I wouldn’t say that I am a fan of animal adventure stories. But, through my son’s recent obsession, I have become acquainted with the Warriors series. For a while I despaired of his ever reading a book of another genre.
Then he told me about the two maps.
“I finally got it,” he said. “One map is a regular map of the land. The other is drawn from the cats’ perspective. I never thought about how the land looked different to the cats.”
Suddenly I was delighted that he was so engrossed in this book.
What a brilliant device Erin Hunter has employed in her storytelling! By including a map drawn by her feline hero, she has taught my son a valuable lesson: everyone sees the world through his own lens. That the world looks different to cats than it does to humans may be obvious, but only if we stop to think about it. And, honestly, how often do we think about the ways in which the world looks different to another?
Stepping back—to take in the big picture—must be a conscious decision, because our natural instinct is to focus on our own small corner of the earth. I am grateful to Hunter’s cats for the reminder to seek an expansive world view.
Last week, when studying Torah with my son, I gave him an assignment to write his own midrash (story/interpretation) about Jacob’s dream. He did not intend it as Purim Torah; he’s just a natural comedian. After reading his story, I felt compelled to write my own piece. We conducted a writer’s workshop in my car—just the two of us—while his sisters attended a music lesson, and we traded critiques of our work. We are pleased to present excerpts of our stories and we invite you to share your feedback with us!
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“And he dreamed: Here was a ladder, set up on the earth, and its top reaching to the skies. And here were angels of God, going up and going down on it.” (Genesis 28:12)
Shalom of Safed (1887-1980)
1. Jonah’s dream
The angels of God are climbing up one side of a double-faced ladder. When they reach the top, they hand God their passports and He lets them into heaven for a fee of $19.99 a week. “That doesn’t include tax or any purchases such as food, entertainment, or souvenirs from the gift shop,” He tells them, while examining the passports to make sure they’re not fake.
God then explains that He accepts cash and credit, but only Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. “American Express charges ridiculous fees,” He says. If they decide to pay with credit, He asks for a second form of I.D. “Enjoy your stay,” God calls to them over His shoulder.
When the angels want to come back to earth, they ask God’s permission and He stamps their passports. As they exit down the other side of the ladder, He says to them: “When you collect 5 stamps on your passport, you’ll get a $50 gift card that can be used at restaurants, or for tickets to the soccer matches and circus performances.”
2. Ima’s dream
The angels of God are climbing up and down the ladder on the same side, because they are like ghosts who can pass through one another. But Uriel keeps stumbling and triggering the ladder’s emergency lights. Jacob would not have seen the angels on the ladder if not for Uriel’s clumsiness. With the lights on, however, Jacob was able to perceive God in ways that no other human could. You see, angels are usually powered by electromagnetic radiation and go undetected by the human eye. We can only feel their presence in the world, because they warm us with their heat without shedding light.
Some people believe that Jacob was born with infrared vision, along with other superpowers which allowed him to supplant his older brother Esau and inherit the patriarchy. My dream revealed that Uriel gave Jacob a leg up in the competition. I’m not saying that Jacob was intentionally deceitful and cheated his brother…I don’t need to say that because the Torah says it for me. I’m just saying that the klutzy angel Uriel gave Jacob a clear advantage.
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Jonah is an aspiring author, who has submitted numerous short stories & personal narratives to his elementary school teachers. This is his first blog post.
Some time ago, I began frequenting a club. Oh, not that kind of club. A writing club. I visit their website pretty regularly, because they post writing prompts. Occasionally, I am inspired to try them. This month’s prompt is outrageous:
Write us a story. It can be fiction, or non-fiction. The only restriction is that it is EXACTLY 100 WORDS LONG. Not 99 words. Not 101. We have the tools to check. We will be judicious about hyphenated words. Title not included in word count.
I wrote 3.
The first was cathartic; I trashed it. The second was romantic; I submitted it.
The third I share with you:
“Thank you for your prompt reply”
Staring at the blinking cursor, I curse aloud:
“Damn it! I hate these writing prompts! I don’t even know why I visit this website.”
I know a successful author—also a manager at the local Starbucks—who insists that if the act of writing is not fun then something is wrong. I would revise his dictum: “If the act of writing doesn’t make you feel then something is wrong.”
At first, the act of responding to the prompt made me feel exhilarated. But I soon began to feel frustrated by the constraints of the assignment.
It’s time to move on.