Author: Avraham Azrieli

Publisher: CreateSpace

ISBN: 9781463602888


Have you ever been given a gift and unwrapped it, slowly, ever so slowly, enjoying the moment, gently removing the paper surrounding the gift, delighting in the parcel it was wrapped in, and then discovering yourself deeply touched by what you found inside?  Christmas for Joshua is that gift.

The book begins slowly and gently.  The title of the first chapter “Do You Hear What I Hear?” sets the tone and underlying question of the book: "Do we truly hear what is being said in conversations about religious beliefs, aka do we hear the feelings hidden beneath the tradition, the laws, the prejudices?" 

As the reader unwraps the book, the gift unfolds.  

Readers meet Rusty Dinwall, a skilled heart surgeon, loving husband and devoted father.  Now the senior lay leader in the local reform King Solomon synagogue, Rusty is a convert from Roman Catholicism to Judaism shortly prior to marrying Rebecca.  Facing a serious financial crisis, the synagogue must immediately make some crucial decisions and Rusty encourages synagogue leaders to accept a major unexpected financial gift and the (unethical, for some) strings attached to it.  This decision places a deep strain on his relationship with the spiritual leader of the synagogue, Rabbi Rachel, as well as on his relationship with his wife.

When Rusty and Rebecca learn in a Skype conversation that their daughter Debra is engaged to Mordechai who adheres to Orthodox Judaism, the pace of the book quickly changes. Debra shares her future husband’s religious beliefs and they both want to be married according to Orthodox Judaism tradition by Rabbi Schlumacher presiding, rather than at the reform synagogue where Debra grew up with longtime family friend Rabbi Rachel presiding.  Conflict and complications that no one could anticipate begin to erupt.

When Rabbi Schlumacher stubbornly refuses to recognize the authenticity of Rusty’s conversion to Judaism (because it was done through a Reform Rabbi), and Rusty’s family pressures him to become more observant of Orthodox Judaism traditions, he faces a major crisis of faith.  Then, at a time of the year that is holy to both Christians and Jews, Father Donne enters the scene and Rusty is confronted by further theological and spiritual reflection and questioning.

Faced with two rabbis and one priest (each with differing views, traditions and opinions) and a wife who supports Debra and Mordecai in their decision, Rusty struggles with the potential break-up of his marriage, begins to ask if he is as good a leader as he once believed himself to be, and questions the connection between his chosen Jewish faith and his Christian heritage.

This is a book for people who are open to asking questions … questioning religious prejudice and religious intolerance, ethical dilemmas, the meaning of marriage, and what religion and spirituality are/are not.

Through superbly developed characters and a delightfully creative plot, Avraham Azrieli weaves a gentle yet powerful story that closes with yet another gift - the gift of hope.

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