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Word Count: 271
Set during the Roman occupation of IsraelPalestine beginning with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and ending after the Bar Kochba rebellion 132-135 CE it tells the story of Elisha ben Abuyah an obscure historical figure Born into a Hellenistic Jewish family at age 10 Elisha is sent to learn Torah and eventually becomes a rabbi of the Sanhedrin the ruling Jewish body during the Roman occupation But in his mid years he begins a search for the truth that leads to his excommunication and another life in Antioch Syria The conflict between the two cultures destroys his ability to live in either one As A Driven Leaf was first published in 1939 which makes its prose difficult for the modern reader The dialogue is somewhat clumsy and old-fashioned the long philosophical soliloquies are hard to follow unless the reader is interested in Torah and GreekRoman philosophical rhetoric On the other hand Rabbi Steinberg introduces numerous historical figures that are rarely portrayed in fiction These include Rabbi Akiba Rabbi Tarfon Gamliel and the Roman general Rufus His description of the desolation and destruction of Israel is particularly moving as is his recounting of the death of the Ten Martyrs Rabbi Steinberg apparently faced many of the same conflicts as his protagonist A scholar and Jewish historian he was shunned by the Orthodox world because of his modern views This novel was his attempt to re-create his own conflicts with the American Jewish community However the reader should be warned As A Driven Leaf is not an easy-reading beach book
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