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The Derech Eretz Show
Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
Now that summer is in full swing, it's time for some good summer reading. So here's the first draft of a short novel I have recently finished. Every few days, I'll post another chapter. I don't know if I'll serialize the whole thing. I have been warned that blog readers don't have an attention span of more than a thousand words. I think that's an exaggeration. Six hundred words is more like it. Anyway, you don't have to read it all. At least it will keep certain people from arguing nastily with each other, and that has value in itself. For those of you who have the patience to actually read a novel, I hope you enjoy it. If you would like to comment, b'vakasha. I will try to incorporate the talkbacks that make sense into the final draft.
You may find it strange that an angel is writing a book, but that’s my only way out of this mess. Angels can do just about anything – with God’s permission of course. Well, to be exact, He tells us what to do, and we do it. We are His messengers. We don’t decide things on our own. In fact, we can’t do anything unless we get an order. Unless you are a Fallen Angel like me. What is a Fallen Angel? It’s an angel who decided to do things on his own. When that happens, one of his punishments is that he has to stay in the world with humans until he can make amends. Usually, we angels are sent down to Earth on short-term missions, like destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, or saving some poor guy from drowning - if he has enough good deeds to his credit to merit all the trouble that a rescue operation causes in Heaven. That was the case with me. I was sent down to warn Harry before the proverbial candle was snuffed out from Above. But we’ll get to that in a minute, after this short introduction.
In addition to saving lives, angels do a lot of things that people don’t usually associate with angels. For instance – inspiration. Usually, scientists take credit for new inventions, but it’s really angels that give them the idea. When God decides that it’s time for something new in the world like a telephone or electricity, he shoots one of us down to Earth in the form of an idea, and plants us in the brain of Alexander Graham Bell or Thomas Edison, and the result is a new discovery. It’s the same thing with artists. It wasn’t just Beethoven who composed all of those symphonies – it was an angel friend of mine. That’s how the Almighty brings progress into the world. Except that He does it incognito, in the disguise of inventers, writers, artists, and statesmen, but it’s really Him and His army of angels, pulling the strings, working invisibly behind the headlines of the day.
But I had the chutzpah to do some things on my own, so I’m down here, and the only way I can get back up to Heaven is by doing something good for the world. That’s why I’m writing this book. To wake people up to the dangers of going astray, so they’ll become better people during their short stay on this planet, before they’re taken up to the real world, the world of souls, where the lucky people live on and on forever, becoming almost like angels themselves, enjoying the genuine good life, and not merely the Madison Avenue “good life” down on Earth.
That’s right. That’s pretty much the whole secret. This world, my friends, is like the slight-of-hand of a magician. One minute it’s there, and the next minute it’s gone. As the old saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.” Not the money, nor the fame, nor all the most beautiful women in the world. It’s all an illusion, like a cloud of smoke that you grasp, only to discover that there’s nothing in your hand at all.
So why does God put people down here in the first place, you ask? Well, to explain very erudite mysteries in a simple way, life here on Earth is a test. A person can follow his eyes and his passions, and chase after all the temptations in this world, or he can heed the Voice of his Maker, by being a righteous person, helping the next guy, and taking from this world only what he needs to get by. Just like with the story of Adam and Eve. But I’ll get to that later.
Like I said, the lucky people, after their time is up in this world, assuming they accomplished what they were sent here to do, they get to live on in Heaven forever. The sad truth is, if you counted the number of people that have made it to Paradise since Creation, they wouldn’t even fill up Yankee Stadium. So you see, getting into Heaven isn’t so easy. What about all the others, the vast majority of people, including the richest and most famous celebrities in the world? Well, after their sins are burned off in Hell - and let me assure you, from the screams coming out of that place, it certainly isn’t a like a Caribbean vacation – after what seems to them like a thousand years in purgatory, measure for measure, where the miserable wretches are made to suffer for all of their illicit pleasures, thieveries, nasty words, jealousies, back-stabbings, and all the rest – they are sent back to this world for another chance. In a different body, of course, and not knowing who they were in their previous reincarnations. People keep getting recycled, again and again, until they get their acts together. The quick learners only need to come back down to Earth once or twice. Others may need a dozen journeys to this world before they fulfill their missions. While other poor devils keep coming back a hundred times and more until they catch on to the game.
What’s the purpose of the test? Simple. To get people to recognize their Maker. All Adam and Eve had to do was to recognize that God was the King and follow His bidding, and everything would have been honky dory after that – no wars, no sickness, no death. But they blew it.
If you’re smart and do what God wants you to do on Earth, you go straight into Heaven. But if you make a god out of yourself, and follow after your own selfish cravings during your fleeting sojourn on this planet, then, like I said, you are going to be spending lots of time in the Great Microwave in the sky. And after that, you’re going to have to go through all of the unnecessary hassle of life once again, until you get it straight in your next reincarnation.
Of course, within the big picture of coming to know the Creator, everyone’s personal mission is a little bit different. A guy who blew it in his initial appearance by stealing has to return what he’s stolen and stop being a thief. And another guy, who shacked up with someone else’s wife in the first go-around, has to get through the second visit to Earth by keeping his hands to himself. Or, it may be that someone neglected to perform some good deed, like helping out his aging parents, so he has to come back again to be a good son to his new mom and dad. It’s as simple as that.
Simple on paper, at least. In practice, you wouldn’t believe how many earthlings mess their lives up completely. Not only the first time they’re here, but time after time. Take my word. I’m an angel. I’ve been around since Adam and Eve. I’m seen millions and millions of people, many with good character traits and solid potential, who sooner or later screwed up.
What did you think? That you were invested with a Divine soul just to eat hot dogs at the ballpark, watch stupid shows on TV, smoke a little dope, have a few affairs on the sly, and steal whatever other cheap thrills you can from this ephemeral world? Wrong. Your soul doesn’t get high from those follies and frills. Material things don’t get the soul excited, because the soul is a spiritual essence. Connection to God is what turns on the soul. But people generally don’t pay any attention to God - or they pay lip service by going to church on Sundays, or to the temple on the Sabbath day, while behaving like uncivilized primates the rest of the week.
Allow me to play devil’s advocate. Let’s say that a guy is fantastically successful, makes a lot of money, and allows himself to enjoy all of life’s pleasures – can he take them with him when they lower him into the grave? When he arrives at the gateway to Heaven, he won’t have his checkbook and credit cards to bribe his way in. And even if someone has billions in this world, who can escape all the tribulations of life – the sicknesses and troubles that everyone suffers – battles with spouses, painful divorces, aggravations over the children, dishonest business partners, the death of loved ones, to mention just a few? No one is let off the hook.
I know from first-hand experience. In addition to helping people get out of all kinds of jams, it’s us angels who are sent down to this world to inflict people with all kinds of tragedies and pains. It’s all out of God’s love, to wake them up to their errant ways and give them the chance to repent before it’s too late, before the ticker runs out, before the unexpected car crash, the sudden heart attack, fatal disease, or drug overdose. Believe me, when the Almighty’s patience wears thin, and He decides to turn on the heat, He has no shortage of methods to let arrogant humans know that they are as vulnerable as newborn babies. That’s when He sends us into action, so that the blind of this world have a chance to wake up from their slumber, by paying allegiance to their Maker before the sand trickles out of the hourglass, and the worms in the grave begin their work of chomping inflated egos down to size.
Most people think that sicknesses and sufferings befall them for no reason at all, as part of the happenstance workings of nature. But that’s not the case. God sends afflictions to warn wrongdoers that it’s time to put on the brakes. Lucky are those who take heed!
No, my friends. Not for this life of hardship and suffering on Earth were you blessed with celestial souls that are capable of soaring higher than satellites and transcending all barriers of time and space. You were granted your heavenly souls in order to forge a bond with your Maker and enjoy the indescribable spiritual pleasures of the World to Come. But to get there, to reach the final stop and ultimate destination, your souls were “morphed” and beamed down to this world first, the corridor before the palace, so to speak, to be tested and refined. To put it in the language of the layman, you have to carry the proverbial football of your soul across the gridiron of this world, dodging a team of enemy tacklers, and then set it down over the goal line, without any mud on the laces, in order to score a winning touchdown. But if you fail, by letting one of the tacklers grab a hold of your jersey and drag you down to the mud, then TILT, you’ve lost the contest and have to play the game all over.
That’s what this book is about. You might call it my penitence and rectification. It’s my way of picking myself up out of the mire where I’ve fallen, because when temptation came my way, I forgot all these basic lessons, and strayed away from my mission to save Harry. The autobiographical tale I am about to relate is my way of teaching others, to open their eyes to the truth, so they won’t make the mistakes that I made, nor suffer needless reincarnations again and again like Harry had to. If I succeed in this, then with the grace of God, I hope to atone for my own inexcusable blunders and climb my way back to the Garden, to resume my place as a favored angel just like before. For God is always eager to accept the penitent in heart, those who strive to correct their ways and start life anew.
Of course, I cannot disclose all the secrets. That would be the greatest error of all. So I will have to tread carefully, changing names and places, and deleting many details, especially the horrifying description of the judgment that lies ahead for the stubborn of heart - for this would only serve to scare readers away. And while I may seek to soothe painful truths with flourishes of humor, let not the laughs be conceived as irreverence, God forbid. For woe to those bestselling authors who, for a few months on the bestseller list, made fun of Divine matters during their brief seventy years in this world, without thinking to give praise to their Creator, may God have mercy on their suffering souls.
This then is the story of Harry Walsh. That isn’t his real name, of course. I don’t want to embarrass him, which would be a big sin in itself. Harry is an everyman name, because this is an everyman’s story. In a sense it’s a fable, even though it’s as true as can be.
Basically, Harry had a good soul, but as we shall see, to the extent that a person has a pure holy soul, he has a corresponding evil prompter to test him wherever he goes. That’s the rules of the game. To make things clearer, let’s call the evil prompter Satan. At first, Satan was an angel like me, but after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the evil fellow became a part of man’s essence. It’s always at war with man’s better self. While it’s really a part of the person, it’s easier to picture it as a little red devil with a pitchfork, whispering in a person’s ear. In summary, life is a tug of war between the good inclination and the bad, as they battle for control.
Harry, like zillions of other people, kept listening to the misleading advice of the crafty old devil with the pitchfork, so he ended up sabotaging his reincarnations again and again. His soul was one of my charges from the very beginning of Creation. That’s why I remember his history particularly well.
So, to get on with the story, one bright heavenly day, not long ago, I was whisked down to Earth to enlighten Harry in order to save him from messing up his life once again. He had already flunked a dozen reincarnations, and God’s almost infinite patience was fast running out. But before hurling a lightning bolt from out of the blue, and short-circuiting Harry completely, God decided to give him one final chance. That’s how this whole story started.