Title Ten Lost
Author: Sender Zeyv
Publisher: TMS Publishing Co
When Sender Zeyv published his first novel Aleph Shin eight years ago, it captured a host of enthusiastic readers. Mr. Zeyv’s unique style inserted solid historical background and carefully researched technical detail into an imaginative, fast-moving and unpredictable plot about the perilous era in which the Jewish state and the Jewish people now live. The book left its readers eager for more.
Two years later, Mr. Zeyv released Every Man a Slave*, which was actually written before the first book. This novel demonstrated the same literary prowess, but dealt with a totally different subject, the turbulent history of 19th century America, viewed via the intertwined lives of an imaginary orthodox Jew and the African man, privileged (yes!) to become his slave. It once again demonstrated both Mr. Zeyv’s mastery of a vast range of Jewish and general knowledge and his independence from the shackles of political correctness.
To the disappointment of Mr. Zeyv’s numerous fans, no more novels were forthcoming for a long six years. Now he has released of Ten Lost, a “prequel” to Aleph Shin that answers the questions that were left for readers of that book. Just as did Aleph Shin, it differs from most fictional works by including footnotes that provide Biblical, Talmudic and Midrashic sources for many of the legends and halachos that underlie details of the plot, and scrupulously differentiates between historical fact, speculation and imagination.
Ten Lost is equally gripping. For those who have not read Aleph Shin, that book began with a massive retaliation wreaked by Israel after an unprovoked missile strike on the Jewish state. This retaliation, against numerous enemy states, was carried out by Israeli “sleeper” agents who had been planted decades earlier in strategic locations around the world, via an Israeli submarine that mysteriously vanished on its maiden voyage. (For those too young to remember, this submarine mishap actually occurred; the rest of the plot is a product of Mr. Zeyv’s imagination.)
Aleph Shin describes how the Israeli attack was delivered and what happened next, ending with an attack on Israel by the rest of the world that culminates in a climactic battle that ends with the dawning of the messianic era. Ten Lost goes back to the decade before the Israeli agents embark on their fateful submarine trip and describes the epic journey of the Yemenite Jew who masterminds the operation.
The hero, Menachem Shabazi, is a young boy who has remained in Yemen when most of the community is whisked off to the newborn state of Israel in Operation Magic Carpet, discerning the evil intentions of the secular Zionist leadership. A decade later, he has become an accomplished talmid chacham who earns his living by fixing musical instruments. One day, a mysterious stranger arrives carrying an ancient musical instrument. The stranger, named Elkana, says he comes from the land of Havila, and explains that the instrument is a biblical kinor, which his family of Leviim has kept since the time of the First Temple. Menachem starts out with Elkana on a journey that takes him to exotic locales including Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, China and Japan. In each place, Menachem meets descendants of the ten lost tribes, who reveal long-guarded secrets, including the location of a treasure house of gold. They also teach him otherwise long-lost traditions and skills their tribes have preserved, including the bodily signs that are found only on descendants of Amalek, and advanced martial arts, which he puts to devastating use many times.
Keenly aware of the constant presence of hashgocha, Menachem Shabazi understands that all the secrets and knowledge he gleans during his ten year odyssey must qualify him to play an assigned role in Jewish history. The book concludes as he implements the plan he has devised to saving the Jewish people.
A note at the beginning of the book tells readers that if they want to fully appreciate it, they should first have read Aleph Shin. Helpfully, the new book has been released in one volume together with a newly revised edition of the first one. This is a boon not only to those hitherto unacquainted with Mr. Zeyv’s work, but also to those who have already read it, but may have forgotten some of the details of the plot. When I received the book for review and glanced at Aleph Shin before starting Ten Lost, I found that it gripped my interest just as much as it did on my first reading, and could not put it down after just a few pages.
Both compulsively readable novels are based on a framework of Torah-based thought and include many provocative discussions between characters that give readers much food for thought.
TMS Publishing Co., 2008, $24.95
*Editor’s note: Sender Zeyv’s novel Everyman a Slave was serialized, pre-publication on the pages of the Magazine Section of The Jewish Press.
Dr. Yaacov Marsh is a renowned journalist and commentator.