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Video Game / The Shivah

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Sometimes the line between salvation and damnation is a mighty fine one.

Rabbi Russell Stone is a conservative Jew who is slowly dying inside. His congregation has mostly left him, his synagogue is falling apart, and he is starting to lose faith in God's benevolence. Then, one day, he receives a bit of good news, albeit of the bittersweet variety: A former member of his congregation has died, and left him thousands of dollars with which to pay his overdue rents and keep his synagogue together... there are, however, a few problems.

The dead man, Jack Lauder, is someone from whom Stone had been estranged for years, so it was quite odd that Lauder would mention Stone in his will. Furthermore, Lauder was murdered, and Stone is a suspect.

Rather than take the money and quietly accept it, Stone decides that he will investigate Jack Lauder's death himself, to clear his name and find out what really happened. To start, he'll make a Shivah call on Rajshree Lauder, Jack's widow...

The Shivah is a Wadjet Eye Games project from the mind of Dave Gilbert. For other Wadjet Eye games taking place in the same universe, see The Blackwell Series and Unavowed. Originally released in September 2006, the game got a Updated Re-release in November 2013 with enhanced graphics and new music. This version is called The Shivah: Kosher Edition.

This Game provides examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: A critical game mechanic. Stone gets involved in a few Rabbinic Duels during the game, where his ability to provoke doubt in his opponents will literally determine if he lives or dies.
  • Artistic License - Judaism: Although the game gets a number of things right, some details about Judaism are incorrect. It's implied that the entire plot takes place during the course of a single Friday evening, and that Rabbis Stone and Zelig are both Orthodox rabbis. That leads to some inaccuracies:
    • Traditional Jewish services cannot take place without a quorum of at least ten men (women don't count), known as a minyan. The service depicted in the opening of the game has only three people in attendance, one of whom is a woman.
    • A number of everyday activities are prohibited on the Jewish Sabbath, which lasts from Friday night to Saturday night. These include using electrical devices and using money. Rabbi Stone uses several computers in the course of the game, and explicitly takes the subway to one of the in-game locations. An actual Orthodox rabbi (or any traditional Jew, for that matter) would not do these things on the Sabbath.
      • The game does address this. If the player inspects the subway entrance by Paddy O'Hare's, Stone comments he is not supposed to use any electrical devices, including the subway, during Shabbos but thinks that God would understand.
    • Even carrying objects from one location to another is prohibited on the Sabbath, which means that Rabbi Zelig would have been unable to give Rabbi Stone his business card. There is a concept in Jewish law called an eruv, though, which allows the definition of "location" to get a bit fuzzy. If an eruv was in place, both Rabbis Stone and Zelig would certainly be aware of that.
    • Stone mentions that he doesn't like the police, and wants to conduct his own investigation; even when he's uncovered a paper trail, a motive, and an accomplice, he never goes to the authorities with this information. This is somewhat compliant with the Orthodox tenet against mesirah, or "handing over", which treats getting goyim (non-Jewish/gentile) law enforcement involved as a betrayal and strictly demands such affairs be handled within the community — i.e., even if Zelig has contracted the murder of one of his own flock, and would easily be justified as a threat to the community itself, turning him in to the cops would still be turning in a fellow Jew, and might lead to Rabbi Stone himself being declared herem. The game never mentions this, though, and only gives Stone's reasons as being unable to get involved in an investigation he's a part of, wanting to clear his name, and wishing to atone for shunning Jack. The best ending also sees Stone use a loophole, where the police get an "anonymous tip" that Zelig is unconscious in his apartment — where they'll find him near Demarco's dead body.
  • Badass Boast: In the climactic confrontation, Zelig has one: "You think you can out-rabbi ME?"
  • Battle of Wits: The final battle consists of Stone and Zelig trading rabbinic answers. Whenever either one fails to answer with a question, the other takes a free punch. There's an achievement for getting through the game without getting hit at all.
  • Big Applesauce: Set in New York, though the plot could take place just about anywhere both Jewish congregations and organized crime can be found.
  • Clear My Name: Part of Stone's motivation, although the case against him is pretty weak (motive, but neither apparent means or opportunity), and he's more driven by curiosity.
  • Dialogue Tree: Notable mostly for the use of rabbinic answers, which is to say answering a question with a question.
  • Guile Hero: Rabbi Stone's solutions to his problems tend to go this route, whether it's hacking into Zelig's mail or using rabbinic questions to convince an assassin to put away his knife. And when that fails, he used to box.
  • Implausible Deniability: If Stone asks Demarco if he's Jewish or if he knows who Rabbi Zelig is, as a casual way of figuring out whether he goes to Zelig's temple or not, he claims not to understand what "Jewish" or "rabbi" means (he does, of course). Stone, not quite sure if it's Demarco's way of deflecting the question or genuine ignorance, doesn't press the matter.
  • Loan Shark: Rabbi Zelig's secret is that he hooks up members of his congregation with these, and has anyone who asks too many questions killed. Jack was one such victim.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Being a strict traditionalist with adherence against interfaith coupling rather than malice, Rabbi Stone banished Jack over his marriage with Rajshree, which caused both of them to get married under Rabbi Zelig.
  • Middle-Management Mook: Zelig. He acts like a Big Bad, but since his role is mostly to reroute hapless people who are asking him for financial advice in exchange for kickbacks, he comes out looking like a Smug Snake along with this trope.
  • Minored In Ass Kicking: Rabbi Stone used to be in a boxing league. Harmless old Jew, he isn't.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Stone gets involved in the mystery after finding out he's the prime suspect.
  • Multiple Endings: There are three variations on the ending, depending on Rabbi Stone's actions in the last few scenes.
    • If Rajshree is alive and Rabbi Zelig is knocked out, Rajshree will testifies against him when the latter claims Rabbi Stone assaulted him, putting him away in prison. It's also heavily implied that Stone manages to find some closure regarding his crisis of faith in his latest sermon.
    • If Rajshree is alive but Rabbi Zelig is killed, Rajshree will refuse to speak with Stone again now that he has committed murder.
    • If Rashjree is dead and Zelig knocked out, Rabbi Stone receives a visit from Sam Durkin who asks him to follow him when Zelig claims Stone assaulted him. Stone quietly hopes that Jack's money would be enough to cover the legal fees.
  • My Greatest Failure: Rabbi Stone feels a lot of guilt about excommunicating Jack Lauder over his relationship with Rajshree. See the Judaism page for notes about inter-faith/intercultural marriages.
  • Non-Answer: Every time you are asked a question, you can choose to respond with a "Rabbinic Answer," which is always another question. Some are rhetorical, while others appear to be deliberately evasive or designed to make the questioner guess the real answer. Most people respond with impatience to the Rabbinic Answer.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: The game ends if you give Rabbinical responses to Rajshree on your first visit. If you do so, she will refuse to give you any information about her husband or his death and Rabbi Stone cannot proceed with his investigation.
  • Psycho for Hire: Joe Demarco, who mentions he's been committing crimes since the age of 12. Sparing him at the subway scene is needed to keep Rajshree alive when confronting Zelig in his apartment.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Rabbi Stone's style of narration. Descriptions of items that the player clicks on are also in past tense, to tie in with the feel of the monologue.
  • Religious Bruiser: Rabbi Stone was in a junior boxing league in his youth, and still very much knows how to box, and uses his skills to take out Joe Demarco (an assassin several decades younger than him) and Zelig.
  • Shiksa Goddess: Invoked for Rajshree Sharma Lauder.
  • Theme Naming: Rabbi Russell Stone, J. Silver, and Ethan Goldberg.
  • The 'Verse: The game shares some elements with The Blackwell Series. Rosangela Blackwell contacted Rabbi Zelig (presumably about an obituary), Sam Durkin is a recurring character in the Blackwell series, and both games have spam e-mails by Tomo. The Blackwell Deception also shows that Rajshree contacted Rosa to see if the ghost of her husband (Jack Lauder) was around.
    • Also, Rosangela's neighbor Nishanthi and Rajshree share the same maiden name, Sharma. And in The Shivah, in the pub there's a certain redhead talking to someone who "isn't there".
    • You can also look up Rosangela on Rabbi Stone's computer and find her advertisement as a medium.
  • Warrior Therapist: Rabbi turned detective and onetime boxer.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already:
    • Searching for Ethan Goldberg on your computer before you know to do so results in a message saying you found something useful by complete accident.
    • Logging in with Rabbi Zelig’s credentials before you are supposed to be able to results in the message “Naughty, naughty” and the action arbitrarily failing, preventing a Sequence Break.