A Bridge Between Two Worlds
By Ted Roberts
When the Creator designed the Universe, He was careful to erect impassible barriers between the land of the living and the ex-living. He who carved the mountains and filled the basins of the sea and wired maternity into every species of female mammal, saw in a flash the chaos, the lack of harmony that would result between life and death if they existed in the same world. Therefore, He banned communication between the two. But all rules - divine and human - are somewhere, sometimes breached. And so it was in the small village of Yennaveldt, an inconsequential shtetle in Poland, that the fence between the two dimensions developed a virtual crack. Results, as you would expect, were disastrous.
Shimmy, who carried corn for the farmers, had driven his wagon through the cemetery dozens of times - a short cut home, it saved him six versts - so why break out in goose bumps tonight? Was it because a full moon the color of Muenster cheese lit up the night sky and seemed to shape a cloud into the face of his faithful and dutiful wife? There she was, long forehead covered with shingled hair. And her nose with the turned up tip. Not a beauty like you see in the art gallery in Warsaw, but definitely a woman who demanded a second, maybe even a third, look. And she could cook and clean and sew better than any housewife in Yennaveldt. And best of all, she awaited him at home. A blessing - such a woman - after eight years of a magic marriage. And she was healthy and strong, too, like a young heifer. He was one lucky wagon driver.
But lurking in the graveyard was Shmuel, now a resident of a modest burial plot. Shmuel was what your rabbi would call an ignoramus. Excusable, since when in the land of the living he worked twelve hours a day in a factory where few rabbis lectured and time for Torah study was limited. Consequently, poor naive Shmuel was panting to find that crack between the two worlds. Ah, he thought, maybe I can finish up some unfinished business in the world above. The wooing of Rivka Kolodkin is what he had in mind. But nothing is perfect in the world above and the Angel of Death, an impatient fellow, just did not give him the necessary time. And now here was a wagon rumbling through - or maybe I should say over - his home. Just what he needed - a proxy. And who better than this fool, who was dumb enough to drive through a graveyard on Layla ha Ruach - a night when, unknown to mortals, the full moon made magic in the heavens.
Who worried about a short cut home - through the cemetery - after a day hauling corn from the fields to the farmer's silo? So, why was this night different from any other Autumn night? Because it was Layla ha Ruach, a night inspired by a devilish angel (not an oxymoron - some angels inclined to the dark side). A night when the residents of the graveyard, including Shmuel, were paroled from their eternal and immobile solitude and could talk and frolic with their fellow dead ("Remember boiled chicken and barley soup, remember the hugs of our children? Remember the love of woman!") unseen, of course, by human eyes. Just the space that Shmuel, the unfulfilled lover, needed to squeeze through.
Unfortunately, Shimmy knew none of this - nor did humans far more insightful or imaginative than him. All around his wagon the spirits cavorted. The night belonged to them.
And that is when this impish little guy - subsequent historians have identified him as Shmuel - cartwheeled into Shimmy's wagon and burrowed deeply into the loose corn. He attempted the impossible - to break out of his eternal home. His fellows looked on with astonishment - with disapproval - and returned to their confined space.
Meanwhile, Shimmy plodded through the graveyard with his intangible passenger. And what he didn't know - because he was an uninformed peasant, innocent of Kaballah - was that residents of that other realm occasionally may do their will through one of us. And the will of Shmuel was Rivka Kolodkin, whose pulsing magnetism had pulled him from one world to another.
Shimmy felt strange when he arrived home. The conversation at the supper table was stilted because for some reason all he could think of was Rivka Kolodkin. Why Rivka, he wondered? He barely knew her; yet twice he called his good wife, Malka - Rivka. And as she brought a steaming brisket to the table, he hugged her in gratitude and pretended she was the Rivka that his hay wagon passenger adored and frantically sought; as though he could climb over the fence that separated two worlds to get at her. Shmuel's possession of the prize would be his possession. Don't ask me to further explain. I have not read enough Kaballah to understand. Nor do we know enough of the connection of the two remote worlds. It is invisibly bridged. Knowledge that is forbidden to us. Only to the Creator of both worlds is the bridge visible.
So, the ex-faithful husband lost interest in good wife, Malka, and pursued with passion Rivka Kolodkin while Shmuel applauded on the sidelines.
Sad to say, the result of all this supernatural soup was a restless spirit who loved two worlds, but only had a passport to one, the unhappiness of a good wife, a polluted wagon load of corn, a confused Rivka, and poor Shimmy, who besieged two women without knowing why.
Shimmy knew that his shortcut had started this misery - this violation of natural law. He was dimly aware that what comes from the cemetery should stay in the cemetery. Therefore, on the next night, illuminated by a full moon, back he went to that uncharted world. His horses, wild-eyed and anxious to be back in their stalls, banged into headstones and mounded graves. Bam - out bounced Shmuel into the world in which he belonged. The barrier between the two universes remained unbreached.
Consequently, Malka, the good wife, lost her rival and peace reigned in her humble home. Shmuel, who foolishly tested the wall between here and there, lay down in restful repose. And Shimmy, needless to say, never drove his wagon through the graveyard for the sake of a few versts.
from the December 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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