"You must understand," said Rabbi Levy, "why I find this chosen profession of yours worrisome. I mean, the Law clearly prohibits the use of magic." He folded his hands on his desk.
I had come to the Rabbi's office on a March afternoon, by Mom's decree.
I shook my head. "That's not what I read. I read that you're supposed to kill witches. I haven't met any witches in this city."
"Then what was that business with the rat, that Anna told me about? And how do you manage to walk so fast if not in violation of the laws of reality that God himself created? This is all...less than Kosher."
"I thought that was about food."
"You know what I mean, kid. You're edging into unholy territory, if you aren't there already."
I sighed. "The business with the rat turned out to be. But, see, nothing else I do is in violation of God's creation. It's more like I'm...fulfilling the spirit of certain things, you could say. That's why I can walk fast. Because this is New York City, and we move fast. I think that's perfectly appropriate for this place. As for the rest, most of it is contacting the gods and the spirits and asking them to help me. Nothing unholy about that. I don't deal with demons or anything."
"Excuse me, did you say 'gods'?"
"What happened to 'The Lord is our God, the Lord alone?' Hm?" He glared at me.
"Well, call them spirits if you will. Angels, if you're feeling nice. Dybbuks, if you're feeling uncharitable, although not to their faces. I'll grant you, none of them are as awe-inspiring or over reaching as the Lord...not that I've ever had a chance for empircal comparison."
"Nice save there. And I certainly don't expect you to try to contact God directly."
"No. I would be obliterated."
He chuckled. "I can see you're well-read enough to be able to argue these points with me. That's good. But still, I am confused. What are you doing, if not witchcraft?"
He blinked. "Say what?"
"Shamanism. You know, make some music, do a wild dance, eat some mushrooms, send your consciousness out to meet the spirits halfway. Bargain with them, or ask for guidance. That kind of thing. I avoid the mushrooms, though, and I prefer to keep my consciousness here."
"That sounds distinctly polytheistic. Ahem."
"Well...I mean, as long as I always acknowledge the Lord to be the One God on high, that's okay, isn't it? I'm not worshipping anyone besides the One. I mean, haven't been struck with plague or swallowed up by the earth or anything yet, so I feel like God isn't all that bothered...yet. I'm not trying to be Jezebel here, okay? I'm just...learning about my world. In a particular way that would probably get me beheaded if I was in Saudi Arabia. Unless I could convince them that I was just conversing with Djinni. But they don't seem the type to be persuaded by anyone, or to forgive. But you do."
"How can I possibly contradict that," said the Rabbi.
"I mean, I'm not trying to mess with the fundamental laws of reality or anything, I'm just bargaining with God's subordinates. And the occasional locked door. Whoops, shouldn't have mentioned that."
"Mentioned what?" said the Rabbi, with a slight grin. Then he sighed. "I can see that trying to convince you to give up this magic business would have us arguing all night. And all the next morning. Fine. If you're going to continue this business, at least let me give you something to remind you of your heritage." He opened a drawer and rummaged around, and brought out a big ram's horn. "You said something about using music to call the spirits. What music could possibly be more Jewish than a Shofar? You just play this -- quietly -- when you want to call upon one or another of the spirits."
"What happens if I play it loudly?"
"Everyone thinks you're calling them to Atone about six months too early."
He handed me the Shofar.
I held it with care. "This is...an honor. Do you want me to play it on Yom Kippur?"
"No, no. Not for the whole community. Tradition is men-only for blowing the Shofar during full services. But I want you to have this anyway. To remind you, every time you do this Shaman business, of who holds your most binding allegiance, the one you made your contract with when you were 13. Get me?"
"Good. And tell Maria I said hello. I haven't seen her in while."