Isaac's Ethical Will

June, 2009

Lenoir City, TN


After the incidents in Acceptance, Anselm and the others returned to their homes to pack up some of their things.

While Micah was at his father’s house, packing the filing cabinet containing the group’s records (the one which Alice so carefully organized for Isaac), he found folders for each member of the group. They contained copies of birth certificates (real and forged), driver’s licenses, passports, Yaechahre Acceptance information (the same information which is printed on their tokens), genealogies and family connections for everyone, and other forms of identification.

In Isaac’s folder, amongst the above-mentioned documents, Micah found three envelopes. One was labeled “For Micah, in the event of my death;” another was labeled, “For Alice, in the event of my death;” the third was labeled, “For Kalyn, in the event of my death.”

Micah first opened the envelope addressed to him, and he found his father’s ethical will.[i]

October 1, 2008

Micah, my beloved,

If you are reading this, I have, at long last, been gathered to my family.[ii]

I won’t tell you not to grieve for me—because I know if I were to lose you, my grief would cripple me—but I hope your suffering will be tempered by the knowledge that I’m happy to go.

I would worry about leaving you an orphan, but I know that you couldn’t love Anselm more if he was your brother in the flesh. He is as much a part of your family as I am, and I know he will take care of you (as he has done since the two of you met).

What is left for me to say to you that I have not already said? We’ve had so many lifetimes together and have shared our minds so completely, I don’t know that there’s much left which hasn’t already been covered several times.

 I do wish I could have seen you married with children of your own. When I watched you with Kalyn, my heart ached knowing that you would never know the joy of having your own child. I truly believe that you would have been a wonderful father.

I wish, also, that I could have seen you fall in love. I have sometimes wondered if more than just your outward appearance has been frozen in time. Are you perpetually too young to have a deep and lasting romance? I hope not. I hope you have remained single simply because your bashert[iii] has not come along yet. I hope you will one day love a woman and be loved in return—as I was with your mother. As I have been once since.

I know you know about Alice, and that you knew about her from the beginning—you and Anselm and Rose. I appreciate the discretion that you all showed in not confronting us about it at the time.

I know you never understood why I asked her and Rob to stay in our group. I know you thought I was crazy—or that I had some desire to make myself a martyr. Even Alice silently questioned why I did something which clearly caused me pain.

The answer is this: I would have been miserable regardless. That, and my love for her runs so deep, I can’t bear to not see her. Even seeing her with another man is preferable to never seeing her again. And I will freely admit there are times when I pretend that she is still mine. There have been so many times when she and Kalyn have been here—and especially when you’re here as well—that I can ignore reality and pretend I have a full family again. I’m not crazy, because I know I do this; I’m just a daydreamer—a wishful thinker.

I hope you can understand, now, why I don’t fear dying, and why I look forward to joining your mother and your sisters. We will wait for you to join us, but don’t be in a hurry. Live your life to the fullest. Use the gifts which G-d[iv] has given you—both the ones you were born with, and the ones you have since acquired as a Canichmeh. You will be asked to account for the things you have not done, just as much as you will have to answer for the things that you have done.

I have never known what caused you to turn your back on your faith. I worry that it was something I did. Was I too strict on you when you were growing up? Did I teach you to hate the mitzvot[v] through dull repetition? Did I fail to show you the joy of G-d?

If I did anything to hurt you, or if I failed you in your education, I am truly sorry.

If it’s not hypocritical of me, though, I would ask you to reconsider whatever fears or dislike you have for Judaism and/or G-d. Don’t let me ruin either for you.

But regardless if you can ever be reconciled, I do beg you to say Kaddish for me for all twelve months. If anyone requires the extra time, I do.[vi]

I also fear that I have not expressed my love and approval of you as often as I should have. I sometimes catch myself treating you as if you were still a child (and how often do I do it and not notice?), despite the fact that you’ve been a man for nine hundred years. I think, though, that is a failing common to parents; no matter how old a child may get, they’re always your child. (That can be both a blessing and a curse.)

I hope you have not taken my actions at such times to mean that I don’t approve of you, or somehow think you lacking. The fault at those times is mine, not yours.

And I worry that I showed a preference for your sisters—and even to Kalyn—over you. As my firstborn and only son, I put more burdens on you than I did your sisters. And after so many years without having a child in my life, I lavished more attention on Kalyn than on you.

I hope you don’t think that I loved them better than you, because, Micah, I have always loved you, and I have always been proud of you. You have shown yourself to be a good man—ethical and just—and a father can ask nothing more of his child. If you have any flaws in your character, I do not know them.

So, I will close with my love for you, my son. I truly believe that love is endless, and my love for you will always exist, even after my physical presence is gone. Hold to that, and be comforted.

Your loving father,


[i] An ethical will is an ancient Jewish custom, first recorded in the Bible when Jacob calls his children together and both blesses them and admonishes them to be careful of their weaknesses. There is no standard format for an ethical will, but the writer will generally recount his or her past and express their hope for the future of the people left behind.

[ii] Being gathered to one’s family or to one’s ancestors is a Biblical euphemism for death. It can be interpreted literally in that one is gathered into (buried in) the family tomb, but most people understand it to be a metaphor for being reunited with one’s deceased relatives in the afterlife.

[iii] A Hebrew word most closely translated as “soul mate.”

[iv] It is the custom among religious Jews to not spell out “God” because anything containing the name of God is considered too holy to throw away. Torahs, bibles, and other religious documents containing the name of God must be interred in a cemetery with the same courtesy shown the dead.

[v] Commandments.

[vi] The Mourner’s Kaddish is one part of the daily liturgy, and it is specifically recited by people in mourning. The prayer is thought to confer some benefit to the soul of the deceased. The Catholic concept of “praying someone out of Hell” is a close (although certainly not exact) analogy.

The full mourning period after the death of a parent is one year, however Kaddish is only recited for eleven months because you would not want to imply that your parent was so wicked that they need a full year’s worth of prayers to help the state of their soul. But here, Isaac specifically requests the full twelve months, simply because of the guilt he feels for drinking blood.


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Background for the website and the header is from Lilium medicinae by Bernardus de Gordonio, translated into Hebrew by Moses ben Shmaya de Castro in Escalona, Spain, January 11, 1466. The original manuscript is housed at the Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The female figure in the header is from the Manesse Codex, which is housed at the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany.