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A More Detailed Report!

Dear Josep,

Well, we are home, safe and sound, and I am procrastinating catching up on my workload to write this post…

This trip could not have been more different from my previous trip to Barcelona… in the best way possible.

For one thing, I was very well-fed. 馃槈 (A full post on keeping kosher while traveling in Catalonia and in general is on its way!) For another, while I wouldn’t exactly say I felt at home there, it felt, to a degree, like somewhere I belong.聽Having you there to pick us up at the airport and serve as our personal chauffeur and tour guide was a big part of that. Another was the familiarity of hearing Spanish and Catalan spoken around me, which I’m actually finding myself missing now! And yet another was the presence of the political symbols of this conflict I’ve been following so carefully for the past year–all the esteladas and yellow ribbons versus the Spanish and Tabarnia flags. I got a big kick out of being able to read and understand the political graffiti lining the roads in the countryside.

You know, I wrote an article about my experience exploring the Call de Barcelona in the newspaper we produced at the conference twelve years ago. A quote: “I followed the map to the Pla莽a Sant Jaume and dove into the alleyways branching off from the square. A steady flow of people streamed in and out of the alleys, visiting small shops and caf茅s that were built into the ancient stone. It took me a while to realize that this is the place I had read about. History has not been particularly respectful to the Call.”

Well, it was a relief to see that there is much better signage now.

And no obnoxious anti-Israel graffiti this time either!

Last time I was there, I had no concept of how close the sea was to this place, so it was cool to walk down to the port and the beach and see what your side of the Mediterranean Sea looks like.

The three of us on the boardwalk

We spent a quiet evening at the hotel after you dropped us off–picked up a few supplies from the store you pointed out, and then went to bed as the rain started really coming down. The next day we walked over to the kosher store and caf茅 for breakfast and to stock up, then we checked out of the hotel, picked up our rental car, and headed for Girona.

How gorgeous is this place?

We settled into our rented apartment and then Leah (my friend and founder of the Moving Stones project, for those who haven’t been following) came over to welcome us, and proceeded give us a personal tour of the Call de Girona.

Toward afternoon we went back to the apartment to eat (or in my case, force down a sandwich; I lose my appetite when I’m nervous!) and get ready for our event. I was glad you were able to come early and we had a little time to hang out before setting off for the bookstore.

During the event itself I felt flustered and tongue-tied and very focused on trying to make it through this thing without forgetting anything significant or sounding like an idiot. It was frustrating because this was totally a dream come true and I didn’t feel able to really be in the moment and enjoy it for what it was. Afterwards I felt tired and overwhelmed and sad about our brief and yes, hug-less goodbye, but in the morning I felt a little better. Eitan and I ate breakfast and then headed to the Jewish museum, which we hadn’t seen the day before, and Leah met us there. It was hard to say goodbye to her too, and I felt sad about leaving Girona. I’ve grown rather attached to the place through my connection with Leah. And goodbyes are always so hard for me.

We spent the next two days up in the mountains; I don’t think I told you anything about this part! When I first envisioned our mountain getaway, I wanted it to be somewhere way out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, preferably with flowing water nearby. That’s exactly what this place was. It’s this funky self-sustaining off-the-grid eco-home tucked into a valley in the pre-Pyrenees, right by Riera de Sant Aniol, a stream that feeds into the Llierca River in the upper Garrotxa region. It was so close to the stream that we could see it through the living room window and hear the rushing water from anywhere in the house. Like the sound machines I used to put on to soothe myself and/or my kids to sleep. But in real life.

This is literally a five minute walk from the house.

It was so beautiful there (and the drive to get there so rugged) that we decided not to try and go anywhere else, but rather stay and enjoy the river, the forest, and the mountains. And so we did. We woke up the next morning to the sound of the river rushing and the birds singing… and nothing else. It was paradise.

So no, we didn’t end up stopping in Besal煤 or getting to La Fageda d’en Jord脿 or anywhere else in La Garrotxa, but we were very happy where we were, and we fed ourselves well, too 馃槈 More details on that in the monstrosity of a blog post coming soon to an inbox near you…

You know how I whined to you on our way out that I didn’t remember the airport being this annoying? Well, aside from the layout, which I found obnoxious (the way they make you walk through the duty-free stores to get anywhere)… maybe it was just the weather that day, but it was extremely dim and gloomy at the terminal. During the security check they asked me to remove my headscarf; they were totally respectful about it when I told them I couldn’t, they just had a woman security guard pat down my head (?), but it still made me kind of uncomfortable. That happened to me only once before, in an airport in Florida, and it was because I was wearing a metal clip in my hair under my hat, which I wasn’t this time.

I was a little on edge about flying home through Istanbul because of the tense diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey these days, but the trip was uneventful.

It’s good to be home, though going back to routine after a trip like that is always hard. While I was feeling down about the goodbyes, I remembered a conversation I had with my son recently upon his return from an amazing summer with his grandparents–a conversation I recounted in a Times of Israel post–and what I said to him then: “Yes, it hurts, it hurts so much, but isn鈥檛 it wonderful that we have people who love us that much, and who we love that much, that leaving them is so very difficult? Isn鈥檛 it wonderful that [you] had the opportunity to have all those amazing experiences and create those memories?

Yes. Yes. How very wonderful. And this is certainly a memory I will cherish forever.

photo of Daniella and Josep in bookstore holding a copy of LtJ together
I love this photo to pieces and it has now taken up permanent residence on the “about” page of the blog!

More photos of the event can be viewed on my Facebook page here (you don’t need to have an account to see them), and once again, you can watch the video of the event here.

Thank you once again for everything you did to make our stay more comfortable and for everything you do to support me and my writing. It means a great deal to me. I hope we will have many more opportunities for real-life time together in the future–on your side of the Mediterranean or on mine!

Much love,

Daniella

Update on Girona Event & ANOTHER Exciting Announcement!

I know, I know, we’re just overflowing with good news here!!!

First things first: we are now FOUR DAYS away from our event at Llibreria Geli in the Old City of Girona! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

On the original announcement I wrote that registration is required, but the powers that be haven’t been able to pull it together, so… uh… never mind that, just show up! The event will be filmed and I’m told it will broadcast via FB Live, but I’m not sure from which page or account! I will update you when I have more info. Leah is hard at work trying to get the landing page of Moving Stones up and running, and when that’s online you’ll be able to sign up to receive updates on our continued schemes聽activities–which will probably include additional events/classes/seminars I’ll be offering remotely. I’ll keep you posted!

And now, the other exciting announcement!

Well, actually, it’s sort of two in one. Part I is something I’ve mentioned in passing here and there, but now I can announce it officially: Kasva Press, the publisher of my novel聽By Light of Hidden Candles, is going to be republishing聽Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism聽this coming January!

Yael even made me a poster!

What this means practically is that the previous edition (which I self-published) will go out of print, and a new version of the book will become available through Small Press Distribution (which will then distribute to Amazon and everywhere else you can find By Light of Hidden Candles). It won’t be significantly different from the previous version; we’re just going to polish up the prose and layout a bit more and update the information where necessary.

It’s Part II that’s a little more exciting for you guys….

So, uh, funny story.

While the good folks at Kasva Press and I were discussing what we might like to change about the new edition of LtJ, the editor asked me if there was anything I might want to add to it. So I was scrolling through the archives of the blog, looking at letters that had been cut from the book or written since it was compiled, and I started copy-pasting, and long story short…..

Screenshot of Microsoft Word open to a document titled 'More Letters to Josep'

…turns out, I wrote another entire book without even noticing.

More Letters to Josep is of a collection of letters/essays on various aspects of Judaism and Jewish history. The letters are divided into four sections: Adventures in Jewish History, Life in Israel, Being Jewish in a Modern World, and Conversations with God.聽Because the passage of time is a common thread connecting the letters, the working subtitle is聽Judaism Then and Now.

Like its predecessor, it will have some “bonus features”; for instance, a compilation of the Whatsapp messages between Josep and me during the independence referendum drama and its aftermath. (I got the idea from this short documentary!) The manuscript is still a work in progress and we still have to make some decisions about what to include and what not to include. (So feel free to make suggestions for additional things you’d like to see in it!) We’re roughly aiming to release it about a year after LtJ’s re-release.

So… um… new book?!

Here we go again!

SUPER EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT

YOU GUYYYYYS

Okay so remember I mentioned I had some really exciting news I was dying to share with you all?!

Here it is:

Poster that reads: "An American-Israeli Jew and a Catholic Catalan walk into a bar... Join Daniella Levy, author of Letters to Josep, and "Josep", a.k.a. Jordi Mart铆, in a discussion and open Q & A on breaking stereotypes & bridging differences, A Moving Stones initiative, October 15th, 7pm-8pm, at Llibreria Geli, Carrer de l'Argenteria, 188, Old City of Girona. The event will accommodate speakers of English, Catalan & Castilian. Limited copies of Letters to Josep will be available. Entrance is free, but registration is required! More information at letterstojosep.com"

YES

EITAN AND I ARE GOING TO CATALONIA IN A WEEK AND A HALF

AND I WILL BE SPEAKING THERE

WITH JOSEP

THE TWO OF US

TOGETHER

IN ACTUAL REALITY

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

So, some elaboration:

Moving Stones is a fledgling project my friend Leah Stoch Spokoiny has been developing for the past couple of years with my input. Leah is a Canadian Jew who has been living in Catalonia for more than 20 years (the last several in Girona), and she conceived of the project after noticing some deficiencies in the way Jewish heritage was being addressed in Spain. The project, as it stands, has two main objectives: to provide a reliable educational resource on Judaism and Jewish heritage, and to serve as a platform for open and respectful discussion of important issues. She stumbled across this blog while researching and reached out to me, and I responded with enthusiasm. We’ve been partners-in-crime ever since!

And I have been driving her ABSOLUTELY CRAZY over the entire holiday to finalize the location and we finally found the perfect place!!!聽Llibreria Geli is a historic bookshop established in 1879 and situated on the edge of the Old City of Girona. It was one of the oldest bookstores in Catalonia and carries more than 200,000 titles in Catalan and Spanish. The good folks at Pedres de Girona, a website promoting the history, gastronomy, legends, and culture of Girona, coordinate events at the shop, and they kindly offered to host and promote the event. They will also be filming it and will make the video available on YouTube and on their Facebook page. (So for those of you on other continents, fear not, this thing is gonna be well-documented!!!) And they will be making a poster way better than the one I threw together above, which I will share with you when it’s ready!

I know most of you readers aren’t in the area… but if you do happen to be near Girona on the 15th, we would love to see you there!!!聽About registration–we’re still setting that up; watch this space!

THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE DOES NOT CONTAIN ENOUGH WORDS TO PROPERLY CONVEY MY EXCITEMENT EVEN WHEN TYPED IN ALL-CAPS

Josep follows instructions!

On several occasions, I have asked (or, um, in certain cases, my imaginary friend character Manuel has asked) for people to send me photos of themselves with my book/s when they get their copies. Well, Josep, for one, has complied:

My hope is that he’ll be so absorbed in the book tomorrow that he’ll forget to go out and protest and get beat up by Spanish police if/when Article 155 hits the fan… but I’m not optimistic. He told me he was reading “your first book” (a.k.a.,the one that’s addressed to him) during a demonstration last week. So most likely, he’ll just bring it along.

Hey Josep–when I said that聽la llamada de la sangre聽is mentioned聽in the book, I didn’t mean I want actual blood of converso descendants聽on聽the book,聽okay?! Sheesh. You stay out of trouble!!!

*ahem*

Nu, so why haven’t the rest of you sent me book selfies yet?!

Letters to Josep Available for FREE–Limited Time Only!

Chanukah and Christmas are both coming up, and they coincide this year! And you know what might make聽an excellent gift for friends or family members celebrating one, the other, or both? 馃槈

If you’ve been thinking about buying a copy of聽Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism聽as a gift, but want to read it yourself first to see聽if it’s your speed–this is a perfect opportunity. The Kindle version of聽LtJ聽is NOW聽available for FREE download聽here on the book’s Kindle page. It will only be free through Thursday (December 15th), so don’t wait–download it now, and spread the word!

If you’ve already read the book–please consider leaving a review! Even Josep left one!聽I MEAN, um, some random, completely unrelated individual who appears to feel a strange sense of kinship with Josep. Yes. (If you leave a review, you can check it out.)聽Just click here, give the book as many stars as you think appropriate, and write a few words on what you enjoyed about it. You will have my eternal gratitude! (Seriously. Getting people to leave reviews is like pulling teeth!)

That is all. Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, etc. etc. etc.!

A Book Update & “Behind the Scenes”

I’ve been relatively quiet due to some annoying Internet issues which may or may not be fixed in the foreseeable future, depending on the good graces of Bezeq and its technician.

In the meantime, here’s a post about the book, since I haven’t聽babbled about it聽in聽hours!

Firstly:

pomeranz small 2

That is me, with a huge grin on my face, because I just found my book in Pomeranz Booksellers in central Jerusalem, on display right next to Rabbi Sacks’s “A Letter in the Scroll.” (Ahhhhhhh) (Have I mentioned that I am a huge fan of Rabbi Sacks?) (I am a huge fan of Rabbi Sacks.) (OMGmybookisnextohisinthestore) (Ahhhhhh)

Ahem.

If you happen to be in Jerusalem, drop by and buy a copy before the signed ones are all gone. 馃槈

Me signing books

And while I’m聽sharing pictures that make me very happy, here is another pair from a couple months ago. You see, my friend Jo happened to be聽traveling聽to Barcelona on business,聽so I was able to arrange a personal delivery of Josep’s signed copy, and a photographer to capture him reading my dedication. 馃槈

Josep reading my dedication

And also to have him sign聽my copy. Because I’m sentimental like that.

Josep signing my copy of LtJ

 

Also: this聽past Shabbat, a friend surprised me with a gift. We had Shabbat lunch at their house, and when I was walking out the door, he handed it to me and told me to open it when I got home so he wouldn’t have to see my reaction if I didn’t like it.

To say I liked it is a gross understatement.

kavitskys

Since the photo quality isn’t great: it’s three of the photos from Pomeranz, with the following written on it: “Lifelong dream= accomplished! May there be many more! Love, the Kavitskys”

Thanks so much, guys. It means a lot to me.

Anyway, the聽friend who gave me that picture, Mike,聽happens to be a writer himself, who is planning to start his own blog documenting his journey back to the USA for a year with his family. (Right Mike?!?! Now I’ve announced it on my blog, so you have to do it! 馃槢 ) When he was thinking about how to structure it, he asked me some questions about my own writing process, and I thought you might be interested to learn a little more about the “behind-the-scenes” of the blog.

Enjoy!


When writing to a particular (and real) person, how do you prevent that from affecting the universality of your message? How do you avoid catering your writing and concepts expressed to that individual or type of person?

Well, part of the appeal of the letters, I think, is that there’s a balance of both… and the personal touch paradoxically makes them more universal and relatable. It changes the tone of an essay on what may be a huge, grandiose topic from a grave or arrogant “I am telling the world something of deep importance,” to a lighthearted chat between good friends.

I make plenty of personal references in the letters, making it clear that I’m really writing to Josep, not just using the “Dear Josep… Love, Daniella” as a frame for an essay. But at least with letters written specifically for the blog, I’m keeping the rest of my audience in mind. So for example, I’ll clarify concepts that I know he knows but others might not, either with a parenthetical statement or a footnote. Or, when I relate to a personal story, I explain it in the footnotes. Here’s one example聽of a footnote that both explains a concept that Josep聽and I know but other readers might not, and tells a personal story. And here’s another聽example. 馃檪

I often use our personal correspondence, both past and present, as a sort of launching point for writing聽about a topic that I think both he and others might find interesting. For example, in my head covering post, I started off with an amusing anecdote about our correspondence, even adding a picture of a gift I sent him recently, and used that to launch into the topic. Another example is the聽Holocaust education post, where I started off by relating both to Josep’s聽experiences of learning about the Holocaust and mine, and connecting that to the Yad Vashem guidelines.

Are you concerned, while writing your letters, about maintaining a broad “audience” and trying to avoid offending/alienating potential readers? If so, how does that affect how you frame your thoughts and does it limit your sense of authenticity?

Aha, yes. Good question. 馃檪 Yes, I definitely keep the sensitivities of my broad audience in mind and will word things carefully to avoid offending or alienating readers. That does limit me and my sense of authenticity somewhat… but it also forces me to think harder about what I’m saying and if I can really stand behind it, which can be a good thing. For example, I sent Josep聽an e-mail a couple years ago (before the blog) about “different kinds of Jews.” Since I am writing from my own perspective as an Orthodox Jew, and he knows that, and it’s a private conversation between the two of us, I didn’t feel a need to be so careful in my description of movements I disagree with. But when I set about the task of turning it into a blog post (it eventually became two!), I realized I’d have to elaborate a lot more and word things much more carefully if I didn’t want to get myself in trouble!
Conversely, though, sometimes I find the fact that I’m addressing the letters to Josep specifically somewhat limiting, too. For example, there聽has been at least one topic聽I would have written about freely, but chose to avoid because I know it聽might be sensitive for him on a personal level.

How do you dedicate the time necessary to make your writing succeed if you鈥檙e not being paid for your work? How do you pace yourself? What are some of your goal-setting methods?

Before I answer this I have to qualify it by saying that most writers are not like me in this regard.

Setting daily or weekly goals (in terms of amount of time spent writing or amount of words written) is a good method for pacing yourself and staying disciplined and focused… for most other writers.

When it comes to me, I write because I can’t not write. I write because writing is like breathing for me. It wasn’t that I sat down and decided to write a blog and maybe a book. It’s that I was overflowing with these letters and I couldn’t stop writing them even when Josep聽himself was not really able to read and react to them. Seriously. The blog was just a receptacle for material that was already practically leaking from my pores. Writing LtJ is not work for me, it is play.

So the answer is, I don’t “dedicate time.” I don’t set goals and I don’t pace myself. I just do it when I am inspired. The disadvantage, of course, is that聽sometimes I feel聽like I’m on the verge of running empty, and that the time will come when I’m all out of material. Well, it’s been a year and a half, I’ve written more than 120 blog posts, and haven’t gone more than two weeks or so without posting, so it hasn’t happened yet… 馃槈

But like I said, most writers don’t work that way. Almost everything I’ve ever read giving advice to writers recommends setting aside a specific time for writing every day and doing that and only that with no distractions. I’ve heard countless writers say that you can’t wait for inspiration and that sometimes inspiration comes while you’re already fifty pages in. That approach doesn’t work for me, it’s just not how I roll. But it may work for you.


If you’re interested in more of my thoughts about writing, I recently started a new blog called The Rejection Survival Guide, which you might enjoy. Be sure to check it out.

Because I’m THAT friend.

Before I begin, I have some excellent news: Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism聽is now available on Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide! (Don’t worry about the book cover image, it’ll get there.) This was not true last night, and trust me, I checked, so apparently it went up especially in honor of Josep’s birthday. 馃榾

Josep himself聽has no recollection of聽this, but in the first year of our friendship I pulled off a little stunt in honor of his birthday, which involved giving his e-mail address to around a dozen friends and family聽and asking them all to “spontaneously” write to him to wish him a happy birthday.

…I am not exactly sure what by what feat of logic I arrived at the conclusion that this was a good idea. 馃槢 If he had done something similar聽to me, I probably would have been equal parts pleased, flattered, and mortified. (Then again, maybe that was the desired effect? 馃槢 ) I think the idea was that I wanted to show him that no matter how lonely he may feel, he has a group of crazy Jews on the other side of the Mediterranean (and a couple on the other side of the Atlantic…) who think he’s great and would love to meet him, for no reason other than the fact that I聽think he’s great and am so pleased to know him. (Which, in my very humble opinion, is about as good a reason as one could possibly have.) Still,聽apparently it did not occur to me at the time that it聽might be a little bit… ah… intrusive of a gesture. As I said on this occasion last year,No one brings out the bossy, nagging, meddlesome, embarrassing-in-public, you-never-call-you-never-write-I鈥檒l-just-sit-here-in-the-dark Jewish mother stereotype in me like my beloved聽Christian friend.” And trust me people–you don’t even know the half of it. 馃槢

In any case, he was very gracious about it, and still maintains that he thinks it was sweet of me, even though he was clearly so traumatized by the incident that his memory blocked it out. 馃槢

Well! Tradition is tradition, and today is Josep’s birthday again, and it is my solemn聽duty as his one-and-only stereotypical-Jewish-mother-friend to rally聽his ever-growing fan base聽to wish him a happy birthday. I’m not handing out his e-mail this time 馃槢 but you are most strongly encouraged to wish him well in the comments below. Especially if you happen to have taken part in the Great Birthday E-mail Invasion some nine years ago. (You know who you are. 馃槈 )

(Seriously. Do it. Now.)

And as for you, my poor victim–I hope you are spending today surrounded by people who love and appreciate you, and that this year brings with it many blessings, opportunities, and positive聽developments for you and all those you care about. Sending you all my best wishes on this day and always. 馃檪

Impostor Syndrome and the Burning Bush

Dear Josep,

Well… as you know, the past few weeks have been pretty crazy, and I’m having what researcher and author Bren茅 Brown calls a major “vulnerability hangover.”

It’s what happens when you do something really brave, something that involves exposing yourself to聽vulnerability and taking a risk, and then afterwards when you step down,聽you look at yourself and go, “WHAT did I just DO?” and all you want to do is crawl under your bed and not come out for a good few weeks.

Yesterday my father-in-law arrived with a little stock of the books, and I got to hold one聽for the first time. It was sooo bizarre. Was it like that for you too?! Like, there’s a book in my hands. It’s a book, and I wrote it. What.

My dear husband found me standing there in a daze staring at the pile of books, and took this picture…

After the kids went to bed I sat down with one of the copies and wrote you a dedication. But not before Googling “how to autograph a book.” (Yes. I literally Googled it. Don’t laugh, I got some good tips! 馃槢 ) I’ll have to apologize for the mess of scribbles all over your title page… I was emotional and my hand was shaking. I’d been dreaming of that very moment for a long time.

Today I started trying to work on building my author website (well, author/translator/premarital counselor/whatever-the-heck-I-am-these-days website). And I found myself at such a loss. I聽mean… I’m a content writer,聽you’d think I should be able to write content for my own website! But I also suffer from a severe case of Impostor Syndrome.

Have you ever heard of Impostor Syndrome? Caltech Counseling Center defines it as “a collection of feelings of聽inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that聽the opposite is true.”

I have a beautiful example. You don’t know this, but LtJ was actually not the only book that came out this month with my name in the byline. A poem of mine was published in an anthology called聽Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women. During the process of preparing it for print, the editors sent us the biographies we had originally submitted to make sure they were still up to date. Mine started off with “Daniella Levy is a writer, poet, translator, and self defense instructor…” And my first thought when I looked at it was, “Poet…? Really? Can I call myself that?聽Just because I write poetry occasionally… and performed a spoken word poem once for a small audience… I dunno, does that qualify me?”

…And then it hit me聽that the bio in question was for a聽poem. That聽I wrote. That was going to be聽published. In a聽book.

How ridiculous am I?!

Thankfully, I am not alone in my ridiculousness. Studies show that about 70% of the population suffers from some degree of Impostor Syndrome. In fact, arguably聽the聽most important figure in the Jewish faith suffered from it, too.

I’m referring, of course, to Moses.

One of my favorite stories聽in the Bible is the scene whether Moses encounters the burning bush and first hears God speak to him.

This is how it goes down: Moses is tending his father-in-law’s sheep, right? And he comes across a really strange sight–a bush that is in flames, but is not being consumed by the fire. So he stops to check it out, and God calls to him and tells him to remove his shoes, “for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” He then explains to Moses who He is and tells him that He wants Moses to go to Pharoah and聽tell him to let the Israelites go.

So, let’s just imagine for a second this happened to you. God Himself appears to you in a burning bush and tells you to go to the Prime Minister聽of Spain and tell him to let Catalonia secede from Spain. 馃槢 What do you do? Do you start asking questions? Do you tell God He must have made a mistake?! No! You say “Yes sir!” and get moving! (Make a note of this!聽馃槢 )

But that’s not what Moses did: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should take the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 4:11) 聽God tells him not to worry, that He will be with him. But Moses is not convinced, and argues that the Israelites won’t listen to him and won’t believe him. So God reassures him further and gives him the turn-the-staff-into-a-snake trick to help prove that Moses was really speaking on His behalf.

But then Moses keeps arguing!聽He’s not a man of words, he’s got a speech impediment, couldn’t God just send somebody else? And God’s like, “Dude, I KNOW. I’M GOD. I gave you that speech impediment, remember?!聽Have your brother talk for you if you have to, but GO!”

Seriously. God Himself appears to Moses in a spectacular feat of pyrotechnics and what does Moses do? He argues. He protests聽five times聽in that one encounter.

“Seriously, Moses. You’re pushing it.”

He truly did not believe he was worthy of the task–even in the face of “information that the opposite was true.” Like, for instance, GOD HIMSELF telling him he was worthy.

Boy, he聽had聽it bad…

And maybe it was precisely this聽that led God to select him for this task. As I’ve mentioned before, the unique thing about Judaism as a religion is that it does not attribute its revelation to a single person, but rather to a whole nation. A week and a half from now, when we read the Haggadah and retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we are not going to mention Moses’s name even once. The Sages left his name out of the Haggadah on purpose: because the miracles of the Exodus should be attributed to God alone. If Moses had been a little more vain, he might have taken advantage of his position of power to create a cult of personality around himself.

Actually, right after the sin of the Golden Calf, God offered to destroy the Israelites and make Moses and his descendants into a nation instead! And what did Moses say?

“Please! This people has committed a grave sin… please forgive them. But if not, erase me now from the book You have written.” (Exodus 32:31-32)

God grumbled back “Whoever has sinned against Me, him I will erase from My book!” (Exodus 32:33), but I’d like to think that God was secretly smiling to Himself… in a metaphorical sense, of course. This is exactly why He had chosen Moses.

Surprisingly,聽Impostor Syndrome聽can actually be a predictor of high achievement. It’s the people who聽don’t suffer from it–people who think they know exactly what they’re doing–who are more likely to be frauds.

Maybe God should have mentioned this to Moses from the bush. 馃槈

Anyway–I’m looking forward to getting that copy to you!

Much love,

Daniella

A Little Book-Related Update

Because I’m still totally in this mode:

chicken book

And I expect that’s not going to change very soon…

So first of all–I just want you to know that when I started out, I was afraid聽that I wouldn’t be able to sell more than 50 copies.

It’s been exactly a week since the book went live on Amazon, and I’ve already sold 54.

I love you all.

A few people have responded to my request to share photos of their copy upon receiving it.聽And while each one delighted me, I have to say, there is one in particular that is several leagues above the rest in its awesomeness. In case you didn’t see it聽on LtJ’s FB page聽or on the blog’s “About” page, where it has taken up permanent residence:

Doing what I've been making him do for ten years now...

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, contrary to what some people apparently believe, he does exist!聽(I have had conversations in the recent past with three completely unrelated people who assumed that he was a fictional literary device. Why would I do that?!?! And why does it make more sense for me to聽invent a Catholic friend in Barcelona to whom to address my letters, than for me to actually have a Catholic friend in Barcelona to whom I enjoy writing?! I can’t decide whether to be insulted that people seem to think this is so unlikely, or happy to have confirmation that it is, in fact, unlikely enough to be interesting…)

Anyway. The book is now up on Ingram Spark, which hopefully means it will be going up on Book Depository within the next few weeks (though it could take as long as two months). Keep an eye out for it, and if anybody spots it let me know! It will also be available through all of Ingram Spark’s聽print book distribution partners, which means that pretty much any bookstore or library will soon be able to order it through their usual suppliers. So: if you have a local library, bookstore, community center, or university that you think might benefit from acquiring some copies–mention it to them! (Maybe in a couple weeks, so it’ll actually be available when you do.) In the meantime, retailers聽can buy it wholesale from CreateSpace Direct. And individuals can, of course, order from Amazon. 馃檪

And, once again, when you’ve finished reading, remember聽to leave a review. The Amazon.com page still doesn’t have any! 馃檨 <–that is me. Sad. Because my book needs reviews. 馃檨 <–you know you want to make me happy. (What do you mean, it actually takes time to finish reading it? What is this nonsense of which you speak?)

Okay okay I will now stop ranting about the book! (Well, for the moment. I’ll be finally receiving my own copies this coming Tuesday, and I will probably be back to gush about it some more. Bear with me.) Shabbat shalom, y’all. 馃檪

The Book Is Here!!!

With gratitude and praise to the Almighty, I am delighted to tell you that, b’sha’ah tova umutzlachat–may it be at an auspicious and successful time–Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism is now available to order! (…We religious Jews start spewing flowery Hebrew phrases when we get excited. Bear with me.)

This could be you!

How Do I Get My Copy?!?!

The eBook:

For the time being, the eBook will be available exclusively on Amazon Kindle here. (I will probably expand to other eBook distributors in a few months.) If you have Kindle Unlimited, you should be able to download it for free! (Don’t worry, they will still pay me, provided you actually read it. 馃槈 )

The USA:

You can order on Amazon.com here.

Europe:

You can order from: the UK here; France here; Germany here; Italy here; and Spain here. 馃檪

Anywhere Else:

You can still order from any of the above places, they ship worldwide and the shipping isn’t terribly expensive. However, if you want to wait for better shipping rates, sit tight; I’m going to get the book on Book Depository (which has free shipping worldwide) and other booksellers across the globe as soon as I can, but I’m doing that through Ingram Spark, which could take a while (up to a few months). I will be sure to let you know when it goes up in other stores.

What Can I Do to Help?

Thanks for asking! 馃槈 Here’s what you can do:

  • Buy the book. Duh. 馃槢
  • Leave a starred review on Amazon.聽The more reviews the book has, and the higher my ratings, the more people will see the book. You don’t have to write much; just give the book as many stars as you think it deserves (which is five, obviously. 馃槢 ) and write a few words about what you liked about it.
  • Share the link to the book, or this post,聽on social media and add a few words explaining to your friends why you think they should buy a copy of their own.
  • When you receive your copy, take a picture of it (or better yet–a selfie聽with it!) and post it on social media, tagging me or Letters to Josep’s Facebook page! This will make me really happy. 馃榾
  • Mention the book in聽relevant聽contexts. Have a friend who expresses an interest in learning about Judaism? Belong to an interfaith group or forum? Mention LtJ!
  • The usual: “like” the FB page if you haven’t already. I am theoretically on Twitter, too, but I still haven’t quite figured it out, as I find the word limit聽super prohibitive. (When have I ever written聽anything in 140 characters or less?! 馃槢 ) But feel free to follow me: @DaniellaNLevy, and help me get a handle on it, so to speak 馃槈
  • Also,聽write a guest letter if you haven’t already, or write another one if you have! 馃槈 They help the blog reach wider and more diverse audiences.
  • If you belong to a聽synagogue or Jewish community center, or a聽church, mosque or other faith community that you think would be open to the book, please be in touch with me–use the contact form or e-mail me at letterstojosep[at]gmail[dot]com. I will be giving out signed bookplates in exchange for a photo of a flyer hung on the bulletin boards of such places. 馃槈

A Little Prayer

I composed for the occasion:

专讬讘讜谞讜 砖诇 注讜诇诐,
讙诇讜讬 讜讬讚讜注 诇驻谞讬讱
砖讛讻讜诇 讘讞讝拽转 住讜诪讬谉
注讚 砖讗转讛 诪讗讬专 讗转 注讬谞讬讛诐,
讜讛讻讜诇 讘讞讝拽转 讗讬诇诪讬诐
注讚 砖讗转讛 驻讜转讞 讗转 驻讬讛诐,
讻讱 讗讬谉 讛住讜驻专 讻讜转讘 讗驻讬诇讜 讗讜转 讗讞转
注讚 砖讗转讛 诪讻讜讜谉聽讗转 讬讚讜.
诇讻谉 讬讛讬 专爪讜谉 诪诇驻谞讬讱
砖转讬砖讗 讗转 驻专讬 注讟讬 讗砖专 讻讬讜讜谞转,
诇讻诇 诪讬 砖讬讝讚拽拽 诇讛诐,
诇讛讬拽专讗 注诇 讬讚讬 讻诇 诪讬 砖讬专爪讛 讘讛诐,
讜诇讙注转 讘诇讘 讻诇 讗砖专 讬拽专讗,
讜诇讛讗讬专 讗转 注讬谞讬讜 讜讗转 讚专讻讬讜.
砖诇讞 诇讬 讛爪诇讞讛 讜砖诪讞讛 讜驻专谞住讛 讜诪谞讜讞转 谞驻砖
讜讬拽讜讬讬诐 讘讬 讛讻转讜讘 “讜讛讜爪讬讗 讻讗讜专 爪讚拽讱 讜诪砖驻讟讬讱 讻爪讛专讬讬诐”
讘住驻专 讝讛 讗砖专 讗谞讬 诪讜爪讬讗讛 诇讗讜专.
讞讜谞谞讬 讜注谞谞讬, 讻讬 讗诇 诪诇讱 专讞讜诐 讜讞谞讜谉 讗转讛.
讘专讜讱 砖讜诪注 转驻讬诇讛.

Master of the Universe,
It is apparent and known before You
That all are considered blind
Until You bring light to their eyes,
And all are considered dumb
Until You open their mouths,
So too the聽writer cannot write a single word
Until you guide his hand.
Therefore, may it be Your will
To carry the fruits of my pen which You directed,
To whosoever shall need them,
To be read by all who shall want them,
And to touch the hearts of all who read,
And to bring light to their eyes and their paths.
Send me success and joy and livelihood and peace of mind
And may the words “And He shall bring out聽your righteousness like light, and your sentences聽like noon*” be fulfilled through me
With this book which I bring to the light.*
Be gracious to me and answer me, for You are a gracious and merciful God and king.
Blessed be He who hears prayer.

*The Hebrew phrase for publishing a book is聽hotza’ah la’or, literally “bringing to the light.” And like in English, the word “sentence,” which in the original phrase in Psalm 37 (mishpatekha) refers to judgment, can also mean a sentence of words.