Wisdom This Way
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Wisdom This Way

An author reflects on today's release of her new book, "The Prophetess."

courtesy of the author
courtesy of the author

When I was seventeen, my grandfather died.  He died the same month I graduated from high school—unexpectedly, in his sleep. His death came the week after the untimely death of a friend’s mother, from breast cancer. 

Until that moment, seventeen-year-old me probably would have said I was doing OK. I had experienced the usual, sometimes heart-breaking, teenage disappointments—but I had loving parents, I had been a leader in my high school youth group, and I was on my way to the college of my choice.  

When my grandfather died, it rocked something deep inside of me. I became desperate to understand life itself.  How could beloved family members just die like that?  What was the meaning of our lives? Did any part of us go on, after we died?

I didn’t have much traditional wisdom to fall back on at the time. I had grown up in a largely unaffiliated Jewish household, with a hodgepodge of American beliefs conveyed by my unaffiliated parents. My mother (z”l) might mention a past life, gently curse in someone else’s religious language, and speak in Yiddish all in the same conversation.  

When I finally got to Hebrew School, later than others in the 4th grade, I was immediately put into remedial classes because until then I hadn’t learned much Hebrew. I did my sincere best at the Bat Mitzvah, but frankly, a lot of attention went into the cardboard cutouts of television stars and the bubblegum centerpieces. Missing were the lessons about what it could mean to live as a Jewish woman, or any sense of the spiritual depth of the tradition I was entering.

I did my sincere best at the Bat Mitzvah, but frankly, a lot of attention went into the cardboard cutouts of television stars and the bubblegum centerpieces. Missing were the lessons about what it could mean to live as a Jewish woman, or any sense of the spiritual depth of the tradition I was entering.

And so when the moment came that I needed wisdom to sustain me, I came up empty. 

So I began to search. As I entered college, my search included religions other than Judaism, and a wide range of books.  I was drawn to The Celestine Prophecy, The Alchemist, Siddhartha, the Tao Tze Ching. I bought quote books and read them obsessively, copying down the pithy passages that moved me.  

It took a long time to discover that Judaism itself had what I was seeking.  As I learned, it was not only religious practice but kernels of Jewish spirituality—our purpose in life, what it means to live as a soul, how a person might form a meaningful relationship with G-d—which helped clarify things for my younger self. 

When young Jewish adults confront the challenges of life, where will they find the life raft of Jewish philosophy and scholarship that is their birthright? 

Looking back, I realize I was hardly alone. Indeed, as a child I was surrounded by Jewish kids who might have attended high holiday services but lacked the foundational teachings about the liturgy; who had never learned a page of Mishnah or Talmud, or experienced a traditional Shabbat.  As an observant adult today, I see that even more educated Jewish children sometimes lack access to spiritual Jewish teachings when they are needed most.

When young Jewish adults confront the challenges of life, where will they find the life raft of Jewish philosophy and scholarship that is their birthright? 

As a child, I always wanted to write novels. As I grew up, I realized I wanted to write the book I had been searching for as a teenager, the book that would gently reveal to me the possibilities of Judaism. The book that would be a sign pointing in the direction of Jewish tradition for anyone who needed it: Wisdom this way.

As I grew up, I realized I wanted to write the book I had been searching for as a teenager, the book that would gently reveal to me the possibilities of Judaism. The book that would be a sign pointing in the direction of Jewish tradition for anyone who needed it: Wisdom this way.

But I also wanted to write a book that would be easy to read, with real characters, and a positive message: a book that could pass along a little wisdom without having to work too hard for it. A book that a curious Bat Mitzvah girl, or searching Jewish teenager, might pick up and discover a door to deeper meaning in their Jewish life.

I feel tremendously blessed to have written a novel called The Prophetess that was published this month (October 2019).  In this book, I explore the burden and beauty of being a teenage Jewish girl searching for answers. 

Within The Prophetess, I also provide some paradigm-shifting lessons that I wish I had access to when I was seventeen.

If you know Jewish girls who are seeking wisdom – or if you yourself were ever once a girl seeking to understand the mysteries of life – this book is for you and for them. I’d love to hear if it speaks to you. 

courtesy of the author
Evonne Marzouk is the author of The Prophetess.” She previously founded and led Canfei Nesharim, an organization which teaches about Torah and the environment. She was selected as one of the New York Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 in 2009.”

Posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.

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