Once upon a time, I used to have a handful of go to jokes/stories. They were long and I’d say they were funny and I’m pretty sure I never told these the same way twice. I was reminded of one of these jokes the other day and so I thought I’d share my version of it. Will anyone get through this entire thing? I doubt it, but I’m in a writing sort of mood so here we go.
There was once a man named Tim. Tim’s job relocated him to upstate New York, a place he’d never been before. With the move, Tim had to find a new place to live so he got a realtor and started looking for houses.
Not long after his home search starts, Tim’s realtor shows him a nice, three bedroom home directly across the street from a Jewish temple. The realtor assures him the neighborhood is safe and the schools nearby are wonderful, and after some deliberation, Tim and his fiancee agree that this is the house for them. They make an offer and shortly thereafter find themselves moving into their new home.
Tim and his fiancee settle into their new lives in New York and everything is great for a few weeks. But shortly after moving, a recurring noise starts coming from across the street at the temple. At first, the noise, a sort of ringing sound, isn’t that annoying. It rings occasionally, seemingly at no specific time or day and is only a minor nuisance. But after a few months, the ringing becomes more consistent. It wakes Tim up in the middle of the night and as soon as it stops and he falls back asleep, it starts up again.
Eventually the ringing stops and Tim and his fiancee forget about it entirely. But after a few weeks of silence, the ringing starts up again and sleepless nights turn into sleepless weeks. Finally, Tim’s fiancee tells Tim he HAS to do something about this as the ringing noise is starting to ruin their otherwise perfect home.
So Tim heads on over to the temple. Being raised Catholic and having known no jews for the better part of his life, Tim’s never been inside a synagogue before and doesn’t really know what to expect. Tim goes inside where he’s greeted by an elderly woman. Tim says, “Excuse me, but I live across the street and I came over to talk about the ringing noise?”
The elderly woman smiles and tells Tim that she has no idea what he’s talking about, probably because she’s mostly deaf as Tim can hear the ringing coming from somewhere below him, and he’d be best off speaking to the rabbi. She leads Tim to a small office where the Rabbi is reading scripture behind his desk. The Rabbi looks up and greets Tim, “How can I help you?”
Tim explains the whole story – his move to New York, his new house, and finally he gets to the ringing noise. “Rabbi,” he says, “this ringing noise, is there some way to make it stop?”
“Oh, no Tim, definitely not. That’s very important.”
Tim replies, “Well Rabbi, it’s simply starting to drive me crazy, can you at least tell me what it is?”
“Oh Tim, that is an ancient Jewish secret and I can’t tell you because you’re not a rabbi.”
Tim, at a loss for words, thanks the Rabbi for his time and leaves.
Several months go by and the ringing comes and goes. Tim’s fiancee suggests they just sell the house and move somewhere else, but the housing market has taken a dive and Tim can’t afford to take a loss on the house. Finally, after more restless nights, Tim goes back to the temple to speak with the Rabbi. He explains that the noise is driving him crazy and if it can’t be turned off he at least needs to know what it is. This noise, this noise that comes and goes, this noise that is an ancient Jewish secret, it has to be explained. The Rabbi once again says, “I can’t tell you, you’re not a rabbi.” Tim says, “So if I was a rabbi, then you could tell me?” The Rabbi ponders this for a moment and says, “Well, if you go through the conversion process and then attend rabbinical school and become a rabbi, then yes, I don’t see why not.”
Tim decides that he MUST find out what this noise is and what it means, so he begins the conversion process, first so that he can become a Jew and finally so he can become a rabbi. The conversion process is long and arduous, Tim takes Hebrew lessons every day after work. He studies the Torah for hours on end, not caring so much at all about the Jewish religion but only caring about the ringing noise that has taken over his life. This noise MUST be explained, he thinks. Eventually, Tim’s Fiancee leaves him - she can’t take the noise anymore and Tim has become obsessed with finding out what this noise is, so much so that he’s begun neglecting her. After two years, Tim’s conversion is complete and he officially becomes a jew. But, he’s only halfway there. He takes out loans and quits his job so he can attend Rabbinical school full time.
Several more years pass, and Tim studies and studies and studies and eventually, he does become a rabbi. After his Rabbinical school graduation, Tim immediately heads to the temple across the street and has another sitdown with the Rabbi. “Rabbi,” he says, “I’ve done it. I’ve spent the last 5 years of my life studying the Torah, becoming a Jew and finally, I am officially a rabbi just like you. Can you please tell me what this noise is now?”
“Yes, of course, but nobody, not even me, can just TELL you what the noise is, you have to see it for yourself.” The Rabbi opens his desk drawer and pulls out a key. “Take this key and head down to the basement. There you will find the answer that you’ve been looking for all these years.”
Tim thanks the Rabbi and rushes to the basement. The basement door is locked, but Tim has the key from the Rabbi. He unlocks the basement door and heads downstairs. The door swings shut behind him and he’s thrown into complete darkness. Even holding onto the railing, Tim struggles to make it down the stairs in the pitch darkness. He walks further and further down the steps and the ringing noise seems faint in the distance. Finally, after walking down what feels like several thousand steps, Tim finally reaches the basement. He fumbles around for several minutes trying to find a light switch on the walls but only stumbles around in darkness. The ground feels wet and muddy under his feet. The ringing is faint, and distant, but Tim walks towards it as it’s the only direction he can sense.
After several hours of walking, Tim finally stumbles into what he thinks is the opposite wall. He fumbles around the wall for several minutes, finally finding a door and then the handle. He tries to turn the handle, but the door is locked. “Dammit!” Tim yells to nobody in particular. He puts his ear up to the door and sure enough, the ringing is coming from behind the door, off in a distance. Tim turns back around and stumbles all the way back through the pitch black room.
Tim makes it to the staircase and walks and walks all the way back up, having to take a break every 20 minutes or so to catch his breath. “Well at least I’m getting a workout!” he thinks.
He finally reaches the top, opens the door and goes back to the Rabbi’s office. He notices the clock on the wall and an entire day has passed since he first walked down the steps. “Rabbi,” he starts, “I took the key and walked down to the basement – by the way, I think I might have gone down to the center of the Earth.” The Rabbi laughs and says, “Yes, I haven’t been down there myself in quite some time but it is a very long staircase.” “No kidding,” Tim continues, “Anyway, I got down there and, by the way, you might want to think about installing some lights. So I get down there and walked around for hours and finally reached another door, and the ringing was louder but the door was locked.”
“Ah of course,” says the Rabbi, “You need the second key.” He opens his desk drawer once again and pulls out a long, silver key. “Take this key, it will unlock the door in the basement.” Tim thanks the Rabbi, and after a long nap at home, he heads back to the Temple.
He goes to the basement, unlocks the door, walks down the thousands of steps in the pitch darkness (“I should have brought a flashlight!). He stumbles several hours in darkness until he finally reaches the wall again. He searches for the door and after finally reaching the knob, he pulls out the second key, puts it in the lock, turns the handle, and opens the door.
Tim is taken aback. He stands in bewilderment as he looks out onto a vast icy tundra with no end in site. The ground is frozen solid and the temperature has dropped 60 degrees. Tim did not come prepared for this and only a man with a death wish would attempt to cross this without the proper supplies.
Tim turns around, walks back through the darkness and up the stairs. He leaves the temple, gets into his car and heads off to the store where he purchases a parka, and some food rations.
He goes back to the temple, walks down the steps, into the darkness and back to the frozen tundra. He opens the door, puts on his parka and starts hiking.
Tim walks for miles. The color of the sky never changes. There is no sun, only clouds. Tim loses track of time but after his seventh “night” of camping Tim decides that if he walks for one more day without reaching the end he will have to give up as he doesn’t have enough supplies to continue much further. But the ringing noise is getting distinctively louder and Tim carries on. After several more hours of walking, Tim reaches a wall. The wall extends upwards as far as the eye can see but dead in front of him is a tall door with the same looking handle as the door in the basement. Tim reaches for the handle, tries to turn it…but wouldn’t you know, this door is locked.
Tim sighs, dejected but not defeated. He turns around and starts the long walk back. He trudges through the icy tundra, day and “night” stopping only several hours to rest his tired legs. He makes it to the end, opens the door and gets to the pitch black basement. “Dammit, I knew I forgot a flashlight!” He stumbles through the basement, and all the way back up the thousand flight staircase, and reaches the top. He goes back to the rabbi’s office where he notices the calendar on the desk has moved forward six full weeks! ‘Jesus Christ,’ Tim thinks, ‘This noise really better be worth it.”
“Rabbi,” he starts, “I used the second key and walked all the way through this crazy icy tundra and got to a wall.” “Oh yes, it’s been a long time but I do remember that dreadful place. Quite cold, isn’t it?”
“Uh, yes, it is,” says Tim. “Anyway, I got to the end of it and reached another locked door, can you help me out?” The rabbi opens his desk drawer and pulls out a long, golden key. “This ought to do it!” the Rabbi says.
Tim thanks the Rabbi, then heads off to the store for more supplies as well as a flashlight. He goes back to the temple, down the thousands of flights of steps and into the basement where he finally was smart enough to bring a light. He turns the light on only to realize the basement is completely and utterly empty and stretches as far as the light will allow him to see. The ground is in fact, covered in dirt and mud but other than that, it’s what Tim imagines outer space looks like. Tim walks through the basement and to the first door. He opens the door into the tundra and walks through the tundra to the next wall. Day and “night” he walks, moving slower than before as this trek has him utterly exhausted and he hasn’t gotten a good night’s rest in what must be months. He gets to the next door, pulls out the golden key, inserts it into the lock and opens the door.
“What the…” Tim mutters to himself as the door swings open and he’s immediately overcome with heat.
Fire is all around him. It’s above him, it’s below him and it’s on both sides. The only thing he can see aside from the flames (and how oddly controlled this fire seems!) is a very long, wooden bridge. For some weird reason, the bridge doesn’t seem to catch fire and Tim watches in amazement for several minutes before ultimately realizing the bridge isn’t going to catch on fire along with the rest of this giant room. He removes his parka, snow shoes, and most of the rest of his clothing before telling himself, “Screw it!” and he attempts to cross the bridge.
Tim walks for miles and miles, it feels like days, when he realizes he hasn’t come prepared for this. But the ringing noise is getting louder and louder with each step he takes and so he continues on. Finally, he reaches the end of the bridge, only to stumble into another wall with another door. “Oh give me a break!” Tim yells to the sky. He tries to open the door but again it’s locked. He tries his basement key, he tries the tundra key, he tries the fire key, but none of them open the door.
Tim turns back around and once again, crosses the bridge. He gets to the end, puts on his parka and the rest of his clothes and walks back through the icy tundra. He gets to the pitch black basement where he navigates back to the staircase. He walks all the way up the staircase and makes it back to the rabbi’s office, where the calendar on the desk taunts him. 3 months have gone by since he left this office the last time.
“Rabbi…I…I don’t know what to do. I made it through the tundra and this time to this insane room full of fire and a wooden bridge that never seems to go up in flames.”
The Rabbi chuckles, “Oh yes, it’s truly a mystery how that bridge doesn’t catch fire, isn’t it?”
Tim says, “Well sure, I guess, whatever. Anyway, I got to the end of the bridge but there was another locked door.”
The Rabbi opens his desk drawer. “Oh of course, you need this key.” The Rabbi hands Tim a long, metal key. “Look, I don’t mean to be rude,” Tim says, “But if there are any other keys I need can you just give them to me now?”
“Oh, no, I think that’s it. I apologize, it’s just been such a long time since I’ve been down there.”
Tim takes the new key and heads to the store, where he buys more food rations as well as several bottles of water. He heads back to the temple, down the steps and through the dark room. He gets to the frozen tundra and walks all the way to the room of fire. He crosses the wooden bridge, feeling a horrifying heat but never really feeling in danger and finally he gets to the end where he reaches the door. He pulls out his new key and opens the door.
Tim stands in shocked silence. He enters a room completely full of people. White people, black people, tall people, short people. People as far as the eye can see. And the noise! Not only does he hear the sounds of millions of people speaking in every language imaginable but the ringing noise is deafening. Tim feels like he’s standing next to a 747 taking off. But he pushes on. He starts to walk through the giant crowd, pushing and shoving his way past millions, maybe even billions of people. The walk itself doesn’t feel that long, at least not in comparison to the fire bridge or the tundra, but it takes him countless hours to shove his way through this crowd while trying to keep his balance.
And the noise! The ringing noise is starting to hurt Tim’s ears, yet nobody else seems to be distracted or upset with it. Tim pushes his way all the way through the croswd and reaches a wall and one last door. “Well this is it,” Tim thinks. “The Rabbi said no more keys.” He reaches for the door handle, and tries to turn it. But it’s locked. “FUCK ME!” Tim shouts to the crowd. Nobody pays any attention.
Tim turns around and pushes his way through the crowd. He gets to the room of fire and crosses the bridge. He crosses the frozen tundra to the darkened basement where he nearly runs through and all the way up the steps and back to the Rabbi’s office. A full calendar year has gone by since he was last there.
“Rabbi, you said no more keys!”
The Rabbi shakes his head and then realizes, “Tim. I’m so sorry. You were probably in that crowd forever!”
“Uh, yes, of course. Where did all those people come from?”
“I can’t just explain everything to you, Tim.” The Rabbi says. “But this, this should be the last key you’ll need.” He hands Tim a long, diamond encrusted key.
Tim gets his supplies ready and heads back to it. He walks down the long staircase and through the darkened basement. He treks through the frozen tundra and into the room of fire. He crosses the fire bridge and makes it into the crowded room. He pushes and shoves his way through the crowded room, ignoring apologies as nobody seems to be paying any attention to him.
He finally gets all the way through the room and to the wall and the last door. The noise, this noise is so loud, so unbearable that Tim thinks his eardrums are going to pop. But he’s finally done it. He’s spent the last decade of his life – first becoming a Jew, then becoming a rabbi, and then navigating his way through this insane corridor of strange rooms all to find out what this ringing noise is. It’s cost him his job, his fiancee, his family. But he knows, once he opens this door, it will all make sense. It will all be worth it.
He puts in the diamond key, and turns the knob.
He starts to push the door open.
The sound is so loud now that Tim worries it might kill him.
The door opens and Tim is hit with a giant, blinding flash of light. His eyes finally settle, and do you know what he sees?
I can’t tell you, you’re not a rabbi.