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Moses the Heretic

by Daniel Spiro

      Wow. This remarkable novel is filled with a plethora of food for thought, ranging from the controversial Abrahamic perspective (the roots of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths in Abraham), to the disarmingly personal viewpoint of the all-too-human hero, Moses Levine. It may very well be that the readers of this incredible story will be those who are already open-minded enough to appreciate the diversity, the Jewish history and the heartfelt desire for peace that the book's characters espouse. Nonetheless, even in preaching to the choir, Mr. Spiro's work is a genuine work of thoughts and ideas, which he hopes the reader will help bring to fruition. The bottom line? Peace is a goal for all peoples, all religions, all faiths, and reachable by each and every one of us.

The two main characters in this book are Rabbis—the storyteller, Rabbi Richie Gold, acts as the perfect foil and sidekick to Moses Levine, an intellectual rabbi with a mission. The story, which, despite (or because of) its roots in biblical storytelling, is one of spirit, motivation, prayer and an unbounded belief that most of us want peace in our world. The humanness of Rabbi Levine makes him all the more believable and understandable. Yes, he believes that he has a message, hotline-direct from the prophet Moses. Yes, he alienates friends, family, parishioners and strangers with his strongly held beliefs and the way he advocates them. However, his faith in his God never falters, and his message remains the same; peace is obtainable in our time.

This novel can be, and perhaps should be, an uncomfortable read. Daniel Spiro wants to establish, right from the beginning of the story, that the reader is to be challenged to ponder the deeper meaning, beyond the written words on the pages. Throughout the tale, both Rabbis have personal lives to deal with—love, marriage, families, the creation of dreams into reality and impetus in formulating lives that reflect their faith and their beliefs about Judaism. The non-Jewish reader will be enlightened about the roots of the faith, and the Jewish reader will be encouraged to look again at the meanings and levels of understanding in Jewish writings. Those readers struggling to understand extremist Islam, or conventional Muslim beliefs, will find a good start here in Mr. Spiro's outstanding novel. The characters in Moses the Heretic present solutions to the Israeli / Palestinian questions, the struggles in the Middle East, and the ongoing political battles of the West, to pursue and solve millennium old issues, and even in doing so, help the reader to see that perspectives need to change and evolve for true resolution to be a humanly reachable possibility.

Shema Yisrael are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is used as the focus of all morning and evening Jewish prayer, echoing the monotheistic message of Judaism. It is considered the most important prayer in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation is a mitzvah (religious commandment). The statement, Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad, is spoken often by Moses Levine, and the words are his last in the book. Perhaps, in understanding their meaning, we can also understand Daniel Spiro's goal for his book—to create unity and understanding amongst the worlds' peoples. "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!"

The Book

Aegis Press
August 2008
Fiction / Religion /Judaica
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The Reviewer

Laura Strathman Hulka
Reviewed 2008
© 2008