In the year 1250 by the Western calendar, Father Jean and Rav Henri were ambling along in the south of France discussing, as they always did on their ambles, the differences between Judaism and Christianity and which was the superior religion. They had been doing this for forty days and forty nights, since they were in their twenties. This day was special, since it was Father Jean’s birthday.
Periodically Father Jean would look at Rav Henri and begin cracking up, which was contagious, so that Rav Henri began cracking up as well, and both laughed hysterically for a few moments.
Père Jean asked: “Do you remember when we used to listen to Bishop Vincent and begin laughing uncontrollably?”
Rav Henri nodded his head up and down: “Yes.”
Père Jean then said: “What would you ask if the Messiah showed his face right now?”
Rav Henri replied: “Is this your first time here, or have you been here before?”
Père Jean began laughing hysterically again. “How would you know it’s the Messiah?” he asked.
Rav Henri replied without a pause: “Because a special rainbow would appear in the sky at the same time. The Talmud says this is one of the signs.”
Père Jean said: “You Jews have everything figured out, don’t you?”
Rav Henri said: “Proving we have the superior religion.”
Père Jean said: “If so, why would you ask that if it was his first time? You would know it was the Messiah’s first and only time.”
Rav Henri thought a moment before replying: “Just to make sure it was our Messiah and not a false Messiahs like yours.”
Père Jean said: “You mean there will be two Messiahs?”
Rav Henri said: “Just one true one and lots of fakes.”
Father Jean began cracking up again. His broad face turned red, and his habit began shaking.
Rav Henri was concerned: “Father. Be careful or you might bust a gut.”
Father Jean said: “Thank you for your concern. I’m a devoted Christian, but personally I think the whole Messiah business is overrated.”
Rav Henri asked: “How so?”
Father Jean said: “To hinge the authenticity of a whole religion on one facet of it is a stretch. Plus, the End of Days might be so far in the future that everyone on Earth is dead, so no one will know if there’s a Messiah, and if so, if it’s his first or second visit. Or, maybe the Messiah will have been here many times, not just once before.
Rav Henri said: “So it wouldn’t necessarily be the Second Coming. It might be the tenth, or hundredth, or thousandth, or millionth.”
Father Jean said: “Right.”
Rav Henri said: “Would it matter how many times?”
Father Jean was silent.
Rav Henri then said: “That’s why our religion is better than yours. We are a religion of deeds, not beliefs. It doesn’t matter if there is a Messiah, and if there is, how many times he has shown up, or even whether he shows up at all. We still have to live our lives and be good people.”
Father Jean began laughing again.
Rav Henri asked: “What’s so funny, my friend?”
Father Jean said, after calming down: “The whole conversation is absurd. Is there a Messiah? If there is, how many times will he show up, if he shows up at all? Sometimes I think all believers, Jews and Christians, are crazy. To think there is more to life than meets the eye–this seems nuts. There is no way to prove any of this, so why argue about what are really the fine points of nonsense.”
Rav Henri said: “I’m shocked to hear you say this, Father. I thought you were a devout member of the cloth.”
Father Jean began laughing again, turning red. “Looks deceive, Rav Henri. Let’s have a glass of wine together and toast to our friendship, ideas be damned!”
“Good idea,” Rav Henri said.
They then walked arm in arm to the wine cellar at Rav Henri’s vineyard, popped the cork on a bottle of old Bordeaux, poured two large tumblers of wine, and toasted “Le Chaim. To the mysteries of the Universe.” After toasting, both of them began to laugh hysterically, and for a short time, laughter was all there was.
“Oh,” said Rav Henri: “I almost forgot: Happy birthday! May you live to 120! That is how we Jews wish people happy birthday, and how I have been wishing you happy birthday these forty years.