Sunday, November 24, 2019

Whom My Soul Loves, by Rivqa Rafael

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[Strange Horizons]

(Jewish Fantasy) In an alternate Brooklyn, a Jewish holy woman exorcises a spirit from a local woman. (2,852 words; Time: 09m)

"," by (edited by Vanessa Rose Phin), appeared in issue 11/11/19, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.662 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Osnat is Jewish but of Hispanic descent, which is why the local kids make fun of her for not really being Jewish. We immediately learn that she has a lot of power when she silences the kids, telling them they’ll be able to speak again when they’ve had some time to think.

Although this alternate world tolerates Osnat being a lesbian, it’s clear that not everyone feels that way. This turns out to make her ideal as far as the exorcism goes.

In terms of plot, on the surface it’s about Osnat performing the exorcism, but there’s a more subtle message about her taking a step towards being part of the community, not just an outsider.

I looked up the following Hebrew phrases in order to better understand the tale:

Ger: “The stranger” typically a male foreigner who follows the law but isn’t really Jewish.
Giores: A female Ger.
HaQadosh Barukh Hu: God (literally “The Holy One, Blessed Be His Name”)
Hashem: God (literally “The Name”)
Hashem yishmoreinu: God forbid! (Not 100% sure about this one)
Loshon hora: A truth told to hurt someone.
Tehilim: The book of Psalms from the Bible.
Tzadeykes: A righteous woman

Con: All that Hebrew makes the story hard to understand without looking a lot of things up. There’s no tension or excitement anywhere in the story; there never seems to be much doubt that the exorcism will succeed, nor does Osnat ever seem to face any threat, mundane or supernatural.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Ger and giores/gioret are terms used for converts to Judaism.

    1. Thanks. I'll add that to the fix list. For a lot of these terms, I could find lots of forum discussions where people used them, and that gave a lot of clues about what they meant, but it was fairly hard to find anything like an actual dictionary for them, and Google was of little help.