The candelabra featured the figurine of a robed woman. In one hand she raised a sword, in the other she dangled a bearded man’s head. By the hair. The art history lecture was suddenly fascinating. The candelabra in the slide was a mysterious menorah from WWII Berlin. The figurine ofJudith holding the head of Holofernes was designed to inspire oppressed Jews in Europe to resist, the same way the original Judith story had inspired resistance.
In the story a young widow walked brazenly into the camp of the bloodthirsty army that surrounded her ancient walled city called Bethulia. She convinced the dreaded General Holofernes that she had important information to help him triumph. In celebration of her arrival he called for a feast. Judith plied Holofernes with salty goat cheese from her farm and quenched his thirst with wine.
No spoilers here, but rest assured, Judith triumphs.
The first time I heard the story of Judith and Holofernes I felt glee. A rebellious, sneaky, solidarity-with-my-sisters glee. I mean, she beheaded the guy. Disgusting. But he was about to destroy her entire tribe. I felt similarly when I learned about Lorena Bobbitt. Remember the woman who got so fed up with being raped by her husband that she finally cut his member off? I cheered for her. Didn’t you? And most of the women you know? And men for that matter, even as they shuddered? Obviously, we do not teach our daughters that violence will solve our problems. But we teach them to be brave. There is just something deeply satisfying about women warriors. There is something deeply satisfying about resistance.
I was enraptured by Judith of Bethulia. She used her brains and courage to prevent the wholesale slaughter of her citadel. Hear that girls? Brains and courage! And there was no miracle other than her own strength. But how did she conquer her fear? Being a scholarly sort of woman I researched the story. Seems I’m not the only one she inspired. Judith has been imagined by hundreds of artists from the masters to the moderns. My personal favorite is Rubens. She looks so confident!
But the actual story of Judith has faded into near obscurity. It was relegated to the Apocrypha (biblical stories not in the bible) by the rabbis of old. We have only a truncated Greek translation of the original. A few poems. A French mystery play. A noteworthy silent film. But no one has written the story for a contemporary audience. What? No one has written the book?! So, as you might have guessed, I did.
Judith inspired me to focus on my writing in order to share her story. I believe that each one of us can change the world. I hope you will follow my blog, join the discussion, and -one day soon – read the novel.