I am so inspired.
A few days ago, at a day-after-Thanksgiving-after-party, I was explaining my manuscript to a charming young woman when she exclaimed, “Judith of Bethulia? Of course I know her. She is part of our Hanukkah celebration. What a strong woman!” Her mother had long ago incorporated the story of Judith into their annual ritual, and they recount the story each year.
“Which account?” I asked, thinking there might be a version I haven’t yet seen. “Where did you find it?” Blank faces. “I mean, is there a bibliographic reference?” They laughed, because they had just written the story themselves, for their own holiday book. A book that guides their own family celebrations.
That it what my Judith project is about: sharing the story, telling each other inspiring stories, our founding myths. Each time we retell a story it changes, it finds new meaning, new relevance to the community sharing it. Judith proudly held a sword atop candelabrum in European ghettos, secretly inspiring dissent. Donatello sculpted his iconic statue of the beheading as a symbol of revolt against the tyrant Medici in fifteenth century Florence.
Scholars believe that the Judith story we know was written before the Maccabean war, possibly to inspire Hebrews to stand up to the oppressive King Antiochus. In that case, the story was certainly successful. The Maccabees successfully wrested back control of Jerusalem, which we celebrate during Hanukkah. At the end of the Judith story her people promise to sing her name for eternity.
A random encounter with someone who knows Judith brings me the same excitement experienced by a teenager meeting a friend who shares the same taste in music. Really? You like the Led Zeppelin too? Awesome! Wait until I tell you about Judith and Holofernes!
Finishing a project as immense as a novel has its challenges. Writers try not to worry too much about the imaginary readers looking over our shoulders. It can prevent us from taking important risks. But it helps me tremendously to know people are interested in this story and will want to share it. This blog helps me stay connected during this lonely stage of writing. I can see the finish line up ahead and I just received a beautiful dose of the inspiration I need to sprint across it. See you there!