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The Misty Village
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © December 31, 2017
Once there was a couple who chose to experience their country, commonly referred to as “the Land,” first hand. They had heard of the Land's great beauty and had seen many pictures, but they had never journeyed beyond their own small village, which was known as Tfutza. Having no means to travel, they committed themselves to working hard and saving frugally in order to buy a recreational vehicle (an RV), a motor home.
Finally the day came. They carefully bathed and acquired the best RV they could. It was not the most impressive one they had ever seen. It had a few scratches and dings, the paint was a bit faded, but it was theirs, and they loved it. Leaving most of their belongings behind, the couple moved out of their larger rental unit and into the smaller RV in order to save money to finance their dream trip.
At long last the day came and the couple, bidding farewell to their friends and family, left Tfutza and headed off into the great unknown parts of the Land. Shortly after leaving their village they noticed that the mostly barren flat plains they had always known, were giving way to spectacular tree covered hills. It was all splendid! they both agreed. Such novel sights made the years of their toil well worth the efforts.
One day, as the motor home continued to climb into the hills, the couple pulled off the road and got out for a view. Before them, as far as their eyes could see, spread out a great valley. From their new altitude they could see farmers far below tending the soil, as they had done for so many years. From their new vantage they could see many such farms with innumerable workers, each growing different food plants, flowers, and spices. There were also large and small orchards of apples, pears, mangoes, figs, and so on. For the first time they could actually sense the Presence of Life all around them. They suddenly realized that they too were part of the amazing tapestry of Being that springs forth eternally from the Creator of All Life and they rejoiced.
Yet farther in the distance the radiant Sun which was beginning its descent and highlighting the valley in glorious orange and yellow hues. The couple had never realized how beautiful the material creation really is. It both humbled and inspired them.
The couple returned to the RV hand in hand and continued their journey until they lost count of the days and weeks, perhaps the years, that were passing by as they experienced the Life of the Land. The farther they traveled the more certain they became of the rightness of their decision to leave their past and head into the future as Travelers of the Land.
But something was beginning to bother them. For a while they did not mention it to each other, which was unusual as their custom was to be completely open in all ways. Yet they both experienced it – an indefinable something that refused to be ignored. Something was missing.
In time the couple found themselves driving upwards into the high mountains. Shear rocky cliffs along the side of the road dropped into seeming oblivion so far below that even from the high 'captain's seat' of the RV they could not see the ground below. This sight, so very different from the flat lands of Tfutza, almost made them queasy, although they had to admit that such views were also amazing to behold, from a safe distance.
It came about that one chilly evening, looking off toward a particularly spectacular sunset, the road began to descend abruptly. One of them commented to the other that every mountain has its limits. Having reached a summit they now must descend into the next valley. Of course how could one expect to reach the next summit without passing through such valleys and vice versa. Life was good. It was all according to the Creator's Plan.
Looking out the windows of the RV, below them was a great river. It was wide with waves that seemed more fitting to an ocean than a river, although the couple had yet to actually see an ocean. The river was as breathtaking as it was intimidating. As its waves rose tall and broke what looked like cold steam escaped, covering the river with a magically glistening fog bespectacled with sparkling glitter, or perhaps they were dancing fireflies for all the couple could say for certain. On the far side of the river they saw a small village, not much larger than their former home of Tfutza. With the encroaching darkness the village's lights had begun to come on. They twinkled merrily through the thick and glistening fog.
Suddenly there was a sharp curve in the road and the driver cranked the motor home's wheel to the right as far and as quickly as he could. Perhaps there had been a warning road sign, but as entranced by the power of the river and the twinkling lights of the village as he was, he had not noticed. The motor home was not equipped for such sudden curves. The left side tires seemed to collapse while other side seemed to leave the road entirely. The couple simultaneously cried out to the Holy One, “Save us!”
As if in response, the road straightened and the RV slowed to a more cautious speed. They both whispered, “Baruch HaShem!” in thanksgiving. Just then the road narrowed. Were they to meet another vehicle now they were certain both could not fit to pass. On the left of the road another deep drop off and rocky cliff appeared. They slowed the RV to a mere crawl now as the pavement began showing first cracks and then open potholes. One of the travelers suggested they turn back, but the other said, “No, we will be alright.” Besides, the road was now too narrow to turn around.
The pavement on left side of the road had given way to dirt. What was more concerning still was that that entire side of the road was now angling invitingly towards the cliff! The couple continued at snail's pace onward. Both were once again praying to the Almighty for protection lest they slide off the pavement and into the powerful river below.
Just ahead was another sharp curve. They could see that the road beyond it, which was now becoming more of a path than a roadway, continued, and yet neither of them believed that what remained of it was wide enough, nor solid enough, for the motor home to continue onward. Now inching forward and into the curve the RV slipped to the left. Just a bit, but it was unmistakable, as when one suddenly begins to hydroplane on an icy bridge. Then there was another slight slip, followed by another and before they could stop the RV was moving faster and faster sideways toward the sheer cliff! Then RV left the pavement all together, as if in slow motion, and was airborne, hurtling, and yet perceived in slow motion, downward through the river's icy fog and to whatever was hidden beneath it.
“Are you aright?”
“I think so, yes,” replied the other.
That was the most important thing.
Then they both said at the same time, “Baruch HaShem,” which is to say, “Praise or thanks be to G-d.”
Which of course was even more important.
Water was seeping into rear of the RV but the doors in the driver compartment remained above the water level. That at least was good. The driver's side door was blocked by something, but they were able to open the passenger side and get out. Looking now from the shore they saw that the motor home had landed in such a way that it was wedged between two large boulders. The back portion was largely submerged.
Not far ahead was a foot bridge to the other side of the river. The couple was cold, wet, disoriented, and truth be told, not a small bit frightened due to their experience. Without discussion they headed for the bridge and reached the other side of the river sooner than they had expected. Just then an oddly yet nicely dressed man approached and said, “We do not receive many guests by foot here, but you are welcome, as we always welcome such guests.” They thanked him and explained their plight. The man seemed genuinely sympathetic and invited the couple to his home to warm up.
The man's wife and children were most friendly. They were all fascinated by the account of the road misadventure and how the RV had slipped off into the river. As they shared a late lunch they prodded them gently for additional details.
“This is unusual however,” the woman replied, “as the Road has always been most solid and dependable. We sometimes travel that way as well, even though we live on this side of the Great River.”
“We all share the same wonderful Land after all,” relied the eldest son agreeably. Everyone nodded approvingly at his wisdom.
“And yet,” the father reminded them, “this is not the first time we have heard such tales.”
“True,” the mother agreed. “And yet when we go and check on the Road it is always solid, as it doubtless is now.” The couple found her statement to be odd but made no comment.
“So,” the man said, placing his napkin on his plate, “let's go see the Mechanic.” The couple rose and followed him.
The couple explained again what had befallen them and the Mechanic listened respectfully. When they had finished he assured them that their motor home – he called it a “caravan” – would be fixed as good as new soon.
“But it will take a large helicopter to get it out of that river!” the couple replied. His smile was bright and genuine as he assured them that their caravan would soon be as good as new.
“Surely the interior will be ruined by the water, even if you can fix the mechanical damage,” the couple said.
To the other man the Mechanic said, “Thank you for bringing them to me Greeter. Now, lets go see the Cleaner,” and off they went. While the couple were usually inseparable due to their love for one another, the husband, glancing back, noticed that his wife was no longer there. While this seemed odd, he was not concerned and continued following the Mechanic and the Greeter.
In the window of the small shop before which they now stood was a sign which read: “We Can Clean Anything! Even Dirty Souls.”
Once inside the shop, a woman appeared. She listened to the tale of the couple's misfortune respectfully. When the tale was finished she turned to the Mechanic and assured him, “My daughters and I will clean it up as good as new.”
“Better than new!” said a girl in her teens just beyond a doorway.
“Aye,” the woman replied.
Once back on the street the Mechanic asked, “So where exactly is it?” The man described the route they had taken into the town from the accident, but the Mechanic said, “Just show me, Let's go!” He led the two men through a thick jungle that in no way seemed familiar to the man. Nonetheless they soon came out at the river, From that vantage the man could not say where his RV had landed, so they went back into the village as darkness descended.
Once back in the misty village, the Mechanic told him, “This will take a while. You should get a room at the hotel.” They walked there together while the Greeter went elsewhere. Unlike most of the village, which was rather simple although nice, the hotel was magnificent! The man was certain that he had never seen such a spectacular building in all his life. He said to Mechanic, “Surely there is a less fancy, and less expensive, place for us to stay.”
But the Mechanic only smiled and replied, “All of our guests deserve nothing but the best, don't worry my brother,” and they went inside.
The Innkeeper seemed fascinated by the man's tale of how his caravan had slipped from the road into the river and he listened intently without interrupting. Once the tale was complete, he said nothing, only nodded, and lead both men to a large room with everything a traveling couple might possibly need.
“This room is amazingly wonderful, however my wife and I are simple people of meager means as I trust you can appreciate. Perhaps you have something less grand?”
“Please forgive me,” the Innkeeper said with slight bow. “I did not understand,” and led them from the room. They followed him through the vast hotel corridors until he opened the door to different room. As door opened the man thought he would faint. This room was at least twice as large as the other and had a huge glass window overlooking the Great River. The desk and wardrobe were of pristine heavily polished mahogany. “This room is suitable for a king!” The man said, beginning to object, but the Mechanic whispered into his ear, “You don't want to see the next room up or you will faint for sure!”
“But this is incredible! I do not see how we could possibly afford such a room!”
“The bill will be charged latter. If this room suffices, please enjoy your stay.” The Innkeeper turned on his heels and promptly left the room. The Mechanic picked up the phone from desk and called one of his friends, Hanging up he assured the RV owner that they would find and restore his caravan. With that, he also left.
Sitting alone in the magnificent room the man pondered this unusual village. The people all seemed to be so friendly and so willing to help strangers. He was certain that no such hotel existed back in Tfutza. In the privacy of his thoughts he considered that these people were different from those on his side of the Great River. They seemed less stressful, more relaxed and certainly happier. Some of their customs and manner of dress were a bit different, but they seemed to really understand what being a citizen of the Land means. Too few did anymore. These people somehow seemed more “real” than those on the other side of the Great River. Whatever the something was that made them so different seemed to be the very something that he and his wife intuitively sensed was missing from their own lives. And he smiled.
“I must share this realization with my wife.” But where had she gone?
The husband strolled the vi11age streets lit only with gas lamps for an earlier time. Eventually he found his wife, She was sitting on the front porch of a lovely Spanish style home with another woman. Walking up to the house he waved and offered a friendly greeting. His wife was clearly quite happy and she lifted her end of a project she and the other women were crocheting together. Her husband did not understand enough about crocheting to appreciate that it's usually a one person job. The other woman lifted her end as well so he could see the design they were creating. It was a beautiful banner with the Land's symbol on it. The background was a rich blue with two overlaid equilateral white triangles forming a six-pointed star in the center. This symbol was well known on both sides of the Great River of course, although not so well known in the village of Tfutza where he had lived most of his years. It gladdened his heart to see it, but even more to see his wife's ecstasy as the project was nearing its completion.
Soon the couple returned to their hotel room and enjoyed what both agreed was the best dinner of their lives. After desert they began discussing the unusual village in which they found themselves. Both agreed that everything they had experienced had been truly wonderful, amazing even. The wife agreed that the unnamed something she had long sensed to be missing, she now sensed as being present, although neither of them could define precisely what that something was.
However, it was possible that things were just a little bit too good here, “too good to be real.” They agreed to look at the town more closely on the morrow. And with this, they drifted to sleep on a bed that was more comfortable than any either of them had ever slept on before. For her it was firm in the vary places where she needed firmness and yet gently yielding where her body needed that. As for him, he had no time for such thoughts. As his head connected with the pillow he sighed once, and was fast asleep until morning. Ah, Bliss.
The next morning the couple walked to the foot bridge along the trail they knew. From there they gazed out across the Great River. In the distance they could see the two large boulders where the RV and landed. Squinting their eyes they could see a vehicle caught by the stones, as well as several people. Taking a few steps onto the bridge they could hear laughter and light conversations coming from the people. Some were removing parts from the vehicle and stacking them in a wagon, while others appeared to be going through boxes and suitcases, removing items and placing them on another cart!
“They are stealing our belongings and stripping our motor home for parts!” the woman said angrily. “I knew this was too good be true!” Her husband agreed but said nothing. However he thought, 'How foolish were we to believe that the people of the Land, on either side of the river, might possibly be as kind as these seemed to be! They are all the same!' And he thought, shaking his head, 'Perhaps we should return to Tfutza. At least there we knew our neighbors and where we stood!'
Within him an anger was rising and he began walking towards the people, faster with each step. With every step he took he pondered what he might say to them to indicate his anger, his fury, with the deceptive way they had dealt with he and his wife. Perhaps he would even make this a physical reaction! As the couple reached the end of the bridge, stepped onto the shore, and made their way toward these wicked collectors of things, the man shouted an obscenity at them which, while completely understandable given the circumstances, I shall not here repeat.
The Mechanic stepped forward first, followed closely by the Greeter, the one who had invited them to his home. “Some problem friend?” the Mechanic asked smiling as brightly as always.
As the couple drew closer they saw that the vehicle before them was not their recreational vehicle at all! It was a Volkswagen Microbus. Their RV was gone. Now wishing he could take back his curse, the man stammered for a moment for words. With embarrassed surprise he managed, in shaky tones, “Wh... ah what is this, and where is my RV?”
“As we told you brother,” We brought the RV to the garage. Even now the Cleaner is completing her task. The RV will be ready for you soon.”
“And this?” he asked, pointing to the VW.
“This one is not repairable.” There was genuine sadness in the words the Mechanic now spoke. “It should never have been on the road in the first place; it is not 'of the Land'.” He sighed. “So we are taking it apart in order to rebuild it from scratch as a Land vehicle. This will take more time. As I explained, you are not the first people to slip from that road.”
“Even though the pavement of the Road is good and has only minor faults” his wife added stepping into sight. “Those for whom that Road exists continue upon it. We too take that route at times as needs be.”
“And yet our side of the Great River is more suitable to some people of the Land. The Road Master brings such people to us so we can help them.”
“As you were brought,” the Greeter added. Welcome Home!”
The couple made no response. What could they say? But neither did they understand.
“May we assist you?” they asked.
“Of course! Repairing what is broken is what we of the Land are born to do.”
The next morning the couple walked to the Garage. Sitting in the parking lot was their motor home. But it was different. All the dings and nicks and dents were gone. The paint shone beautifully in morning sun as if it been repainted. The couple went into the garage office to settle their bill.
The Mechanic unrolled a long piece of paper, detailing everything that have been done, onto the counter before them. The bottom line read: Total: “$0.00.”
“This can't be,” the owner of the RV said confused.
“Correct, its impossible,” the Mechanic said, tapping half way up the page with his finger. There the figure owed read $8560.00.
The couple looked at one another blankly. “Well, considering that they must have used a copter to pull it out and everything,” the husband began.
“Its a reasonable sum, I agree but...”
“And of course there is also the matter of the hotel bill,” the Mechanic added, placing another bill onto the counter.
“Another three thousand dollars,” the man said to his wife. “What are we going to do?”
“You failed to follow the asterisks,” the Mechanic said, noting both on the separate bills.
As the couple read the fine print their eyes widened with realization.
“You are People of the Land.” the Mechanic said matter of factly.
They stared at him blankly.
“The Road does not collapse for just anyone you know, it remains forever strong.” the Mechanic assured them, suppressing a smile.
They still did not understand.
“Pay us back through acts of loving kindness done to others. All life dwells in the Hands of the One, as do all of our adventures in the Land.”
“This is why we came into the Land,” the Innkeeper said, entering the room behind them. “To repair what is broken.”
The Mechanic led them out to the caravan. He opened the door and motioned for them to enter. Stepping inside they saw no sign of water damage. The old flooring had been replaced with wonderfully soft golden carpeting. The walls were clean. Everything was better than it had been before accident, which the Couple were now realizing had been no accident at all.
The Mechanic, the Innkeeper, the Cleaner, and the Greeter all stepped inside. The Couple looked at them and moved to embrace each of them with sincere thanksgiving as the revelation of what had happened began to enlighten their consciousnesses.
That evening was the Sabbath and all the townsfolk gathered in the village Commons in celebration, as was their custom. During the celebrations the Couple met the owners of the VW Microbus. They complained at great length about the poor quality of the road that had caused their VW to fall into the Great River. They bemoaned that their vehicle would have to be replaced with one made for the Land. “We may have to stay here for one, two, three years or longer while our new vehicle is prepared! When we set out we thought any vehicle would do.”
“The Road is perfect,” the Couple explained. “It only appears to be flawed to those who travel it without proper understanding.” The VW owners, the Couple knew, could not incorporate the reality of their assurances because the time for them to do so had not yet come. Therefore, they smiled and said, “All is as it should be.”
At breakfast on Sunday morning the village Rabbi approached the Couple's table and they invited him join them. “Is your caravan to your liking?” he asked.
“Its perfect!” the wife said. Her husband nodded his agreement with a toothy grin. They exchanged a glance, then she said, “But I don't think we will be needing it.”
“We'd like to stay here,” the man said, finishing his wife's thought.
The rabbi thoughtfully stroked his long gray beard and replied, “Some people of the Land are called to dwell in the villages of Tfutza. Have you noticed that all of the villages are named Tfutza? Oh, some are called Galut or Golus, but in truth, they are all Tfutza. Some dwell on this side of the Great River, some on the other. Some work on farms, some in cities. We work everywhere, to help those sent to us in order to assist them in their service. No service, including this one, is right for everyone. May the Holy One bless you in your continuing sojourn and service.”
With these words the Old Rabbi, the Cleaner, Innkeeper, the Mechanic, the Greeter, the Garage, the Inn, the Village, and even the Great River itself all disappeared like shimmering fireflies in the mists.
The Couple exchanged a smile. The Key was turned, and the engine of their caravan roared to life. And the Couple continued their journey.
This tale is based on a dream I had on December 29, 2017
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