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Amazing Mazes

Rhona Lewis

Mazes are built from stone, hedges, corn, mirrors, or ice. Or in books or on cereal boxes. Constructed or printed, mazes have been amazing us for centuries

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

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T he word “maze” dates back to the 13th century. In Middle English (the English spoken in England after the Normans conquered the island) maze meant “delirium” or “delusion.”

The Whole World is a Maze
In Mesillas Yesharim, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal) describes This World as a maze of paths. We’re all trapped within the maze and don’t know how to get to the center. What can we do? The Ramchal tells us that there are a select few who know the way out of the maze and are capable of leading others. These are the rabbanim and talmidei chachamim.

Wander in Egypt
We all know about the wonders that Hashem did for us in Mitzrayim. But we’re probably less familiar with the first maze that Egyptians wandered through. According to fifth-century Greek tourist Herodotus, the Egyptian labyrinth was more impressive than the pyramids. The entire building was a temple made to memorialize the kings of Egypt. It was surrounded by a wall and contained 12 courts with 3,000 chambers. Most of the chambers were pitch black. It was split into two levels with half of the rooms above ground and the rest below. 

Herodotus was guided through the upper part of the labyrinth, where some of the doors opened with a terrifying clap of thunder, but he wasn’t permitted to go underground. Today, not much remains of this once impressive structure. 


*Trick question: Is a labyrinth the same as a maze?

Most people will say yes. But after you’ve read this article, you’ll say no.
A labyrinth is unicursal; a maze is multicursal. Huh? This means that a labyrinth has one meandering path that leads to a center. A maze, on the other hand, is a collection of branching paths and you have to find the correct route to get to the middle (or come out at the other end).

The Nazca Lines in Peru
Get ready for a long hike in the Peruvian Desert across the Nazca Plain. Here, in an area measuring 37 miles long and one mile wide, you’ll find an assortment of straight lines (some parallel, others intersecting), strange symbols, enormous birds and enormous beasts — all etched on a giant scale that only makes sense when viewed from a plane. The lines date back to about 200 BCE. The lines were etched by brushing away the reddish, iron oxide-covered pebbles that cover the surface of the desert surface so that the white soil underneath could be seen.

 

Doesn’t sound like it would last for too long, right? Right. In most places wind and rain erase markings like these within a few years. At Nazca, though, the lines have been preserved because the area is windless, dry, and isolated. Researches have suggested several reasons behind the lines.

 Maybe they were built to track the stars or to help ancient worshipers travel from monument to monument, or (wait for this one) to help UFOs (unidentified flying objects) land safely. 

Whatever the case, how did the people manage to make such precise, enormous etching by working only on the ground? Perhaps, suggests one historian, they used hot air balloons to direct the workers. What do you think? (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 688)

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