The Call

They called you Nesham’la. You lived way beyond the clouds.

It was a delightfully innocent pre-earthly existence. You bathed in the honey-sweet, divine glow that saturates every one of the endless strata of gardens of Eden, each with its particular flavor of light, its own taste of ecstasy. Bliss unlimited.

And then you got that call. They told you that you’re needed. It’s time, they said, for you to go down there.

Down where?

“Don’t sweat it,” said the voice at the other end. “It’s all good. We’ll explain when you get here. Prep training starts first thing tomorrow morning. Dress lightly.”

Prep was a blast. You were met by an ancient entity that introduced itself as just “Coach.”

Coach had an entire VR lab at its disposal. It also had endless patience. Most importantly, Coach had a way of listening to you debrief after an exercise, and then, softly and gently, put into the fewest possible words everything you needed to hear to make sense of whatever you had just experienced.

Coach also assured you that it would not be stepping away. It would continue on throughout your mission as your officially registered guardian angel.

After your initial briefing, you slipped into a virtual human body, getting the feel of kinetic limitations in hi-res spacetime. Then you immersed your entire being in simulation games designed to gradually habituate you to novel experiences—such as occupying only one location at a time, traversing space along a contiguous trajectory, and, most significantly, the sensation of existing as a sharply distinct and subjectively separate entity from the Infinite Light.

Once you had gained sufficient familiarity with these parameters, you began relearning the entire divine wisdom, this time in the form it is understood in a material world—as much as you could fathom such things from up there.

Slowly, a clarity of what you were in for began to crystallize in your consciousness: The free lunch was over. No more perpetual ecstasy. No more serenity. No more gratuitous revelations of the secrets of existence. You’re going to have to work for a living. Adulting. And that was exciting.

The Oath

Eventually, game time had to end. Coach brought you straight from the lab to stand before a heavenly tribunal.

Three dignified, long-bearded beings wrapped in glowing robes were visibly happy to greet you. Really nice guys. They even had names. Up there, names are determined dynamically and are therefore necessarily ephemeral, but these judges introduced themselves by name, nonetheless.

"Yes, we are a tribunal court, but our job is to help you succeed in your mission. We’re all on your team. You can call me Mike.”

“And me, Gabe.”

“Raph here. Glad to meet you.”

“So,” Mike continued, “since we know how eager you are to get started on your mission, let’s get straight down to business.”

Gabe spoke next. “We’re going to administer an oath. You only need to say yes. Promise us, Nesham’la, that you will be good.”

You said nothing.

“Nesham’la,” said Gabe, “you seem confused.”

You nodded. They waited.

You figured you had to say something. So eventually, you did.

“Hey, like, I’m a neshamah. Of course I'm good. I mean, for this I get shlepped in front of a holy tribunal—to promise I will be who I basically am?”

They had all apparently heard this before.

“True, Nesham’la,” Mike answered, “you are indeed very special. No other being in all the Creation can compare to you in specialness. We angels all emerge from the Creator’s speech, while you emerge directly out of His most inner thoughts. The highest amongst us are but emanations, while you contain the very essence of the divine. That is why we are sending you down there, as opposed to one of us. For, as explained well in The Adam Files, you alone can descend below and yet remain tightly bonded with your essential self above.”

“Exactly,” you said. “So there’s no need for this oath. What’s next?”

“But since you are here already,” said Mike, “let's take this step by step, as per protocol, so that we can get you off to your mission—a very exciting one, indeed.”

“Nesham’la, promise you will be good.”

“Yes, I will be good.”

“And you will not be bad.”

“Well, I just said I’ll be good, so it follows that…”

“Please. What does it hurt? Just say you will not be bad.”

“Have you guys ever heard of a vain oath? Like swearing that a tree is a tree? Or a rock is a rock? Or that you guys have wings and a halo? That’s a no-no, right? How is this any different?”

“We assure you, this is a standard oath administered with the full authority of the Supreme Heavenly Court. It’s been deemed necessary and appropriate by multiple committees with all the data before them."

“And no one ever challenged it?”

“They lost every time. Now, could you please just say…”

“I promise I will not be bad.”

“Very good. Now, let’s say you do well down there. Well beyond the 99th percentile. And let’s say the whole world is looking up to you and saying, ‘You made it! You are so good! You are such a tzaddik!’ What do you answer them?”

“Um, well, I guess, ‘Thanks, guys! It was tough, but, hey, this is how I was trained: Keep super-connected to your origin above and focused on your goal below. Do that, and then you too…”

You couldn’t go on because Raph, the one who had stood quietly in the middle until now and yet appeared to be the real head of this tribunal, was looking you in the eye with a compassion you could never have fathomed up there. But it shook you.

His eyes pierced through you and into your future, perceiving all the struggles and labors that were to befall you in your lifetime on earth. Like, he really felt that struggle. And you should have realized then and there that he really wanted you to succeed.

Raph began to speak.

The Debate

“Look, Nesham’la, you’ll have to trust us on this. It will benefit you greatly. Even if by every metric in both behavioral and affective domains you score as a 100% all-good tzaddik, you must look at yourself as though you are bad. Bad like a rasha. Promise us you will do that.”

Tzaddik. Rasha. You knew those terms from the simulation games.

The rasha was a human consciousness trapped by the Other Side, locked into a state of confusion and doped by the illusion of an independent universe to become tolerant, perhaps oblivious, even delusional, to the tragedy that had befallen it.

The tzaddik was a human with a neshamah-consciousness, pulsating with the rhythm of divine, cosmic light, light that transformed everything the tzaddik encountered, liberating the sparks that had fallen into captivity and returning them to their origin.

You, Nesham’la, how could you be anything but a tzaddik? How could you possibly even begin to imagine yourself…as…a…a…

You stood there. You blinked. Finally, you replied:

“Can’t do that.”

“Why can’t you do that?”

You figured this couldn't be happening. But it was. So you thought fast. And this is what you came up with:

“It’s an undisputed Mishnah in the tractate of Avot! It says, ‘Never be a rasha in your own estimation.’”

“We know that, yes, but…”

“Okay, I get it. You want me to squeeze some alternative interpretation out of that. Like ‘Don't do something today that could make you a rasha tomorrow.’ Or: ‘Don’t be a rasha all on your own.’ No, that's no good. How about…”

Compassionate Raph cut you off. “Listen carefully,” he said. “You will need to know this.”

“Considering yourself bad is not just a bad idea. It's extremely hazardous. It’s known to lead to a highly deleterious syndrome the sages of the Mishnah call ‘a bad heart.’ There's no worse attitude, they caution, than a bad heart. The bad heart syndrome, in turn, is a direct route to depression.”

“I see,” you said. “So if so…”

“The combo is lethal. The Torah lists 49 not-very-nice things that befall the Jewish people when they ‘do not serve G‑d with happiness and a good heart.’”

“Right, so…”

“So you will need to avoid depressing thoughts such as these at all costs. Celebrate life. Celebrate your mission. Always remember the Infinite Light is with you down there in your mission far more than any revelation in these upper worlds. Then you will rejoice.”

Raph looked you straight in the eye. “It’s a tough world down there. You can’t beat it when you’re down. The only way you’re going to win is by staying above it at all times, at all costs. Never forget that. It’s key to your success on this mission.”

“So what exactly do you want from me?” you burst out. “Like, I’m supposed to say, ‘Hey, so I'm bad. I'm an adult. I can handle that!’—and just not get depressed even though I worked so hard to be a tzaddik and landed stuck in the role of despicable rasha? That’s the plan?”

“No,” Mike piped in. “That would be a poor strategy indeed. Disastrous.”

Let Me Out of Here

Gabe explained. “You see, even if you could cleverly tiptoe around the sleeping depression-dragon without waking it, a yet more dreadful specter in that cavern frothingly awaits people who take your aforementioned modality: The cold and crafty phantom of Heckwhocares—intimately related to the arch-enemy of Israel, Amalek. Be okay with being bad, and you're his lunch.”

A shiver crept down your ethereal spine. Somehow you regained the wherewithal to meekly respond.

“Just my point. So how about we just go with the oaths I’ve taken so far, and, personally, I’m ready to get this mission on the ground.”

The three looked at one another and spoke a few words you were obviously not meant to hear.

“Nesham’la, we need you to do this. Just take the oath. Even if by every metric and the measure of your peers, you have been classed as a tzaddik, you’ve got to consider yourself like a rasha.”

“This makes no sense!” you cried out.

You panicked. You started attempting to unzip out of that virtual body. Every time you zipped something down, it just zipped itself back as you went on to the next zipper, driving you into a frenzy.

”What are you doing?" they asked.

"I'm not going!" you yelled.

"You have to go!"

"I'm not going!" you yelled.

"You have no choice."

"I'm not going!" you yelled.

"For this you were created."


"Then I will fail!" you replied. "On purpose! Because it’s a dumb mission. And who cares? Seventy, eighty, 120 years, and then I come back to the eternal bliss back home up here. What’s a finite lifetime relative to infinity? I’m not going to fight a battle that you guys are setting me up to lose!"

Again, Judge Raph spoke. When he spoke, you had to calm down, do deep breathing, and listen. Because Raph cared.

”Nesham’la," he said softly, "understand what is happening here. This is an investment, not just on our part, not just on the part of the Infinite Light Who pervades and transcends all—blessed be He beyond all praises and songs—and yet is prepared to invest a child of His very essence and being into this project. It is an investment on your part as well."

“And you are what is being invested,” concluded Raph.

A pause. And then Gabe took over. "What this means is that you're not going to stand up here having some VR experience of existence in a body down there and then just switch it off when Mom calls for dinner, or reboot the device if things get too wired.”

“No,” he said, “don’t expect to remain unaffected and unscathed by the performance of your earthly self. Your very essence and being is invested in this. You will become intimately tied up with this human animal that you will enter. Its pain will become your pain, and its pleasure will be your pleasure. Its story will become your story, its destiny…your destiny."

Up there, whatever is spoken is seen and experienced. As Gabe spoke, you heard no words; you saw visions and you felt emotions you could not begin to comprehend as snippets of your life below flashed through your senses and entered into your heart.

You witnessed your own birth and experienced your mother's pain and joy, your father's pride and concern, and your own raw and primal distress of entering a cold, unstable world.

You experienced the unbridled laughter and tears of childhood, the trauma of parents at war with one another, the yearning for a father who never returned, except once to inflict pain, the awkwardness of adolescence in which you saw yourself staring at your filtered image in a device as a fleeting thought buzzed through your mind, “Is this really all I am here for? Could there be more?”

And you took that shot, pondered it, and thought, “Why do I always have that look of insecurity on my face when my friends look so sure of themselves?”

You returned from what seemed an almost eternal dream as Gabe was still speaking.

“Here, above, we are able to perceive a thing and remain aloof. We look, we know, we depart, and are left unscathed. But down there, whatever you do, or speak, or imagine, you become.”

Mike interrupted. “There, when you study the wisdom words of Torah, you become invested within them, one with them, and one with the One from Whom they emanate. When you delight in the Shabbat, invested within its holiness, you are one with the deepest pleasure of the Source of All Pleasures. When you do kindness to others, you invest your entire being in the Fountain of Life, and you are one with He Who Gives Life.”

Back to Gabe: “And if a soul might choose to speak of the bad in another human being, that soul, at that time, is fully immersed in all that schmutz of which it speaks and contemplates. Slip into thoughts of darkness, or words, or deeds…”

Raph: “Let’s not speak of those things up here.”

“But this neshamah must hear!”

“The neshamah will hear, and know.”

Mike spoke, raising his arm to beyond the heavens and gazing upward. "Lift that beast beyond its nature to the highest heights, and you will be elevated to a place beyond the nature of all things."

A sudden silence. A painful silence. As if no one wished to tell the rest. Until Raph spoke softly.

"Allow it to overcome you, Nesham’la, to darken your light, permit yourself sink to its abyss, and…eventually…”

A glistening tear ran down into his beard as his voice choked up.

“Certainly, you will return. No neshamah is ever lost. Perhaps after many incarnations, many journeys along many paths, but you will return, and yet higher. But only when you will choose to take this darkness into your own hands and win."

"I want to win!” you exclaimed. “I only want to win! And of course, I will! I will enter that dark world and bring with me great light! Why should the heavens have exclusive rights to the glow of the divine presence, to mystic union and spiritual ecstasy? I will liberate the creatures of the earthly domain! I will deliver to them that for which they have yearned since their inception! The lower world demands light, and light they shall receive! I am Nesham’la!”

“But, this oath!” you yelled. “This dumb oath makes no sense! How can I win with an oath like this around my neck?”

Raph was still staring at you with that look of concern while Mike’s glow bespoke a certain delight in your innocence. Gabe’s head was deep into the console at his desk, seeking something with multiple queries. Finally, after a few more clickety entries, he called out, “Clerk! Perhaps you could present the projections from our modeling for this project?”

Within a nanosecond, the court clerk had a multidimensional display visible to all participants.


“We’ve got most of the specs down for this one,” the clerk began, “and they’re amazing! A real feat of Heaven Incorporated proprietary engineering.”

“This Nesham’la is headed for somewhere in the last quarter of the sixth cosmic cycle. There are only seven cycles planned for spacetime, so, as you can imagine, the parameters are extremely restrictive by this point. The final cosmic corrections need to be made, and for that sort of precision, only very minuscule, highly focused projections of neshamah-light can be allowed to enter—with the exception, of course, of the thirty-six.”

“And Harriet Goldberg,” Mike interjected, "the waitress in the greasy spoon roadside cafe mentioned in the Lunar Files."

Gabe shot back: “Harriet Goldberg is a whole different case.”

“We’ll get to Harriet later,” said the clerk.

Gabe asked, “So where on the spectrum do we expect this one to land?”

The clerk glanced in your direction as if to check that you matched the data. “This one has already gone through an intense degree of tzimtzum-condensations already, which may reflect in certain attitudinal responses.”

“Yes, we are quite aware,” said Gabe. “But the enlightenment factor, doesn’t that still have to be drastically reduced?”

“Of course. Our projection is for a fairly standard fit for this era, which would be quite mediocre in any other era, but not bad for the last quarter, as mentioned.”

Mediocre. The word flew into your ears and stung like a wasp.

“And the encasement?” asked Mike.

“We’ve got encasement nailed! It took some trial and error, but we’ve learned how counterproductive it is to put these stepped-down neshamas inside coarse encasements. Not fair at all. But that’s not a concern. With the aggregate of the labor of the preceding neshamot over all these years, these body-encasements are relatively much more refined.”

“But they’re still made of meat,” said Gabe.

“They’re all made of meat?” you asked.

“Look, it’s a wondrous architecture,” replied the clerk. “Infinite wisdom. But at the end of the day, you can’t go in there with a hydrogen-helium encasement like the celestial consciousnesses. For where you’re going, it’s meat all the way.”

“As for the interface to the meat,” continued the clerk, “I see this neshamah already has been fitted with a superb soul-body bridging model. The ADHD glitch—that’s a known issue. We’re working on it. Could be environmental. But it’s a nice, intelligent model, the kind that loves reading kabbalistic sci-fi about angels that are software engineers and the like.”

“Emotional modalities?” asked Gabe.

The clerk pulled up some more charts. “Not terrible. Well, it’s up to the assigned parents to decide in what condition that remains.”

“And how does that look, just in probabilities?”

As he examined the data more closely, the clerk’s face turned pale. “Well, look, much of this could be repaired post facto with some deep work on the part of the subject. Look, Harriet Goldberg made it through.”

“Harriet’s a different case altogether,” said Gabe.

“Environmental conditions?” asked Raph. “Are they favorable to a flourishing neshamah?”

The clerk’s head was now deep into the data and shaking back and forth. “Difficult. I wouldn’t say hostile. Just very dampening. This is the final refinement, after all. We wouldn’t be squeezing this neshamah through so much tzimtzum if this were an easy job.”

“It’s not an easy job,” you shot back, “but I can handle that!”

“This little neshamah will not settle for anything less than total annihilation of all darkness and evil, spiritual enlightenment for the entire world, and the rechanneling of all destructive forces into good! The Side of Otherness has powerful forces, sure, but, as Coach always says, darkness is helpless before light—and a neshamah is the ultimate light. Once this Nesham’la turns them around, there’s no limit to how bright they can shine. That’s my game plan, and I know it can work.”

Silence. Very sober faces staring at you from all sides.

“That may be your game plan,” Gabe’s voice echoed through the chamber, “but it isn’t Heaven Incorporated’s.”

The Game Plan

Mike: “Gabe, you don’t always have to be the wet blanket. Give the neshamah some encouragement.”

Mike turned to you now. “Look, Nesham’la, all that’s expected of you is that you be a really good regular human being.”

“A what?!”

“Harriet Goldberg did it.”

“I’m supposed to be average?”

“Not average. Mediocre. There's no average human. But you’re supposed to achieve the ultimate that any human off the street could accomplish. And that’s amazing.”

“But it’s not a tzaddik.”

“No, it’s not a tzaddik. You don’t have to vanquish the darkness. That’s not what we’re sending you for. Just keep struggling with it and winning each time.”

“Like Harriet Goldberg,” piped in the clerk.

“And who will transform the darkness to light?”

“The tzaddik will. But he can only do that once you do your part.”

“Why on earth would any neshamah want to go down there to struggle with darkness their entire life just so some tzaddik can come along afterward and zap it between the eyes?”

“Yes,” said Gabe, “that is the question.”

“That’s exactly it,” said Mike, nodding at Gabe.

“Certainly,” said Raph.

“So what is the answer?!” you demanded.

“Well,” said the clerk, “that’s why they’re giving you all these oaths.”

“The oaths come from a place far beyond light,” said Gabe. “Even beyond the Infinite Light.”

“And from beyond darkness,” said Mike. “Even beyond the darkness of the Absolute Void.”

“And that is why they don’t make sense to you,” said Raph. “Because that place is The Essence of All Being as He entirely transcends all knowledge and knowing. Just as He transcends light and dark, being and not being. From there comes your power to transform darkness into light.”

“I will never understand?” you asked.

“Not until you descend below,” said Raph. “Only there can you touch The Essence.”

“And only there…” a voice came from behind you. It was the voice of the Coach, who had been observing quietly all this time. “...there, in touch with The Essence, you will see how the one who struggles from within the darkness far outperforms the tzaddik who shines light from beyond.”

Raph spoke again, calmly and quietly. “Nesham’la,” he said, “we’ve given you much to think about today. We think you need some time to contemplate these matters privately, and perhaps,” he glanced at the Coach as though to share some secret mutual arrangement, “in private consultation with your advisor.”

Click here for part two—discover the full, uncensored story of how your neshamah ended up down here.