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)
Content Warning: Some of the following entries discuss the Holocaust.
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)
Rosh Hashanah Paizo Celebration!
Monday, September 6, 2021