As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg

Availability: Amazon, Los Gatos, San Jose, Santa Clara County

Our member Shell Rubenstein writes:

This is a historical novel written about one Rabbi’s search for faith during the times of the Roman occupation.  The prologue starts with the seventy Rabbis of the Sanhedrin debating a grave question: “Shall it be forbidden to a faithful Jew to study the tongue of the Greeks, to read their books and to think their thoughts after them?”

The book starts with the birth of a child to Abuyah and Elisheva.  Elisheva dies four days after her son’s birth.  There is a brit milah on the appointed day and the child is circumcised according to tradition.  The Father, Abuyah does not follow any Jewish traditions or rituals and says he does not believe in God’s word, but his brother, Amram, gathers many sages to attend the brit.  “Name him Elisha, after his mother,  Elisha the son of Abuyah,” the Uncle tells the Rabbis.

As the years go by, Abuyah does not want his son to learn anything Jewish and he and his brother, Amram, argue about this constantly.  Since Abuyah is Elisha’s father, he gets his way.  Although Amram would like his nephew to be brought up in the Jewish traditions, Abuyah has the boy tutored by Greek tutors, reading such books as the Iliad.  His closest friend is Pappas, who is being brought up learning Hebrew and studying Torah.  The two are close friends.

It isn’t until Abuyah passes away and Amram takes over raising Elisha, that the boy is then schooled in Jewish rituals and traditions.  He is an apt scholar and progresses through the years until he is accepted in the Sanhedrin where he is a brilliant Rabbi.

Many years pass and Elisha begins to doubt his strong faith in God.  He wants to study the Greek and Roman classics and determine if there are reasons why things happen not just on faith alone.   It gets to the point where Elisha is declared a heretic and excommunicated.

This is a compelling story and takes you through one man’s quest to discover what constitutes faith.  This is intended as a novel not a biography but has many historical and biblical times and places and personages so it does feel real.