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[personal profile] cahn
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married… And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them… behold, Miriam became leprous… And the Lord said… let [Miriam] be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.

Numbers 12:1-14 (excerpts)


So there's this LDS feminist group that had a competition last year to, essentially, write scripture fanfic. Obviously I was going to enter this.

I've been kind of obsessed with Miriam and the other women of the Exodus since writing a Moses und Aron fic for [personal profile] seekingferret several years back. And he graciously allowed me to, essentially, remix that fic. Of course, the thing he probably knew and that I'd forgotten was how much the engaging with Schoenberg was integral to everything about it, and ripping all the Schoenberg out left… well, there is one big idea that I retained, and one or two paragraphs near the end that are very similar, but that's about it. Even the characters all came out totally different. (Much more cheerful, naturally, but I was surprised at how fundamentally different they became.)

Partially this is because the fic turned out to be my alternate interpretation of Numbers 12, which is an interesting and (for me) challenging text. The most obvious explanation (and the one I've heard at church before) is that it's a tale about Miriam challenging Moses' authority, and possibly being catty about his wife while she's at it (although as part of my research for ferret's fic I read that there are Jewish interpretations that reject this notion(*)) and getting schooled by God for it. Miriam's a really fascinating figure in general (gosh, all the Exodus women are, with all these tantalizing details that never get totally filled in) and there are ways of looking at her where this is a totally in-character thing for her to do, but that wasn't what I was interested in.

Also, it turns out that apparently I have real problems with the idea of sickness being a punishment from God for challenging the patriarchy. So, yeah, there's that too. (And yes, I realize this idea is all over. Those, I suppose, are fics for another day.)

Also also, I think that if Moses is really all that, he and Zipporah should, honestly, be able to talk things out themselves. It's not like Zipporah is afraid to tell Moses exactly what she thinks (see Ex 4:25).

"Wilderness" was written specifically for a Jewish recipient, and I tried to reflect that in the fic as much as I could in detail, in being conversant with the midrashim, etc. (I'm sure I made mistakes, but I did try very hard.) "Hazeroth" was written for an LDS audience, and so the feel, various details, and focus points are rather different. For example, there's a bit of commentary on the cultural vs. doctrinal role of a prophet, which is very much an LDS-centric concern. (I'm not even sure those words make sense in a Jewish context.) The title comes from the hymn "As Sisters in Zion," which LDS women sing often enough that any woman who has been a member longer than a couple of years probably has it memorized.

As sisters in Zion, we'll all work together;
The blessings of God on our labors we'll seek.
We'll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We'll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.


Anyway, I didn't win, but I did get a sort of honorable-mention thingie, and now I've posted it.

Shout-out to [personal profile] sprocket, who is amazing and was incredibly patient with not just beta work but also, for this one, much alpha advice in tearing apart the structure, talking me through what didn't work, and reassembling the story in different configurations.

(*) Here, Miriam is on Zipporah's side, and speaking out against her brother for no longer having sex with Zipporah. (**) I think this is an awesome interpretation. I didn't follow it in the fic, although it definitely informed my reading of her character. Miriam being really super awesome but also a bit of an enmeshed control freak is totally supported by canon!

(**) From this site: "Since modesty is appropriate for the relations between a man and his wife, how did Miriam learn of Moses’s abstinence? According to one tradition, Miriam saw that Zipporah no longer adorned herself with women’s jewelry, and she asked her: 'Why have you stopped wearing women’s ornaments?' Zipporah answered: 'Your brother no longer cares about this.' Thus Miriam learned that Moses had abstained from intercourse (Sifrei on Numbers 12)." How awesome is this?!

Date: 2016-09-08 04:12 pm (UTC)
isis: (noodly appendage)
From: [personal profile] isis
I liked this (from my Jewish perspective)! Also, I have to admit that my very first fic, written when I was maybe in third grade, was Bible fanfiction, in which the Lord commanded Noah to build a snowmobile...

Date: 2016-09-09 05:49 pm (UTC)
isis: (noodly appendage)
From: [personal profile] isis
But of course! It snowed for forty days and forty nights! And then there was a SNOWBOW!

Hey, it was my first fanfic, okay? :-) So it was basically canon rehash with an AU premise...I think I've become a bit more creative since then!

Date: 2016-09-09 12:36 am (UTC)
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophia_sol
I didn't realize that fic was written by you! I really liked it, and it was cool reading a scripturally-based fic about a scripture passage that I'd frankly never noticed before.

Date: 2016-09-11 12:31 am (UTC)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Hahahah yes I am not at all surprised that you discovered that taking out Schoenberg totally changes everything. Moses und Aron is really fundamentally different from everything else, that's the thing that attracts me to it. Welcome to the club. I've been ranting at anyone who will listen about how leaving out the splitting of the sea changes everything and the giving of the Ten Commandments completely changes the meaning of the story, and everyone just smiles and nods. NOW YOU UNDERSTAND.

But yes I love this so much. I love how you construct from plausible hints in the text this complete female-oriented power structure in the Midbar. I love how you stay true to so many textual traditions while flipping them on their heads, and how your Miriam is not guilty in the way the traditional readings say she is, but that doesn't make her a perfect person without her own flaws.

I love how Moses looms over the story, as this great figure everyone admires and looks up to, but with the understanding that he too is human and has his blind spots and faults.

And I love how God looms over this story, how unlike in Wilderness and unlike in M&A for that matter, everyone in As Sisters has faith in an interventional God. I think my favorite line in the whole story is "The Lord has heard your thoughts, she thought to herself, amused. It is time to see whether you actually meant them." The fact that God is so present in the lives of the Midbar generation is one of the reasons it's so hard to create recognizable human versions, one of the reasons I keep writing and rewriting and rewriting Exodus stories, and I love your version of living under the direct auspices of God.

Date: 2016-09-13 12:53 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
No, so the Burning Bush and Scene 1 in general is compatible with Schoenberg's schematic, as is Moses disappearing up the Mountain. Moses has an I-Thou relationship with God, Moses speaks to God, ineffable as Schoenberg's God may be. (I also think that Schoenberg's God is much more the six part chorus than it is the Bush, and for whatever it's worth Straub and Huillet seem to agree.) Everyone else in M&A needs intermediaries.

I think that the Bible itself, particularly Deuteronomy (which we're reading now in shul) and Joshua, grapples very explicitly with the transition from life in the Midbar to life in Israel. Moses talks about how when you get to the land of Israel, the manna will stop and you'll want to eat meat, and there will be idols around to tempt you and you must resist them, the pillars of cloud and fire will no longer be around to guide you... It's very explicit in and of itself, I think, but the Rabbis tend to extend it and see the crossing of the Jordan as representing a very structured transition from living a life supported entirely by miracles to a life in which God is present but guiding a basically naturalistic paradigm.

And I think that interpretation resonates in Judaism because there's a parallel moment in later history, when the Rabbis 'closed the canon' possibly in the hypothetical Council of Yavne and acknowledged to each other and to the Jewish people that God no longer interacted with us in the way that had once been the norm. But regardless of that, I think to some degree it has to be a part of any interpretation of life in the Midbar.

But it's interesting to me what you say about how LDS has faith in a still interventionist God and how that influences your reading of these stories.

Date: 2016-09-13 04:11 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
What I meant is that when God communicates with Moses, it's not in words. It's in six part overlapping pure-serialist chorus, which I read to mean approximation of *woowoo*ineffable communication. And then Moses can't even sing, in the opera. It's an amazingly apt metaphor- Moses can't sing God's words, but even if he could sing, even if he were as great an orator/tenor as Aaron, he couldn't, because God's words would require the metaphysical equivalent of six people singing in complex, coordinated mathematically intricate ways in order to reproduce.

And yeah, I don't know what to tell kiddo about Joshua/Judges, I just reread them a few months back myself and the Israelites are pretty consistently terrible. (Does children's Bible Judges deal with Jephthah/Yiftach at all? I'm dying to know how you teach that story to children.)

Date: 2016-09-26 08:30 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Yeah, Moses und Aron is an OPERA with capital letters; the musical choices matter a lot. This is why it actually pains me that I've never seen it live, only on DVD.

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