Multitasking pays. I am working simultaneously on three different books, each with its own connected blog. When you are done shaking your head with pity and concern for my mental health, you will see that strange and wonderful things can happen as a result of my aberrant behavior.
Having no interest in our own sad and mundane culture, my three books are placed in the past. Nice, you are saying; this sneaky woman thinks she can do one research and use it for three projects. Perhaps you are not sure if you admire my resourceful spirit or look down on my obvious deceit. However, no matter how you feel about it, you are wrong, Oh Gentle Reader! We are talking about three different dates and a mixture of places. The first book takes place during Second Temple, two thousand years ago, in Judea and Babylonia, which are modern Israel and Iraq. The second books happens during the twelfth century, in Spain, the Maghreb (better known as North Africa), and Palestine, which is, again, modern Israel. The third takes place in 1921, in London, with a few side trips to Paris, Constantinople and Russia.
But you wonder what kind of advantages I am thinking about when I say that multitasking pays. Here is one example. Studying the Cairo Geniza papers for the Maimonides biography, which takes place in the twelfth century, I came across absolutely fascinating information about fashion – with stunning revelations about (gasp) embroidery!!!!! Can you see how it fits with the Madame Koska book, which even though is a mystery, has plenty of information about high fashion and Russian embroidery? And would you believe both cultures loved to use PEARLS? Tears must come to your eyes when you consider the magnificent serendipity here. Kismet! If you stay tuned long enough, there will be a posting about it sooner or later in the Madame Koska blog, or the Maimonides blog, not quite sure yet…
Herod refused to take the position that Cleopatra offered him. As mentioned in a previous posting, it is not clear what the position was, exactly, but some scholars agree with Josephus that she probably wanted Herod to command an expedition she was preparing to aid Antony in his fight against the Parthians. If Herod had agreed to take the position, the history of Judea would have been quite different. But it is clear that he did not want to be involved with Cleopatra in any capacity, be it personal or official. His famous refusal to have an affair with her, if it really happened, is quite surprising when one considers how attractive Cleopatra was to most men, but such aversions do happen. And on professional and political levels, he never quite trusted her. So he refused the mission and elected to sail to Rome.
Every young bride knew that the command “Be fruitful and multiply” was not an empty ritual. The purpose of her marriage, any marriage, was having children. Such things we take for granted, such as love, attraction, happiness, often existed, but they were secondary and unimportant. A girl, in her early teens, was ready to accept reproduction as her duty and her destiny. The very reason for such early marriages was to give the woman as much opportunity and time to have as many children as she could.
The young man was informed of his duties as well. Abstinence, which under some conditions was permitted to a woman, was totally forbidden to a man until he had children. The House of Shammai advocated that a man had to have two sons before he could practice abstinence. The more tolerant House of Hillel allowed a son and a daughter.