The Dawn­ing of the Day: A Jerusalem Tale

Haim Saba­to
  • Review
By – May 25, 2012

This book describes in detail the dai­ly life of Ezra Siman Tov, a hum­ble and pious laun­dry press­er. He lives in the old Nahlaot neigh­bor­hood of Jerusalem just as moder­ni­ty is about to come to the area. Ezra Siman Tov’s days revolve around thrice-dai­ly prayer and learn­ing at a few local syn­a­gogues, his work at the laun­dry, gro­cery shop­ping at the Mahane Yehu­da mar­ket and his meals and rest at home. He has a very lov­ing rela­tion­ship with his wife, Madame Sarah, a mod­est aishet chay­il (woman of val­our), who is his soul mate. This small book is packed with the local col­or of Jerusalem and of Ezra’s Sephardic com­mu­ni­ty of immi­grants from Alle­po. Ezra looks up to the Hahamim, wise men or lead­ers of his local syn­a­gogues, but he also befriends the mem­bers of a local Ashke­naz­ic synagogue. 

Ezra Siman Tov is a sto­ry-teller whose sto­ries are hard to resist, and though they are sim­ple they have a last­ing impact on the lis­ten­ers. There is a mys­te­ri­ous great writer in the neigh­bor­hood who always wants to hear Ezra’s tales, but there are some, includ­ing Ezra’s pro­fes­sor broth­er-in-law, who don’t appre­ci­ate the depth of char­ac­ter behind the sim­plic­i­ty of Ezra’s demeanor. Ezra’s rela­tion­ship with his child­hood friend, Rahamim, adds a touch of intrigue. 

Though he lives a pious and seem­ing­ly per­fect life, Ezra is trou­bled by past tragedies which he yearns to resolve. The book is writ­ten in a pleas­ing, slow-paced, old-fash­ioned style. There are many ref­er­ences to prayers and scrip­ture but no glos­sary or explana­to­ry notes. 

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

Discussion Questions