Ruth Marquet sat in front of her bank of computer monitors, crying. On her screens, fed to her through a live satellite and drone feed, were the images of a teenaged girl. She was 16 and she was being attacked on the street by a growing mob of people.
Her name was Eve and she was Ruth’s daughter.
She was crying for help. Calling out to the sky for her mother’s rescue. But Ruth was not helping. She was just watching, crying, as a mob engulfed her only child.
Ruth Marquet had never intended to have a child. She wasn’t the type. Ruth Marquet was a killer. She didn’t work for some government or even as a criminal gun for hire. She did it on her own; as her unique gift to the world. As far as most anybody else knew, she was an AI specialist. She ran a company that designed artificial intelligence systems meant to cut through all the noise of modern life. This stuff would tell you what was really important, when it was really important. It was useful. She knew this because hundreds of millions of people used it. But it was just a byproduct of her real interest.
When nobody was looking, she killed bad guys. She knew she was police, prosecutor and judge. But she was okay with that. She investigated her targets thoroughly and struck only those who were, due to corruption or a broken civil society, beyond the reach of effective law enforcement. She was like a superhero. And she probably seemed that way to her targets. Her specialty wasn’t long-range sniping attacks or stealthy one-man operations. Her power came from the software she had designed; it was why she had designed it. Her AI system helped her coordinate a virtual army of technological devices simultaneously. When she attacked a target, she would deploy a suite of monitoring and attack systems to support and reinforce her efforts. She combined numerous drone feeds and signaling systems into her augmented reality vision and audio system. She had remotely operated explosives, proximity sensors and autonomous defensive units to watch her back. She thought sometimes that she was like a many-handed goddess of death, surrounded by her angels.
But despite all her technology, she never used her robots to kill her targets. Certainly, their security teams might die this way, but never the targets themselves. Instead, she would emerge from the center of her web of electro-magnetic terror and finish the job herself. She felt she had to do this. There was something disrespectful about taking a human life by remote control.
She had to do it herself.
All of this, she knew, made her entirely unsuitable as a mother.
And it was going well. She was an incredibly accomplished and wealthy woman. She lived in an actual fortress (it came with the trade). And she knew she had done a lot of good in the world.
And then, one day, there was nobody left to kill.
It wasn’t that humankind disappeared or anything. It was something else entirely. And it had snuck up Ruth. She had been so busy with her work that she hadn’t noticed the phenomenon that had overrun the world.
It was called Connect.
Connect was a pill, although Ruth had no idea what it was made of. But when you took it, you entered another world. Not an alternate reality or a world of hallucinations, you entered a world of telepathic communication. You could communicate, purely and directly, with others taking the drug. It was incredibly addictive. Connect spread like wildfire and people took it and disappeared from the ‘real’ world. It was like a zombie movie. They lost weight because they neglected to eat. They were disheveled and disgusting. And they were hooked.
There were debates among the few holdouts in the real world. There were debates about whether this drug was a good idea. On the positive side, people had been blessed with incredibly close relationships. And they had made their own choice to take the drug. And they were happy, most of the time. But Ruth did not see this. She saw people living in the moment, with raw emotions sweeping the entire planet almost instantaneously. Within months, the vast majority of human society was hooked. And that included those Ruth Marquet would typically have targeted. They were no longer criminal masterminds. They let themselves become simple Connectors.
Ruth, though, was a hold out. There were others who resisted the drug, who saw something worthwhile in the ‘real’ world. But they were few and far between. And they didn’t tend to survive. Mobs of half-present Connectors would descend on them, taking their possessions and sharing the pleasure of their hunt with the world.
But Ruth could hold out. She had means few other people had. She even had a garden patch within the high walls of her home. And she had access to a world of data. The problem was, by the time she worked out where Connect had come from, it was too late to act. It wasn’t that there hadn’t been an inventor. It was that the drug was being manufactured by the users themselves. There was no evil mastermind to strike. Perhaps there had been, but he had long since disappeared into the mass of humanity.
Ruth watched this. Her own power systems supplied electricity to her network of drones. Her AI systems hacked into unguarded satellite signals. She watched from her control room as emotional spasms ripped through the planet, and humankind moved like a teeming mass of insects. They ate what they found, quickly losing huge numbers to starvation, but they kept teeming – one great mind, mindlessly consuming the world around it.
And Ruth didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t kill all of mankind. Well, she could have. She could have stolen smallpox and various weaponized viruses and she could have personally removed the survivors. But it wouldn’t have accomplished anything. She needed to raise mankind up, not destroy it.
She needed humankind to know what it was missing.
It was then, meditating on this challenge, that she realized she needed a child.
It wasn’t terribly difficult to accomplish the necessary pre-cursor steps. A few hospitals had independent power sources designed for very long-term outages. They were outposts in a desert of destruction. A few of those facilities had fertility clinics stocked with the genetic material of an appropriate range of potential fathers. Susan screened these as best as she could, pouring through hospital records and even carrying out a little analysis of her own. And then she chose the father and took the first steps to becoming a mother.
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, a howling wilderness.
Childbirth was risky. She studied intensively, trying to develop the skills necessary to intercede in an emergency. She developed a robot to manage the delivery and other systems to intercede in case things went wrong. She secured blood supplies from a nearby hospital. She set up autonomous security for her labor. She did everything she could, because humankind depended on it.
And then, almost without incident, she gave birth to Eve.
And she discovered she was a mother after all.
As her baby looked at her through unfocused newborn eyes, Ruth realized that Eve was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. And Ruth discovered that she would do anything for her.
For the portion of the LORD is His people, Jacob the lot of His inheritance. He compassed him about, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.
Eve was a blessing Ruth had never known she needed. But she remained a tool. She existed to save mankind. And so Ruth did not just want her daughter’s happiness, Connect might have supplied that. Instead, she wanted her daughter’s fulfillment.
Eve was well fed, secure and accomplished. Ruth would work her little garden and Eve would help; even as a toddler she could carry seeds for her mother. And Eve lived well, with gifts and luxuries the world had long since lost.
He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he did eat the fruitage of the field; and He made him to suck honey out of the crag, and oil out of the flinty rock;
The idea was simple: the Connectors would see Eve, they would want to be like Eve, and the drug that held them would begin to lose its grasp. Then, one by one, Ruth could pull people out, blessing them with her powers and helping them join her in farming and building and engaging with objectives greater than those Connect could offer.
Through blessings and relationships, Ruth could counter the nihilism of Connect.
But it didn’t work that way. As she grew older, Eve became aware that she was not there simply to live. She realized she was being used for another purpose. And it dug at her. And then one day, she found and took Connect. And she entered the world her mother had forbidden to her.
Of the blood of the grape thou drankest foaming wine. But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked…
Ruth, of course, had seen it happen. But what could she do? If she forced her daughter not to take the pill, her resistance would grow. She would desire it more. And the rest of humankind would learn that Ruth’s path was one of coercion, not fulfillment. She could support her daughter, despite the drug. But then the world would learn that Ruth’s blessings followed her child. They would not understand that her gifts were reserved for those who followed a better path.
There was something else, something less analytical that drove Ruth’s decision just to watch. Ruth was angry. Her daughter had rejected all that she had done for her. She had followed the foreign allure of Connect.
O foolish people and unwise? is not He thy father that hath gotten thee? hath He not made thee, and established thee?… They roused Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations did they provoke Him.
And so, angry and jealous and having no other options, Ruth drove her daughter, humankind’s only daughter, from her little compound. And she watched as the rest of the world convulsed with her decision. Ruth knew what the world would do. They would hate Eve. Eve was a repudiation to the most fundamental decision they had ever taken in their lives. Eve’s very existence cried out against the use of Connect. Eve might think she was joining humankind, fitting in with a world gone mad. But the world would know, that Eve saw herself as a path to redemption – it was how she had been raised. No, the world would never accept her. Instead, they would make a lesson of her.
The first attack came only a few hours after Eve left. There were a few of them. Ruth could not sense their conversation, but she could guess at it. The others would hate Eve. And she would try to assure them that she was one of them. But their hate would only grow. It was inevitable. Then, as Ruth watched, they attacked. They would make an example of Eve Marquet.
But they were no match for Eve – well-fed Eve. They lost quickly, but they hurt Eve in the process.
And Ruth just watched.
But Eve, foolish Eve, kept going. She desperately wanted to join the world.
They sacrificed unto demons, no-gods, gods that they knew not, new gods that came up of late
And Ruth just watched.
And the LORD saw, and spurned, because of the provoking of His sons and His daughters.
Ruth watched as the mobs came. Her daughter was beaten and scratched and bruised and attacked. And, with her satellites and drones, Ruth just watched. She just watched as her daughter cried out for help. She cried with the pain of it, but Ruth ignored her. The child needed to learn. The world needed to learn. They needed to learn the darkness of Connect. They needed to learn the darkness of abandoning her mother’s path.
And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.
Ruth just watched. Her daughter survived. She was strong. But she suffered terribly. She knew how to plant, not forage. And insect-like humanity had stripped the land clear. She could not compete with them. She grew hungry and thirsty and tired.
The wasting of hunger, and the devouring of the fiery bolt, and bitter destruction; and the teeth of beasts will I send upon them, with the venom of crawling things of the dust.
And Ruth watched.
Her anger only grew as her daughter pushed further away. She demanded help, but made no move to return. And for a cold moment, Ruth thought she would abandon her completely. And allow her to be destroyed.
I thought I would make an end of them, I would make their memory cease from among men;
But then she realized she could not do this. Nothing would be achieved.
Were it not that I dreaded the enemy’s provocation, lest their adversaries should misdeem, lest they should say: Our hand is exalted, and not the LORD hath wrought all this.’
She wished her daughter had understood. She wished she had embraced her mother’s path. But she had not. She was only a foolish child.
For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them.
Ruth she saw when Eve turned back back towards home. She saw when Eve changed her path. She saw when her daughter finally began to understand. It was then that Ruth left her fortress. Like a goddess of death she came among her daughter’s tormentors. And in anger, she struck them down.
If I whet My glittering sword, and My hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine adversaries, and will recompense them that hate Me. will make Mine arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh; with the blood of the slain
And she realized that this too was an example. Her daughter’s example would be one of life. But those who could not accept her, those who defended Connect, would suffer. Ruth would offer both joy and pain. And so, she fought, leaving an example of vengeance that spread the world over.
Sing aloud, O ye nations, of His people; for He doth avenge the blood of His servants, and doth render vengeance to His adversaries, and doth make expiation for the land of His people.
She fought and then she brought Eve home. She nursed her back to health. She could yet be an example to the world. She could still raise up humanity. It was, after all, why she had been created.
he said unto them: ‘Set your heart unto all the words wherewith I testify against you this day; that ye may charge your children therewith to observe to do all the words of this Torah. For it is no vain thing for you; because it is your life, and through this thing ye shall prolong your days upon the land, whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.’
Her girl had left a child, but she had returned a woman. Ruth saw her and smiled. And she realized that Eve was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
And she discovered that she would do anything for her.
I’ve always found the reading of Ha’azinu very hard to embrace. G-d seems like the worst kind of jealous husband. We cheat and he allows us to be hurt and damaged and assaulted. And then he returns to us, destroying those we had left Him for so that we are protected from our own sin. All of this is justified because we were created to fulfil the Torah.
I’ve struggled with this image; I wrote this story to grapple with it.
And now, I think, I can understand it. We exist to bless the world and raise it up. We are G-d’s tool in this effort. Despite this, we often abandon G-d. And He, in turn, hides His face from us. The cycle in this reading: of blessing, abandonment, suffering and return is meant to teach us, and ultimately the world, the path of G-d. It is meant to free us from the values that flow through our world, pulling us away from true fulfillment.
In an era when so many raise children to be happy, this parsha holds out another paradigm.
Perhaps we should seek something greater than their children’s joy.
Perhaps we should raise them to create, invest in the holy and relate to our Creator, the Holy One Blessed be He.
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image: Christopher Michel, Flickr