Informed Judaism

Lucy December isn’t just a vampire.  She’s Jewish.

Are you done laughing yet?  Cool.  Let’s look at this seriously for a moment.

Obviously, the big temptation is to leave her with Informed Judaism.  It’s easy, after all – I am ethnically Jewish (among other things), but religiously Protestant.  It takes work to get into the right mindset for her.  Moreover, Lucy’s Judaism doesn’t exactly match the current modern Jewish sects or denominations.  Her personal religion is a mishmash of various types of Judaism throughout the centuries mixed with sheer pragmatism from her situation.

For example, she cannot keep kosher.  She has to drink blood.  She can’t worship or celebrate when she is supposed to.  By nature, it ends up a more personal faith out of necessity – the same necessity that caused the Jews to set up the Synagogue system when they could no longer worship at Solomon’s Temple or Moses’s Tabernacle.  It’s how she has to live, so it is how she lives.

In a way, the whole thing is a metaphor.  The Jews have spent centuries – milennia – cut off from their Land, their Temple, their promises.  Forced to roam around the world, always hated and persecuted – what could give a bigger feeling of isolation?  of being cut off?  In a way, the fact that Lucy is tainted by her nature as an undead monster turns her into a microcosm of the concept.  She is cut off from her people, but clings to faith that maybe, just maybe, there is some sort of redemption waiting for her at the end.

In fact, a lot of Lucy’s personal faith comes from the Book of Esther, or at least the concepts contained theirein – that God still takes care of His people, even the ones who are disobedient or cut off.  The Jews featured in that book are the disobedient ones who never returned to Israel, who named themselves after pagan gods (Mordecai = Marduk; Esther = Ishtar), who didn’t pray or mention God, and who were corrupt to the point that Mordecai whored out his cousin.  And yet, they are still protected with the hope of eventual redemption.  So that’s her hope.

One other little detail is that she still has a box of her family’s old heirlooms: A copy of the Torah, a mezuzah, and a set of tefillin (phylacteries).  She owns them even though touching them or having them in the open harms her.  They play a role in this story.

So yes, Lucy as a Jewish vampire means more than occasional kosher jokes.  And now, as a bonus, here’s a tiny little scene from near the end of Vintage Soul.  Of course, this is technically part of a draft – until the book is up for sale, it is alwyas a draft and subject to change:

“What are those things?” Jim asked.

“Well,” I said. “They’re both kind of like my Torah. See, the mezuzah is a little box containing a scrap of scripture. It’s because Moses really emphasized learning the Torah, and said that you should hang it by your door.”

“That’s a little literal-minded,” he said.

I chuckled.

“You should see the tefillim,” I said, and showed Jim the phylactery that I had not just pocketed. “This is a tefillah – a phylactery. See, another metaphor for memorization was to carry it with you on your arm or rite it on your forehead – the Torah, I mean. So these are a pair of leather boxes that you’re supposed to strap onto your arm and forehead during certain prayer times.”

He stared at me.

“It’s a faith thing,” I said. “We know this wasn’t the original meaning, but you’re still carrying some of the words of God on your head. And these were all owned by my family. My real family, before, y’know… before any of this.”

“Damn, how old are they?” Jim asked.

I shrugged. “About eight centuries, give or take a few decades,” I said.

“And that thing is made out of leather?” he asked. “It’s in really good shape for its age.”

“Well, the strap rotted over time,” I said. “So I got it replaced.”

“And the box?”

“That one fell apart much later, so I replaced it, too.”

“And this is somehow still your eight hundred-year-old family heirloom?”

I gave him a look. “The parchment inside is the same,” I said. “But even if it had turned to dust and I had replaced it with a new one, the phylactery would still be my heirloom. I never threw the whole thing out, I just repaired what was needed. It still has the idea of the old phylactery – the truth of the thing is there. That’s how faith works, Jim. As a whole this is my family’s tefillah, even if the parts have been changed. Truth doesn’t vanish because you repaired what was broken. Truth never goes away.  Faith is knowing that truth exists even when logic fails.”



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