Rabbi ! enchants his congregation

I walked the most likely road the Lisping Barista took out of town. It was a perfect route for someone on the run, with woods on both sides in which to hide whenever a car came along. She was, after all, fleeing from both the Drug Dealer and the Geeky Guy, as well as any number of private demons. I had not gone a mile until I realized this was the road to Gillette’s Castle. The caves the Lisping Barista visited with the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat were nearby.

I predicted the Lisping Barista would find a cave and hide for the night; so, I ended my walk, and went home to get some sleep. Yes, this fictional character needs to sleep. I’m not a superhero, after all. I may have exceptionally keen hearing, the ability to hack into laptops, and an active imagination; but, in every other respect, I’m just like you and would never choose to walk ten miles, when I can spend the night in my bed and drive it the next day.

In fact, I was so sure that I would find the Lisping Barista right where I thought she would be that, it being Shabbat, I decided I would visit Rabbi !’s synagogue and see what he had to say. I never got a chance to hear his sermons anymore, since the Epiphany Café was closed. While the rest of us migrated to Dunkin Donuts, the laughing Rabbi would never set foot in there, for the donuts were not kosher. Not that he would even eat a donut; but, being a rabbi, he could not give the appearance of eating one. Not that the baked goods at the Epiphany Café were kosher, either; but, it being a coffee shop, and not a donut shop, appearances weren’t so apparent.

I expected that seeing Rabbi ! in his natural setting, he would be different than observed at the Epiphany Café; and, indeed, that was the case. I was surprised to find that he seemed more himself at the café than at the synagogue. The difference was as dramatic as coming across a tiger in the wild, where it can pounce on you at any moment to deliver a sermon, versus seeing one caged in a zoo, performing only at feeding time. Furthermore, in the wild, one would hope to not come across a tiger; just as we often groaned when Rabbi ! entered the café. On the other hand, one may travel to a zoo especially to see and hear the tiger; as these good people arrived, all dressed up, for the rabbi.

After an hour of singing incomprehensible songs in a foreign language, marching around with a scroll, and chanting, also in a foreign language, the daily portion of the Torah; Rabbi ! was, at last, permitted to speak to us in English.

“What really happened that day in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?”

The congregation didn’t seem to know. At least, they didn’t answer. They seemed to think he was about to tell them.

“I think that Eve took a big bite out of that apple and found a worm! No, half a worm! That’s how she discovered Evil!”

Nobody asked him, but the man behind me said to someone in his row, “I wouldn’t have eaten that apple, I don’t even like apples; but, if it was a rugelach. Oy, I wouldn’t have been able to resist a rugelach.”

“Evil never looks like Evil on the surface,” continued the Rabbi. “It always looks good; but disgusting underneath. Evil ruins every good thing we come across! Life is a good thing! But then there’s death. Health is a good thing! But there’s sickness. Kindness and compassion are great things! But they are only needed as an antidote to cruelty and grief. Every one of us has bitten the figurative apple and found the figurative worm. Blah!”

If he were delivering this sermon at the café, he would have actually spit something out on his plate. Here, he had to make do with pantomime.

“Eve said to Adam, ‘Check this out! Do you believe this?’”

“Adam said, ‘God wouldn’t ruin an apple like that! Let me see!’ He plucked another apple from the tree and took a big bite, himself! Blah! He got another worm!”

It was about then that a thought struck me. The Lisping Barista will be hungry. I could find her cave, bring her food, and get the real story about why she left the Geeky Guy, if she would tell it to me. No apples, though. After this, I’m not getting any more apples.

“Together, Adam and Eve said the same thing at the same time. ‘How could a good and gracious God permit worms in his apples? Why would He plant Evil within the very Garden of Eden? It must be that God is not as good as he says He is.’”

The congregation may then have started to regret coming to synagogue this Shabbat. They may have wanted an easily digestible sermon. What they got was theodicy, the theological equivalent to a stomach ache.

“Now, to be fair to the worm, the worm was no more evil than Adam and Eve! He was doing the same thing they were. He was eating the apple! A worm’s got to eat, too! He just got there first!”

The congregation laughed, along with their laughing Rabbi. That’s what they liked about the Rabbi. He could bring them even the perspective of a worm.

“No matter where Evil was, in the worm eating the apple or in the human eating the worm, they still found Evil in the Garden! They looked around and saw imperfection everywhere! That’s when they sewed fig leaves together to cover all the ugly parts of their own bodies.”

That’s a good thing: people generally look better clothed than unclothed. A few look better with no clothes on, but they’re usually photoshopped. The Lisping Barista, on the other hand, is the exception. She looks fine, unclothed. I’ve seen it. I’d like to see it again.

“We have a word that describes what happened to Adam and Eve: they were disenchanted.”

The sermon had taken an unexpected turn.

“That evening, when it got cool, they heard God walking around. But everything was different, now. The Garden seemed different. It was no longer the Garden of Eden! It was just an ordinary place! They were no longer happy to see God! Their feelings about Him had gotten complicated! The spell that made everything special was broken.”

I was thinking about the Lisping Barista, alone in a cave, without even the thought of peace, love, and understanding to comfort her. In every one of her apples, a worm.

“That’s precisely the situation we’re in, my friends! We’re living in the Garden of Eden; but we don’t know it because, as a whole, we’re disenchanted with God. We’ve posted our own angel guarding the gates of Eden to prevent God from entering! This angel is called Rationality!”

We’re living in the Garden of Eden? Why hasn’t anyone told us?

“Being enchanted, or disenchanted, changes everything! Everything has meaning when we’re enchanted! Without it, the Garden of Eden is nothing but a natural resource to be extracted and used for our desires! It’s stripped of its sacred character. We’ve treated each other that way, too. When we’re disenchanted we fail to recognize the holy in each another. When we allow ourselves to be enchanted, we treat all of creation as something strange, wonderful, mysterious, and surprising!”

This is when I realized something about the Lisping Barista. She may be disenchanted, but she was still enchanting.

I didn’t stay till the end of the service.

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Published by

Keith R Wilson

I am a licensed mental health counselor and certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor in private practice with more than 25 years experience. I serve as Chairman of the Board of The Bridge. I am the author of Fates Janitors: Mopping Up Madness in a Mental Health Clinic. I have two blogs. I write about mental health issues at www.keithwilsoncounseling.com. I write fiction under the pen name of S Harry Zade at www.thenarrativeimperative.com.

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