The Orchard

Yochi Brandes, trans. from the Hebrew by Daniel Libenson. Gefen, $24.95 (382p) ISBN 978-965-229-930-7
This exquisite novel by the author of The Secret Book of Kings tells the story of ancient rabbis and their tremendous contributions to Judaism. The novel portrays key figures and events from sometime after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). It begins with Rachel, daughter of the wealthiest man in Jerusalem, who rejects her father’s choice of bridegroom and marries Akiva ben Joseph, an illiterate shepherd. Although disowned and impoverished, Rachel sends Akiva away to study because she has foreseen that he is destined for greatness. Akiva angrily vows he will not return until he is a rabbi. They are reunited after 12 years, and Rabbi Akiva becomes the most famous sage in Israel, contributing unique interpretations of the Torah. During her lifetime, Rachel suffers greatly—poverty, the stigma of abandonment, and the death of a child. Brandes’s vivid descriptions of the legendary Rabbi Akiva, religious and scholarly disputes among the sages, and the military resistance to the oppressive Romans are stirring and often harrowing. This is an excellent contribution to the history of Judaism. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2018
Release date: 02/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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