The Darkness and the Light: A Jewish Twilight Zone Storybook
November 7, 2017

Rabbi Royi Shaffin

Inspired by an episode of Twilight Zone, the story of Sodom and Gemorah, Parashat Terumah, Merkavah literature, the upcoming Festival of Lights, and hope for a better world.

The world was completely dark when Reb Moshe woke up. Where is everyone. He walked around his house but there was no one there. He went outside to see if his neighbors were home. No one. He walked through the entire shtettle but it was deserted. He walked to the nearby shtettle of yukubitz but there was no one there either. It was the middle of winter and there should have been wind and cold but Reb Moshe felt neither. Frightened, he went back to his house. He opened the ice chest but there was no food. This didn’t seem to matter because Reb Moshe was not hungry. He sat down to study Torah. As he studied, the sun began to rise and the light of day came into his house. He enjoyed the warmth. As he continued to study, he grew hungry and wondered what he would eat. He closed his Chumash and started out the door toward the city. As he left the house, he realized that it was still night. Had he imagined the sun? Was there no light or warmth. He could have sworn that it illuminated his Chumash. Otherwise how was it that he studied without lighting a candle?
He decided to continue toward the city. When he got there, there was no one there either. Not a person existed in the shops or the marketplace or in any of the homes. No

Jews. No non-Jews. Even the church was devoid of people. Now Reb Moshe was really scared. What was happening. He felt like he was in the middle of a nightmare.
He went to the city’s grand synagogue. He knelt down before the ark and cried. Rebbono shel Olam, where am I? Where is my family. My friends? Where are all the people? He closed his eyes and concentrated intensely on reaching HaShem.
When he opened his eyes, he was no longer in the synagogue. The floor underneath him was a crystal blue. Blinding lights fluttered all around him. When he looked closely, squinting, he could see that behind the lights were human figures with wings.
A few chariots of fire flew past him carrying holy looking Jews. He walked a little and before him was a gate with two light figures standing in front. “Code word,” they asked him. Out of his mouth came words that he knew not nor understood nor understood how or why he was saying them. The gates opened. He walked some more. The terrain seemed to be taking him upward as if he was climbing a mountain. “Code word.” Again, somehow he knew the code word and the gates opened. This happened again and again as he walked through seven gates, each more grand and more beautiful than the last. He walked through the seventh gate and a blinding light brought him to his knees. I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt… the G-d of your ancestors Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Remove your shoes from your feet for the ground upon which you stand is holy ground.
Reb Moshe did as he was told. He was trembling.
“You did not accept my decree,” said the Voice.
“I do not understand,” he replied.
“I decreed that the world should be destroyed but you would not accept my decree. That is why you are here. Accept my decree and I shall build a new world out of you, my loyal servant.”
“I stopped you from carrying out a decree to destroy the world?” Reb Moshe asked incredulously.
“Yes, you and nine others,” said the Voice. “I promised your father Abraham that if there were ten righteous, I would spare it all.”
“But everything is dark. All of the people are gone.”
“Yes, the world is in limbo.”
“Please restore it,” begged Reb Moshe.
“Why?” said the voice. “What will be different?”
“What would you like?” asked Reb Moshe.
“Build me a sanctuary and I will dwell among you.”
“Terumah???!!!” Reb Moshe recognized the words instantly.
“Yes. Trumah is your guide to rebuilding the world.”
“Terumah terumah terumah” Reb Moshe said to himself. “Terumah is the guide. Asher yidveunu libo. We need to give more tzedakah. And it needs to be from the heart.”
“Yes.”
“Orot techashim. Unicorn skins. We cannot use unicorn skin if we have no more unicorns.”
“That is true.”
“We have not been taking care of your garden as you commanded.

Leovda uleshomra.”
“The two cherubs facing each other. They represent our relationship with you. When they face each other, this represents a good relationship with you oh HaShem. When they turn away from each other, that means things are bad between us. How often do we ignore the Divine call. How often do we forget about the spiritual and dwell on the physical. They also represent children studying Torah together. Your Torah has been neglected. It is by virtue of children studying Torah, it says in the Zohar, that the world exists. No wonder the world is on the brink of destruction. The cherubs also represent the love between husband and wife. Why is it that we can’t keep our marriages together? When a marriage fails, you cry and the mishkan sheds tears.
The table represents the Shabbos table. Less and less Jews have a Shabbos table. Where are the candles? Where is the kiddush? Where is the holy challah, the show bread? Where is the matza ball soup, the chicken, the kugel. Where are the zmiros, the niggunim, the vort, the benching? Where are the kinderlach running around? Where is Eshes Chayil and blessing the children? Where has Shabbos gone?
The menorah is the light of yiddishkeit. We are supposed to be upholding our end of the covenant. We are supposed to be illuminating the world with your mitzvos. No wonder it became so dark.
Ish el achiv. Isha el achota. We are supposed to be acting like brothers and sisters and we are constantly at war. You want peace. Shalom.”
“Now you understand why this has happened?” the Voice asked Reb Moshe.
“Yes? Please don’t destroy the world. We can change. We can do better.”
“Asu li Mikdash veshachanti betocham. Make the world into a holy place,” instructed the Voice, “and I shall dwell among you and within you.”
Reb Moshe turned over and felt soft material in his hands. He opened his eyes and found himself holding tight to a sheet. He was in his own house and in his own bed. Had it been a dream?
Reb Moshe got out of bed and went outside to see the the sun rise. He breathed in deeply. Time to get to work.
For more of Shepherd of Israel’s writings:

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CUT IN HALF
February 10, 2017

A poem for Parashat BeShalach

By Rabbi Royi Shaffin

I am that fish

The fish that was cut in half when the sea parted

You never think about me when you read the story

But I was cut in half

To this day I swim in the sea

They call me the Moses Fish

Why didn’t God move me away from the edge before the Sea parted?

I don’t know

Why did I have to be cut in half?

I don’t know

Maybe because the entire story is about being cut in half

Moses was cut in half between his Egyptian family and his Hebrew family

The Israelites were cut in half between the comforts of Egypt, even as slaves, and the promise of a better life in the promised land

The people were cut in half between worshipping God and worshipping a golden calf

I am that fish that was cut in half

I was not the first to be cut in half

Abraham cut his sacrifices in half

Isaac was almost cut in half

Joseph’s coat was cut in half

Samson’s hair was cut in half

Samuel’s coat was cut as the kingdom was taken from Saul

I am that fish that was cut in half

On the eighth day they cut their children

On the Sabbath they cut their bread

Their meat they cut in their own special way

I am that fish that was cut in half

I swim through the Sea

And every so often

People see me and are reminded of that day that cut me in half

When the Sea was cut in half and the Children cut through on dry land

I am that fish that was cut in half
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Interview With A Sinner
October 14, 2016

Rabbi Royi Shaffin

Yes, I was there. I was one of those who committed the sin, but it is not fair that only Moses gets to tell the story. I want you to hear it from another perspective. Here is my story:

I was finally able to see God face to face. All my life I had dreamed of being in God’s presence and now it had become a reality. I starred into God’s beautiful captivating golden eyes. I lost any sense of reality, looking into those eyes. I was at a spiritual high.
We were dancing and singing. We were also placing all kinds of plants in our mouths and smoking them and smelling them as the air was filled incense. The drumming was hypnotizing. The wine flowed by the bucketloads. We were rejoicing. We were finally free. After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, we were free. Free. Free at last. And Moses, so strict and so serious, was not here.
It was hot and the dancing in the hot Sinai sun made it even worse. People were wearing less and less clothes and pretty soon it became a free love fest. We were making love with everyone in front of God. Doesn’t God believe in love? Aren’t we supposed to love each other? It was a glorious time.
After a few hours my vision was blurry and I couldn’t think straight but I didn’t care. It was better than listening to that man Moses always preaching and punishing.
He had gone up the mountain to receive something from God but was late. We saw, on top of the mountain, thunder and lightening and fire and smoke and shofar blasts. He was surely dead. God had killed him.
Now God had come down from the mountain to be with us, the people. Actually, God came out of the pot of gold. We asked Aaron to bring God to us. We all threw our gold into the pot and out came God.
God was large and powerful. God’s huge, sharp, majestic horns were enough to place fear and awe into any person, but they were also the symbol of lust. We lusted after one another, expressing our God-given biological drives.
God was a fierce animal, majestic and made of gold. And yet, in the form of a calf rather than an adult cow or bull, God inspired a form of wonder and playful enjoyment. There, in front of God, we played.

We are the CHILDREN of Israel after all.
God was perfect. We danced and played and sang and danced and made love in front of the beautiful golden God of Israel and then…

we heard the sound of stone, smashing into thousands of little pieces. Two tablets of stone lay shattered to pieces at the foot of the mountain.

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The Prince of Egypt Speaks – A Modern Midrash Reaction to “Prince of Egypt”
October 14, 2016

By Rabbi Royi Shaffin

And God said unto Moses go unto Pharoah and tell him

let my people go for if you do not let my people go I will

What?  What are you going to do now God?
I’m going to smite
You mean murder
All of the first born of Egypt from the first born of the cattle to the first born of the servants to the first born of the Pharoah.
What? You’re going to kill my nephew. No.
Go unto Pharoah and tell him to

let my people go.
Why are you doing this to me? You caused me to leave my parents to fight against my brother.  You destroyed all of the food of the country I love.  You made my people sick with boils.  You made them thirst for water.  You caused our animals to die and locust to eat the remaining plants so that my family is hungry. You threw hail down from the sky with fire inside it and it hit my brother and his wife and my cousins. They are waking around with third degree burns.
You made complete darkened. Do you know how scary that is?  And now you are going to kill my nephew. No. You can’t do that. That was not part of the deal. This is the family and nation that raised me, taught me, educated me, and fed me. Why have you made me into a traitor against my own family, my own people?
Maybe Pharoah will listen this time.
He will not listen nor will he let my people go so that I may show my signs and wonders in Egypt.
Then I’ll bring my family into my house with the lambs blood on the door post.
You will do no such thing for your family is the family of Pharoah and unless he feels the plague personally he will not let my people go.
God, why are you doing this to me?

For more of Shepherd of Israel’s writings:

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The Human Blood of the Red Heifer – A Modern Midrash on Parashat Chukat
October 14, 2016

By Rabbi Royi Shaffin

Master of the Universe, please don’t create this category of law called a “chok”, that has no stated rationale. Law without reason is so dangerous. Faith without reason is one of the most dangerous paths. Why must it be a red cow? Does it make sense that the slaughter and burning of a cow purifies from death? What are these laws of purity and impurity? Why must this all remain a secret?
The separation of the sacred law into “chukim”, laws without a stated rationale and “mishpatim”, laws whose reason is clear as day, also creates a place for taking God’s name in vain, claiming that God said or commanded something as ludicrous as mass murder and the claiming that it must be carried out in the name of God.
Oh, Master of the Universe, you have shown me the future. I sat in Rabbi Akiva’s study. I saw him teach the Torah in all of its glory to future generations and expound upon it.

I also saw the holy land that you have forbidden me to enter and seen its beauty.
You also showed me a man by the name of Baruch Goldstein who enters the cave of the ancestors and massacres the Children of Ishmael because he thinks it is your will. You showed me bus after bus being blown up in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the slaughter of the Jews by Muslims who think this is your will. You have shown me Christian Crusaders massacring Jews and Muslims on their way to conquer the holy land because they think it is your will.
Please give a reason and explain the law of the red heifer. Don’t open the door to taking your name in vain to claim that murder is your will.
And God replied, “There will be no explanation, speak unto the children of Israel …”

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