The Prophet­ess: A Novel

January 1, 2013

The Prophet­ess tells a mod­ern sto­ry about Rachel, an Amer­i­can teenage girl called to join a secret com­mu­ni­ty of Jew­ish prophets. The sto­ry weaves Jew­ish tra­di­tion, mys­ti­cism, mod­ern Jew­ish Amer­i­can life, and dis­cov­ery of Israel, into a com­ing-of-age sto­ry of a girl dis­cov­er­ing her pow­er and pur­pose in life.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Evonne Marzouk

  1. Dur­ing Rachel’s jour­ney of learn­ing to be a prophet­ess, the prophets strug­gle with the ten­sion of teach­ing her and pro­tect­ing her. Do you think they were suc­cess­ful at find­ing the right bal­ance? How might Rachel’s sto­ry have been dif­fer­ent if they were more or less pro­tec­tive? Now that Rachel has asked them to tell her things,” how might their rela­tion­ship change?

  2. Rachel’s fam­i­ly and friends call her Rachel, but the prophets call her by her Hebrew name, Rahel. A sim­i­lar dynam­ic exists with Rachel’s moth­er, Alisha/​Elisheva. How does the use of names reflect dif­fer­ent aspects of a person?

  3. Gifts play an impor­tant role in this nov­el. For exam­ple, Rachel enters the sto­ry with a neck­lace from her grand­fa­ther, a poet­ry jour­ney from Lau­ren, and a make-up set from Maya. Dur­ing the sto­ry, Yonatan gives her a prayer­book, Devo­rah gives her a blan­ket, and Jake gives her a ring. How do these dif­fer­ent gifts help Rachel along her journey?

  4. Rachel’s jour­ney teach­es her both about Jew­ish tra­di­tion and about the mys­ti­cal truths of life. Because of what she learns, she is left feel­ing the need to observe Jew­ish tra­di­tion even if the prophe­cy were stripped away from her. Can you under­stand this con­clu­sion? Do you think you would make the same choice?

  5. Devo­rah and Noach have a unique part­ner­ship. Why do you think she refused his offer of mar­riage when they were young? Why do you think it took until her deathbed to admit her love for him?

  6. Devo­rah, Noach and Rachel’s grand­fa­ther each lived through the Holo­caust, but man­aged to keep their faith in the end. How were their post-Holo­caust jour­neys sim­i­lar and dif­fer­ent? How did they each find pur­pose and the abil­i­ty to have a good life?

  7. In this nov­el, the prophets have the abil­i­ty to sup­port and uplift each oth­er by chan­nel­ing G‑d’s light. Have you ever expe­ri­enced some­one uplift­ing you in a sim­i­lar way? Have you ever giv­en light” of some kind to anoth­er? What was the expe­ri­ence like? How was it sim­i­lar or dif­fer­ent to the descrip­tions in this story?

  8. Yonatan rose from the depths of despair to teach Rachel, because he under­stood what was at stake. Devo­rah tells him, Do not under­es­ti­mate the resilience of the human heart.” Can you think of oth­er exam­ples or role mod­els for this kind of resilience, in his­to­ry or in your own life? What lessons can we learn from this?

  9. Chris seems to under­stand prophe­cy long before Rachel has the courage to tell any­one else. Why do you think the con­cepts of prophe­cy make sense to him as a Chris­t­ian? What do you think of their friend­ship? Do you think their rela­tion­ship will con­tin­ue with Rachel in Israel?

  10. Despite her hes­i­ta­tion, Rachel accepts a friend­ship ring as a gift from Jake before she leaves Bal­ti­more. How does her rela­tion­ship with boys evolve through­out the book? What future, if any, do you think is pos­si­ble for Rachel and Jake?