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I Am Forbidden,
This review is from: I Am Forbidden: A Novel (Hardcover)
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This was a powerful novel centered around the lives of a small group of Hasidic Jews over about 60 years of time, from Transylvania to a suburb on Brooklyn, NY. While I read the Advance Reading Copy of this book, there were no dates in the first part of the book, but there were at the end including the September date that will always be a reference in time to all Americans. In reading the book I was able to date the beginning of the book to around 1944-45 near the end of World War II.
When his parents were executed in the first scene in the book, Josef was rescued from his hiding place the next day by the family's maid, a Catholic woman. She went back to her hometown and pretended for the rest of her life that she had been widowed during the war and that Josef, whom she renamed Anghel, was her son. She even had this Jewish boy baptisted in the Catholic church. One day while outside he sees a family trying to get onto a boxcar of a train that was filled with people. The mother and father were killed in their attempt to get on the train but Josef saved their daughter, little Mila and led her to the only Jewish family that he was aware of. Mila was taken in by them and was raised as another daughter along with their own daughter, Atara.
The family was a strict Hasidic Jewish family. The father, if I understood it correctly, was a Rabbi. Without giving away the story of the book, we are shown the life inside such a home. The many rules that needed to be followed in hopes that they would be able to bring about Messiah's coming. While in the Christian Bible and the Jewish Old Testament (I believe), the Jews were given 10 commandments, this group of Jews had 613 commandments to follow. And that didn't even count the unwritten rules like not taking a bicycle ride on the Sabbath.
I have read many books with a Jewish cast of characters, but never one that went this deep into the rules and lives of these people. It was a fascinating look into their theology and thought and yet at the same time provided a wonderful and haunting story of how these three children grew up to old age.
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Initial post: Aug 9, 2012 7:22:57 AM PDT
What Christians call the 10 Commandments are often called the 10 Recitations, considered by Jews to be a summary or categories of commandments. If you read Leviticus and Deuteronomy and the rest of the five books of Moses you will find all kinds of other commandments, like not mixing linen and wool, being fruitful and multiplying, tithing, sacrifices for various situations, the treatment of the offspring of adultery, not lighting fires on the sabbath, not lying with a man like a woman and how to compensate a pregnant woman who has been injured and lost her baby. Add them all up and you get 613. The Christian Old Testament IS the Jewish Bible (although the Christians reordered some of the books and the Catholics added some Greek Jewish writings, the Apocrypha, which are not in Jewish or Protestant Bibles.) Fundamentalists of both faiths follow them. Jews also have a rabbinical tradition to expand the laws to situations not explicitly spelled out in the Bible, the Talmud which actually contains different points of view and disputes on the application of the law. And modern rabbinical decisions spell out the application today - for instance that turning on an electric light on the sabbath is the equivalent of lighting a fire. Custom would cover things like riding the bicycle or covering the collarbone and those customs are to protect the law from being broken- building a fence around the law as it were.
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