Friday, September 4, 2015

The Coming of Messiah: A Jewish Fable for the High Holy Days

The Coming of Messiah: A Jewish Fable

By David Hartley Mark

            The Archangel Gabriel lay back against the soft, fluffy cloud and gave the last polishing stroke to his golden brass trumpet. It was so shiny, that he could see his aged, wrinkled, smiling face in its bell. One speck of cloud-lint remained, near the valves: he took a corner of his long, white beard and flicked it away.

            A shadow fell across the Archangel’s line of vision. He looked up, to see a tall, gaunt figure, and nodded at him. The Messiah stood, garbed in a long robe of purest white, and busied himself with closing its buttons:

            “Never can button all of these things—there, I believe I’ve finished! Are we ready to go, Gabie?” Messiah asked. His voice was raspy; he had not spoken since the Dawn of Time.

            “Almost,” said the Archangel, “Here, Son of David, give me a hand up, can’t you?”

            The two old men, one mortal, the other eternal, gripped hands. Both pointed at the rising sun, and grinned like schoolboys on the first day of vacation.

            “What’s the time on this part of Earth Below?” asked Messiah.

            “4 am, Greenwich Meridian,” said Gabriel, pulling a gold-chained, old-fashioned railroad stationmaster’s watch from beneath his angelic robes. His massive, white wings twitched slightly to show his eagerness.

            “Do you think He’ll let me go?” asked the Other, scratching at his neck.

            “We’ve had some false starts before,” soothed Gabriel, “but this time looks good, I believe.”

            “I believe you,” smiled Messiah, his aged face crinkling, “you’re an angel, aren’t you? You can’t lie.”

            “And an Archangel, too,” Gabriel smiled back.

            “One of the best!” shouted Messiah, clapping him on the back, and the clouds of heaven re-echoed their laughter.

            A Cherub flew up, holding a clipboard.

            “Ready for the checklist, Messiah?” she asked, pushing a pair of wire-framed spectacles up to her brow. Her hair, all tumbled ringlets, was worn Afro-style, and her dark-brown skin shone in the early-morning dew. Her robe, unlike theirs, was adorned in the multicolored dashiki-style pattern of African Liberation. Heavenly regulations allowed for personal choice in angelic adornment.

            “Please, Keisha, go ahead,” said Messiah. Gabriel nodded, encouragingly, and tried a few experimental tootles on his horn.

            The Cherub waited patiently for the Archangel to finish. He finally noticed her, and put the horn down, sheepishly.

            “Ready, Thelonious?” she asked, and smiled at his blushing. She pulled a scroll from her messenger bag.

            “Well,” she began,

Whereas, the People of Earth have reached unto such a point as they require the Presence of Messiah, and
            Whereas, their good deeds, while not entirely up to the necessary degree of accomplishment, have nonetheless reached the minimum serviceable point;
            Whereas, the poor are still poor, and the rich are accumulating riches at an embarrassing rate of pelf;
            Now therefore, the Lord God, in His infinite wisdom, has decreed that
            If no major sins have taken place within the last twenty-four hours, as measured by the Meridian of Greenwich, England,
            Then,  therefore, by Divine Right and Order,
 Messiah is to proceed to fulfill
            All that is necessary,
            Required,
            And Stated in Holy Scripture
            For Messiah to accomplish,
            With the assistance of the
            Good People of Earth,
            With no regard to
            Race, Creed, Color, Religion, Belief,
            Or Lack Thereof.

            Signed,
            The Lord God Almighty,
            As Applied to any and all Faiths
            Thereunto Pertaining,
            The Only Requirement Being
            A Humble Heart
            A Willing Soul
            And a Hand to do the Necessary Work
            Of World Repair.

            “Is that it—a preceding twenty-four hours of good deeds and lack of major sins?” asked Messiah.
           
            “That is all that God is requiring, finally—a sort of Minimalist Optimism,” returned Keisha, the Cherub.

            “Let’s look down on the Earth, and see if things are going well,” said Gabriel. He produced an old-fashioned spyglass, and passed it to the Cherub. She laughed.

            “I’m a young Cherub, gentlemen,” she said, turning it back to him, “born just two millennia ago, of heavenly aether, and my angel-vision works just fine. I suggest that you two—um—older folks make use of that antique.”

            Accordingly, they did so, passing the telescope back-and-forth.

            “What d’ye see?” asked Messiah, as Gabriel squinted through the glass.

            “It’s looking good,” said Gabriel, “A well-dressed young woman just put a dollar in a beggar’s paper cup on Fifth Avenue, New York City. In Paris, two gendarmes climbed a tree to help a little girl’s kitten down. Three young people deserted from ISIS, and went home….”

            “Let me take a turn,” said Messiah, “Oh, look! There’s a Gay Rights Parade in an African capital city. In Montana, a boy just asked the girl-next-door out on a date, and she said yes. A soldier just got off a plane at Gatwick Airport, and his wife and parents met him—there’s a baby, just born, in Tokyo…..”

            Both men were crying with joy. The Cherub sighed patiently, and passed out tissues. Laughing and crying, the two passed the telescope back to one another: “You look”—“No, you—“

            “Ahem,” came a voice from behind—a deep-toned, familiar voice, and one which caused all three of the aethereal beings to freeze.

            They turned—to behold Satan—not the Prince of Darkness, but the Heavenly Prosecutor, in all his Legal Splendor, complete with attache case, which he placed on a handy heavenly side table.

            “I have something to show your Defense-of-Humanity Legal Team,” he said, coldly, but professionally, “which may pour some cold water on your eagerness to proceed in your Redemption Project. Let me see—“

            He went riffling through the papers in his case files, mostly grey-black-and-tan in color, as befit their solemn nature, pertaining to the Death and Damnation of those who had sinned in their lifetimes, but also to those who had been Sinned Against—

            “Where is it? Where--? Ah! Here it is, your Celestialnesses,” he said, and dropped a small object into the trembling hand of Messiah, who took it, puzzled.

            Satan turned, waved diffidently, and chirped “Good day!”

Spreading batlike, leathern blue-black wings, he flew off, a vulture, into the rays of the rising sun.

            Messiah saw what lay in his palm, gasped, and dropt it, like a Dead Thing. Gabriel too, looked, and saw, and turned pale.

            “What is it?” asked the Cherub, “Let me see. Oh! How awful—how—“

            The Thing lay sideways, against a cloud, not moving. Grey saltwater ran out of it.

            A Baby’s sneaker.

            The Cherub dropt her clipboard, and began to weep, softly, as did Messiah. They hugged one another.

            Gabriel looked off into the distance, tears running down his wrinkled cheeks. Messiah had not come.


            And the World went on, sinful, unredeemed, and spinning….