Forgive me, but I forgot to announced that the Reading Group discussion questions for ENCHANTRESS are on my website. There are 16 for readers to consider and 3 for the author that I answered. Appropriate for this week as we approach Yom Kippur, Q16 asks ďWhat role does forgiveness play in the novel?Ē
Here's the link
Itís now about halfway between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which means Iíve answered 5 of the 10 online questions for the 10Q program, a spiritual exercise where each day between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I receive an email, reminding me to log into their website and answer a different question. Earlier this week I received an email with my answers to last yearís questions, and it was enlightening to see where I was last September compared to this one.
Not just for Jews, 10Q is a great way for anyone to look back at the year thatís past, look ahead at the year to come, and take stock. To give you a taste, here are the first 5 questions:
1. Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?
2. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?
3. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?
4. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?
5. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.
I havenít come up with an answer to #5 yet, and itís OK if I donít. Nobody knows how Iíve answered except me. I know I blogged about this last year, but for those who didnít see my post or just need a reminder, itís not too late to sign up.
Now something completely serious as we head to Erev Rosh Hashana services tonight. Torah portion: Lean In article from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal". Itís an excellent combination of teaching Talmud and HHD preparation from my rabbi, Lisa Edwards.
Now for something completely different. Here's 10 silly Jewish moment from SNL to enjoy as we get ready for Days of Awe [then comes 10 days to contemplate our sins and atone for them]. Shana Tovah. Thanks to JTA
This week I came across a controversy in the Jewish Review of Books over whether the increasing amount of Holocaust fiction is a good thing. Hereís my 2 cents worth:
I ďdiscoveredĒ the Holocaust in 1962, when I was 12 years old, by reading Exodus. It had a tremendous effect on me, a secular Jew who never imagined that millions of my people had been murdered merely because of their religion, as it sunk in that my family too would have been victims if my grandparents hadnít emigrated to America. For years I sought out books about the Holocaust Ė Night, the Painted Bird, and Anne Frankís Diary among the most memorable Ė but by 1980 Iíd stopped.
Maybe becoming a mother had made me too sensitive, but I could no longer bear another description of the death camps, the packed trains, the gas chambers, and the myriad stories of those whoíd somehow survived [or hadn't]. I knew I wouldnít forget; I didnít need to be reminded. I didnít need a new voice, a new viewpoint. Genug shoin Ė enough already.
So I tend to agree with Amy Newman Smith. There are far too many mediocre pseudo-survivor memoirs. Yes, many people found love in the ashes, but Holocaust romance as a genre is obscene. But I can also agree with Erika Dreyfus. If authors donít keep writing Holocaust fiction, the time may come when no one will remember or know about it. Sometimes it seems that time is almost here.
True, I study Talmud because this is my peopleís holy text and we are commanded to study Torah [which I define, like the Rabbis do, in the broad sense]. But I also study Talmud because this is the link between the Torah with its Temple sacrifices and hereditary priesthood and how Jews today actually practice our religion. My brain appreciates the Talmudís intellectual rigor and my heart its many amazing tales of life in third-fifth century Babylonia.
But most of all, studying Talmud is fun. I was interviewed in CJ Voices, the magazine of Conservative Judaism, about why I think more Jews, especially women and non-Orthodox, should study Talmud. Hereís the link
Ironically, I probably never would have studied Talmud if I werenít a woman. And I never would have noticed the encyclopedia error about Rashiís family either. Read my guest post for JOFA blog on how being a woman propelled my research for my historical novels.
Nothing makes me happier than when readers ask me how they too can study Talmud. While an easy, and evasive, answer would be to tell them to consult a rabbi, I can now tell them that Talmud study can be done online. In olden days, as long ago as in Rashiís time 900 years ago, a student began by first learning Mishnah, usually when he was about 10 years old. It typically took 3 years to mastering this Hebrew text, which was compiled in Eretz Israel in about 200 CE. Only then did he advance to study Gemara of the Babylonia Talmud.
Students today can follow this traditional path by signing up for Mishnah Yomit, where a piece of Mishnah is delivered daily, along with translation and commentary, via email. Iíve been doing this for several years and it only takes about 15 minutes a day. Whether itís bashert or coincidence, the program has just begun learning Mishnah Yoma, the tractate concerned with Yom Kippur. Perfect timing for High Holiday prep.
Want to start swimming in the sea of Talmud? Hereís the link.
Somehow ten days have gone by since the Sept 2 pub date for my new historical novel/fantasy ENCHANTRESS. Iíve heard complaints about my writing that several prominent Talmudic rabbis cast spells, despite them being real historical figures and ďmagic being against Jewish Law.Ē Iíve tried to defend myself that pointing out that I didnít invent these things; my scenes of rabbinic magic come directly from the Talmud itself.
In preparation for Shabbat, I offer more about my research into ancient Jewish magic, which I drew upon for my novel. Here's the link to a guest post I wrote for the Lilith Magazine blog. Here youíll learn why magic was so prevalent during Talmudic times and how the Rabbis got around the Torah saying ďyou shall not tolerate a sorceress to live.Ē
The review of ENCHANTRESS on this book blog, Shomeret: the Masked Reviewer, is one of the best Iíve read. And I donít mean that she thinks the book is fabulous, but rather the review is thoughtful, in depth, and discusses both what she likes and what disappoints. It impressed me that she actually read the book Ė not, like other reviewers I wonít name, who skimmed it or merely relied on my publicistís press release.
A bonus is a Q&A with me in which I answer, among other questions: What would you say to people who maintain that itís unthinkable that Rabbis of the generation that created the Talmud could have consulted astrologers?
A great blog on Historical Fiction, Reading the Past where I do a guest post titled: Historical Fiction vs. Historical Fantasy Ė Which is it? Youíll need to scroll down to get to the Sept 2 entry.
My publicist and I have made a major effort to get ENCHANTRESS onto the blogosphere, with the result that Iíve done a dozen guest posts and/or Q&A for various websites, both Jewish and book-related. Instead of dumping them here all at once, Iím going to start listing them only one a day. For Shabbat, hereís a Jewish one, where I do a guest post for Erika Dreyfus on the Three Surprising Things I learned about Jewish History while researching ENCHANTRESS.