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Tender Introspection

Posted on Tue Jul 19th, 2016 @ 8:48pm by Ensign Otoha Takahashi RN & Commander Akiva ben-Avram

Mission: S1E1 - Booby Trap
Location: Cabin, USS Vindex
Timeline: Off duty evening hours.

Most people didn't understand faith, and Akiva knew this. Once a planet achieved warp capability and joined the community of galactic powers, the factional divisions of their planet often seem rather petty. It's not that most races throw off their traditional beliefs so much as outgrow them. Akiva knew he would always be different. He was raised to believe it in a society groomed for thousands of years to view itself as different. The generation-ship which founded Hebron Colony had launched almost a hundred years before Zefram Cochrane completed his first warp jump in the second half of the 21st century. Earth had already co-founded the Federation before Hebron Colony had returned to the fold of humanity, and its bedrock of traditions both ancient and modern would not be shaken by mere warp technology and multicultural stellar politics. The Hebrons would carry on as they always had, adapting to the times as they always had, by transcending the times through adherence to their religion. As much as Akiva longed for new experiences, he always fell back to the family tradition in times of uncertainty and distress. As much as he wanted to go back home, he knew it just could not be...

Such thoughts filled Akiva's mind as he set the small table in his quarters. Two candles, unlit, set to either side of a simple plate with two loaves of bread. A silver chalice of wine sat to the right and a box of incense with a smoldering punk to the left. The wall behind it featured individual portraits of his parents and siblings. Omri's childhood portrait stood out from the more recent portraits of the others.

He knelt down and began to fold the cloth shawl over his shoulders when his door warbled.

"Go away." He folded the shawl over his head and back across his shoulders. The door warbled again. "I'm busy." When the door warbled a third time, he grunted and jumped to his feet. He was at the door in seconds, pressing the button to open it much firmer than necessary. "I said I am busy!" he exclaimed before knowing who was there. It was that nurse. "This had better be important." Akiva's words were clipped.

Otoha recognized ceremonial environment and entered cautiously. "I am sorry to interrupt an important moment, but I'm distributing the new medical hecko alert devices. I need a minute or two to verify calibration."

Akiva sighed. "Very well. Come on in," he said. Before anyone else sees, he added. Akiva led her to the sitting area of his quarters which was near the ceremonial table. "You may begin... doing whatever you need to do." As he watched her fetch the device from her medical bag, he saw her studying his personal effects in general and his Shabbat table in particular.

"It's a family tradition," he felt the need to explain. "An ancient one, actually, going back thousands of years. Every week, Yudahiy families gather together in formal setting and bless one another before partaking of the Shabbat supper. It initiates the holy observance of rest and..." He trailed off. "Well, I suppose it's silly to observe calendar weeks on a starship where time is measured by relative stardates due to the temporal dilation of warp travel, but it's the only piece of home I have." He looked wistfully at the family portraits on the wall behind the table.

She nodded in quiet acknowledgment and then politely knelt beside him. Her voice was quiet, "This won't take long." She pressed what looked like a button to his flesh and then flipped open her wristbook. After curling her fingers inward to type on virtual symbols she closed it up again. The button glowed, and diagnostics sparkled lightly on her tech contact lenses. "Looks good. Your calm resting state makes this easier."

"This brings me peace." Akiva remained pensive.

After about a minute, she closed out the diagnostic session and offered him the button. "The little bead inside is the device. You can mount it next to your body in any manner that you wish. No sensor blocking meshes, though. Let me know if you want it stuck up your nose."

"I'll pass on that," he said bemusedly. Despite the nurse's quirky demeanor, Akiva had to admit she was beginning to grow on him.

After wrapping up, Otoha studied the surroundings. "May I watch, or is this too personal?"

"I, well," Akiva rubbed the back of his head. "Actually, it's not customary to do this alone." At least not the way I've set the table, Akiva thought. "It... it might be nice to have another join me." He turned to a dresser and removed an extra shawl. "Place this over your head. We do not pray uncovered."

"The holy women of my moon do the same."

Akiva paused a moment. "Usually the mother begins by lighting the candles and reciting a prayer," he said, "but since you're new to this, I'll recite the mother's prayer. You just light the candles and wave your hands over them like this in agreement." He made a rowing motion with both hands. "It's said to welcome the day of rest into the home."

Not finding anything objectionable in that, she obliged.

After Otoha lit the candles, Akiva began to chant.
"Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam,
asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu,
l'had'lik neir shel Shabbat.


Akiva leaned over Otoha's shoulder to whisper in her ear. "You can just repeat that last word."

With hands unseen behind her back, she typed at keys for a translation. With a smile, reading projections glinting on her contact lenses, she tried to slowly pronounce correctly, "Y'hi ratzon mil'fanekha Adonai eloheinu vei'lohei avoteinu. Amein."

"Not bad," Akiva smirked. "Most goyim struggle with the glottal stop, though." He took her by the hand and flinched when she made to pull away. "Sorry," he said while looking down. "Um, the oldest traditions instruct us to wash our hands with a laver or cup before supping the bread and wine, but water was scarce on Hebron Colony until the arrival of Starfleet. The original colonists just couldn't spare it, so we do a ceremonial dry wash instead." He looked back at her. "Maybe I should have mentioned it before taking your hand."

"It is not a problem. It just startled me."

Akiva then raised the chalice filled with wine. "We give thanks.

"Vay'hi erev vay'hi voker yom hashishi.

Vay'khulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz v'khol tz'va'am,
vay'khal elohim bayom hash'vi'i m'la'kh'to asher asah,
vayish'bot bayom hash'vi'i mikol m'la'kh'to asher asah,
Vay'varekh Elohim et yom hash'vi'i vay'kadeish oto,
ki vo shavat mikol m'la'kh'to asher bara Elohim la'asot.

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam!"

After lifting it high, Akiva took a deep gulp and then offered it to Otoha.

She smelled of the cup and then gave him an apologetic look, "I don't drink alcohol." Feeling uneasy, she asked, "What does drinking the wine mean?"

"On our most sacred holy day, the wine represents the blood of a sacrificial lamb," Akiva said sheepishly. "For the weekly Shabbat, though, it's just dinner wine." Akiva chuckled. "Father would insist that it lulls you into the 'serenity and rest of Shabbat,' but that's obviously just a rationalization for drinking wine with your food." He shrugged. "Perhaps, back in ancient times, wine was safer to drink than ground water. Our people can be rather anachronistic, I know."

Setting the chalice down, Akiva turned to platter. "The challah comes next," Akiva said, taking the bread. He handed a loaf to Otoha, then took the second one himself. After breaking it in two, he handed half to Otoha and indicated for her to follow suit.

"Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam,
hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz.

Only then did he eat of it.

Otoha obligingly followed.

"That is basically all there is to it," Akiva said. He then brightened. "Oh, there is the traditional family blessing:

"Y'varech'cha Adonai v'yishm'recha
Ya-eir Adonai panav eilecha vichuneka.
Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v'yaseim l'cha shalom.

"That's the oldest of our familiar blessings," he said. "It's typically not spoken outside of a private family setting. Our greatest ancestor was said to have spoken it over his family some 3,000 years ago."

Otoha nodded, staring off, "It amazes me how much we live our lives focusing upon the ephemeral. We give such little thought to the eternal." She looked to him, "Thank you for sharing this with me. It... touches the soul."

Akiva smiled. Had he actually made a friend? And, to wit, with the most unlikely crewmember he had met thus far? "You are welcome to join me any time," he said. "Well, it's a weekly observance, so, uh, next week. Yes, next week would be the soonest. But you don't have to. It, well, yes. Thank you for joining me." Akiva rubbed his neck. "And I suppose I should apologize for my tone earlier."

She returned a smile on her way out, "What tone?"

Lt. Akiva ben-Avram
Nurse Otoha Takahashi

USS Vindex
Bravo Fleet


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