While the gates of repentance are always open to those who approach them sincerely, penitents with ulterior motives will have as much as much chance repenting successfully as Osama Bin Laden has of securing the Republican nomination for president. One such dubious penitent showed up unannounced at my office last week. He tested my patience, sharpened my intuitive abilities, and presented me with the challenge of not laughing at his clothes.
I had just finished with my last client of the day when this individual knocked on my office door. I tried ignoring him, hoping he would get the message and go away. To buy some time, I picked up the phone and ordered my taxi to the airport. In less than an hour, I was planning on joining my family at Ben-Gurion airport to start a long awaited vacation. No one was going to get in the way of this trip, especially not a drop-in client. When he knocked on the door once again, my illusions were shattered that my tactics of ignoring him would be successful.
Since my secretary had stepped out to "run some errands" a few years back and hadn't yet returned, I answered the door myself. Waiting outside of my office was none other than one of my favorite anti-Semites, the infamous nuclear weapon monger wannabe, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Great timing, I thought, as I debated whether to let him in or call the bomb squad. Taking on a client who is a sworn enemy of the state of Israel is morally reprehensible. On the other hand, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to make fun of his accented English so I invited him in.
In his attempt to maintain a low profile, Ahmadinejad was dressed like a tourist from Miami Beach. However, he looked more like Mick Jagger doing a poor job of impersonating an Iranian President.
"Well, look who's here. I'm fresh out of nuclear bomb parts if that's what you are looking for." I said.
"No, that is not the purpose of my visit, Mr. Goldfarb. I came here in serious need of your coaching." Ahmadinejad said.
"How did you manage to get to Jerusalem?"
"I was in the Gaza strip for some business. Getting to Jerusalem was relatively easy once I was in the neighborhood."
"I really need your help, " Ahmadinejad continued.
"And if I refuse?"
"I guess I'll go to someone else. However, my intuition tells me that you are the man for the job."
"There are thousands of coaches worldwide, and you had to chose me as I'm out the door to the airport?"
"I realize I caught you at a bad time, but I promise to make this quick."
"Fine, Mr. President."
"Please call me Mahmoud."
"Fine, Mahmoud. Start talking. If I don't make this flight, I'll let YOU explain it to my wife and kids."
"I'll get right to the point, Mr. Goldfarb."
"Please, call me Ben."
"Okay. Ben. But only if you call me by my new Hebrew name, Menachem."
"What did you say?"
His new Hebrew name? What in the world was he talking about? This must be some part of an elaborate plot to kidnap Israeli nuclear physicists. His infiltration into Israel might be placing my family and country at risk, not to mention challenging my freedom to continue writing Hillary Clinton satire.
"You heard me correctly. I'm planning on converting to Judaism and Menachem will be my new name."
"You found a rabbi that will convert you?"
"Not yet, but I can be very persuasive. "
"Persuasive or not, you have a huge obstacle ahead of you finding a self-respecting rabbi who will make you Jewish."
"Whether or not I convert isn't the point right now. My goal is to repent."
"Go on. You have exactly 7 minutes to talk until my taxi arrives."
"I've been doing some reading about repentance, and I need your guidance.
"I see, Menachem."
"On second thought, Ben, please call me Mendy. It sounds more hamish."
"Fine Mendy. I do have one condition before we start."
"Please take your finger off that red button while we are talking. It makes me nervous."
"What red button?," he asked as he looked around. "Oh, I get it. American humor."
"Actually, this was Israeli-American humor. I carry two passports you know. You have two reasons to hate me."
"Please, Ben, you are not being fair. I'm trying to change my ways and you are bringing up my past indiscretions."
"Sorry. You are right. I stand corrected, Menachem.. er, Mendy. Go on."
"Okay, the first step of repentance is having remorse for my actions."
"So, do you feel remorse?"
"Yes. I can't fall asleep at night. I am so filled with regret over my horrible rhetoric against Israel and the United States and my evils plans of creating weapons of mass destruction that I toss and turn all night drenched in sweat."
"Sounds good. What's the next step?"
"The next step is to make a commitment to never return to these evil ways."
"How do you plan to do this?"
"I will go on Iranian TV and announce my newfound love of Israel and the importance of helping the Chosen People."
"Wouldn't taking such a drastic step mean taking you life into your own hands?"
"I'm prepared to join the long list of Jewish martyrs who died defending their beliefs."
"Wow. You HAVE been doing some extracurricular reading."
"Anyway, if I remain amongst the living, I will step down from the presidency and leave instructions to my successor to create strategic alliances with Israel."
"And then what?"
"I plan on marrying a nice Jewish woman from Miami Beach and settling down in a frum neighborhood in Jerusalem."
"Why Miami Beach?"
"Well, it could be Brooklyn, or Monsey. I just don't want to marry anyone from the west coast."
"What's wrong with the west coast?"
"The closer Jews get to the pacific ocean, the further away they drift from authentic Judaism."
"What are you talking about? I'm usually not judgmental, but Mendy, you have uttered a terrible, slanderous statement. Here you are trying to engage in repentance and yet you bad mouth your soon to be co-religionists."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I am so ashamed."
Mendy fell to the floor and got into a fetal position. He then rolled onto his stomach and started to have a tantrum, pounding his fists against my shag carpet.
"You see, Ben, this is why I need your help. I keep slipping into my old ways. Please forgive me."
"Mendy, get up already. Stop groveling. I hate groveling."
I helped him get off the floor and back on his seat. I peaked at the wall clock. The taxi would be here in 3 minutes.
"How will you know when you've repented successfully?" I asked, trying to keep Mendy focused.
"When I'm in the same situation in which I could fall into my old ways and I decide against it."
"Could you think of such a scenario in the near future?" I asked as I thumbed through my passports and ticket.
"Yes. If I am presented with a chance to go on a date with a woman from the west coast, I will embrace this opportunity. I will marry her and praise her community for its depth and breadth of religious observance."
"I see. What about stopping your nuclear arms campaign?"
"I guess I could do that too."
Just then, my driver honked his horn repeatedly. My intuition sensed that this was his way of communicating the subtle but powerful message that he wanted me to get into his vehicle right away.
"Mendy, my taxi is here. Good luck. You can let yourself out. The door will lock automatically when you leave."
"Okay, thanks. One last thing."
"Yes, quickly?" My ears were again assaulted by the driver's incessant honking.
"Do you think that some day soon, I might possibly....I mean maybe if it's okay with you....."
"What, Mendy, what? Spit it out, already. My driver's about to have a cardiac arrest."
"Do you think I could spend Shobbos with your family once in a while after I move to Israel?"
"I'll speak to my wife about it. She's from Los Angeles, by the way."
"Yes, of course, Los Angeles. The Jewish communities there are dripping with holiness and religious ecstasy."
"Mendy, save it for later, okay?"
After we shook hands, I left the office, closed the door behind me, and ran to my taxi. I opened the back door of the Mercedes and my exhausted body became one with the back seat of the car as I collapsed into the soft upholstery.
My head was spinning. I had so many unanswered questions drifting in my head. Why did he claim he wanted to convert to Judaism? Why did he have a fixation on Miami Beach? Why didn't my secretary tell me she wasn't coming back?
At this moment in time and space, I realized that we don't always get answers to our "why" questions. We should rather focus our energies on our "how" questions and trust our intuitions. He intuited that I was the right coach for him, and my unconscious mind made a comprehensive assessment of his level of sincerity that prompted quick thinking and decisive action on my part.
In that spirit, I was wondering how I could capture the look on Mendy's face when he realized I locked him in my office.
The writer's novel, Double Feature, is slated for publication in the fall.