If you want to taste some of the diversity and complexity in Jewish thought, these four books offer a wonderful way in. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Geraldine Brooks brings the reader into the mind of Natan, one of Judaism’s earliest prophets, as he tries to make sense of his own life as a collaborator and spiritual guide to a murderous King David who managed to conquer and then create Jerusalem as the Jewish people’s fantasized “eternal capital.” Unlike many of the prophets who eventually had a book written by or about them in the Bible, Natan shows up only in the stories about King David, most significantly when he challenges David for having stolen Batsheva by sending her husband, a commander in David’s army, to a mission designed to be certain death. This was the classic moment of speaking truth to power at the risk of having that power also kill the truth-teller. Building on the Bible, but with her own imaginative creativity, Brooks brings us to the midst of the intrigues that is said to be the family of a future messiah.
Eleven hundred years later a similar courage contributed to making Rabbi Akiva, one of the most important figures in the Talmud, a folk hero because of his refusal to abandon the practice and teaching of Judaism commanded by the Roman occupiers of Judea.
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 3:73