The Garden of Forking Paths by Rabbi Simcha

Dr. Yu Tsun, professor of English, a man committed to “living in the present,” and a Chinese spy for the Germans during WWI, reflects on his great ancestor, Ts’ui Pn, a learned and famous man who renounced his job as governor of Yunnan to undertake two tasks: to write a vast and intricate novel, and to construct an equally vast and intricate labyrinth, one “in which all men would lose their way.” Ts’ui Pn was murdered before completing his novel, however, and what he did write was a “contradictory jumble of irresolute drafts” that made no sense to subsequent readers; nor was the labyrinth ever found. Tsun visits a Dr. Albert, who excitedly explains he has solved both mysteries-the chaotic and jumbled nature of Ts’ui Pn’s unfinished book, and the mystery of his lost labyrinth; they are one and the same: the book is the labyrinth.

Based on a cryptic letter from Ts’ui Pn himself stating, “I leave to several futures my garden of forking paths,” Dr. Albert realized that the “garden of forking paths” was the novel, and that the forking took place in time, not in space. Ts’ui Pn’s novel attempted to describe a world where all possible outcomes of an event occur simultaneously, each one itself leading to further proliferations of possibilities. Albert further explains that these constantly diverging paths do sometimes converge again, though as the result of a different chain of causes; for example, he says, in one possible timeline Dr. Tsun has come to his house as an enemy, in another, as a friend. Though thrilled with the explanation, Tsun draws a revolver, and murders Albert. The newspaper headlines, “Tsun Kills Albert,” gets the message to Berlin, and Albert Park, the secret location of British artillery, is bombed as Tsun goes on trial. All the paths of past and future, Britain and Germany, converge in the Garden of Forking Paths. (Jorge Luis Borges)

Towards the beginning of the Seder, we hold a Matzah in our hands and break it in two, stepping into the forking…

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