(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie NOV 7, 2004)
According to the Talmud, Rev Yehuda taught that 40 days before a male child is conceived, a voice from heaven announces whose daughter he is going to marry, literally a match made in heaven. In Yiddish, this perfect match is called "bashert," a word meaning fate, destiny - or one's soul mate. Ruchama King has written a gem of a novel about a woman and two men in search of their "besherts." These three lonely people are Americans, all observant Jews, who have moved to Jerusalem to make new lives for themselves. After years of unsuccessfully searching for the "right one," they decide to seek help from two local matchmakers.
Beth, approaching forty, is attractive, extremely independent and very conscious that she is one of the few women her age who does not wear a head covering - a sign of marriage. She has never been touched, nor kissed, by any male other than her father. And her biological clock keeps reminding her that her prospects are dwindling with every tick. Akiva is a sensitive, spiritual, appealing man, with a debilitating twitch which he sees as a blessing. And Binyamin, a handsome, charming, narcissistic artist, gets blacklisted by all Jerusalem's matchmakers because he seeks perfection in his mate. All three long for an end to their loneliness.
The matchmakers and their husbands don't exactly live in a Garden of Eden. Tsippe, is a holocaust survivor married to a man whose life she saved in the concentration camps. She yearns for passion and romance from her husband, whose head is always in a book. Judy, a beautiful former rebbetzin, feels that something important has disappeared from her marriage. Her husband, who used to be a Torah scholar, is now an exterminator and Judy misses aspects of her old life.
Seven Blessings is much more than a story about the search for a mate. All of Ms. King's characters seem to be striving for a close connection with another being, to balance their universe, and this search is directly related to their quest to connect more intimately with God. I am struck by a conversation between Judy and a group of women studying Torah. They are talking about the creation in Genesis - whether God created woman only for the benefit of man. They study a commentary from Rashi which basically says that "this state of man being alone is not good for the universe. It's a cosmological statement. This aloneness is not good for the world. Woman was not created to complement man but to complete the world."
Ruchama King's prose simply flows along at a graceful pace. Her characters are three dimensional and very real. She is an extremely perceptive person, and I found the novel to be very funny at times, and at others it touched my heart. Although we are offered a peek into the lives of Orthodox Jews, one does not feel voyeuristic at all. And the beauty of the Torah and Talmud shines through every page. But you definitely do not have to be Jewish to enjoy this book. I have lent my copy to several friends and they have all loved it. Seven Blessings is a universal story.
- Amazon readers rating: from 31 reviews
Read an excerpt of Seven Blessings at publisher's site
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Seven Blessings (August 2003)
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- Aish.com inerview with Ruchama King
- Reading Guide for Seven Blessings
- Jewish News review of Seven Blessings
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About the Author:
Ruchama King lived, studied, and taught in Jerusalem for ten years. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines and journals. She now lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.