These were passed down through the generations. There are even older ones on the second floor in another section."
He pointed to the spiral staircase at the far end of the room. As I climbed the staircase my footfalls eerily echoed behind me. I reached the top and saw another group of exhibits displayed in an orderly manner. These contained ancient objects that were from as far back as the period following the destruction of the Second Temple. Again there were religious scrolls and manuscripts including mezuzot and megillot. Klonymous kept a running commentary on the origins of the various items. I was overwhelmed by the enormous collection.
"Are you tired? Lets take a break." he said. When I nodded he added, "Come, Ill give you something to eat and drink."
Those words made me realize I was also famished. "Would you like some Hamantashen? And heres some milk to drink."
While I was eating, I noticed he was looking at me with a twinkle in his eye. He said, "Since its before Purim, I thought Id ask you some questions concerning the Megillah."
"Go ahead. I dont know if I can answer them, but Ill try."
"According to the commentary that states that Mordechai was married to Esther, how was she allowed to marry Achashverosh?"
"Thats a famous question. The Talmud answers that she was kidnapped and forced against her will to become the queen."
"Yes, but wasnt she supposed to kill herself before submitting?"
"A Talmudic commentary answers that but its quite complicated."
"Well, there is a simpler answer."
"What is it?" I asked, intrigued.
He ignored my question. "Let me ask you another question. Where did Haman come from before he was promoted by Achashverosh? One Tana in the Talmud states he was Memuchan one of the ministers. But a Midrash says that both Mordechai and Haman were in charge of the Mashkin (drinks). Also, why would the king promote Memuchan who gave the idea to kill Vashti? The king was pretty upset about it after she was killed.
There is a problem with Haman being Mehuman. The Megillah states that Mehuman was one of the "Surisei" of the King. Actually, the commentaries say that Memuchan also was a Suris. Its kmown that Surisim cant have children. Throughout medieval history, monarchs have often demanded their attendants not to marry nor have children in order to devote their whole lives to the king. How is it that Haman had ten sons if he was a Suris of the king?"
I chuckled. "Perhaps he had his children before he served the king."
"That may be true, but Megilla states that Haman boasted he had great wealth, many sons and then the king promoted him. Haman wouldnt mention children as a sign of wealth or power if the king didnt want it. Also he attained wealth by stealing the treasures of the Beit Hamikdash. He only was able to do that if he was already working for the king. So the great wealth had to have come after the many sons."
"You might be right," I demurred. "So whats your answer?"
"Well, the answer is very simple, but youre not going to believe it."
"Try me. Im fairly broad minded."
He eyed me speculatively. "Okay. In one word: cloning. Do you know what that is?"
I said perplexed, "Yes, I know what it is. It occurs when genetic material is donated by a person and implanted into womb of a host who carries the fetus. When the baby is born, its genetically identical to the donor of the genetic material and not the host mother."
"Its a simplistic answer but its generally correct."
"But how does that answer your questions?"
"Well, if there were two Esthers or shall we say an Esther and Hadassah who looked the same, wouldnt that answer? The Megillah states that Mordechai adopted Hadassah who was the equivalent of Esther. Hadassah remained married to Mordechai while Esther became queen to Achashverosh to save her people. It also answers the question of why was Esther picked since the king only was looking for unmarried women."
"How do you interpret that verse?"
"Oimein is derived from Umon a craft. Mordechai used the craft of cloning to replicate Hadassah, who was his cousin, to give birth to Esther. Esther had no father or mother some experts state that clones have no parents. Then the verse states that when her parents died, Mordechai took her for a "baat."
"Its a dispute what baat means," I interjected. "Some say it means a daughter and some say it means a bayit that he married her."
"See," he replied gently. "It really is both. He married Hadassah and adopted Esther as his daughter. Im sure youre aware of the famous question: where is Esther mentioned in the Torah?"
"Sure. It says Veanochi hasteir astir panai I will hide my face."
"But did you ever wonder why it says it twice hasteir and astir? The duplication of terminology is showing us that there were two people who were thought of as Esther."
He continued, "This also explains how Haman was able to have sons. They were his clones. All he needed was some genetic material that he could donate despite being a Suris. Since cloning was a very expensive procedure, he boasted that he was so rich that he was able to have so many sons."
I sat there stunned. When I recovered I said, " Are you implying that cloning was used at that time?"
"Yes. Why not?"
"Its preposterous. Cloning hasnt been perfected even in our time. How could they have used it over two thousand years ago?"
"Do you know who the yodei haitim" who are mentioned in the Megillah were?"
"One commentator says that they were the scientists that computed the clocks and calendars. Another one states that they were astrologers."
"Close. Would the king ask for advice from someone who could tell time or figure out calendars or read the stars to see what the future would bring? Actually, the specialty of these advisors was that they knew the nature of time. They were able to, either physically or mentally, project themselves into the future and learn new technologies not yet available. Cloning was something they learned and knew."
As his last words echoed off the stone walls, there was a palpable silence. My brain was trying to comprehend his words. "Its vanahapoch hu! Everything is turned upside down! I need a strong drink."
"Then you wont be able to drive home," he said compassionately.
"I still dont believe this but lets say that its true. Then what happened to the clones? They just disappeared?"
"Because some of the people were against cloning and the discovery of the malicious Haman project, there was a backlash against cloning. Due to the controversy clones were stigmatized and ostracized from society. They became ashamed of themselves and suffered much. There is an allusion to it in Tehillim chapter 83. It states Maalei peneihem culone which could mean that the similarity of their faces was a reason for feeling shame. The word culone or clone became associated with shame."
"What did they do?"
"They went to great lengths to avoid being identified as clones. They would cover their faces with veils. They took upon themselves the personification of Hester Punim. Sometimes they would paint their faces with gaudy colors to distract people. Eventually they became known as clowns. The hester punim became the Purim Jester. But we are not allowed to forget them. In the Yoitzer of Parshat Zachor, it states Clonoi huchurot buait lizchoir the story of the clones is inscribed in the scrolls to be remembered."
"Obviously, you also believe that Hester PUNim involves the hidden meaning of puns."
He just grinned. "But they didnt disappear completely. There are rumors that an organization called Clone-aid has created clones living in Israel. Of course, we all know about Saddam Hussein who followed in the footsteps of his evil ancestor and created a group of clones. They paraded around and pretended to be him. By this charade, he hoped to instill confusion in his enemies to escape. So we see that cloning is just a tool. It could be used for good; it could be used for evil. It is up to us to make sure that technology is used for the good of the world."
I was impressed. "You have answered many questions today. But you have also raised many new ones."
"Then I have accomplished my purpose. You have begun on the path to enlightenment, my cl my son. It is hashgacha pratit (decision from Above) that we met."
I stood up to stretch my legs. "Ive got to be going soon."
In response, he reached out and opened one of the drawers in his desk. He pulled out a large, ancient leather-bound book and carefully handed it over to me. "Just take a look at this book."
"What is this?" I asked gingerly handling the book. On the cover, the words "Klonymous Chronicles" were embossed in faded gold lettering.
"This book delineates our family history. It has events and pictures of our family dating back to ancient times. It contains private items which complement the exhibits around you."
I began leafing through the book. It contained family trees, family dates of birth and deaths, and other major events in their lives. The facts were accompanied by pictures of family members. I started with the generations in more recent times. Those pages were in better condition and had color photographs of family members. As I continued turning back the pages of time, the pages became more yellow and even frayed. The color photographs were replaced, first, by black and white one and then by drawings. These drawings, however, were quite precise and life-like. Suddenly one ancient picture caught my eye. I stared at it; it was an exact drawing of Reb Klonymous.
"How did a picture of you get into this section?" I asked looking back and forth between Reb Klonymous and the picture.
"Its not me," he said softly. "Look under the picture."
I squinted at the drawing. In barely visible letters were the words "Mordechai ben Yair, Hayehudi". Then it dawned on me. "What did you say your first name was?"
"Most people call me Mutty. But my formal name is," he replied. "Mordechai."