Yes, friends, just in time to train up your children for Passover and other priestly days, it’s “Leviticus! The Game.”
Available as a free iPhone app from the Apple store, “Leviticus! The Game” teaches rules about purity, kosher food, and sacrifices in an environment designed to be far more entertaining than wading through the stodgy rules of Leviticus.
It’s highly simplistic, of course, but also fast-paced and a bit addictive for people who like games like Fruit Ninja — so long as you don’t mind beheading a lot of really cute cows, sheep, goats, and doves — while avoiding the sick ones, along with non-kosher pigs and lobsters.
When acceptable offerings float by, a swipe of the finger decapitates the animals, slices the fruit (apples and olives), or explodes the bag of flour and jug of oil — which, like the doves, must be sacrificed together. Blood gushes and heads fly when you swipe the acceptable animals: succeed long enough, and you gain the honor of sprinkling blood on the altar.
Touch a pig or lobster, however, and you’re dead. Poof! Out of the community. Game over.
That seems to be the point of the game: explaining that there may be no human logic to why Jews are to avoid pigs, lobsters, and other non-kosher animals — but it’s the rule, and to be part of the community, you follow the rules.
The game was created by a Jewish woman, Sarah Lefton, who heads up a company called “G-dcast,” a non-profit that makes makes animated shorts on biblical themes for educational purposes (observant Jews intentionally avoid spelling “God” as a sign of respect). According to Liel Liebovitzl, writing in The Tablet, Lefton was inspired while reading Leviticus during synagogue services, and realized that the book is basically about rules.
“It’s all about how the priest should do this but shouldn’t do that, and if he did something a certain way, something will happen, and if he didn’t, it won’t,” she said. “It’s just a bunch of rules with rewards and punishment, and that’s what games are.”
With a small grant from the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco. an illustrator, and a small team of coders who had to be taught the rules of purity, “Leviticus!” was soon helping gamers “make your way through the priestly day.” Play it well enough, and you make it all the way to the Sabbath.
Unless your finger-eye coordination is much better than mine, expect to be excluded on a regular basis.
The nice thing about the game, though — and the Bible story — is that even when it’s “Game Over,” you can always begin again.