THE THIRTY-THIRD HOUR: The Torah of Moshe Katan

Mitchell Chefitz, Author
Mitchell Chefitz, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (278p) ISBN 978-0-312-27758-1
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-70408-7
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-312-30323-5
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-7196-6
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Brenda, a troubled, attractive congregant in Rabbi Arthur Greenberg's sprawling Miami synagogue, has made some extremely serious allegations against the iconoclastic teacher Moshe Katan, the rabbi's colleague and ex-classmate. Having invited Katan to set up a special program on family education at his temple, Greenberg has no choice but to review the pile of evidence: hours of videotaped teaching sessions, featuring Katan's highly nontraditional approach to Jewish learning. Chefitz's second installment in the Moshe Katan series (after The Seventh Telling: The Kabba'ah of Moshe Katan) is chiefly concerned with lengthy swaths of Katan's innovative instruction and interactions. For the remote, scholarly rabbi, the contrast between him and the earthy, freewheeling Katan becomes painfully obvious. (Purim, the most boisterous and joyous of Jewish commemorations, is the rabbi's "least favorite of the holidays," the synagogue "filled with unruly children.") Katan's teaching approach also cuts uncomfortably close to home, and the rabbi is forced into a series of painful ruminations that touch on his own spirituality, his marriage, the rocky relationship with his daughter and a family background both unsavory and tangled. The teachings of Moshe Katan could be helpful for those interested in an anecdotal approach to Jewish tradition. Instructive as a teaching tool but parochial as a work of fiction, the novel's tone is didactic, and the characterizations rarely rise above the level of cliché. A less lecture-like format would have made for a more engaging text. (Jan.)

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