Book Introduction: Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi & Other Tales

Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi & Other Tales
Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi & Other Tales

Introduction by Leora: Michelle emailed me last week asking if I could post about her book. I have not read the book, but the description certainly sounds intriguing. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing with us the tales of your book.

A Chanukah story with no latkes and no dreidels. Not exactly how I hoped to promote Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi & Other Tales, but to be fair it is an honest assessment. So if there’s no latkes and no dreidels, then what exactly makes Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi a Chanukah story?

When most of us picture Chanukah in our minds, we associate the festival of lights with the lighting of the menorah. We also think of the holiday foods and the wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen. You may picture dreidels and of course presents, lots and lots of presents. For me, growing up the daughter of a temple organist, I actually associate Chanukah more with music. So it’s not surprising when I wrote an original Chanukah tale it was about how my favorite Chanukah hymn, Ma’oz Tzur came into existence.

The story, Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi was inspired while I was listening to a lovely rendition of the song on the Internet. I suddenly had a mental picture of a young man standing in a snowy forest. He is singing Ma’oz Tzur for the first time in Jewish history. I wrote Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi around that vision.

The title character is a young Jewish man whose medieval village is invaded by terrible demons whose demonic music causes the normally peaceful villagers to bring up every little slight and grievance in their memory and act upon it with disastrous results. The antagonists of the story can only be destroyed by sacred music. Mordecai has the God given gift to compose, but is racked with self-doubt and has never told a living soul, especially his parents about his talent.

The humor in the story comes from the Yiddish accent of the narrator and ridiculous nature of the grievances that the villagers bring up from their pasts.

Some lines from the tale:

What else you ask was there to be concerned with other than the crusaders? Weren’t the crusaders bad enough? What could have been worse than a group of armed, bloodthirsty, religious maniacs?

I’ll tell you in just two words. The Nehemoth. You never heard of the Nehemoth before? The Nehemoth for your information are demons. Just as with the angels in heaven, there are categories and classifications of demons. The Nehemoth are classified as among the most dangerous.

I had so much fun writing Mordecai Ben Isaac Ha-Levi that when I was finished I decided to write another story and chose Purim as the holiday I wanted to explore.

The Tailor’s Daughter is a humorous retelling of the Book of Esther. The love story between the King of Poland and the lovely Esterka was actually based on a real Polish king, Casimir the III. Like the first story, it’s told tongue in cheek, full of Yiddish humor and a fast fun read for all.

Songs of a Wayfarer
was the last of the three stories to be written. The style of writing turned out somewhat different than the first two short stories and is a Sukkot tale unlike any you have ever read before. With a surprise visit from a famous Jewish composer and the seven mystical ushpizin, it will warm your heart and take you on a journey to places you never expected to go.

My thanks to Leora for inviting to visit her blog today and a very happy Chanukah to all.

M.L. Holtzman

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