Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hashem Is One -- A Story

It has been a while since I've sat down to write fiction. Here is one such attempt. Make of it what you will.

Hashem Is One
(Baal Is Another)

Avraham trudged through the sand, pausing occasionally to take a sip of water from his flask. He had just concluded some lucrative business in Egypt, and was on his way home. The sun beat down mercilessly upon his head, as if it had been taken out of its container and allowed to shine in its full glory. He wished he were already home.

Suddenly, in the distance, he spied a tent, black in the style of the tents of Kedar. Who would establish his tent here, in the middle of nowhere? He turned aside, to head towards the tent, which was situated under one of the scattered Acacia trees in the area.

It was a strange tent, with four apparent entrances. As he approached, an older man sitting by one of the entrances noticed him, leapt to his feet, and hurried towards him.

"A guest! How excellent! My lord, if I find favor in your sight, do not turn away from your honored servant, but stay here a while and enjoy my hospitality."

Avraham thanked him and followed him in towards the tent. He began to wipe his feet on the "Welcome" mat, but his host told him to ignore that formality. "You, and your dirt, are honored guests in my home," he said.

Once inside, Avraham noticed the interesting layout of the tents. There were six entrances to the tent -- one in each of the four compass directions, as well as one in the roof of the tent and another, a large pit in the center of the room.

"I understand the four entrances, so as to greet guests from any direction, but what is with these other two?" he inquired.
"Oh, those?" said Bedan -- for he had informed Avraham that that was his name -- "The one in the ceiling is in case a deity decides to visit, accompanied by his angels. Or Nephilim might want to stop by."
"And the big hole in the floor?"
"Indoor plumbing. Also, in case demons from the netherworld want to visit. And there is also Korach and his sons, don't forget."
"They haven't been born yet," Avraham pointed out.
"I meant Korach the son of your grandson Esav."
"He hasn't been born yet either."

Bedan quickly changed the subject. "You are probably hungry, after such a long journey. Could I interest you in some refreshments? Some bread, perhaps?" Avraham gratefully accepted the hospitality. He sat down on a big cushion by the table, while Bedan went into the other room and gave his wife and servants instructions of what to prepare. Soon, Bedan was back, and he and Avraham noshed on a bit of bread and discussed local politics.

Half an hour passed, and Bedan went into the other room to get the prepared food. He came back with a large plate, upon which were heaped a pile of little, reddish, pieces of food. Avraham sampled one and found it delicious, if a bit spicy.
"If I may ask, what is the name of this delicacy?"
"Buffalo wings," Bedan replied.
"Interesting," mused Avraham aloud. "I have never heard of this bird called the buffalo, nor do I have any masorah (tradition) about it."
"No, 'buffalo wings' is just the name of the dish," explained Bedan. "It is really crisp, spicy wings from a bird called the tar-no-gal, the bird of the house of the king. Truly a dish fit to ascend on a king's table, of to honor such a guest as yourself."
"Well, whatever it is, these tarnegolim are delicious."
"Tarnoglim," corrected Bedan. A moment later he added, "Sorry, it is just the grammarian in me."

"Isn't is a waste to slaughter so many tarnoglim just to get their wings, to serve to a guest?"
"It is no problem," Bedan reassured him. "It's no different that slaughtering three bulls just to serve their tongues to guests. Besides, I don't slaughter the chickens, just snip off their wings."

Avraham choked on his Buffalo wing, then spat it out in shock. "What? This is ever min hachai! This is one of the seven commandments every descendant of Noach is commanded in! How could you do this?"
"Well, a bird like this, you don't want to eat him all at once," Bedan calmly explained. "Besides," he muttered to himself, "it is not that much different than serving milk and meat together to one's guests."

A bit shaken, Avraham arose from his seat, and said, "Well, I should get going. I thank you again for your hospitality."
Bedan reached into the inner pocket of his frock and took out a doll. "Just one minute," he said. "I think it proper that you thank my diety, Baal Tzafon, for the wonderful food you have been provided with as well."
"Sorry to be the iconoclast" said Avraham, "but I do not worship idols. I believe in only one God, who Created Heaven and Earth. I don't believe that there is any substance to your idol."
"That is fine," said Bedan. "In that case, I'll be taking payment for your meal and then you can be on your way."
"Well, yes, if you are not going to acquiesce to my deep desire and simply thank this getchke, then I will treat you as a paying customer at my eating establishment. Let us see, that will be 400 shekel, in kesef over lasocher."
"That's quite a lot for a few Buffalo wings," protested Avraham.
"Well, consider that these tarnoglim are very expensive delicacies. And consider the location -- where else in the desert would you expect to receive such a succulent meal, or any meal at all?"
Meanwhile, four burly servants appeared, one by each exit, to watch the goings-on.

Torn between his wallet and his conscience, Avraham debated with Bedan for an hour about the bill, and finally agreed on paying the 400 shekel -- no tip, since he was served by the proprietor. And he continued to trudge home, with his legs a bit heavier but his purse a lot lighter.


Josh M. said...

I'm heard several people state b'shem R' Aharon Soloveichik that if it weren't for the Torah, the Palestinian Arabs would be right.

Make of it what you will.


Anonymous said...

Better not to make anything of it without knowing the context.

joshwaxman said...


aside from the political message which I can take issue with, somewhat akin to my thoughts.


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