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Heaven's Door - the Plot Thickens

By Tzvi Fishman
11/6/2011, 4:11 PM

Someone asked me why I made the main character of "Heaven's Door" a gentile. The answer is simple. After publishing my first novel with Dell Publishers, I became a baal t'shuva, and I began to focus my writings on religious themes. Invariably, when I tried to sell my subsequent work to mainstream New York publishers, their response was "It's too Jewish." As I've noted before, there is plenty of "Jewish" fiction on the market, much of it written by popular, bestselling and award-winning Jewish novelists, but for the most part, it's all assimilationist, self-hating, mocking of G-d and His Torah. With "Heaven's Door" I wanted the novel to seem more universal, so I made the main character a gentile. But publishers (Jewish publishers amongst them) still said that it was "too Jewish." What a world!       

Heaven's Door

Chapter Seven - Miriam's Well

“Do you like to go fishing?” he asked, standing up from the table.

“Fishing? Why sure,” I replied, standing up too.

He led me around to the front of the forest cottage toward the gate of the yard. His great great grandson, Moshe, was waiting by his car, as if he expected us.

“What do you say we go fishing together?”  

“Fishing for what?”

“Fishing for faith. We still have to purge you of the plague of modern man’s doubt. If you hope to get anything out of our conversations, you have to believe.”

“Believe in you?” I asked.

“Believe in God,” he replied

“I believe in God, in my own way,” I maintained.

“That’s not good enough,” Saba Yosef answered. “God isn’t something we invent or make up to fit our needs. God is.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that God created us. He calls the shots, as you Americans are wont to say. It’s not supposed to be the other way around.”

I was puzzled. For sure, he could see it in my face. He didn’t need Divine Inspiration for that. 

“I’m afraid that right now you can’t understand it, because at the present you are more concerned about yourself than you are about the truth. But maybe, after we go fishing together in Miriam’s Well, you’ll understand a little better.”

I was curious to ask him more, but I could tell that he didn’t want to elaborate. What the hell was Miriam’s Well, I wondered?  Did he know that Miriam was the name of my wife?

“Go get yourself a good dinner in Safed,” Saba Yosef advised me. “Then get some rest. Tomorrow, I want you to fast all day. No food or water all day long, from sunrise to sunset, OK?”

Fast all day long - how could I fast all day long? I couldn’t remember having fasted for more than a few hours in my life, usually before some kind of medical exam.

“Why fast?” I asked him.

“Fasting is a good atonement, and it breaks down the physical prisons we live in. Many times, I have fasted for a whole week, eating only on the holy Sabbath. It teaches you that you don’t need to race after physical pleasures to live. Instead of lusts mastering you, you learn to master them.”

“I’ll give it a try,” I assured him.

“A fast of twelve hours is not so difficult. Just don’t give in to temptation. No matter how many good reasons you can find for breaking the fast, don’t give in. If you do, I won’t be able to teach you.”

“Can I see you tomorrow?”

“In the morning. Come here at eight o’clock. If God allows, we will be able to talk for an hour.”

“What about our going fishing?” I asked him.

“That will have to wait for tomorrow evening. Just before the city of Tiberias, when you go down the mountain from Safed, there is a gas station with a small coffee shop and a big yellow sign. God willing, just before sunset, I will meet you there. But don’t eat or drink anything until I arrive, even if I get there a little late. All right?”

I nodded my head. It sounded like an adventure, so why not? We said goodbye, and Moshe drove me back to the Old City of Safed to where I had left my car. Following his directions, I easily found the hotel where I had made reservations. This time everything was in order. The key to my room was waiting. The hotel was a quaint place with a lot of stonework and charm, nothing fancy, but with a view of the ancient cemetery, who was in the mood for something fancy?

Taking Saba Yosef’s advice, I treated myself to a tasty, full-course dinner in the dining hall of the hotel. My mind was overloaded by the events of the day, and I guess I was pretty emotionally exhausted. Thinking that it would help quench my thirst for the following day’s fast, and help put me to sleep, I had a few screwdrivers before calling it a night. I went straight to my room, even though it was only around ten o’clock, not wanting to strike up a conversation with anyone, figuring I’d only be getting myself into trouble in one way or another. Plus I figured that I would need all my will power and strength to make it through the day without eating. I don’t remember anything else. More exhausted than I had ever been in my life, I crashed out on the bed and didn’t wake up until dawn.