Or should it be sex, death, and marriage? Hello from the depth of my creative cave.
I’ve been offline for a long time (sorry) trying to dig my way through this novel about Abigail, her husband, Ben, and his brother, Daniel, all of whom are caught in the love triangle that is a Levirate marriage (or yibbum as it is known in Hebrew).
It’s been slow going – unfortunately, I’ve thrown out somewhere in the region of 50,000 words – but I am now beginning to believe again that this novel will come to an end and will be published sometime this year.
In terms of actual progress, I’ve written around 60,000 keep-able words of the draft; I’ve killed the husband, Ben; and I am creating a tension between Abigail and Daniel that is starting to get momentum.
There is sex, but this is more than a novel about sex – it is about people and their decisions, their lives, their relationship with Judaism and community and family. Who am I kidding? It is also about sex and how it can drive us, blind us and generally muddy the water when it comes to life.
One of other big challenges is working out just how Levirate marriage laws apply in contemporary Orthodox Judaism – and what that means for the plot. It has not been as simple as I had initially imagined it would be and I am going to have to seek halachic guidance from a rabbi. But more on that later…
If you would like to hear about the book’s release (and any associated deals I might run), please join my mailing list. I promise you won’t be spammed, in fact, I am naughty for not having sent out an email in …forever!
I know it may seem like all is quiet on the Shosha front, but in truth in between the demands of life, I am slowly working away on a couple of projects – one of which is a novel with a Levirate marriage (in Hebrew, a yibbum) as the central narrative concern.
Interestingly, the concept of a Levirate marriage can be found in a number of different cultures and religions. In Judaism, the basic obligation of the law is that if a married man dies childless, his brother is required to marry his window and his widow is obliged to marry her deceased husband’s brother – thus ensuring a continuation of the genetic line of the deceased man.
Fortunately, in Judaism there is a get out of jail free card. Performing the ritual of halizah allows either (or both) party to be released from the obligations of the Levirate marriage. Once halizah occurs, both parties can go off and marry whoever they choose. (Obviously, there’s more to it. Wikipedia has some good overview articles on Levirate marriage, yibbum and halizahif you are interested.)
My story’s coming along nicely – the idea has so much dramatic (and romantic) potential. Doing some research during chol hamoed Pesach – the intermediary days of Passover – I stumbled across a movie on the subject.
Loving Leah follows the story of Jake and Leah. Leah has recently been widowed by her rabbi husband, Benjamin. When Benjamin’s non-observant brother Jake is required to perform the halizah ceremony he backs out – and suddenly Jake and Leah are married.
Loving Leah is a Hallmark movie. I think it’s interesting that Hallmark went with a subject like this, but if you’re looking for sex scenes, you’re going to be disappointed with this film. Nonetheless, it’s cute – so if you are interested in watching it, you will find below a the trailer and the full movie (I’m assuming the full movie is unauthorized, but I have heard rumours that sometimes content providers allow unauthorized sharing and split the profits from advertising revenues. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair, right?).
For anyone who has any insights on Levirate marriages/yibbum or halizah, please comment below or send me an email, message me on Facebook or tweet me. In my other life I’m doing some academic research for my Masters’ Degree on the subject and I would love to hear from you.
Hope you all had a good Passover – full of liberation and redemption.
PS. The picture is Rembrandt’s painting of Yehudah (Judah) and Tamar – perhaps the most famous story exemplifying the Levirate marriage.
I’m late, I’m so sorry! I know I promised a January release of my story, ‘Her Neighbor’s Pleasure’, but life (read: family, work, other stuff) just gets in the way sometimes. The exciting news is, however, that I have sent the story off to my proof-reader which means we’re nearly there!!
What I’m looking for now are a few early readers willing to leave a review of the book on Amazon (or on one of the other online retailers where it will be available) so that the book doesn’t look all lonely and sad when it is published.
What do you think? Would you like to get an early copy (free, of course) and leave me an honest review?If so, just send me an email and let me know that you’re in.
Shana tova – I hope you all had a meaningful Yom Kippur and an easy fast. It feels great to be on the other side of YK and waiting for the excitement of Sukkot. I love Sukkot as I discussed in my piece for Jewrotica last year.
First of all, I apologize to any of you who I have offended – or to those of you who I have disappointed by keeping so quiet over the past few months. I have resumed my university studies; this combined with my job and my family means my time for Shosha stories (and anything else fun) has been severely limited. Plus, every time I thought of something to post on my website it was Elul or the Yamin Noraim and it seemed inappropriate to be talking about such frivolous things.
But YK is over and we can get back to talking dirty. I am finally making headway with my story, ‘Her Neighbor’s Pleasure’. It’s crazy that it has taken me so long to get to this point, but it’s not for want of trying or commitment. As you can see, I have settled on a cover for the book – and not one that I displayed in my earlier post. I just hope you all like the story now!
Wishing you all a shana tova u’metuka. Let’s make 5776 a year of wonder
I get annoyed when discussions around the mikveh are sanitized – when the sex is left out and it’s all about babies.
I’ll explain. Last Motsei Shabbat I was at a women’s fahbregen for a friend’s birthday. It was very pleasant and very chassidish. At some point in the evening, the rebbetzin gave a dvar Torah about this week’s parsha, Chukat. She talked about Miriam dying, about Moshe hitting the rock to get water which became known as Miriam’s Well. She explained that the well was not just the source of drinking water and the place where things were washed – it was also the mikveh. Without Miriam’s Well, she explained, Bnei Yisrael would have had no mikveh, which meant they would not have been able to have children.
Of course, this is a totally reasonable reading of the parsha, but as soon as I heard it I wanted to call out: Well, actually, no, Miriam’s Well meant that Bnei Yisrael could have sex (and then maybe, as a result, have babies)! To represent the mikveh as purely being about reproduction and Jewish continuity (important though they are) seemed to me to be missing an essential element of social and marital stability: sex.
Not so long before, Bnei Yisrael had actively chosen to abstain from marital intimacy because of pharoah’s edict to kill any Jewish baby boys born. How much more, then, was the freedom from Egypt and the provision of a constant water source (and thus a mikveh) a reason to have sex!? Surely it is just as important to celebrate the liberty of the Jewish people which allowed for a normalization of familial existence – including having sex! To me, this seemed a pretty important detail to wash over (pun intended).
I get annoyed when people don’t acknowledge sex. We are Jewish and sex has been heralded by chazal and their spiritual and intellectual descendants as fundamental to a balanced existence. I’m all for being contextually appropriate, but what’s wrong with acknowledging the intimacy that can create new life? I see no reason to sanitize something so beautiful among a group of women: to acknowledge (even in passing) that Miriam’s Well was the channel through which Jewish husbands and wives could be together.
It’s a mitzvah after all.
I didn’t rant until I returned home and spoke to my husband. But the issue is still sitting with me – so I am sharing my grievance with you and ask that we don’t sanitize the sex!
I finally finished the first draft of my latest story (yay!), which is currently called ‘Her Neighbor’s Pleasure’. The title’s a bit of a give-away, but for those who haven’t worked it out, it’s about a woman who witnesses her neighbors having sex …and, as a result, her world is turned upside down.
I’m really quite excited about the story, but it needs a redraft and edit, so it might be a little while until it is released. But my aim is to make this happen as soon as possible.
In the meantime, however, if you are looking for something to read in the area of frum erotica, have you taken a look at Jayde Blumenthal?
This week I finally managed to read some of her work. I read Dirty Denim Girl: A grownup Jewish bedtime story (which was a quick, spicy read) and I’ve also bought her Hassidic Passion trilogy, which I’m only a little way into, but I’m already looking forward to finding out what happens between Raizy and Beryl! Her writing is good, the plots are interesting and her characters resonate.
Jayde Blumenthal has an impressive catalogue of stories to choose from and I would love to know what you think of her stories (as I am sure she would!). From what I can see, they are all set in a frum context, but I’m not sure just how taboo her subject matter gets (I haven’t come across anything assur to this point). If you’re willing to do some exploring, I think you’ll be rewarded.
Earlier this month, a new Canadian film dealing with sexual tension in an (ultra) Orthodox framework was released for general viewing in cinemas.
The film, ‘Felix and Meira’ (‘Felix et Meira’ in French, the language in which it is produced), explores the relationship that develops between a frum married woman, Meira, and a non-religious Jewish man, Felix. Their relationship as it develops from friendship to something more, results in Meira being exposed to a world outside of her chassidic community and causes her to question everything about her existence.
I love seeing how writers and filmmakers handle the tension that builds when people start to look at their life in a different way. From a storyteller’s perspective, Meira’s struggle intrigues me, as does the reaction of the people around her.
Because I haven’t yet seen it, I can’t be sure about details of the film, but it looks like it might push relationship and behavioural boundaries further than than I do in my writing …but I can’t be sure!
Although reviews appear to be mixed, I am looking forward to seeing it. Let me know what you think if you already have.
‘Let’s Bench’, my most recent short fiction piece, was published by Jewrotica last month.
If you haven’t yet read any of my other stories, or if the only ones you have read are the original two on this site – ‘Fringes of Memory‘ and ‘Before the Canopy‘ – then you will see that my latest tale turns up the heat (although for those of you who have read ‘I Will Watch You‘, you will know this is not the only example I have of explicitly detailed sexual encounters).
The story looks at what can happen when a guest is inappropriately flirtatious with his hostess and how that affects the sexual dynamic between a husband and wife. In this case, it leads to what has been elegantly termed: “jealous arousal”.
If you would like to read some more about the story’s evolution, then take a look at my latest email to my mailing list (where you can also read my ponderings on erotic fiction).
Continuing the subject of my last blog post regarding the conversations going on at the moment in the Orthodox Jewish world on the subject of sex and, in particular, what is good, what is forbidden: have you seen the new film ‘Sacred Sperm’?
Incredibly, my previous post neglected to mention this film at all (bad Shosha!) even though I had expressed hope that current discussions around sex might eventually reach out into the ultra-Orthodox sections of the Jewish world – the very purpose of Ori Gruder’s new film!
Gruder, an Israeli film maker who become a baal teshuva (newly religious) from around the age of 30 and now lives within a Breslav Chassidic framework, decided to make the film when he found himself struggling with how he should talk to his own son about masturbation and other topics around sex.
The film seeks to address the confusion, uncertainty and laws around a topic which is generally considered taboo within the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world – as well as many other environments.
As Gruder says in his interview with Haaretz: “I believe the rabbis feel the time has come to put these subjects on the table and talk about them.”
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see the film. I do not live in area where it has been released and it is not available on iTunes (plus I don’t download pirated films) so my ability to comment on the film is somewhat limited. But from the interviews and clips I have seen I am beginning to form a few thoughts:
This is an important development. I am thrilled that the film exists and that this topic is being raised within a haredi context.
This is a film made with love. I am delighted that it has been made by someone from within the community who respects its traditions but who is also willing to ask questions. Without having seen the film, I can’t know how far Gruder’s enquiry goes; perhaps, out of respect for the frum discourse, he won’t ask enough questions, but at least he is asking questions with the aim to inform, educate and clarify – and he is doing so from a position of understanding of, and sympathy for, the sub-cultural nuances.
What about women? My reservation about the film from all the promotional material I have seen is that it is appears to be male focused. While the prohibition on masturbation is, according to most poskim (arbiters of Jewish law), about spilling or wasting of seed – which only applies to male masturbation – when we use the term ‘masturbation’ we need to remember that it can also be applied to the self-pleasuring of women. It is not just about those sacred sperm.
We can talk about whether an unwavering expectation that the biblical prohibition against male masturbation will be kept (especially by young men) is either fair or right, but that’s a discussion for another time… and maybe a discussion for the film. What I would like to know is whether the film gives as much consideration to the drives, concerns and knowledge of women – young and not so young – or whether it lumps male and female sexuality together which, by doing so, will inevitably lead to neglect of the female perspective. It is interesting to know whether those who can step over the taboo of talking about male sexuality are also capable of taking the next step to talk about female sexuality. It’s a lot of steps.
I can’t wait to see the film. If you have seen it please let me know what you think and how it addresses some of these issues. I would love to know.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you compare some of the discussions in ‘Sacred Sperm’ with the conversations happening in the ‘Joy of Text’ it is clear that in some places there is an enormous difference between views held at the progressive and conservative ends of the Orthodox world. These differences in the interpretation and implementation of halacha (Jewish law) can be significant – and that’s even without stepping outside of Orthodoxy into the progressive Jewish movements (Conservative, Reform Judaism etc). I love that the Jewish world is so diverse!
In the meantime, here are some more clips about the film that you may find interesting…
Oh, and I forgot to mention:
I love Ori Gruder’s energy – so gentle, so positive.
My first collection of short stories, I Will Watch You, was published in the last week of January, but that just means the work is now really about to start…
It was wonderful to have the short stories finally published. The process took time, largely because I was learning my way around what’s involved in producing good-quality (which I hope it is!) self-published work.
With much of that learning curve behind me, my focus is returning to Tamar, the central character in my novella, the first draft of which is already completed. Tamar is divorced, a woman in her mid thirties who is looking for love and bursting with her own welling sexuality. How she manages to navigate the former while exploring the latter is the subject of the story. I look forward to it taking life.
In the meantime, expect a new piece of frum erotica to be published soon on Jewrotica. This one’s raunchy, so brace yourselves!
Finally, a special request: it makes a big difference to the Shosha Pearl project if you read, buy and REVIEW my stories. If you like them and have ten minutes spare, please drop a rating at your local Amazon or at Goodreads (the book will be listed from tomorrow). If you want to read them but don’t want to pay, you can always sign up to my mailing list.