THE STORY IN BRIEF
Decades in the lives of a single soul.
HOW IT WAS WRITTEN
I don’t recall where I came across the Talmudic teaching that there were 600,000 souls in the universe, and that each one of us is a small piece of one of those souls. If you google 600,000 souls, you find a variety of tellings from a variety of sources. I’m sure that the version I heard was very simplistic in comparison to the complexity of the various interpretations, but the idea that a group of friends and relatives could all be part of a connected soul appealed to me, and I went on from there.
The story originally appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 4 in 2013.
NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
Except for the two girls, Annie and Rachel, all of the other people at the annual seder are based on various friends and relatives. Some of them are a combination of two people I know (not necessarily of the same gender). I won’t get any more specific than that.
We have met some of these people previously in this novel. Rachel’s mother Eileen and her Aunt Susan both appear in “Sophia’s Legacy.” Rachel’s grandmother Isabeau, whose seders the child Rachel finds rather boring, is featured in “The Gingerbread House.” Annie’s mother Marilyn, who is the point-of-view character in “The Red Dybbuk,” is mentioned briefly.
“Which means we are all actually made up of a piece of a soul, and when all the pieces of that soul find each other, part of the universe is healed and made whole.”The History of Soul 2065
NOTES ON THE HISTORY
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more conscious of how our lives change as the years pass. I decided I wanted to follow the lives of a specific set of people as the decades went by. I’ve also come to realize that eventually, if we are lucky enough to have long, healthy lives, we inevitably will start experiencing loss. This is my attempt to express that as well.
I started hosting annual second-night seders back in the 1980s. Since most of my Jewish friends are not from very religious families, and so don’t tend to celebrate the second of the two initial seders of Passover, I thought they’d be more likely to be free to come to mine. I’ve had to skip a couple of years when events made it too difficult to host the seder, but on the whole, this personal tradition is still maintained.
For the first few years, for the main meal, I fed my guests an incredibly non-pesadik (kosher for Passover) meal of chicken and rice — I was never much of a cook, and it was the only thing I could put together for 12 or more people. (I once tried to substitute baked chicken, and it was a disaster.) Once I moved in with Jim, however, that was taken care of; he is a very good cook, and handles the task admirably.
In addition, for a long time, I used a progressive Haggadah (the text that dictates the before-and-after-meal ceremonies) that I chose out of a group of five or six Haggadahs that I and a friend researched. I used that one for years until I felt it was a little out of date. At that point, I took some pages from that, and some pages from others, scanned them, put them in order, and created a sort of mashed-up Haggadah.
As a result, my seders can tend to be a little untraditional. As are those that Susan and Mark host.
Unlike the seder in this story, which tends to have a fairly stable set of attendees, the participants at my seders have changed over the years as friends have moved away, or have been unable to attend for various reasons. (The size of my living room has also limited the number of guests, unfortunately.) But I wouldn’t be surprised if all the people who have eaten at my cheap folding table, overlooked my paper plates and mismatched wine glasses, and put up with my fondness for the obscenely sweet Manischewitz Grape Concord wine, were all part of a single soul, one they in turn share with all their friends and relatives.
This is the background of the last story in The History of Soul 2065. Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read the book, click the book cover on the right side of this page.