Rosh Hashanah Paizo Celebration!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Hi all! For this latest community blog, we’re celebrating Rosh Hashana, the New Year of the Jewish calendar, which begins on the evening of September 6th this year. I’ve reached out to our fantastic creators to celebrate Jewish heritage and how it relates to our life and work. I hope you enjoy their insights and thoughtful reflections!

Avi Kool (they/them)
Senior Editor

Content Warning: Some of the following entries discuss the Holocaust.

Two separate illustrations of the pathfinder and starfinder iconics with 'community blog' in white text overlayed over the top

Avi Kool (They/Them)

When I was 5 or 6 years old, my Hebrew school teacher told me something I’ll never forget: “Jews question everything.” You can see this philosophy in the constant back-and-forth of Rabbinical literature throughout history, but even as a child, this stuck with me (perhaps to my teachers’ chagrin). In many ways, this drive to find the answers to hard questions has been a boon in my work as a TTRPG editor.

I also owe more than I could ever say to my grandmother. She was forced to leave school at 14 when the Nazis seized control of the Netherlands, where she was born, and she went into hiding. She loves math and language, and I often wonder what she would have done with her life if she had been able to continue her education. In addition to being my personal hero and an all-around wonderful person, she’s an avid fan of games and sports. Her skill at games continues even at her ripe old age of 94: she solves 1000-piece puzzles by, and I quote, “remembering all the shapes” and routinely mops the floor with my mom and her friends at mahjong. She actually won’t play with the other residents at the retirement home because they don’t “take the game seriously enough.” I figure she’s earned the right to be a die-hard gamer at her age!


Jacob W. Michaels (He/Him)

Shana tova, Paizo community. I’m Jacob W. Michaels, one of Paizo’s Jewish freelancers. I’ve contributed to a number of Pathfinder books in First and Second Edition, and recently had my first Pathfinder Society Scenario published (2-19: Enter the Pallid Peak). I’m excited to have my first contribution to a rulebook, Guns & Gears, out soon, plus the Kingmaker 2e conversion! This is the time of year, as we approach the High Holy Days, my thoughts turn to tikkun olam, the Jewish idea of repairing the world in part by doing good deeds. Then, on Yom Kippur, we look at what we’ve done wrong over the last year, and ask for forgiveness, not just from God, but from the people we’ve wronged. I think it’s funny that for many of us, our gaming experiences match these concepts. We like making heroes who set out to save the world (though, our adventurers probably kill a lot more monsters than we do in our real lives). We even may find ourselves atoning for our sins—literally in the case of champions or other divine servitors who’ve upset their deities and lost their powers. But of course, it’s so much easier in games, which is a shame. I imagine what this world could be like if we could all try to live up to our best characters’ ideals. Maybe we’re not killing a rampaging dragon, but even the littlest thing—let someone into traffic, pay for a stranger’s coffee—can make a difference. If we can start small, then we can work up to the massive things we still need to do to make the world a better place. Be safe and be good, friends.


Hilary Moon Murphy (She/Her)

My name is Hilary Moon Murphy. When I was growing up, my family told me in no uncertain terms: "We are not Jews." This was in a family where the adults spoke Yiddish amongst themselves (but never to me) so I grew up understanding Yiddish as a second tongue. This was in a family where I was raised by a woman with numbers tattooed on her arm from a concentration camp. This was in a family where, one day, a family member started screaming when a Nazi character appeared on a TV show and didn't stop until almost ten minutes after the TV was turned off.

I believe that my family cut me off from my Jewish heritage because they wanted me to be safe. They wanted to bury their memories of everything and everyone they had lost. This denial was so strong that I didn't start reclaiming my heritage until after I had children of my own. There were tears on my face the first time my kids and I lit a menorah. I felt like I was bridging generations, reaching out to all those my family lost and saying, "I remember you. I will not let you be forgotten."


David Schwartz (He/Him)

Hey! I'm David Schwartz, a long-time contributor to Paizo. In case the name didn't tip you off, I'm Jewish (among other things). Before I was asked to contribute to this blog, I had not really considered how my Jewishness influenced my approach to roleplaying games. After much thought, I realized that it can probably be summed up by my two favorite anecdotes from the Talmud:

1) A non-Jew came before Shammai and said, "I will convert on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot." Shammai pushed him away with the builder's cubit in his hand. The same gentile came before Hillel. He converted him, saying, "That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary. Go study." (Shabbat 31a)

2) The Mishnah states: If a fledgling bird is found within fifty cubits of a dovecote, it belongs to the owner of the dovecote. If it found outside the limit of fifty cubits, it belongs to the person who finds it. Rabbi Jeremiah asked: If one foot of the fledgling is within the limit of fifty cubits, and one foot is outside it, what is the law? It was for this question that Rabbi Jeremiah was thrown out of the house of study. (Bava Batra 23b)

You can find me on social media as davidschwartznz on Twitter and Facebook.

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Tags: Community Paizo Paizo Staff
Grand Archive

15 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you so much for this. As a Jew, I so rarely see Jewish voices in gaming highlighted.

To riff on David Schwartz's comment, it occurs to me that the 3 main branches of Judaism can be described as:

"Rules as Written"
"Rules as Intended"
"Rule of Cool."

(Though I am not sure the Conservatives and the Orthodox would agree on who was which...)

Silver Crusade

9 people marked this as a favorite.

Likewise with what Jared said, thank you for this blog and L'shana tovah. It is sadly not surprising at how rare our culture (and thus our voices) appear in RPGs, so community outreach blogs like this are quite welcome.

Jared Thaler - Personal Opinion wrote:
(Though I am not sure the Conservatives and the Orthodox would agree on who was which...)

Remember, Jared, just as it's a murder of crows or a crash of rhinos, I believe the formal definition for us gathering is "an argument" :P


"In case the name didn't tip you off, I'm Jewish"

I legitimately cackled.

But it's truly great to see Jewish voices at Paizo being heard. It really how the Jewish trait of questioning everything is invaluable in both creating and playing TTRPGs. (I sure know it's helped me!)

On a related note, how much Jewish-inspired lore and/or monsters are in Pathfinder and Golarion? - besides Golems ;) - I'm not particularly well versed in lore, so it'd be cool to find some.

Paizo Employee Editor

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Lebombjames wrote:

"In case the name didn't tip you off, I'm Jewish"

I legitimately cackled.

But it's truly great to see Jewish voices at Paizo being heard. It really how the Jewish trait of questioning everything is invaluable in both creating and playing TTRPGs. (I sure know it's helped me!)

On a related note, how much Jewish-inspired lore and/or monsters are in Pathfinder and Golarion? - besides Golems ;) - I'm not particularly well versed in lore, so it'd be cool to find some.

Thanks for the kind words! As far as I'm aware, there isn't much Jewish influence in Golarion. However, I wrote a character in an upcoming book who is inspired by my ancestors' stories. Can't say anything more now, but I'll mention it when the author blog for that book comes out. So stay tuned!


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Lebombjames wrote:
On a related note, how much Jewish-inspired lore and/or monsters are in Pathfinder and Golarion? - besides Golems ;) - I'm not particularly well versed in lore, so it'd be cool to find some.

I know the dybbuk made it in to both 1st and 2nd edition, plus some biblical creatures. I think there are a couple of other folkloric critters I remember noting in 1e, but can't remember which right now.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Shana tova ^w^

*sends hugs*

Grand Archive

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Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Lebombjames wrote:
On a related note, how much Jewish-inspired lore and/or monsters are in Pathfinder and Golarion? - besides Golems ;) - I'm not particularly well versed in lore, so it'd be cool to find some.
I know the dybbuk made it in to both 1st and 2nd edition, plus some biblical creatures. I think there are a couple of other folkloric critters I remember noting in 1e, but can't remember which right now.

I have no idea how many of these were *knowingly* drawn from Jewish Lore. Many started in Jewish lore and have since spread to general culture.

Assorted outsiders draw names or inspiration from biblical sources. Any outsider type that ends in "--im" is either drawn from a jewish reference or is meant to sound like it is. (--im is the male hebrew plural ending.)

Any outsider (especially angels) whose name ends with --el or --iel likewise has a jewish or jewish inspired name. (--el is a suffix meaning 'of god')

Talisman Crafters are a prominent feature of jewish folklore (usually cautionary tales), though certainly not unique to it.

On the other hand the similarity of names Sihedron and Sanhedrin are *probably* just coincidence. (I hope?)

I have always wondered if Druma is meant to draw on certain Jewish tropes? Or just does so accidentally and without realizing it. (The focus on personal purity, unwillingness to touch someone you do not know lest their purity (or lack of) might interfere with yours, strict dietary traditions. Strict traditions of dress. All remind me of certain jewish sub-communities.)

Sacred Geometry and the use of numerical coorespondences and similarities in magical spells and rituals is very Jewish (see the practice of Gematria.) Though again, not unique to Judaism.

Second Seekers (Jadnura)

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Thanks to Paizo for doing these types of blogs, and this one in particular. There are so many different voices represented in our gaming - I really love seeing all of them!

Grand Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Aeon Arbiters have a lot of similarity to certain jewish angels.

Silver Crusade

This thread seems a good place to mention the Ars Magica supplement
Kabbalah: Mythic Judaism for a deep probe into Medieval Jewish magical practices

I'm not qualified to speak to its accuracy but it seems quite respectful to me and certainly reads as if it was very well researched (and the reviews I've seen by people claiming greater knowledge than I have certainly laud how well it was researched and how respectful it was)

Grand Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Q_Q
Lots of touching stories here.
You're all awesome people!

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you all for this sharing and giving. You are wonderful people.


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Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I'm Christian, but super interested in Judaism, and I think it's awesome that you guys are recognizing Jewish heritage and religion.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you for sharing.

Grand Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Coming from the other direction, a good introduction to Jewish folk lore and mysticism (at least the branch of it most people are most familiar with) is "Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism" by Gedalyah Nigal*, and was recommended to me by a Rabbi when I asked to learn more about the themes and characteristics of Jewish folk lore and spiritualism.

*Not related to Nigel Blakros to the best of my knowledge...

Things from this book that show up in Pathfinder (not an exhaustive list, this is me working off memory and flipping through the index.:

Asmodeus (In hebrew "Ashmodai" A demon who studies the law at the heavenly academy in the morning, then descends and studies the law at the earthly academy. In this context, study can mean both learns and teaches. The term Demon in Jewish folklore would largely encompass almost all outsiders who are not angels, and does not imply evil or chaos.)

Demons (in pathfinder outsiders) interbreeding with humans and producing offspring.

Spirits possessing people and animals.

Souls reincarnating either as sages living multiple life times, or in terms of souls or fragments of souls failing to pass on and getting stuck.

Souls reincarnating into inanimate objects. (As is the case of a certain intelligent item in the new Wrath CRPG.

Gehenna

Various "words of power" (as per the power word spells.)

Talismans

There is a magic Shofar in Plunder and Peril.

Silver Crusade

One element of Judaism that's been in RPGs for a good bit are phylacteries, which in Hebrew are called* Tefillin (תְּפִלִּין), although the RPG varieties usually only concern themselves with the piece worn on the forehead and not the one worn on the arm.

In trying to find something Golarion-specific some months ago, the only thing I ever found were some of the descriptions of the people of Lirgen and Yamasa (The Sodden Lands) after the onset of the Eye of Abendego and their subsequent diasporas and enclaves in Jaha and Absalom. I'm not sure if those were intentional or not.

* Fun fact for reducing stress when typing Judaism-related things! Because all our words are Hebrew and then transliterated into English, you should never worry about misspelling, since it's all just about the same!

Sovereign Court

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Very touching stories, and I love this blog series!

Lebombjames wrote:
On a related note, how much Jewish-inspired lore and/or monsters are in Pathfinder and Golarion? - besides Golems ;) - I'm not particularly well versed in lore, so it'd be cool to find some.

In addition to the awesome list compiled by Jared Thaler, I believe Qlippoth, Nephilim, and the Leviathan all apply as well.


6 people marked this as a favorite.

Wow. I am so touched by this. Thanks so much. What Hilary said really resonated with me. First gen immigrant. Maternal family fled Russian Pogroms and Paternal Nazis in Eastern Europe. I went to Christian Schools, we never went to Schul and the area we lived in had no Jewish Community. I have always felt cut off from my heritage. There is a lot of hatred targeted at Jews who make up 0.2% of the world's population and it is lovely that Paizo took the opportunity to post this.

Wayfinders Contributor

7 people marked this as a favorite.

Julius, I am so glad that my words touched you. Thank you for your story as well.

Thank you as well to Avi for allowing me to join in on this blog, and being so welcoming and inclusive, and for considering me in the Judaism umbrella.

Hugs,
Hmm


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yours words got me, Hmm. And I'm not Jewish.

Liberty's Edge

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This was very moving to me, both as a Jew and as a gamer. One thing I like about Paizo is the inclusiveness of the community.

My parents were off different faiths and just sent us to where the neighbors went. So, I really was not active in my faith until becoming an adult. I ultimately became a member of a Reform Temple's Brotherhood and board as the Brotherhood representative.

One admonition that is important at the gaming table is to treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves. So, let me say that the welcoming spirit of this community is a comfort to me. Also, I have seen that it is a comfort to those of other communities as well.

Grand Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Dustin Knight wrote:

Very touching stories, and I love this blog series!

Lebombjames wrote:
On a related note, how much Jewish-inspired lore and/or monsters are in Pathfinder and Golarion? - besides Golems ;) - I'm not particularly well versed in lore, so it'd be cool to find some.
In addition to the awesome list compiled by Jared Thaler, I believe Qlippoth, Nephilim, and the Leviathan all apply as well.

I forgot about Qlippoth. I only found out that one recently.

But I really want to find out sometime how they got from the kabbalistic concept of a dimensional barrier to the creatures that show up in the bestiary...

(Admittedly this is not an area of Judaism I am familiar with.)

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