cover image High Holiday Sutra

High Holiday Sutra

Allan Appel, Author, Allen Appel, Author Coffee House Press $13.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-56689-065-6

"" `Spin me like a dreidel. Knead me like a latke. Kiss me like you used to kiss the fringes of your talis when I first prayed with you.' "" Taking the form of a confessional Yom Kippur sermon, this kooky account of the life and loves of Rabbi Jonah Grief presses Philip Roth-type humor into the service of an eccentric Buddhistic Judaism. From the time of his bar mitzvah--which Grief spends hopelessly distracted by his cousin's prominent nipples--to the nights of impotence that plague his first, unconsummated marriage, Grief struggles to reconcile his sexuality and his religion. Only after a pilgrimage to Israel and the Far East does he find the spiritual strength to fall in physical love. Unfortunately, Appel (The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard) never quite decides what tone to take toward his material and settles for Borscht Belt cliches. Although his narrator begs forgiveness at the end of his sermon ""For the sin of superficial piety"" and ""easy rabbinical histrionics,"" the power of absolution may be in hands higher than those of Appel's readers. (Oct.)