Monday, January 23, 2006


Forget WWJD. Never mind WWMD. It's time for "WWGS?"

That's right -- what would Grandma say?

I read a book this weekend and I just knew as I was reading it that my Grandmother wouldn't like it. She wouldn't like it for the same reason that she didn't like The Red Tent. You see, my Grandma doesn't like to air our dirty laundry in public. Thus any book that suggests that our Biblical ancestors are anything less than exemplary citizens is akin to airing the aforementioned linens.

I enjoyed Rebecca Kohn's Seven Days to the Sea. Like Anita Diamant's Red Tent, this book is a wonderful example of modern midrash. The author masterfully weaves text, Rabbinic midrash, contemporary scholarship, and imagination to compose a story that breathes life into previously flat characters. This is one person's idea of what might have happened. I do not believe that it is meant to "tell it like it was." Rather, Ms. Kohn provides us with one more way to understand our family's story.

I do understand, however, my Grandmother's reluctance to stories that mess with our heroes. This Miryam (Kohn's spelling) is unlike Debbie Friedman's Miriam who dances so triumphantly and joyfully, with timbrel in hand. This Miryam reflects the bitterness of her name and is quite deserving of tzora'at as punishment for her deep-seeded resentment and jealousy. In this account, it is clear why Miryam alone receives God's judgement.

Throughout the reading, I was aware of a discomfort I had with the story. I just didn't like this Miryam. She certainly did not possess the qualities I had attributed to her. And in this book, she was not likeable.

Having left Genesis for this year, I know that each time I read Miryam's story throughout the remaining four books, my perception of her will be changed. Ultimately, I believe, for the better. I now can imagine a three-dimensional character that is more like me than I had ever envisioned. I can understand the pettiness and resentment and relate to it far more personally than to the whirling dervish I'd taken her to be.

WWGS? She's say that she didn't like the book.

As for me? The grain of sand causes discomfort for the oyster. In the end, that same irritant produces a pearl.


PepGiraffe said...

I can't believe that the last two out of three posts here are about shilshul and you are still the front runner (far and away) at the JIB awards. hee hee

Rivster said...

I'm telling one is actually reading this stuff. They're just voting cuz of the cute picture :)

PepGiraffe said...

Oh . . . . Well, PepDad (Dadster?) sent an email to everyone saying that in addition to voting for you, it was worth reading as well. Also, do you have a reader meter on your site? Then you'd know for sure. That's how I know I have one faithful reader in Japan. Of course, I also know that because she told me, but still . . . .

Rivster said...

I now have a site meter and I love it! I now know that my readership extends mei arbah kanfot haaretz -- who knew??