Thursday, April 23, 2009

Writing what you want; Finding what you need

היום ערבעה עשר יומים שהם שני שבועת לעמר
Today is the fourteenth day of the omer - two weeks

מלכת שבגבורה
A day of majesty in a week of strength

Last night I went to Berkeley Hillel for a talk with Maggie Anton, the author of the series, "Rashi's Daughters." The first two books are available now, with one more on the way. I've read the first and am about to start on the second. I encourage you all to read the books. Not only are they a great insight into Jewish life in Western Europe during Rashi's time (11th/12th century), but the stories will hold you as well.

However, last night it was Maggie Anton's story that impressed me. On her path of taking Judaism from a secular place to a spiritual place in her life, she joined a women's Talmud study group led by Rachel Adler. As she delved deeper into Talmud, she was drawn to research the family of the renowned Jewish scholar Rashi. Anton knew that Rashi only had daughters, and there are legends that they studied the sacred texts with him and put on tefillin, both things women are traditionally forbidden to women.

Her research turned into outlines for 3 books--one for each daughter. She retired from her career as a chemist for Kaiser Permanente's Biochemical Genetics Laboratory to write these books. Anton and her husband David Parkhurst, a lawyer, set themselves up to publish and market Rashi's Daughters Book I: Joheved. That first book touched many, and took off. The rest, as they say, is history.

For me, last night was one of those instances when you hear what you need to hear at a time when you can hear it. It was great to see someone who just kept going where her heart and soul told her to go, and she made things happen.

Her thorough research and the importance of finding out all she could--studying on so many levels--is outstanding. She opens the door for us to Jewish practice in Rashi's time. The characters are based in the customs of their culture but imbued with the spirits of people close to Anton--such as her mother. This makes them come alive.

Why did she write the books?
"I wanted to write the books I wanted to read"

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