Legend has it that Rabbi Haim of Romshishok, Lituania, an itinerant preacher, was granted permission to visit both heaven and hell. Upon his return to earth, he traveled from town to town sharing his journey.
THE PARABLE OF THE LONG SPOONS
With an angel for his guide, the Rabbi is first ushered through the gates of Hell, which, he is surprised to find, are made of finely wrought gold. The gates are exquisitely lovely, as is the lush green landscape that lies beyond them. He looks at his angelic guide in disbelief. “It’s all so beautiful,” he says. “The sight of the meadows and mountains . . . the sounds of the birds singing in the trees . . . the scent of thousands of flowers . . . ” And then the tantalizing aroma of a gourmet meal catches his attention.
Entering a large dining hall, he sees row after row of tables laden with platters of sumptuous food; yet the people seated around the tables are pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. Coming closer, he sees that each man is holding a long spoon, but that both his arms are splinted with wooden slats so that he cannot bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth.
The angel then took the rabbi to Heaven, where he encountered the same beauty he had witnessed in Hell. Entering the dining hall there, he saw the same scene, except in contrast to Hell, the people seated at the tables who had their arms splintered with wooden slates were sitting contentedly, cheerfully (more…)