The Holy Thief: A Con Man’s Jour­ney From Dark­ness to Light

Mark Horvitz; Alan Eisenstock
By – September 28, 2012
At first glance, The Holy Thief appears to be a pop cul­ture, touchy – feely’ type of book pre­sent­ing the famil­iar sto­ry of how one man hits rock bot­tom and turns his life around. The Holy Thief deliv­ers that sto­ry, but it is so much more as well — a fas­ci­nat­ing mem­oir of the remark­able Rab­bi Mark Borovitz. Con man, gam­bler, thief and drunk, Borovitz end­ed up spend­ing years in prison for the many bad checks he had passed and ille­gal schemes he had been involved in over the years. While in jail, he had a spir­i­tu­al awak­en­ing that inspired him to change his life. Even­tu­al­ly, Borovitz was released, went on to work and study and then become the rab­bi at Beit T’Shuvah, a Jew­ish recov­ery house that uses the Torah and the 12 steps of Alco­holics Anony­mous to help oth­ers recov­er from addic­tion and change their lives. Rab­bi Borovitz is an amaz­ing man, and his extra­or­di­nary life as he lives it through the prin­ci­ples of the Torah and the 12 steps, is a pas­sion­ate and inspi­ra­tional story. 

Bar­bara S. Cohen is a tri­al attor­ney in Los Ange­les who spe­cial­izes in child abuse cas­es. She is a mem­ber of NAMI and a sup­port­er of NARSAD, and is an advo­cate for those who suf­fer from men­tal illness.

Discussion Questions

JBC Book Clubs Questions

  1. At his ordi­na­tion, Rab­bi Mark was called a holy thief”. What do you think of this moniker? Do you think it’s an apt descrip­tion of his life? Does it encom­pass his past and present togeth­er or is it more descrip­tive of his past or cur­rent life?

  2. The book is writ­ten in a very con­ver­sa­tion­al style — Rab­bi Mark’s voice com­plete with curs­es and slang. Does that enhance or dis­tract from your reading?

  3. Rab­bi Mel Sil­ver­stein asks if the acci­dents or luck that hap­pens in life are acts of God or not. What do you think?

  4. Did you feel sym­pa­thy for Mark? Were you more sym­pa­thet­ic at the end of the book, after read­ing about his cur­rent work?

  5. What do you think of a rab­bi who was in prison? Does it make him more or less relatable?

  6. When do you think Mark expe­ri­enced redemption?

  7. The epi­graph of this books reads, God is my only friend. No one else knows who I am. Find a way out. Find a way.” What do you think of this in rela­tion to this book? Why was it cho­sen? What does it imply about rela­tion­ships – both between God and man and between human beings?

  8. Did read­ing this book impact your own views on reli­gion or spir­i­tu­al­i­ty? Did it affect how you feel about Judaism?

  9. JBC Book Clubs ques­tions © Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, Inc., 2014