One Hundred Philistine Foreskins: A Novel

Counterpoint  2013


Dead Jewish man believed to be coming back as messiah? Christianity. Dead Jewish man believed not to be dead and to be coming back? Some adherents of Lubavitch Hasidism. Dead Jewish woman believed not to be dead and coming back as messiah? The protagonist of Tova Reich’s newest satirical novel, One Hundred Philistine Foreskins. Reich is not afraid to take on the challenges women as powerful spiritual leaders will represent to the Jewish world in this craftily written novel that is so laden with Biblical references, a concordance is suggested for the reader to keep at her side.

One Hundred Philistine Foreskins documents the life journey of Tema Bavli from her childhood in a dysfunctional family in Brooklyn with a clinically depressed mother who loves Anna Karenina and a shochet (ritual slaughterer) father; to a young bride who makes aliyah to a radical community in Israel, who then flees to a community of Black Hebrews in the Israeli desert run by head functionary Abba Kadosh (born Elmore Sinclair in Selma, Alabama); to becoming HaRav Temima Ba’alat Ov (the rabbi Temima, mistress of the egg, consulter of ghosts; see I Samuel 28:7), in her own sites spiritual leader in the Old City of Jerusalem; and finally, to the last home of her group of devotees in the former Hansen Leper Hospital in the Talbiya neighborhood of Jerusalem. If this sounds like a great deal of movement and antic action packed into one novel, it is. But each scene and situation is perfectly pitched and set up and delightfully funny to read, particularly to those who look up the Hebrew names and references.

Highly recommended for book groups and as a common read for Jewish groups seeking a text to discuss with a great deal of substance as well as reading pleasure.

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