Baalei Tshuva of the 60’s & 70’s…….Meet An Author Who Understands

The Princess of Dan is anything but your average novel. Author Nechama Burgeman has created a unique narrative by setting the stage for two women living in different time periods to connect as they embark on a journey of personal and collective growth. The Princess of Dan tells the story of many women who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s while introducing readers to a Jewish woman living during a future time in history, when the Third Temple has been built. Beautiful reproductions of paintings by the author accompany readers throughout the journey.

Princess of Dan front cover

We share with you here the fascinating discussion we had with Nechama Burgeman about the ideas behind The Princess of Dan and the author’s personal experience writing it.

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How biographical is this book?

There is a lot of autobiographical material in The Princess of Dan, but it is combined with the lives of many other women I know or have known. This includes friends as well as clients who have shared their lives through the inner work of the spiritual therapy that was developed as a result of my books. The point is to learn and teach through real life experiences rather than to have accurate facts about any one person’s life. As we see in The Princess of Dan, the details of our stories become irrelevant as we together shift our identity to essence, the common point of our collective soul. My life is quite parallel to Sarah’s which is obvious to anyone who knows me personally. I was brought up in a loving home in America and from my quite idyllic and privileged background I received the strength to follow the passionate searching of my soul. Sarah is quite likeable and I recognize the emergence of her character as a reflection of a healing process, a gift I received as I wrote the book.

Door to the Garden of Eden

Sarah and her friends grew up in the ’60’s and ‘70’s. After many personal travails, especially concerning relationships with men, they meet in Israel and are guided by teachers of Kabbalah and Chassidut. Many of these teachers truly live their wisdom. However, The Princess of Dan also addresses the human struggle within our striving to reach our deepest potential. For this reason I believe the reader can relate and identify with the story and at the same time be encouraged to share a collective vision of redemption.

How were you able to create the life of the people who were living during the times of Third Temple? How did you project how things would be?

Danya and her generation who live during the time of the Third Temple, were birthed from a shared vision and passion for realizing our beliefs which are based on the teachings. The characters sprung out from my personal imagination, fantasies and a life I longed for while striving to embrace and be grateful for life as it exists now in this time dimension. The lives in Danya’s generation are based on many teachings which I felt needed to be translated from belief to actuality. I want the Redemption to become more and more believable. This is my humble contribution to humanity’s long awaited dream, gleaned from our source teachings.

How does this book connect to your earlier books? Is there a theme that unites your work?

This book definitely evolves from my first two books. The Kabbalistic teachings of my first books merge with real life and guide Sarah and her friends to realize their deeper identities as women of the twelve tribes of Israel. While writing the Twelve Dimensions of Israel, my soul was deeply aroused by the research and writing of the tribe of Dan.  I once again followed my calling and trusted it.  Especially since, at the time, I thought it would be “better” to be from the tribe of Yehudah, the tribe of kings and queens. The humbling effect of this process of a deeper teshuva, accepting myself on a deeper level has been rewarding and inspiring, resulting in The Princess of Dan.

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Do you think women authors write differently than men? Do you speak differently to your readers?

I think a feminine way of writing is to expose oneself more on a feeling and experiential level. In that vein, The Princess of Dan is perhaps the most feminine of my books.  There are some male authors who are very in tune with their feminine side and some female authors who emphasize their intellectual, or masculine side.  As a writer matures, both sides become more and more integrated and balanced.

To learn more about The Princess of Dan, click here.

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Surfing Atop Life’s Waves: An Interview with Author Zlata Ehrenstein

From Brooklyn to Tzfat, author Zlata Ehrenstein presents a practical spiritual and emotional health guide for Jewish readers of every genre. Soul Surfing: Navigating the Sea of Life According to Jewish Mystical Teachings empowers its readers to actualize their full potential and to recognize that the seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life conceal possibilities and keys for true spiritual growth.

We had the opportunity to chat untitled-1with Zlata and gain a deeper understanding of Soul Surfing.

What is a Soul Surfer? How does one become a successful Soul Surfer?

As we know, a surfer is someone who seeks an extremely exhilarating experience: they SOLSRF-2Ttake their surf-board out into the water where they have a direct encounter with the sea.  They challenge the waves, each one different than the other.  Some waves are high, some relaxed; some are covered with foam as they come crashing in; some glide slowly towards shore. Some waves are so fierce they may threaten the surfer’s life. There is a G-dly soul within each of us: one that has been sent into the physical realm housed within a corporeal body. Our soul also has a ‘sea to sail and a shore to reach’. The soul is what gives mission and meaning to the body. Just like each wave differs from any other, so too, the mission of each soul differs from one person to another. The waves at sea can be very pleasant and calming or they can be extremely terrifying and worrisome.  A successful surfer is always aware of the goal. Forgetting this goal or losing our focus may be detrimental. The same is true with a soul surfer.  Our souls were given a mission to accomplish; one that can only be materialized when it is within a physical body. It is only through the limbs of the body that the soul is able to perform mitzvahs. Chassidic thought vividly explains these goals through Torah teachings. These enable the soul to accomplish its mission of ‘surfing’ life in a successful and meaningful manner. In my book, Soul Surfing, I attempt to explain HaShem’s historic plan for Creation.  I want each reader to understand that each of us has a piece of the puzzle assigned to us, and that our innate qualities and talents allow us to achieve our tasks.

Your bio says the Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged you in studying for a degree. Can you tell us more about his encouragement, etc?

In his teachings, The Lubavitcher Rebbe clearly sees a goal for each one of us and his obligation is to show each one how to reach it. He told me several times that I was blessed with a unique ability of articulation allowing me to reveal deep insights. He constantly directs and encourages me to keep on bringing the truth to those with whom I come in contact. He is a beam of light shining like a torch showing me the way towards my goal.

Did your grandparents tell you any stories about their inn which you can share with us?

My mother’s grandmother’s inn was in the small town of Poltave in Russia.  They were very good-hearted and honest people. They worked hard to make ends meet. The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe would come in from time to time when he was traveling through the area. He was interested in the family’s situation and especially in the children’s education.  Even though my family were not Chassidim, there are certain customs they adopted as a result of his visits.  For example, from the time they were three years old, all the girls would like their Shabbat candles each Friday night. When the family came to the USA, approximately 100 years ago, they settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe came to speak in Pittsburgh, my grandmother went to hear him.

What do you think are some of the most important messages of the Torah for people in 2014?

In our present age, the message for each one is vital and crucial to our sanity and serenity. The world is turbulent: The media and the politicians sway the public with propaganda. Today each of us needs clear guidance and purpose, even our young are searching for truth and meaning to life. This book answers many of the questions and helps to resolve some of the doubts roaming through our minds and hearts.  It is a practical proven guide as it shows how to resolve situations that cause tension or confusion. Soul Surfing restores hope and courage by focusing on how we can work to bring the world to a utopian state. Be part of it! Feel honored and gifted!! Share your inner light with others, bringing happiness and tranquility to them!

To learn more about Soul Surfing, click here.

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Online Crowd-Funding to Rebuild The Temple in Jerusalem Gets Loads of Attention (and we aren’t surprised at all!)

The Temple Institute in Jerusalem recently launched an online Indiegogo fundraising campaign to help finance the building of the third Temple in Jerusalem.

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This creative effort is aiming to bring about the culmination of  two thousand year old Jewish hopes and dreams to see the Temple rebuilt after being destroyed in 70 CE. So far over $20,000 have been raised! The campaign has attracted a large amount of media attention with articles in Ha’aretz, The Times of Israel, Arutz Sheva as well as Al Jazeera and other outlets.

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To be frank, we aren’t the slightest bit surprised at all this attention. We’ve experienced the excitement for the Temple ourselves over the past year with the full color book The Messianic Temple which has been very popular with readers worldwide. Both Jewish and non-Jewish readers are really taken by the topic of The Temple and it shows in enthusiastic reviews and steady sales. Written by Chaim Clorfene with over 200 color diagrams and illustrations, this coffee table book is something scholars and laypeople alike appreciate. When one hears Chaim Clorfene speak about the idea of building the Temple (see him here) his commitment to the Temple is palpable. We look forward to hearing more about The Temple Institute’s campaign and, of course, seeing the Temple being rebuilt speedily in our day!

 

 

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8 Questions for the Author of The Messianic Temple

After a decade of research and study, the first user-friendly guide to understanding the design and role of the future Third Temple has been published. With an abundance of commentaries and over 200 color diagrams and illustrations, The Messianic Temple by Chaim Clorfene is perfect for your library or coffee table.

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In an interview with author Chaim Clorfene, we gained a deeper understanding of what went into the making of this unique book.

 

Why did you spend 10 years researching the Third Temple?

The Holy Temple is awesome and it might be better not to get involved with it at all than to treat it casually. So I wanted to understand the design clearly and I wanted to teach it to others, since the Midrash, Tanhuma, Tzav 14, says that learning the design is the beginning of actually building it. This took 10 years.

Why is this area of study so often neglected?

I would say it is ignored rather than neglected. The Third Temple represents a total shift in our perspective of life. We know only galut (exile). The Third Temple is the culmination of the Final Redemption. It is ignored because it threatens to disrupt the way we view everything.

What steps were involved in the writing and publishing of this book?

My primary goal in writing the book, The Messianic Temple, was to communicate clearly the design of the Third Temple, so that someone reading or studying the book walks away with an imprint of the Temple in his or her mind. This demanded a good translation of Ezekiel’s verses into English and the selection of the primary commentaries that made Ezekiel’s text understood. And it required excellent graphics. The book has 203 illustrations and architectural designs, both photographs of the model we built and 3D autocad models of the Temple.

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You built a scale model of the Third Temple. How did you go about this?

I studied the verses in Ezekiel with a team of craftsmen in Tzfat and we worked out every design quirk and problem until we felt we had a workable design and we built it accordingly. It actually took almost two years to find and acquire all the materials that we wanted, which included simulated marble and pearl and gold plated pillars, domes and gates. My wife, Ariela, did most of the finishing work and it took about two years of more or less full time work to finish it.

3rd Temple Model

How did you decide it was the right time to publish your book?

I figured that this is a book about G-d’s House, so the Master of the House would let me know the right time. How would He do this? By bringing it to a publisher who wanted it. And Menorah Books wanted it.

What type of audience is this book meant for?

I think a very broad spectrum of reader would enjoy this book and benefit from it. Just to work through the details of the design from a purely architectural point of view is interesting, but then when you realize that this is not just a design, but the Word of G-d, a Temple that Ezekiel saw in a prophetic vision, it takes on an entirely new level of meaning. I included throughout the text, a running commentary from the 18th century Kabbalistic discourse, Mishkanay Elyon by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, where he explains the Third Temple in terms of its spiritual nature. This separates it from virtually everything written about the Second Temple.

What do you think of the growing trend of Jews visiting the Temple Mount?

I really have no opinion. I have friends who go up and think it is important. I have not done it because I do not know precisely what I would be accomplishing by going onto the Temple Mount.

We have heard many Christians buy your book – why do you think it interests them so much?

The Third Temple is the essence of the universality of the Torah. There are many verses throughout the prophets about how Hashem wants people from every nation to come to the Temple. And everyone can offer a sacrifice, and everyone will have a gilui Shechina, a revelation of the Divine Presence of G-d. So perhaps the Christians sense that the Third Temple, and therefore my book, offers them some new teaching that they recognize as truth, but that they cannot get in their own tradition. And they know from their own teachings that the Temple is of ultimate importance.

For more information on The Messianic Temple, click here.

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Rethinking the Three Weeks – from the Viewpoint of Author Chaim Clorfene

After recently ushering in the Three Weeks, we must ask ourselves: What should our focus be? Is mourning really the sole purpose of these days leading up to Tisha B’Av?

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Chaim Clorfene, author of The Messianic Temple, relays his thoughts on the subject here for Menorah Books followers!

 Rethinking the Three Weeks

There are people today, including rabbis, who believe that during the Three Weeks, we should focus on building the Third Temple rather than mourning the loss of the Second Temple. I am one of those people.

A primary reason for mourning, particularly on Tisha B’Av, is to bring us to do some soul searching, which will lead us to abandon our sins and move forward in purity and holiness.  In recognition of this, G-d will rebuild the Temple, which was destroyed because of our sins.

But if sinat chinam (baseless hatred) and love of money were the primary causes of the destruction of the Second Temple, as is taught in the Jerusalem Talmud, then two millennia of mourning has accomplished precious little. Baseless hatred and lust for the semi-precious dollar are as omnipresent as ever.

If, however, we were to spend Tisha B’Av and the three weeks leading up to it learning and yearning and begging G-d to bring down the Third Temple as prophesied in the last chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, we would accomplish what mourning has failed to accomplish – tshuvah (repentance). There is no tshuvah greater than turning from darkness to light. And, in this writer’s opinion, perpetual mourning of the destruction of the Second Temple is darkness. Whereas, even the faintest peek of any aspect of the Messianic Third Temple is pure G-dly light.

In Ezekiel 43:10, G-d tells Ezekiel, “Teach the design of the  Temple to the House of Israel and they will be ashamed of their deeds.”

Feeling shame for one’s deeds is called yirah m’boshet, which basically means being embarrassed for having done something unworthy or having said something unworthy right in front of G-d. Besides the tshuvah aspect of this, there is a consciousness aspect to it, the realization that G-d is everywhere, and especially with you, at all times.  This is called mochin d’gadlut, enlightenment.

One might ask: How can learning the design of a Temple inspire such sublime tshuvah? Nefesh Ha’Chaim explains that by learning the Third Temple in the Torah, we realize what we are constantly losing by its absence, and this will bring us to tshuvah.

Taking this one step further, learning the design of the Third Temple brings the light of the House of G-d into the world. It is taught in Midrash Tanhuma, Tzav 14, that G-d considers learning the design of Ezekiel’s Temple the beginning of construction.

With a mind to accomplish the above, I set out to write a book that explains the last nine chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, which deal with the design of the future Temple and the distribution of the land of Israel among the twelve tribes in the Messianic Era.

The research took about seven years. To provide the all-important graphics for the book, I worked with a 3D autocad artist, an illustrator, and a gifted layout artist, and we built a model of the Third Temple to show every detail of its design, from the Holy of Holies to the eastern gate through which the Messiah will enter on Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh (the New Moon Festival).

3rd Temple Model

The book, which we (apologetically) call The Messianic Temple, contains the original Hebrew text with a new English translation, plus a lucid commentary that includes glosses from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s brilliant discourse, The Heavenly Temple (Mishkanay Elyon). And to aid our understanding, there are more than 200 graphics, 3D images, illustrations, and photos of the model.

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Returning to the subject of the Three Weeks, do not think that I am suggesting that one should not fast and mourn as per Jewish tradition. But I am suggesting that we add the element of learning the design of the Third Temple as an essential component of the Three Weeks.

And when is the most propitious time to learn The Messianic Temple? The night following Tisha B’Av. Just like we begin building our sukkah the night following Yom Kippur to show G-d that we love His mitzvoth. In a like manner, the night after Tisha B’Av we should learn a little in The Messianic Temple to show G-d that we are eager to enter His House once more.  Then we will smell the fragrance of the ketoret, the Holy Temple incense, and we will hear the Levites sing the Psalms of David. And we will see the Shechina, the Divine Presence of G-d.

May it be His will that the Temple appear in its place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. And let us all say, “Amen.”

Click here for more information on The Messianic Temple.

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Every Picture Tells A Story — Gorgeous New Book Series Based on the Torah Portion for Kids

The new Every Picture Tells a Story series by Chaim Natan Firszt is a set of Parsha books like no other. The Torah verses and stories are brought to life with beautiful illustrations, accompanied by descriptive commentary based on Midrash and other sources. Each volume has a corresponding coloring book specifically designed for kids. The first 2 volumes, Bereishis (Genesis) and Shmos (Exodus), have recently been published, with the remaining 3 books to follow.

We jumped at the opportunity to speak with author Chaim Natan Firszt about the various stages the books went through to move from dream to reality.

These books were conceived 25 years ago but only published now? What journey did the books need to take during those years in order to be ready? 

Beginning 25 years ago, when I still lived in Montreal, we started creating the book with black and white illustrations and some commentary. I sat with my rabbi to discuss the content of the book. He wrote everything out in Hebrew and I wrote it all in English. I told the artist what needed to be drawn for each scene and, of course, sometimes the artwork needed to be re-done or edited, which all takes time. Once the black and white versions were approved, the color drawings were done. I moved to Israel about 23 years ago. Over the past couple years, I, together with the rabbis who were working with me, decided to add various components to the book, including the glossaries in each volume, family tree charts, etc. – as well as the corresponding softcover coloring book for each volume. The verses that relate to the illustrations were also added at a later point. Everything was done in stages and changed a lot throughout the whole process, which makes it the unique book that it is now.

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How did you choose what to include in the book?

The Rosh Yeshiva of Belz in Montreal sat with me and together we decided what would be included. Sefer Bereishis (Genesis) is really a storyline, from Creation to the burial of Ya’akov (Jacob). Each picture tells a part of the story and leads to the next picture, eventually completing the entire story. Sefer Shmos (Exodus) tells the story of the Children of Israel’s enslavement through the exit from Egypt, and also discusses the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The artwork really allows the reader to get an idea of what went into the construction of the Mishkan and to learn about its various parts.

 

While you wrote/chose content for the book, you were not the illustrator – were you involved in deciding how the illustrations would look or choosing which to include in the book? How was it to match your vision of the book to the reality of having actual illustrations done?

The Belz Rosh Yeshiva and I were involved every step of the way – first in Montreal and later in Jerusalem, where we now both live. After discussing the content with the rabbi, I explained to the illustrator what needed to be depicted. Sometimes it came out perfect the first time, while other times the illustration needed editing. We had to be careful not to give readers an inaccurate perception of certain things – for example, in the illustration of Yosef’s (Josef’s) brothers going down to Egypt, the artist originally drew the people riding on camels, but the image needed to be corrected to have the brothers riding donkeys. In accordance with Halacha (Jewish law), the sun, moon, and stars cannot be drawn in their complete forms. In the case of the stars, we made them 6-pointed (like the Star of David) rather than 5-pointed.

Are there any illustrations that you particularly like from the series so far?

One of my favorites is the picture of the tribes – the blessings of the tribes. Another is the illustration of Mt. Sinai.

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What makes these books unique when comparing them to other books for kids?

The hardcovers books are written in both English and Hebrew. We used the original Hebrew with transliterations of names of people, places, and terms, but included a glossary in the back with explanations. Very knowledgeable rabbis were involved all along and contributed to the commentary, so the content is really top level. The artists involved are serious professionals and it shows. It was important that the book be appreciated by a wide audience – both those knowledgeable in Torah and beginners will benefit and learn from this book. They are not meant for children only, but the corresponding softcover coloring books were developed with children specifically in mind and are great learning tools.

Each volume of the book series represents a Book of the Torah. These two books, Bereishis and Shmos, are the first two of a five book series. We are currently working on the third volume, Vayikrah (Leviticus).

For more information on Every Picture Tells a Story, click here.

To learn more about the coloring books, click here.

**To celebrate the launch of the series, we are giving away a free copy of Every Picture Tells a Story (Vol. 1, Sefer Bereishis) and its accompanying coloring book! To enter to win, leave a comment below telling us who you’d share these books with.**

 

 

 

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The Story Teller from Tzfat: An Interview (and free giveaway) with Rabbi Yerachmiel Michael Tilles

R-Tilles160pxWe are excited to host Rabbi Yerachmiel Michael Tilles for an intervew on Menorah Books News. A native of the Bronx who moved to the mystical city of Safed, where he has worked as a teacher, translator, webmaster, seminar designer and director, editor, and manager of an art gallery. Since 1996, he has been emailing a story a week to thousands of readers. One hundred of his best stories have been selected for a three volume set, of which Saturday Night, Full Moon is the first. The book has been met with a very warm welcome from readers.

Rabbi Tilles, you are famous for your stories of Chassidic masters. How did you originally learn of all these stories?

When someone tells a story, I listen carefully. I also read a lot. The listening part started on Saturday nights. Hence the first half of my book’s title.

What inspired you to write and publish them?

1- When I became responsible for the ascentofsafed.com website I thought it a good idea to try posting and also emailing a story a week. I never imagined I would get to story #865. I refuse to consider stopping till I get to 1000. When that gets closer I’ll set a new goal.

2- After a year more or less of posting the stories to Ascent, I was drafted and paid by a Kfar Chabad magazine to produce a story a week. That got me into the rhythm of going over each story more carefully before sending.

3- Nearly all of the publishing of my stories is not done by me. Many sites and weekly publication pick them up. A relatively small proportion bothers to ask permission first.

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How did you choose which stories to include in the first volume of your book?

About 200 of the 865 stories to date are originally translated or transcribed by me. The rest I edited from existing English versions. From the 200 I selected about a hundred. The first volume has 33; the second at this moment is slated for 36.

Do you have a favorite story?

I have many favorites. When I choose or am invited a story to tell a story in person, I  rarely base my selection on how much I like a story. My first consideration is the audience and second is where are we on the Jewish calendar. That is why I included so many indices in the book.

However, now that you have made me think in terms of favorites, I would say that at most 30-40% of my “favorites” from the 100 stories are in volume 1. I have several stories that still choke me up a bit when telling them even though I’ve told them so many times, and even though I am not sure why they impact me so much more than the others. One of them is in Vol. 1: Silence Speaks

Everyone knows a good story has to be told over well. How did you learn your unique and inspirational storytelling skills?

1- By being an awful singer! We are in the Shaloshim for Meir Abuhatsera. At his Shabbat table he loved singing. He would call on each guest: “Reuven, sing something.” “Shimon, start a song” “Levi, sing something.” “Yerachmiel, say something.”

2- Practice.  I doubt if I was as good at it 40 years ago.

I usually tell one story at the Shabbos table. I always get asked to tell one at Sheva Brochos. I find them a valuable tool in my teaching, although the truth is I probably tell less than most teachers! That’s because I tend to long detailed stories. And mainly, on most Saturday nights over the last 30 years I’ve been telling a few on Saturday nights at Ascent. Hence the first half of my book’s title.

Most of them I’ve told many times in public and on the basis of audience reactions and questions were subsequently re-edited for clarity. I also listen when I speak, which leads to continuous stylistic improvements. May favorite compliment is when people tell me “the stories read like you are speaking them.” Well, maybe it is my third favorite compliment, after “it moved me” and “I learned a lot.”

What type of audience is your book meant for?

As much as I would like it to be for everyone, it seems for a reader to appreciate it, Judaism has to be important to them, or at least interesting.

I do get a significant amount of fan mail from non-Jews about the stories

When can we expect to see the next two volumes of the Saturday Night, Full Moon series?

I have finished editing the 36 stories of vol. 2 just this week. They are exclusively about the Jewish holidays, which I excluded from Volume 1. The projected title is Festivals of the Full Moon.  I hope to finish before the year 5774 ends. Then it will be up to Menorah Books to decide when the world will  see it.

Click here for the book Saturday Night, Full Moon

Enter the giveaway for a free, signed copy of Saturday Night, Full Moon – just leave a comment on this blogpost telling us why YOU should win a copy of this terrific new book of Jewish tales.

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