A long time ago, I sold a customer a service, and he promised to pay me. A few weeks went by and I still had not been paid. I called this customer and asked whether he had sent me a check. He told me that he had forgotten about it and he would immediately write me a check and send it.
Another month went by and I still had not received my money, so I called him again. He assured me that he had sent the check, and that the envelope is probably still in the post office being delivered. So I waited another month, and called him again. He expressed surprise that I had not received the check. I told him that if he did not mind, to cancel the sent check and to send me another one. He huffed and puffed as if I was asking him to do a great favor and finally said that he would.
Another month went by and I had yet to receive the check. So I called the customer once again, and asked him where my check was. He told me he had sent it to me and again suggested that the check might be in the mail. I told him that I had waited several months and it was unlikely that he had sent the check to me. He became angry and indignantly said “are you calling me a liar?” I told him that I was not calling him a liar but that I had been waiting for the money for over six months and had not received it. He replied that the inadequacies of the mail system in the United States are not his problem. I suggested then that I come in person to get the check. He said that would be fine, but he had to go on a trip and would not be back for another 3 months.
Like a fool, I waited another 3 months and called him again. He said that he would send the check to me by mail. When I said that we had tried that already and the check never arrived, he became angry with me, saying ‘if you do not trust me, I do not want to do business with you. Do not call again!’
It is now many years since that incident. In a wedding recently, I saw the gentleman who swindled me out of the money. I did not want to cross paths with him since I had long forgotten about the account and did not wish to start unpleasant conversations. Instead he came to me and said that if I had only treated him a little bit better he would have paid me my money! He blamed me for the whole affair, saying that he is a righteous man but that business is business.
Now, I realize this blog is not the forum to air bad business deals, and this is not the purpose for this. But it strikes me that our dealings as Jews with our rabbis are somewhat similar. When the Holy temple, the Beth Hamighdash, was destroyed approximately 2000 years ago, we were told that our savior, our Messiah, would shortly arrive to rescue us. Rabbi Akiva, arguably one of the greatest sages of all time, promised that the Messiah is just around the corner. In fact, he mistakenly identified Bar Kokhba, a Jewish military leader, as the Messiah, with disastrous consequences.
Following the disastrous invasion of the Romans into Judea, and following the slaughter of over 1 million Jews, we were told once again, that the Messiah is coming soon. It seems that Hashem took us out of Egypt and into more peril. Yet, we were promised Messiah. Any minute we should expect his coming.
We were then subjugated by the Romans, only to be persecuted by the Muslims. The Spaniards then rescued us only to torment us with the Spanish Inquisition. We then suffered at the hand of the Russians in Pogroms, and at the hand of western Europeans in the form of Purges. Time and time again, we suffered and our blood was shed. Again and again we were told that Messiah is around the corner. Then we experienced the Holocaust, and over half of our population was killed in firing squads and in gas chambers.
We are still waiting for this Messiah. When we say to our rabbis that it has been 2000 years since we were promised this Savior - where is he? – they reply that we have to ‘deserve’ his coming. The rabbis tell us that we are too wicked for the Messiah to come. They tell us that we don’t keep Shabbat else he would come. It is our fault that he is not coming.
And in the wait for the Messiah, I realize that his coming is no different than the check I have been waiting for. The Messiah is the proverbial check in the mail, perpetually being sent by the one who owes you money, and yet it never seems to arrive. The Rabbi is your debtor, always promising that the check is going to arrive any minute; if we can only squeeze a little more Halacha and a slight Tzadakah that Messiah will sooner arrive.Dear Moshe, my check never came and Messiah is never coming. The astute businessman would know to put that account receivable in the ‘bad debt’ column and move on!