Reply To: Lesson 3 The Role of External Challenges, Escalation

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Ruchama
Participant

Let’s deal with “Deus” first.  Andrew does reappear.  If Andrew regains enough mental capacity to cure the entail (as the brothers had planned), Daniel’s problems are solved.  But Andrew dies. (Either suicide or accidental overdose of laudanum.) Mary is determined to marry Andrew despite his scars and mental problems, because she wants wealth and title. When Andrew dies, Mary makes it clear that she intends Mary Daniel. She will use a number of devious and cruel means to make this happen Daniel’s father also insists on the marriage.

Response: The title is of little importance, if any at all, to Daniel. What is important is inheriting the land. Daniel’s Sephardic ancestors have been exiled since 1492, when they were given the option of converting to Christianity or leaving Spain and later Portugal. At one point Jews were expelled from England. (Shakespeare’s Shylock was a total invention.  There were no Jews in England when he wrote).

When they returned to England, their rights were severely limited, even more limited than those of dissenters like Evangelicals and Quakers.  There was serious doubt in 1811 whether a Jew in England could actually own property “in fee simple,” i.e. outright as opposed to renting or leasing.  Without owning land, Daniel will never (he believes) be secure. His basic flaw is fear, not pride.

[Assimilation is a continuing temptation to Jews, even today, but in the 19th Century it was much stronger. Benjamin Disraeli (the first Jewish Prime Minister of England) was baptized at his father’s insistence to avoid the limitations on Jewish rights. He maintained his Jewish identity. He married and older woman and they never had children.]

After Daniel’s mother died, his grandfather continued to educate him and try to help him find a place in Jewish society. Daniel needed to become familiar with suitable Jewish families in London if he was to be seen as a desirable match when old enough to marry. His first visit to London were disastrous.  His grandfather died soon after and Daniel was sent to the public school Andrew was attending.  Gradually, in order to fit in and avoid mockery and bullying Daniel stopped being observant. (Observance, not acceptance of a creed is central to being “religious” for Jews.)

By the time our story opens Daniel does not even attend Friday night dinners with his grandmother. He feels it would be wrong to enjoy the food and the ritual when he has given up everything else. Daniel had vowed never to marry at all. But his father’s dream is to found a land-owning dynasty.

Daniel’s grandmother, Miriam  was estranged from her family when she allowed her daughter to marry a non-Jew. (This is known as “marrying out.”) When she discovers that Daniel fears she will be heartbroken an alienated it he converts, she reassures him. You don’t become not Jewish by undergoing a Christian ritual. (see, e.g. Disraeli).

However, marrying a woman who is not Jewish will mean that his children will not be Jewish.  She manages to get a Jewish French prisoner of war (who happens to be the grand-daughter of her twin sister) paroled to the estate.  This is the only place where “Deus” is invoked. However because it takes place at the beginning  complicates Daniel’s life, I feel comfortable using it. I’ve also made the means as credible as possible.

Obviously, this is not a realistic plot.  It’s not meant to be. It has a supposed ghost(who turns out to be Andrew), separated twins (Rebecca has a twin brother), long lost cousins as well as a classic marriage plot.

How does Daniel return to his Jewish “inheritance?” Gradually. It begins at  seder at Miriam’s home with Rebecca before Andrew re-appears.  After Andrew appears and before he dies, Daniel spends three Shabbats at his grandmother’s house. These bring him closer to “his roots.”

When Andrew dies, Daniel goes to London to say observe the ritual of saying kaddish (a specific prayer honoring the dead) for the 30 days it is said for a brother and must be said in the presence of a minyan (10 men). Back at the Bevis Marks Synagogue where he had his bar mitzvah and now accepted among the men of the congregation, he realizes the price he is about to pay is too great. (This is not the happy ending, things only get more complicated)

The theme of exile is important to the story. Rebecca represents the “Shechina” i.e. the Divine Presence (in mystical Judaism Feminine) Who accompanies the Jews into exile.  Rebecca’s presence and her love give Daniel the courage he needs to accept exile.  (I may send them to the US or Canada at the end).

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