5 Thoughts: The REAL First Fandom

1. WHAT IF WE LOOKED AT Torah as if it were another created world, a la the works of Tolkien, Rowling or Lucas? and its adherents as members of (perhaps) humanity’s oldest text-based fandom?

2. For one thing, they already bear a strong resemblance. Consider “midrash,” from the Hebrew word meaning “to study” or “interpret.” Midrashim are rabbinic stories addressing behind-the-scenes bits of Torah that aren’t explicit in the text: why did Abraham become a monotheist? Who was the first person to cross the Red Sea? Why are there two creation stories in the book of Genesis? In other fandoms, we call such stories “fanfic” (short for “fan fiction,” or fan-created answers to questions only other fans would ask), and they serve the same purpose: what was Spock’s childhood like? Why are Sith lightsabers red? How do you make butterbeer? Just as fanfic can be widely accepted as valid within a circle of genre-specific fans, so is midrash widely accepted by the community of Torah scholars; sometimes even confusing newbies into thinking it’s canonical.

3. Similarly, just as Jews adopt certain behaviors and artifacts as being important or essential to the Jewish Experience, so other fans do the same. I lay tefillin, observe Shabbat and wear tzitzit; some of my other-fannish counterparts wear Vulcan ear-tips, attend conventions and sport IDIC medallions. Why do we do this? Because it helps give our life meaning, and brings us closer to our focus of adoration.

4. There’s more. Fandom-specific jargon is involved in both religious and sfnal communities, whether it’s Hebrew, Klingon or Quenya. From Gallifrey to T-negative, Hineini to Machpelah, you’ve got to know the references.

5. Let me be clear: I am not trivializing my natal (or any other) religion, something I take very seriously (despite often using a light touch). It’s just that once I noticed the parallels between Judaism and fandom, I couldn’t unsee them. Hopefully, now, neither can you.

N. B. – This sentiment appeared earlier in a somewhat longer form; I hope I’ve made my point more clear in this one.

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