THE ETERNAL FLAME
The first chapter of THE DEADLIEST FEVER begins with your witnessing a threat to the mantle that wraps the Torah in Alexandria’s Great Synagogue:
He waits, listening to the darkness flow into the sanctuary. With the thick drapes blocking the flare of torches lining the Canopic Way, the only light scratching the air is the meager glow of the eternal flame, the ner tamid of Alexandria’s Great Synagogue.
The coolness of the night has already begun to assert itself. Just a little longer, he tells himself as his fist closes around the open edges of his long black robe. A few minutes later, as his other hand pulls back the hood over his head, he emerges from his hiding place, his body taut, his legs tingling from having stood in place for so long.
Stretching his cramped muscles, he approaches the front of the Torah Ark. His fingers tremble with excitement, his eyes shine with greed as he draws open the curtain that screens the Ark.
Like a bride’s veil, he says to himself, amused by the analogy.
With a self-congratulatory nod and a tight satisfied smile, he pulls open the ornate bronze doors and carries the Torah to the Reader’s Table. For a few moments, he gazes at the coveted prize adorning the Torah mantle, three peerless jewels, each set into the bowl of one of the three vessels embroidered in gold on the mantle.
This eternal flame is a light that shines before the altar of sanctuaries in any Jewish places of worship. Prescribed in Exodus 27:20-21, this icon has taken on different meanings in each of the religions that have adopted it. In Judaism, the sanctuary lamp is known by its Hebrew name, ner tamid. Hanging or standing in front of the ark in every synagogue, it symbolizes G-d's eternal presence and is therefore never extinguished.
Click here to listen to a dramatic reading of the entire first chapter of THE DEADLIEST FEVER.
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