The baal-worship had been feeling a little flat and phony recently, and there’d been strong murmuring around the congregation that maybe - just maybe - baal worship was on its last legs. But if some of that authentic, Jewish spiritual ‘razzle’ could be somehow injected into the daily baal-worship routine - then hey! The sky was really the limit!
After the baal worshipers dispersed, a lone figure dressed in very simple cotton slacks and sandals, with crazy hair, a leather satchel and a knobbly staff came over to scan the noticeboard, and sighed a deep sigh.
More than 2,500 years had passed, but it seemed as though the Jewish nation - or at least some of them - hadn’t learnt anything from the past, and were rushing straight into making the same mistakes again. Well, he’d had to disrupt the baal-worshipers plans to turn Jewish souls away from God the last time, and it seems as though he’d have to gird his loins to do it again.
Rabbi Roni scanned the class of baal worshipers with a big, beaming smile on his face.
Man, these people were lapping up every word he said, and hanging on his every nuance! It was SO different from all the hassle and disrespect he’d got trying to teach third graders in the Talmud Torah. And these guys had such interesting questions, too!
He’d felt himself swelling with pride when Chris had asked him to demonstrate exactly how to check the knife for any disqualifying notches before shechting your baby for Moloch.
And that question from Kristen about whether you could eat the ‘body of Baal’s’ sacrificial wafer on Pesach - given that it was chametz and all!!! - had really touched his heart. These were great people, really. Salt of the earth. With such sincerely good people like this walking the earth, the second coming…er, whoops, the first coming of Moshiach was surely only minutes away.
As the class cleared out, a tall, tanned stranger with flashing eyes and crazy hair rolled up in front of Rabbi Roni’s desk, and transfixed him with a piercing stare. Rabbi Roni started to feel a little uncomfortable.
“Can I help you?” he asked pointedly, chin jutting firmly out. He quickly scanned the stranger, trying to catch sight of what sort of kippa the guy was wearing. (All the male baal-worshipers had taken to wearing a cute beanie in class, as a sign of respect to the Rabbi.)
But the guys’ hair was so wild, he couldn’t really see if anything was perched on top his head.
“How are things, Roni?” the stranger asked, in a slow, pregnant voice.
“I heard you were getting into a lot of trouble, financially….Finding it hard to make ends meet in the holyland….Struggling to fund all those holidays back home for you and the family…. The bank manager was harassing you about the meenuss….Are things a little better now?”
Roni gulped, and felt a sense of panic start to rise in his chest. How did this guy know all this stuff about him? Was he being stung by the Mossad? He pulled himself together, and decided to try to brazen things out.
“Listen guy, I don’t know who you are, or what you want from me, but if you don’t leave right now, I’m calling security.”
The stranger smiled affably.
“Call them, Roni, don’t let me stop you.”
Without taking his eyes off the stranger, who’d now sat down on one of the chairs near his desk, Roni whipped out his i-Phone and called Gad, the ‘spiritual’ head of the academy. No answer… He tried Derrick, head of finances. No answer… He tried Mona, the ‘power behind the throne’ who was really the moving force behind the whole operation. No answer…
“Maybe it’s Yom Kippur, and everyone’s in shul,” the stranger offered, with a strange smile on his face.
Roni gulped again.
“Listen mister, I don’t know what sort of crazy religious extremist you are, or what you want from me, but I’m not doing anything wrong, here,” Roni started to babble. “I’m being a light unto the nations, I’m teaching baal-worshipers Jewish Torah with real Jewish sources, and it’s all 100% kosher.”
The stranger didn’t say a word, he just continued to scrutinize Roni with a powerful gaze that Roni felt was burning him up from the inside. Sweat started to pour off his brow and the words started to tumble out of his mouth, unbidden.
“Things were just getting too hard at home…Do you know how much a custom sheitel costs these days?” Roni gasped out. “And mom was pressuring me to come back to New Jersey to spend Pesach with her, with the whole family - I have ten children! - and my oldest got engaged…and my wife wanted to move out of three bedroom apartment to something a little bigger…and I got so sick of trying to teach Torah to Jewish brats with ADHD…and I was getting threatening phone calls from Dafna my bank manager every single day - sheesh, I think she used to work for the Shabak, or something…and…and…and.”
Roni shuddered to a halt.
“Go on,” the stranger gently prodded him.
“And…I sold out my soul for money.”
“You did,” the crazy-haired stranger nodded kindly, in full agreement.
“So what are you going to do about that, Roni?”
Roni flushed a deep purple, and looked down at his feet. What could he do about it? He was in up to his neck now. Apart from the financial problems he’d face if he left - minimum, they’d foreclose on his house because no genuine Torah institution would touch him with a barge pole, now he’d been teaching Torah to baal-worshipers - there was also the excrutiating loss of credibility he’d have to deal with.
He’d have to publicly admit that what he’d been doing for the last couple of years - and publicly defending in every forum - was completely wrong. He’d had to ‘fess up that all those attacks he’d been making against ‘extremist’ orthodox Jews, and ‘intolerant’ orthodox Judaism had been prompted by a massive personal guilt fit because he was selling out God, and his soul, for his bank balance.
That all seemed so very hard to do…
The wild-haired stranger stood up, stretched, and offered Roni his hand.
“You can always come back, Roni,” he whispered. “God wants you back, and you can always come back.”
“How?” Roni murmured back, feeling the worst he’d ever felt in his life.
“Ask God to show you how,” the stranger rejoined. Then, he took a worn copy of the Tanach out of his satchel, opened it and placed it gently down on the desk between them.
“Why don’t you start by teaching this, to your next class?”
And with that, he was gone.
Roni blinked back a couple of tears, rubbed his face, and pulled the sefer closer towards him. The book was opened at Kings I, 18:20:
“Ahab sent among all the Children of Israel and he gathered the (false) prophets to Mount Carmel. Elijah approached all the people and said, ‘How long will you dance between two opinions? If Hashem is the God, go after Him! And if the Baal, go after it!”