The Unincluded People

anti-circumcision-rally

Found at Jewish Business News – No photo credit available

Jeremiah Katz never thought he’d see this day, not in America. His youngest grandson, named after his deceased senior uncle, Ezekiel Katz zt”l, at his bris (some of the Goyim call it the Jewish name day), and the mohel, Bernie Posner says afterwards that he’s getting harassing phone calls and texts.

“What’s all this?” Jeremiah, his son Michael, Bernie, and some of the other men were on the back patio sipping drinks and speaking in hushed whispers in case the neighbors were listening.

“It’s true,” Bernie put his hand on Jeremiah’s forearm as if to emphasize his words. “The cowards won’t even use their real names. These anti-semites say it’s harmful to our sons and even barbaric. I know two other mohels going through the same thing.”

“Have you called the police?” Michael had never faced this sort of thing the way his elders had and still had a tough time believing it.

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The Karma of Rachel Silverstein

jewish quarter

Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem – Found at Israel Tours.

Rachel Silverstein found the Torah stifling. She’d been born and raised in Crown Heights, the home of the followers of the Rebbe in Brooklyn, and when she was twenty, she took a sabbatical to study in Israel.

“But Rabbi, our traditions and practices are so primitive. I don’t understand why a woman can’t be a Rabbi, or daven wearing tefillin and a tallit. Didn’t Hashem create us all, men and woman in His image?

Rachel and Rabbi Bergman were walking together in the Jewish quarter of the Old City on a pleasant spring afternoon on a Thursday discussing her struggles with being an observant Jew.

“I fear you left home to pursue a secular education too soon.”

“There’s nothing wrong with wanted to broaden your horizons. Most of the Haradi here study Talmud to the exclusion of even basic mathematics.”

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What’s Wrong with Putting Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories?

parallel universes

Found at numerous publications including TrendInTech.com – Not image credit available

I just finished reading a blog post called Of Permanent Things, Part II written by my friend and Holocaust educator Dan Hennessy. It reminded me of the importance of including religious and spiritual themes in fiction writing, including science (speculative) fiction and fantasy.

I’m in the process of producing first drafts of two novels. The first is about five children mysteriously transported into a fantasy world of dragons, demons, and elves having to undergo a heroic journey and facing danger and adventure at every turn. The second is about a fifteen-year-old African-American girl taking up her recently deceased Grandpa’s journey into a Steampunk world in order to help a younger version of her Grandpa stop a corrupt tycoon from destroying both of their universes.

While I don’t make it explicit in the fantasy novel, the five Davidson children are Jewish. No, they’re not observant, and aside from the occasional mention of praying (usually when the situation is very grim), I have, at best, cast them in the role of Reform Jews. Why I’ve made them Jewish as opposed to generic “white kids” will become apparent only in the latter portion of the third novel where their journey will be finally resolved.

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Release

sparks

Sparks from a fire rising into the night sky. Photo credit: unknown.

It had been nearly a century since the fall. He didn’t think he’d had a sense of time while his soul was being seared in its fiery crucible, but he had been aware of the passing of every day, every hour, and even the tiniest second of torture, shame, and regret.

That it had taken him so long to reach a state of correction and purification was a testament to his stubborn nature and moral weakness. All he had to do was give up his sins and make true teshuvah, but even once mortal life had departed his flesh, he continued to cling to his darkness.

Yet little by little, with the passage of time and in the company of incredible horrors, and even more horrible spirits, he progressed toward that goal which most human souls eventually achieve; a reconciliation with the Source.

Today was the day. He continued to rise through the stench and stale, smoky air of Hell, his sojourn in the realm of misery finally finished. Like a Divine spark, he flew high above the blaze, the inferno becoming a fading memory, as he soared into the fresh atmosphere of freedom and redemption. He was going home.

I wrote this for Saturday Mix – Opposing Forces, 26 May 2018 hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Today, the idea is to take a pair of antithetical statements and use them in a poem, short story, or other creative work. They are:

  • fresh and stale
  • rise and fall

I bolded those words in the body of my story so readers could pick them out better.

I admit, the first thing I thought of was “bread” or “cake” but I decided to write something more interesting instead.

In Christianity, it is generally believed that you either go to Heaven or Hell when you die and that your stay is permanent and eternal, However, some branches of Judaism believe that except for the most evil souls (Stalin, Hitler), if your sins outweigh your merits at death, Hell is a horrible crucible wherein you may continue to confront your dark nature, and ideally, with the passage of time, make teshuvah (repentance) and eventually merit release to the Heavenly court to be reunited with the Source.

I thought I’d create a brief chronicle of my character’s “graduation.” I’m sure I’m not doing the concept justice, but after all, this is just a brief sketch.

Prejudice of the Tolerant

kippah

A man wears a kippa. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Aaron and Esther Silverstein were walking hand-in-hand in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montreal. It was only a five hour drive from Boston, and now that they were retired, the older couple had the time to take relaxing visits to all of the wonderful places that had always surrounded them through their long and busy careers.

“Excuse me, Sir.” A uniformed security guard approached the couple. “If I could just get you to step aside for a moment.”

Puzzled but compliant, the married couple followed the official out of the flow of other patrons.

“Sir, I am sorry, but you’ll have to remove your headwear.”

It took a moment for Aaron to realize that he meant his kippah. “I’m afraid there is some sort of misunderstanding. You see, I’m Jewish, and as part of my religion, I…”

“Yes sir, I am aware that you are Jewish, however it is museum policy that no symbols or items partisan or religious be publicly displayed here. I’m very sorry, but you must remove your headwear immediately. It is for your own safety.”

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Raising Jews

weeding

Found at Balcony Garden Web

Jeff and Peter went together about as well as wine and Twinkies, but they were next door neighbors, and unless one of them moved, there was no helping it.

The former was weeding the flowerbed in his backyard for the umpteenth time when the latter called out over the fence. “I’m having a Bible study over at the clubhouse next Sunday afternoon. I think you’d find it interesting.

It wasn’t that Jeff wasn’t a Christian, but he wasn’t Catholic or anything near it. “Pretty sure Leah has something planned for that afternoon. Sorry, Peter.” He wasn’t sorry, and he’d have to see if Leah wanted to go out for lunch and maybe a movie that day.

“It’s not like we’re going to sprinkle you with holy water or anything. Look, I’m going to be getting sandwiches and drinks at the drive-thru after services get out at “Sign of the Cross.” Come on, it’ll be fun. I’m sure you have some pretty interesting insights about Jesus.”

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That Which is of Good Repute

big brother

Image from the film “Nineteen-Eighty Four (1984).

Warning: This is a work of fiction but also a controversial commentary involving social movements, political positions, and religions and it might not be considered “politically correct” by some or most. If you believe you might become upset or offended by a minority point of view (from my perspective), please stop reading now. Thank you.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NASB)

Joseph Kelley closed his Bible and sighed. “Yes, but what does the world consider true, honorable, right, and pure these days?”

He got up from his bed where he’d been reading, walked into the small closet and felt on the wall behind his jackets. There he found the hidden panel and pressed the three catches in a particular order to release it. With the panel open, he put the Bible back in alongside his concordance, a torn and aging copy of C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity,” and his dear departed wife’s Stone Edition Tanakh. Then he sealed the panel again and rearranged the clothes hangers so his treasure trove was again concealed.

Of course, he had memorized the contacts list for his cell of fellow believers. That was the one thing he could never commit to writing or any other record. Even if he were caught and they found his contraband, they would (hopefully) believe he was a rogue and not part of a larger group or fellowship.

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Thy Kingdom Come on Earth

thunderstorm

Our Father who art in Zion
Hallowed be Thy name
Thy Kingdom come on earth
Thine will be done on earth
Hallowed be Thy name

From “Our Father in Zion”
Performed by Buju Banton
Songwriters: Donovan Germain / Mark Anthony Myrie (1997)

Brian Phelps stood on his back patio and looked out over the fence at the elementary school. It was a Friday and the kids were all tearing around the playground during recess. Being self-employed meant he didn’t have to punch a clock or commute to work beyond taking a fresh cup of coffee from the kitchen into his office and then sitting down at his computer and working on the next chapter of his novel.

Today, he didn’t feel like writing. Well, that was a lie. He always felt like writing, but he didn’t know how to write this one. A few days ago, yet another shooting happened at a public school. Seventeen people died, most of them students. Brian looked at the children happily playing on the school grounds. “It could just as easily have been you.”

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The Moon At My Shoulder

moon

© Justin Peters

“I must be dreaming. I mean, you can’t be God.”

“Yes, you are dreaming and I am a manifestation of the Almighty that won’t totally blow your mind.”

Lucas Todd still felt like his mind was being blown. He’d just been accepted into UCLA’s Astronomy and Astrophysics graduate program. Ever since his Dad told him about watching Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon on television, he wanted to go there, too.

NASA’s manned space program had gotten pretty disappointing since then. His Dad always thought he’d see a permanent Lunar Base or maybe even a colony being established during his lifetime, but poor Dad died of cancer last year. Lucas didn’t want Dad’s dreams to die with him.

If either NASA or a private space agency was going to establish that Moon Base, then Lucas was determined to be a part of it

“I mean, I don’t even believe in God, well not really.”

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One Cold Saturday Morning

log sofa

© Fandango

He had to make a few trips from the house to the rough-hewn log bench his son had carved out for him. He took first his books and reference notes, then a pillow and warm blanket, and finally his large, steaming coffee mug.

He made himself comfortable in the center seat with his mug and books on the left, then took a sip of his coffee savoring the flavor.

Then he picked up his Chumash. He always studied alone both because he enjoyed solitude and because he had few if any like-minded companions. The older man found a greater appreciation of God sitting on the wood, beneath the trees and sky, feeling the chill of a winter’s morning. The world had grown cold, like the season, and only at home could he be free to acknowledge a Creator greater than humanity.

He opened the Chumash to where he left the bookmark and began. “Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines…”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 23, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

The “log sofa” actually looks pretty physically uncomfortable, particularly in winter, but it also looked “emotionally” comfortable.

When the weather is nice, on Saturday mornings, I take my Chumash, Tanakh, Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, and perhaps my NASB Bible and various study resources out onto the front porch to read and study. A cup of coffee also goes with me.

I don’t have log furniture, but I do have a wicker sofa and table I can use. It’s pleasant and warm in the morning sunshine.

Although my wife (who is Jewish) calls me a Christian, I study the Bible using the traditional annual Torah cycle and tend to interpret even what most people call the “New Testament” in a more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel perspective rather than what is preached in most churches every Sunday (which is just one of the many reasons I don’t attend formal worship services).

The Torah reading for this coming Shabbat is Beshalach from which I quoted the first sentence as found at BibleGateway.com (I used the NASB translation because the Stone Edition Chumash is not online).

My understanding is that Torah or Bible study is considered in Judaism as a form of worship and drawing nearer to God, so some of my Holiest moments occur on my front porch in the morning sunshine. I decided to create this sort of experience for my character as well, particularly given a world that indeed (my opinion) has gone cold to morality, decency, and devotion to the Almighty.

For those of you who have a different religious preference or who have none at all, what I’m presenting here is a personal perspective. I am not preaching or expecting to “evangelize” in any way. In the spirit of “inclusiveness,” if you don’t agree with my viewpoints, please allow me have them nonetheless, for as much evil as the mainstream media has blamed “religion” for, people of faith have also done a great deal of good. I’m not all that good, but having faith isn’t about being perfect. It’s about striving to become a better person toward other people by drawing closer to God.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.