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How I Became a Superhero, Part I

How I Became a Superhero, Part I

A Kabbalistic SciFi Fantasy

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I first saw Hi while I was jogging beneath the tall trees of the canyon. A small child was clasping each of his hands, an older one running ahead.

As I passed him, I just yelled, “Hi.”

He shouted back, “How do you know my name?”

“I don’t know your name, old man,” I muttered. I kept moving.

“My name is Hi!” he said, the “H” with a guttural sound.

I needed time alone. I needed to think. I wasn’t interested in getting into a conversation with some old man babysitting his grandchildren.

“Where are you running?” he yelled. “You don’t have the strength yet.”

That stopped me. “How do you know I don’t have the strength?”

“You look so pale, like someone who just got out of the hospital,” he answered. And then, “Tell me what happened? You had an accident?”

“I was scuba diving. Hey, I was out for four months! They thought I was dead. That would make anyone weak!”

Hi looked me straight in the eye. A caring look, like I was one of his grandkids. He said, “Tell me what you saw in your coma.”

This was totallyThis was totally bizarre. I don’t know how this old man knew anything. bizarre. Look, I don’t know how this old man knew anything. All I know is that he was the first one who really cared. I needed to open up to someone. Well, here he was.

We walked and talked for a while—about the accident, the hospital, my current state of health.

His warmth, his genuine concern—he really pulled me in.

Then I took the risk. I told him what I hadn’t told anyone else. I just felt, finally there’s a person who’s not going to think I’m going nuts.

Here’s the story, the one he was waiting for:

It’s the other side of a long tunnel. It’s beautiful there. Beauty I can’t describe. Just pure goodness and love. You just want to just stay there and forget everything.

But I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready yet. A scuba dive with friends at age 24 is just not a good exit.

So this guide, a kind of luminous being, takes me into a theater and plays for me an entire life review. There’s some good stuff, but also a lot of stuff I really don’t want to see.

Next, the guide asks me, “Do you remember all of it?”

“Sort of,” I answer. “Look, I’m sorry, but I didn’t know those things were as ugly as they look up here. No one told me.”

“Do you“Do you remember what you promised before you were born?” remember what you promised before you were born?”

I’m lost. How can I remember before I was born?

So now I’m watching this scene where I’m a gooey embryo held in the hands of another luminous being. A tribunal of three brilliant but gentle lights shines upon my translucent frame. The lights somehow say some words, and that little embryonic me somehow agrees.

I didn’t hear the words. All I knew was that this was something that totally reframed life. I was being sent on a mission, and they were briefing me.

“Look,” I protested. “I don’t recall any of that. I’m not denying it happened, but in my entire short life, I had no recollection. Nobody taught me, nobody guided me. My parents had no values. School taught me zilch. All I knew was that fun is fun, pleasure is pleasure and pain is the pits. So you’re going to hold me responsible for something completely wiped out of memory?”

“Fine,” says the guide. “We’ll do it again.”

No transition, no time spent. In that world, you move without motion. Instantly, I’m standing before those same three lights.

A deep voice sounds: “Josh, we’re sending you back into your body. But you have to make some promises.”

“I’m good with that.”

“Promise us you will be a superhero.”

“Me? A superhero?”

“Just promise.”

“Sure! Lemme be a superhero! Look, I can fly, I can walk through walls! I can …”

“Josh, we mean a different type of superhero. It’s about love. Caring. Empathy. Wisdom. DoingJosh, we mean a different type of superhero. things to connect that world with this one, your body with your soul, bonding your entire being with the Infinite Light that made you. It’s about making the world sing the song it was made to sing. We’re giving you that job.”

“Wow. Cool. I’m in.”

“Good. Now promise you won’t be a villain.”

“Hey, I just said I’m gonna be a superhero!”

“And you won’t be a villain.”

“If I’m a superhero, it follows that …”

Another, softer voice pitches in. “Josh, this is the heavenly tribunal. Just answer as we say. Promise you won’t be a villain.”

“I won’t be a villain. Of course.”

The deep voice is back now: “There’s one more promise. Let’s say the whole world is talking about you. They’re all saying that you are so good. They say you’re a superhero. What do you say?”

“I say, “Hey, thanks guys! That’s just what I want to be!”

“No, Josh.”

“No?”

“No. You look at yourself and you say you’re no different than the villain.”

“Say wha?”

“You heard.”

“But that’s real depressing. I can’t always be down on myself. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Hey, I took a credit in positive psychology you know.”

None of them seemed impressed.

“And if I just accept that I’m a loser—well, what kind of superhero is that?”

The gentle voice again: “We know, Josh, we know. You can’t understand now. But you have to promise.”

“This sounds like a bum deal.”

A third voice spoke now. “Josh, do you want to go back? Or stay here? I mean, there are a few things of that life review that need to be straightened out.”

Jolt. Reality.

“I promise. I’m always going to think I’m just like the villain. But I don’t get …”

Too late. My eyes open. A nurse screams and rushes for a doctor. Within a few minutes, I’m talking words. Life starts again.

I told this whole story to Hi. He listened, intensely, not saying a word. Okay, once in awhile he had to run after one of the kids. But he was listening.

Then he asked, “So are you a superhero?”

“No.”

He said, “Josh, look up from the gravel. Has anything changed in your life?”

“Nothing. I mean, I have no clue how to be a superhero. I’m still just my old self. No super-powers. No x-ray vision. Can’t even jog properly anymore.”

“And everything you felt in that other world?”

“It was beautiful. But I don’t feel that here.”

Hi asked, “So what’s this story about?”

I said, “That’s what I want to know. I’m totally confused. How do you become a superhero in an ordinary life like this?”

The kids were tired. We sat down on some rocks. A few moments of silence, and then Hi asked, “Josh, what’s so ordinary about this life?”

I didn’t know what to answer. So he went on.

“Do you know where you are?”

“Sure.” I pointed. “You can get back to the parking lot that way.”

A pause of silence again. Just for a moment.

“You’re the lead character of a role-playing game. So am I. So are all of us.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

The kids were all running off. Hi ran after them. I got up slowly and looked down all the paths, but none of them were anywhere to be found.

I knew I would see Hi again. I had to.

Continue to Part II

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Aharon Joburg South Africa December 9, 2017

All I can say is that I hope you wrote all the parts at once and will therefore be releasing them shortly after on another.

Part 2 please!! Reply

Tzvi Freeman Los Angeles December 13, 2017
in response to Aharon:

Part 2 is up and part 3 is on its way. The link is at the bottom of the article. Reply

Brett summerland bc December 8, 2017

why Josh? Rabbi, you named the superhero character "Josh".
You would have thought deeply about the name.
Why Josh? Reply

Dina Leah Albuquerque December 13, 2017
in response to Brett :

Good Question! My guess is that Joshua was a real life superhero in that he took over from Moshe & led the fight to take over the Eretz Yisrael beginning with Jericho. Plus, it says (in Gemara or midrash?) that Joshua was extremely humble.
This Josh is supposed to be a superhero, but he needs to add humility. Reply

Anonymous December 7, 2017

awww I love the way you portrayed this important idea, especially since it had grandparents involved - they know everything- they see everything - and they know we are here for a reason and we must love it!! Thank you :) Reply

Pete WA December 7, 2017

Since this is a kabbalistic sic-fi- story, the trio of lights must be Chockmah Binah Da'at.

Josh is about to leave the wilderness, having been invested with the power and authority given him by Moses, his mentor.

And Hi is ... well, Hi.

And the rest is unknown until the ground is walked upon.

Peace and blessings.

Thanks for the parable. I'm sure there's more to it, like all good kabbalistic stories and adventures. Reply

Tzvi Freeman Los Angeles December 13, 2017
in response to Pete:

Did everyone miss that Hi pronounced his name with a guttural “H”? Reply

Dina Leah Albuquerque December 13, 2017
in response to Tzvi Freeman:

Rabbi, I caught it Chai! I caught it as Chai=Life Reply

Dina Leah USA December 7, 2017

Never would have signed on for the life I’m in I’ve heard about his signing our lives away. And, I don’t want to believe that I signed up for a life of physical & emotional pain. I’ve been disabled and in nearly constant pain for 20 years. I’m now 66, & I’ve been told I signed up for this. I’ve been arguing that I would NEVER had agreed to live in this chronic pain, lost custody of my son in my first marriage/divorce, and now in my 3rd marriage that may end in divorce.
WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD I AGREE TO A MISERABLE LIFE???
No on in their right mind would have signed up fo this.
I’ve been arguing with several instructors & a Rebbetzin over this. I would never have agreed to this horrible, miserable life!!!! Reply

Paul Louisiana December 9, 2017
in response to Dina Leah:

Think about it. You were married three times. That means on at least three separate occasions in your life you were so deeply in love and filled with joy that you committed yourself to the vows of marriage. Make what you can of what you have and of what you don't want, try to let it go one moment at a time. I know if I find myself counting all the miserable moments in my life, then I am in an unhappy place and must turn my focus away by trying to blank out my mind and just imagine "being", for me, in the divine light. I know it sounds hokey, but, anyway, I do wish good things for you in your life. Reply

Dina Leah Albuquerque, NM USA December 9, 2017
in response to Paul:

Response to Paul You do have a point. Someone said that I now have a 3rd chance to fulfill what I came here to do. I have a wonderful married son w/3 lovely grandchildren from my 1st marriage. My 2nd was to a non-Jew, & Hashem gave me a disability that got be out of that marriage & back to Judaism. (I say it was from Hashem since drs could not give a diagnosis-I couldn’t walk, was in a wheelchair, & after returning in teshuva, I can now walk w/cane.)
I know Hashem arrange my current marriage since too many things had to happen for us to meet. I am taking courses in Jewish positive thinking & am working to see the positives & not the negatives. Doesn’t help that my current husband had bladder cancer which is now under control. But, maybe that is my mission. Maybe this is all I signed up for. Thanks for the chizuk. Reply

BARBARA OKC via chabad.org December 7, 2017

LOVELY! Reply

YY Israel December 6, 2017

Guys none of you seem to get it! It's not about Rabbi Freeman, nor about a character named Josh; it's about every single one of us! This is the story of every soul which comes down to the world. The soul comes down to be good, but it's placed in a body full of unholy desires, so what's the deal?! How are we expected to be good and keep Torah when we don't experience all the holiness that the righteous experience??
That's what Josh's confusion is about... There has to be a sequel to this! Reply

Karin Kruger Oklahoma City, OK/USA December 4, 2017

Almost death I would so love to sit down with you and talk about our mutual experience, Rabbi Freeman ... far too much to type and something I have only shared with 3 rabbis in the past 33 years.

I seems enough to post in this forum, that the experience changes one forever - the soul remembers far better than the body. Reply

Nafael December 4, 2017

Amazing! Can't wait for another episode! Reply

kay richmond December 2, 2017

Good start Reply

Anonymous December 2, 2017

Rabbi! Is this true? About you? I know a real super hero, too. Reply

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