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Title: Seven Blessings


Title: Seven Blessings
Author: Ruchama King
Publisher: Martin’s Press, New York
258 pages, $23.95

 

 

Once Jerusalem has touched your soul, it never lets you go! I was reminded of this when I read “Seven Blessings“, a debut novel for Ruchama King, a young woman whose writing I encouraged when she was a student in Jerusalem in the 80′s. She lived here from aged 17 for ten years, and even though she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children, the spirituality and magic of the city has never left her. It resonates in every word she writes, and although I have lived here for decades, I found in her writing nuances and new insights into Jerusalem’s holiness and beauty.

Basically, it is a story about matchmaking – the matchmakers who spend their lives trying to pair so many disparate, and often desperate, characters; and the single men and women who seek their services. No one knows the scene better, as the author herself went on countless blind dates and even lived in a famous Jerusalem matchmaker’s home for two years.

There is, however, a deeper sub-theme, based on Torah study, which subtly explores the relationship between searching for G-d and searching for one’s bashert or soul-mate.

The main story focuses on Beth, a single woman of 39 and Akiva. He is also single, but suffers from frightening epileptic fits that have prevented his finding a mate. Then there is Tzippi who owns the grocery store, who is having her own marriage problems; as is Rebbetzin Judy. Add to the mix Binyamin, an artist, whose striving for perfection leads tp his being black-listed by all the match-makers.

King devotes as much time to these men and women’s relationships with G-d as with fellow humans. They are all seeking spiritual fulfilment by different means. The polarization between Jerusalem’s religious and secular population is also touched on with the incident of the burning bus shelters which promoted immodest advertising.

The title of the book, Seven Blessings is derived from sheva brachot, the traditional blessings recited at the conclusion of the marriage service and for a week afterwards. “Soon may there be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy and gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the jubilant voice of bridegrooms from their canopies nd of youths from their feasts of songs.”

Emerging from the novel is the undeniable fact that for a single Orthodox Jewish woman, the clock is always ticking. For men, the pressure is much less.

All the characters are skilfully drawn, and their human frailties cause our compassion and understanding. When they triumph, as most of them do eventually, we find ourselves cheering.

Dvora Waysman is the prize-winning author of nine books, including Woman of Jerusalem and The Pomegranate Pendant.

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