By TED ROBERTS, the SCRIBBLER ON THE ROOF
On the High Holydays, having completed our ethical accounting of the past year, some of us are forced to declare bankruptcy. But we promise our celestial creditor that next year there’ll be a heck of a
payoff. We’ll do better, we wail to the heavenly scorekeeper – just put my name in that book!
We want to see a glittering inscription in the Book of Life and the Scroll of Eternity. We want a Hereafter full of Nova Lox on fresh onion bagel, short, fascinating sermons by our rabbis, discounted shul dues, wives that hate credit cards, and finally a huge paycheck for doing nothing, which goes directly to our celestial checking account.
I’ve left out a few goodies, but you get the idea.
Don’t let anybody tell you we Jews don’t believe in Heaven. We do. We believe in a penthouse over the rainbow where everybody’s daughter marries an orthopedic surgeon. But we snap our theological fingers at that other place where the air conditioning never works and the average daily temperature will melt your silver Seder plate. My neighborhood church marquee, in a record breaking hot week in July stated, “You think it’s hot here?”. Not a Jewish concept.
So I ask my Rabbi, “If we don’t believe that evil doers burn in you-know-where, how is justice done?” I’ve noticed that liars, cheats, thieves, adulterers, and my unscrupulous business competitors don’t always develop painful boils on their hindquarters. And they’re not always poverty stricken. So how are they punished?
Consider Mannie, an ideal candidate for barbecuing. He’s so slick you won’t miss your wallet until you send your pants to the cleaners. How come he has a bigger house than me? And a fancier car, plus a wife that makes the best kreplach in town. And you’re telling me that later we’re going to have adjacent lockers up THERE? And he’s gonna tell me endless stories of his car’s 0-60 miles-per-hour performance and his wife’s kreplach?
>Meditating on this hellish vision of Heaven, I dozed off and dreamed I was there already.
I walked right through those pearly gates and the first creature I met was an angel in a flowing robe with a trendy brush cut who directed me to the nearest synagogue. It was Friday night and my first celestial assignment was to attend services.
Services in heaven. What a crisp, 30-minute experience. And the rabbi’s five-minute sermon was mostly about my good works. My fellow worshipers turned and beamed at the pious newcomer, me. The rest of the service was about Mannie and what a louse he was to outdo ME on earth and how lucky he was that the Jewish cosmology had banished hell.
After we sang a snappy version of Ein Kalohenu, I was surrounded by well wishers – each of whom had something ugly to say about Mannie. Heavenly.
Then to the kiddush. Ah, whatta feast. Plenty of raisins in the kugel. (This was heaven; so raisin-hating kugel eaters were equally pleased by a total lack of raisins.) And not too much mayonnaise in the potato salad. “Just right,” said mayonnaise enthusiasts.
And there were thick slabs of lox on the table instead of pink, lox-flavored cream cheese. Best of all, as I was informed by a fellow diner, “No calories, you know – not a one”.
Later, in the study session that afternoon, the Rambam, Rashi, and Rabbi Akiva discussed the Torah reading in such elegant simplicity that even I understood it. And in the group discussion that followed, both Rashi and The Rambam smiled at me and commented that my questions were “insightful and penetrating”. Heaven, you know.
This is too good to be true, I thought. I must write a story about this place. So I did. But who to sell it to? Let’s see, one of my Jewish press editors? Hadassah? The Forward. . . .? I finally decided to call the largest and most prestigious Jewish newspaper in America – the one whose editor rejected me as regularly as Pharaoh rejected the pleas of Moses. With trepidation I punched in the numbers.
“Hello,” answered a familiar voice. “Mt. Sinai Messenger.”
But wait. It wasn’t Pharaoh. And it wasn’t Haman. IT WAS THE SWEET VOICE OF MY OWN MAMA!!“Mama, is it you?”
“Oh sure, Teddy. I’m the new editor of the Mt. Sinai Messenger and any other magazine or newspaper you decide to call. Hope you have a< column for me – you know you never wrote a bad one.”
Heaven, you know.