When you’re an observant Jew and you have more than a passing interest in the non-observant world, it can cause more than a passing clash of values.
For instance, Neil Gaiman, my favorite author in the world*, is doing two readings of his new, beautiful novel The Graveyard Book in New York and Philly — both of which fall on Rosh Hashanah. From his journal, you can see this isn’t the first time it’s come up.
When I was twenty years old and pushing it, I might have hopped a fence or two. Now that I have a baby, it’s not quite that simple. (I’ve read the manuals where you strap the baby to your back and keep her from the barbed wire that way, but that never ends up working in practice.) Mr. Gaiman, who, as in his writing, manages to infuse that extra snatch of creativity into everything he does, is reading a different chapter each night of his tour, effectively turning it into a marathon live event.
Here’s the question, however: would it be a violation of Jewish Law to listen to a recording of Mr. Gaiman — who, according to Wiki, is Jewish — having read on Rosh Hashanah? Factors involved:
- Neil Gaiman is Jewish.
- The recording engineer, or whoever it is who hits the button, may or may not be Jewish.
- I am probably going to waste at least a portion of our Tuesday night Rosh Hashana dinner (cousins-in-law’s house. you know how it is.) contemplating whether I should sneak out the back and make it to a reading.
- No less amazing, the formidable performance poet Daphne Gottlieb — who, btw, made a cameo appearance in one of Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books — is also going to be doing several readings on the East Coast that week. She’s brave and daring and confessional, and it’ll be great to put you into a Rosh Hashanah mindset. But I’ll probably miss that, too.
Halachic innovators, what do you think?
* – yes, I know I say that about half a dozen people. but i really mean it this time (and with lydia millet, too).
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.