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As a Driven Leaf
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As a Driven Leaf at first seems to be a fairly dreary philosophic novel, outlining first-century rabbi Elisha Ben Abuyah's education, views, and eventual crisis of faith. Just as the listener begins to doze, though, the book morphs into a 1950s movie epic (think Charlton Heston), as Elisha leaves Jerusalem and encounters the Roman Empire in all its spectacle, temptation, and cruelty. Though Elisha betrays his people and abandons his faith, he manages to remain a sympathetic and compassionate character. Based on real people and events, Steinberg's 1940 novel successfully combines these two wildly different subjects. The light abridgment keeps the pace brisk. Part of the "Great Jewish Books on Audiotape" series, this is also an impressive production, including a reader's guide and a bravura narration by George Guidall. Libraries serving significant Jewish populations should definitely buy this, and all others should balance its many merits with its relative obscurity.ÄJohn Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Guidall gives a spirited, almost theatrical, reading of this minor classic of American Jewish literature, a historical novel about ancient sage-turned-apostate Elisha ben Abuyah in the late first century C.E. At the heart of the tale are questions about faith and the loss of faith and the repression and rebellion of the Jews of Palestine. Elisha is a leading scholar in Palestine, elected to the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court in the land. But two tragedies awaken doubt about God in Elisha's mind, and doubt eats away at his faith. Declared a heretic and excommunicated from the Jewish community, he journeys to Antioch in nearby Syria to begin a quest through Greek and Roman culture for some fundamental irrefutable truth. The pace of the narrative picks up as Elisha directly encounters the full force of the ancient Romans' all-consuming culture. Ultimately, Elisha is forced by the power of Rome to choose between loyalty to his people, who are rebelling against the emperor's domination, and loyalty to his own quest for truth. Guidall, a veteran actor and recorder of audiobooks, reads with an appropriately weighted force. And he convincingly creates voices for a score of charactersÄincluding the protagonist Elisha; his haughty, social-climbing wife, Deborah; the gentle sage and Elisha's mentor, Rabbi Joshua; and Rufus Tinneius, the tyrannical Roman governor of Palestine. A small booklet of notes accompanying the audiobook provides helpful historical background. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

A spirited classic of American Jewish literature, a historical novel about ancient sage-turned-apostate Elisha ben Abuyah in the late first century C.E. At the heart of the tale are questions about faith and the loss of faith and the repression and rebellion of the Jews of Palestine. Elisha is a leading scholar in Palestine, elected to the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court in the land. But two tragedies awaken doubt about God in Elisha's mind, and doubt eats away at his faith. Declared a heretic and excommunicated from the Jewish community, he journeys to Antioch in nearby Syria to begin a quest through Greek and Roman culture for some fundamental irrefutable truth. The pace of the narrative picks up as Elisha directly encounters the full force of the ancient Romans' all-consuming culture. Ultimately, Elisha is forced by the power of Rome to choose between loyalty to his people, who are rebelling against the emperor's domination, and loyalty to his own quest for truth. * Publishers Weekly, September 2000 *

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