Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rav Hisda's Daughter: Book Review

Rav Hisda's Daughter
By Maggie Anton

I became interested in knowing about Jewish sorcery, and magic, after reading about it in the novel by Alice Hoffman, Dovekeepers. I was always under the impression that Jews, did not believe in sorcery, and magic. It was a eye opener to find it that this is not the case.  I always believed us, Jews believed in prayer, not magic.

We will be having a Jewish Grand Strand Community Read. We will be doing Rav Hisda's Daughter. Luckily it is already in paperback. That is why, and how I contacted Maggie in the first place.

  Maggie Anton is the historical fiction author of Rashi's Daughter. She has done it again with, Rav Hisda's Daughter.  You can read a article at the Jewish Forward reviewing her novel and the background information of Rav Hisda's Daughter, becomes a Enchantress and learns the craft of becoming involved with sorcery, and amulet's such as incantation bowls.

 If you don't know much about the history during this time, and Babylonia and Palestine do your own google research while reading the introduction.  You can also go on Maggie Anton's website there are resources to help you, and enrich the novel as well.  I found Jewishvirtuallibrary.com a good place to find all the info.

Maggie, has supplied us with a map, glossaries, and names of people that was helpful while reading.

It was interesting to find out about the politics of the Jewish temple, before it was destroyed the second time.  The three groups, Pharisee, Sadducees, and Essenes. What happened to Jewish practice after the temple was destroyed, after the second time.  The culture and traditions of the Jews in Babylonia( which is Iraq, and Iran now), and Palestine are different. Just like Sephardic, and Ashkenazi are different.

 To learn about the Persian culture, their strictness toward women was more severe than Jewish tradition.  When they menstruated, they stayed in a windowless hut, without any contact with anyone. In a observant Jewish home, you could not touch your husband but you would still be in the same room with him( Jews were smart, they need the women to cook and clean~don't think Persian society was thinking about that-LOL!)

I liked how the author blended, and weaved the traditions and Jewish cultures in the story without feeling like you are being lectured.  There is so many fascinated thing that I learned by reading Rav Hisda's Daughter.  About inheritance, Does the daughter inherit, what happens if no one is left, does the daughter inherit. Good question. You will have to read to find out.

The part I liked was, Hisdadukh, traveled with her father to Palestine. Weaving the story with the lives of people in Palestine, customs, and traditions. To learn about the art of the mosaics, and weaved the story in was interesting.  The author used her own imagination, and skill being a Talmud scholar. This helped weave the story. It did not sound ridiculous, it blended well.

What I had a hard time, and could not understand. If you become a widow, even your small child goes back to your husband's family. You didn't  raise him. I had a hard time grasping this one.

The most fascinating was, I had no idea there was " Incantation Bowls". These bowls, were written in Hebrew, to keep the evil eye away. Once the bowls were made you buried them in the corner of your house. the bowls had to be upside down to capture the demons.   You can read about this on her website. It is fascinating.

 I just can't believe Jews, did even Rabbi's believed in magic. What a eye opener.

Amulet's around your neck with the hamsa, and the evil eye. Never realized how that was started. Think about the Jewish Traveler's Prayer, or anything around your neck. It made me think about it.


After the destruction of the Jewish temple, new traditions and culture's of the Jewish people are learned, and taught by the sages. Rome is taking over, Christianity is born.

Rav Hisda's Daughter's name is Hisdadukh she attends her father's Yeshiva classes with the other boys. Which in Jewish tradition is not heard of.  She is asked, still a young child she is asked to pick one of the Rabbi's students to become her husband.  Instead she picked both boys, Rami and Abba.  Abba says he wants to be last. It is like destiny, or mystic  how that happens as you read into the book.

As she matures and becomes older, she learns about Jewish magic, the occult, and making, and  blessing the incantation bowls.  To become a professional scribe you must make them three times. Once you do that, you are titled a "Enchantress".

Once she passes her Bat Mitzvah, she is matched with Rami. She is madly in love with him. They marry, and have children. But, his mother casts a evil eye on the family. The rest you will have to read yourself.

If you are interested in this time period as much as I. To know how synagogue practices started after the destruction of the temple. Why woman, are separated from the men. What about Magic, and the cultures, and traditions, and the romance, and historical fiction. If you like to read about this, then I recommend Rav Hisda's Daughter.

I reviewed Rav Hisda's Daughter in commemoration of the high holydays. I thought it would be perfect for the review, and the Jewish Book Carnival that I am hosting. I will be doing a book giveaway during that time. A big thank you goes to Javier Perez, Maggie Anton's book publicist for supplying a couple copies of Rav Hisda's Daughter for the Jewish Book Carnival and for donating a few copies for our Hadassah event in October.

If you are, or live in the Myrtle Beach area and are interested in coming to the Hadassah Sipping to the Ocean, a membership tea, please contact me. I will contact you to the person to get in touch with.


Sheryl said...

I can't wait to read her book. One thing that I loved about the Rashi's Daughters books, was the detail about daily life at that. What the houses looked like, their clothes, food, markets, etc.

Emily said...

I appreciate this review. I borrowed the book from the public library and I have just started it. I'm thinking it will be a good addition to our synagogue library.

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