Friday, May 9, 2008

Fraughts of the evening

Last night I decided to write The Great American Novel. One of the problems with this plan is that half the book will be explaining Jewish concepts and words. The other problem is that I have a hard time fleshing out ideas. To come up with something brilliant is easy, making it work is the hard part.
Obviously, the book will be half memoir, half novel, and a quarter over-written. The critics will love it, because it'll be ethnic, soul searching, and my first book. The second will of course be widely panned, discovered seven years later, and made into a badly-directed film starring people in the twilight of their immature careers. I'll become a literary critic, living on the fringes of high society, producing books which are decidedly not The Next Great American Novel but are good enough to put bread on my grand-children's table.
Sound like a plan? Anyone know any literary agents who can get me a nice advance? Tremendous.

Moving right along, I learned a Maamar (Emor 1984) this morning that brought back memories of the Rosh's speeches. After Pesach, Shabbbos afternoons are long, and the Rosh gives a Pirkos Shiur diatribe. His favorite topic is Elazar Ben Dodarya, but I won't quite get into that now. The basic point though is Teshuva, that elusive not exactly repentance/kind-of return type thing that Jews like to talk about so much, possibly because we're all so bad at it.
In Pirkei Avos this week we learn that Reb Yehuda Hanassi, compiler (and possibly writer [depending on who you ask]) of the Mishna. He says, "Which is the right path for man to choose? Whichever is for himself and for mankind." This saying seems to imply that while this path is good, there are others which are equally valid. And in fact that's the case. There are two paths for a Jew, that of the Tzaddik and that of the Baal-Teshuva. Hashem wants us all to be Tzaddikim, perfectly righteous people without a sin to blemish the pure white linen that is our souls. Unfortunately, people seem to enjoy spilling all sorts of shtuff on that pure white linen, which makes it very dirty and not so white anymore linen. The answer at that point? Bleach. And because heavenly bleach is of a slightly higher quality than that enjoyed by temporal types, the pure white linen that makes its way out of the laundering process is even whiter and more pure than it originally was. So when a person sins, he is in fact doing a good thing.
At this point I expect that everyone reading this will be doing one of two things. They will either be commenting or sinning furiously. I'd therefore like to add a small caveat to my previous statements. The only people who are entitled to view sinning as a good thing are those who have no connection to it, meaning that the temporal types I earlier referenced are out of the equation. Basically, the only being who's entitled to view your sins as merits is G-d. Sorry.
When a human being sins, he's not doing it to become closer to G-d. He's doing it to satisfy the animal lusts which course through his veins and look suspiciously like cholesterol. So when that heavenly bleach is applied, it's going to hurt. This is not a punishment though, it's a cleansing process. And when the person cries bitter tears for the separation between himself and his G-d, he is also cleansed.
As Reb Yehuda Hanassi says though, there is a much easier path. Just do good, avoid wrong, and everyone will be happy.

5 comments:

The Real Shliach said...

Oldie'd but goodie'd

e said...

ok. I didn't comment on this one last time, but I remember it from last time.

The Real Shliach said...

Ahh. Yeah, now I have to comment whenever I repost so that I know what I reposted. Unless of course you'll do it for me?

e said...

If you include a link in the new article, I'll comment on the old one about my memories or lack thereof.

The Real Shliach said...

Sounds like a plan.