Book Reviews
The Seventh Telling; The Kabbalah of Moshe Katan: Mitchell Chefitz
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Seventh Telling; The Kabbalah of Moshe Katan: Mitchell Chefitz
The Seventh Telling; The Kabbalah of Moshe Katan: Mitchell Chefitz

What can I tell you about this book? I approached it with trepidation. A Novel, it says, underneath the subtitle, yet the reviews on the back cover promised not only ‘insights into the Kabbalah’, but ‘…greater knowledge of the Divine healing power within yourself.’ I’m suspicious of promises – disappointment usually follows – and the idea of a novel based quite literally on Kabbalistic teaching seemed ambitious almost to the point of hubris. The subject is huge, mystical, complex. Yet using language that even those readers who are not Jewish and have no knowledge of the mystical side of Judaism can easily understand, Mitchell Chefitz takes the very human stories of two couples, Stephanie and Sidney and Moshe and Rivkah, as the armature or framework of the novel, revealing them in psychological glimpses, as Stephanie and Sidney teach the Kabbalah to a group of seekers at the home of Moshe and Rivkah, so present in the teachings, so absent from the house itself.

Most of the stories and stories within stories are Moshe’s own teaching tools, yet each is liable to change from telling to telling. They form a rich and ever-shifting tapestry composed from his and Rivkah’s own lives, from the sacred texts, from his past teachers and the imaginations of both couples. I know, it sounds impossible. How can it possibly work? I can only say that it works stunningly. This is an extraordinary book by a master storyteller. Mitchell Chefitz held me in the palm of his hand from the first page to the last, taking my time, absorbing every word in fascination and delight. The ability to teach by way of stories told simply and without manipulative sentimentality or dramatic devices is a rare one in fiction. There was only one moment of doubt towards the end, when a student told her own story, but perhaps a flaw is needed in any work of art to show the brilliance of the rest.

Mitchell Chefitz is not afraid to address God by one name or other on almost every page of The Seventh Telling. This could so easily have been a problem for seekers, or readers with faiths other than the Judeo Christian, yet such is his skill that the reader never feels that those beliefs are being thrust upon him, and his explanation of the nature of the Divine is little short of perfect, and one to think on.

The Seventh Telling has been constructed with patience, knowledge, care, intelligence and wisdom, but above all, with love. A huge book in every way and a key not only to the Kabbalah, but to what it means to be human.

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