The saga continues in the steampunk fantasy-inspired take on the Jewish midrash, written by Rivkah Raven. Download the chapters Ki Tetze and Ki Tavo from the serial below.
The saga by PunkTorah columnist Rivkah Raven continues with steampunk midrashim (legends) on Parshat Balak, Pinchas and Mattot.
The light grew dimmer as they wove through the trees, pressing deeper into the forest without an end in sight, it seemed. Mari could not see a discernible path; she could not tell if the creature she followed was leading her somewhere specific, or was just mad, completely insane, and would lead her on a wild chase through the wood until Mari dropped from exhaustion…
As the days passed, Mari became increasingly aware that there were gaps in Jac’s story. Enormous gaps. Mari soon began mapping out, in her mind, the places in conversation when Jac would shift the subject or look uncomfortable and use misleading language to avoid answering Mari’s questions.
At night, in the room that they shared, bedded down on simple mattresses stuffed with feathers, snug under exquisite old handmade quilts, Mari would awaken again and again to Jac’s thrashing, screaming, and sometimes crying. Mari never asked. And Jac never told…
Mari awoke in darkness, to a world that was all noise. Noise dominated her consciousness: rushing wind, the continuous sound of impact. She could not tell if trees were falling against each other outside, or if the roof was caving in, or if the entire land was simply striving against itself, tearing itself to pieces. She could not at ﬁrst pick out individual sounds. There were human screams, there was the clash of metal, there was the driving rain against the front of their dwelling; being that most of the dwelling was built into a hill, she had to think that many of the sounds, loud and overwhelming as they were, were mufﬂed…
PunkTorah is proud to announce Steampunk Torah: The Jewish Steampunk Miniseries, written by Raven. Every week, Raven will take the weekly Torah portions midrashim (legends) and transform them into a piece of Steampunk art.
From the author…
Steampunk is part Victorian novel, part science fiction or fantasy. It takes place in an alternate sort of world, where things developed a different way after the Industrial Revolution. Victorian sensibilities were preserved, and steam power still reigns. Survival depends on extreme innovation, but in this alternate version of history, many things we would call “old-fashioned” still hold sway.
Sound familiar yet?
With Steampunk Torah, I’m going to take midrashic explorations of each Torah portion (what happens in the “white spaces.” for instance: what did Moses say to his sons? How do you explain all these rules? what the heck are the rules for, anyway?) I’ll distill a lesson or metaphoric journey from it, and I’ll explore it in a steampunk setting. In being not-completely-Victorian, but adapting the past to suit her needs for survival in the present, my protagonist is representing the struggle Judaism is fighting in order to define what we are NOW. The tension between the past and the present is fascinating and rich with possibility.
Each week, we will be posting an excerpt from the series, as well as download links to each chapter. We’re kicking off this series with three chapters today: Parshat Emor, Behar and this week’s parshah, Bechukotai.
Chapter One: Parshat Emor
When Mari met the Great Archivist for the ﬁrst time, she was simply trying to
preserve her life. Her entire being had condensed down to a simple animal awareness.
She was sensation only. She could hear her breath rushing in her ears, and her heart
pounding; she was aware only of trying to be as small as possible, protect herself as
best she could with her arms, and draw another breath…and another. Each breath she
took in made her aware of the precious gift that is the ability to breathe the sweet air, the
knowledge that right now she was alive. The certainty that she might die in the next few
moments ran through her body in an almost audible shock: a thrum of awareness that
took away her usual quick-thinking and quick-acting presence, and made her into a
small animal, just trying to hold off the attack…
Chapter Two: Parshat Behar
Mari scrambled to catch up with Ismael, so many questions racing around her
head that she remained silent; one hand clamped her kippah ﬁrmly on her head, and in
the other she clutched a great handful of her skirts so she wouldnʼt trip over her hem on
the uneven cobblestone street. The road they were walking up was the broadest road
on the Mountain; it wound its way up, curving back on itself, making its way eventually
to the building at the top which housed the Archives. Mari had only heard of this place;
she had never thought she would see it, let alone be on her way up there with the
Chapter Three: Parshat Bechukotai
Ever afterward, when Mari tried to recall her ﬁrst feelings upon seeing her new
home, all she could bring to mind was the memory of deep shock, followed quickly by
Ever since she had left home, all the time she spent scrambling to acclimatize
herself to the Mountain society, attempting to “ﬁt in” and not seem too foreign quickly
giving way to a more focused determination simply to survive, she had not been aware
of forming a mental image of what the Archives would be. Nonetheless, there it was; in
every whispered exchange she caught the end of, in every rumor and half-heard tale,
she formed another piece of a collage in her imagination. The Archives. In her mind it
was palatial, perhaps of marble; elegant, towering, breathtaking as beﬁt a building
housing the precious manuscripts that somehow made travel possible, made change
possible, made building and shaping society possible.