Apr 11 2012 9:30am

Matzah For Thought: Judaism, Empathy and a Taste of the Passover Seder

Touched by an Alien by Gini KochOne of the things I love about the service/meal that serves as the spiritual center of Passover, the Seder, is the forum it provides for discussion. It’s very easy for Seder participants to get lost in a topic and continue discussing it, as it’s said one group of Rabbis did, until the early morning hours. In honor of those discussions, I give you some interesting Passover style food for thought.

“I am a Jew because in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.” —Edmund Fleg

This piece is taken from one of my family’s favorite readings from our Passover Haggaddah, called “I am a Jew.” And reading it got me thinking.

There have been some interesting examples in paranormal romance over the past few years, where a Jewish heroine is shown to have empathy for her paranormal hero’s struggle; whether it’s due to faith or the fact that by nature of their history, Jewish people are seen to understand the struggle of the oppressed. Here are two different examples of this idea.

The first, in Touched by An Alien by Gini Koch:

“So your religion, is it something someone chooses?”

“No. We’re born to it. We aren’t pretending—we may not all look alike, but we’re all related by blood somewhere traceable, back to about twenty or so original family units from centuries ago.”

There it was. I thought this had sounded vaguely familiar. I hugged him tightly. “It’s okay, Jeff. I’m not horrified or turned off or even mildly shocked. After all, we Chosen people from different planets have to stick together.”

Under Her Skin Anthology by Jeaniene Frost et al.The second, in “Pack,” by Jeaniene Frost:

“Gray wolves were taken off the endangered species list a few months ago,” Daniel said, his expression hooded. “The government did it, knowing what would happen. Before the ink was dry, scores of wolves were killed. They’re trying to eliminate all wolves again. What Gabriel did was wrong, but I know what drove him to it. You can’t understand what it’s like, having people try to wipe out your very existence.”

His voice was bitter. I set my coffee cup down with a bang. “I’m Jewish. Don’t tell me I can’t understand what that’s like.”

After a long moment, Daniel inclined his head. We sat in silence, but oddly, it wasn’t tense silence. It was as if we’d come to an unspoken understanding.

Does taking up this particular idea allow authors to deal more effectively with contemporary issues, and ground their paranormally based stories in a reality their readers are more familiar with? Or is there something else at work?

Enjoy your food for thought, and whatever holiday you happen to be celebrating this week.


Stacey aka @nystacey

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Darlene Marshall
1. DarleneMarshall
An interesting question, and it made me think about an incident last year when I was at a Passover supper (not the seder, but later) in Jerusalem. A rabbi at the table pinned me with a look from blue-eyes like laser beams and asked me if I felt I had an obligation as a novelist to write "moral" fiction. I wonder if by searching for the shared empathy in paranormals, these authors are looking for a statement about morality in their fiction?
Keri Peardon
2. Keri Peardon
In many ways, I use my writing to explore Judaism. I’m getting ready to publish my first novel in a paranormal trilogy, and my vampires are either Jews by birth or very Jew-positive Gentiles. The vampires based their entire culture on Jewish culture: their government and court system resembles the Sanhedrin; their laws of morality are based on Jewish laws; they’re monotheistic and base their creation myths on the Bible; their historic “capital” has always been Jerusalem.

I specifically deal with the question of “Who is a Jew?” in the second book, when the question comes up of whether a vampire who was born a Jew can still be a Jew, and how do you deal with the necessity of drinking blood? One of my secular Jewish vampires and one who is observant get into this discussion and both make fairly compelling arguments (although I think my observant Jew wins!). While they’re talking about vampires, everything they say is applicable to every Jew in the world right now; too many of us are judging the relative Jewishness of everyone else. They also hit a sore point among Jewish converts when they mention that some of their (Jewish) humans refuse to acknowledge them as legitimate Jews. Things said against them are things which are said against real converts.
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