The Kabbalist

The Kabbalist

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post
as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.
The Kabbalist
By
Yoram Katz
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pub. Date: September 24, 2013
ISBN: 978-1484946

Pages348
Genre:
Historical Mystery

Source: Received
from the author

Goodreads

Author’s website

Buying Links on this page


This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

     New author challenge  2014 historical fictionmy-kind-of-mystery-2014

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

new eiffel 5

And here is another book I received from the author, who contacted me through email. Historical mysteries are fascinating to me, and The Kabbalist having to do with the Templars and Kabbalah, I did not hesitate, and wow, what a book! Another proof that self-published books can be REALLY good!
Please just ignore the cover, this gives a very wrong idea of the book.

Now, to really enjoy this book, you will have to take notes, at least that’s how I did it, and it really helped. The current trend in historical fiction is to have you go back and forth between two periods, usually a very recent one, and an older one. You will be stretched here beyond your comfort zone, as you will be traveling between no less than five periods! In the order they appear in the book, here is the first setting of each period. Things develop then for each:

  1. 2006, Haifa: an old monk is murdered in his library, in the Carmelite monastery of Stella Maris
  2. 149, Galilee: an old guy and his son emerge from a cave where they hid from the Romans for 13 years
  3. 1291, Acre: the city has just been raised by the Saracens, and the treasurer and manager of the Yeshiva is trying to escape, carrying a mysterious leather-bound small cylindrical package.
  4. 1798, Normandy: Pascal de Charney, cavalry officer in the Napoleon army, comes home. His father Robert reveals him something about their ancestor Geoffroi, companion of Jacques de Molay [see my review of The Iron King on this], the last Grand Master of the Templars.
  5. 2010, Jerusalem: following a kabbalistic ritual based on the Book of Zohar, 10 Hassidic Jews are gathered to send a curse on a Gentile, working at the Hebrew University.  Also in 2010, in Haifa, there’s Jeanne de Charney, coming to meet an investigator, to try to understand some mysterious passage in old family  letters.

What on earth can be the connection between all these elements? Well, you will have to grab the book and let yourself be immersed in the mystery and follow the clues, as they are very progressively revealed, and as you are led day by day.
This is one element I really enjoyed a lot: how little by little, important details are given, for instance only on page 135 will you learn the name of the murdered monk; you will also much later discover the identity of the old man emerging from his cave, and what he did there for 13 years.
Also connected to the mystery, it was fun to be led to a trail with some characters, only to realize with them later on that it was a dead-end!

I also enjoyed all the historical elements, with the Templars, and with the siege of Acre in the 13th century, and the battle during the Napoleonic Wars.
Some characters really existed, some were invented – I don’t think Louis de Clairvaux existed, but that was a smart choice of a Templar name! I’ll explain in a comment in case you are curious.

And of course all the religious elements were fascinating: the modern ones, between the different Jewish trends, the academic disputes on the topic, and most of all the inclusion of Kabbalistic themes.
There was even a very cool presentation, in a nutshell, on the history of Kabbalah and of its main ideas (chapters 33 and 35).
There was a great passage on the explanation of the first verse of the Book of Genesis, according to the Zohar. Even more fun if you know Hebrew, but if not, the explanation is clear (p.262).

Another term in Kabbalah for this goodness of the Creator is ‘light‘ and the desire to give and bestow light is the essential nature of the Creator. The other imperfect forms of creation, from man to the inanimate, are characterized by their capacity to receive. You may consider this analogous to physical balancing of pressures. The light always flows from where it is found in abundance to where it is in demand, and Man is the creature most in need of receiving it.
p.236

The connection between the Templars and the Kabbalah, and Jesus and the Kabbalah will definitely sound weirdo to some, but I have to say, the way the arguments are presented could make sense. Actually, I have read some very serious Roman Catholic theories on the relationship between Judas and Christ that could be connected to the one presented here!
I have to admit I had never heard of “The Vision of Gabriel”.  It could all well be forgeries, but again, things are presented here with good historical background. The conclusion of the Afterword is very relevant here:

The lesson I take form this, and which I hope to share with you, dear reader, is that we should always use common sense and good judgment when examining a new and thrilling conspiracy theory, as well as when examining an old and established dogma.
Both can be incredibly enlightening, terribly misleading or eve both simultaneously –it is up to us always to keep an open, inquisitive and critical mind.
p.345

I found just a few strange things on the editing level having to do with French:

  1. a Brother is named Michelle, which is the feminine version of the name. I’m not aware of a feminine sainte Michelle in the Caramelite world, so his patron saint is probably archangel Michael, sounded weird he would not then be Brother Michel.
  2. page 154, L’histoire d’une âme, by Thérèse de Lisieux, got a very weird spelling, looking more Hebrew than French [sic: âm’ ]
  3. page 227, Jeanne becomes Jean

The Kabbalist is one of the best historical mysteries I have ever read. It is fabulously built and organized. I really enjoyed being led in the company of each rich character from “false truths” to “real truths”. Looking forward to similar stories by the author.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

In 1270, the Book of Zohar, a foundational book of Kabbalah, is published amidst a controversy. Is it an ancient text or an elaborate forgery? When Crusaders’ Acre falls to the Sultan in 1291, a remarkable chain of events brings two ancient scrolls into the possession of Yaakov Ben Shlomo, a Jewish refugee. In Revolutionary France, 1798, before a young cavalry officer sails with General Bonaparte to the Middle East, he is assigned a secret mission by his father. In 2006, when Superintendent Yossi Luria of Haifa Police is assigned to handle a homicide of a monk, he is not yet aware that this case is going to change his life and career. Four years later, a young Frenchwoman steps into the office of Luria, by now a disillusioned private detective. Jean de Charney has found a 200-year old letter in the basement of her family’s Normandy estate and has come to Israel to pursue an intriguing family mystery. The two quickly find out that the ancient mystery is still claiming lives in the 21st century. Their quest leads them through twists and turns, and acquaints them with the mystical doctrine of Kabbalah. What they discover affects their personal lives as well as puts commonly accepted truths in a completely new perspective. “The Kabbalist” is set against a rich historical tapestry, spanning 2,000 years in old and new Israel – a birthplace of religious and mystical doctrines, and the arena for numerous events which have shaped civilization. “The Kabbalist” puts the history and meaning of Kabbalah in a new, astonishing perspective, much like “The Da Vinci Code” did to Christianity. [Goodreads]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yoram kATZAt the age of six, I started wondering and decided that I was going to save the world – a mission in which I have miserably failed. I still feel bad about it.
At the age of sixteen I entered a discussion about the meaning of life with my mother, and was eventually kicked out of the kitchen, having driven her mad by asking “Why?” ten times in a row, in response to every answer she had patiently crafted.
At the age of twenty I translated the lyrics of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” to Hebrew, added some private passionate poems and consigned them to a notebook, which I placed in a back drawer where they patiently reside to this day.
In my tireless quest, I then studied Philosophy and Psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I was so impressed, that having completed my BA in both, I immediately ran away to spend two years in Europe and Africa and then landed back on earth to study for my BSc. in Computer Engineering.
Most of my career since has been spent in the flourishing Israeli hi-tech industry, where I held some senior managerial positions and travelled the globe.
After an interlude of thirty years, I resumed writing, using the time made available for me during my trips. It felt right and I am now wondering whether I may have stumbled upon a partial answer to some of his nagging old questions.
I live in Haifa, Israel. I am happily married with three grown-up children, and looks forward to becoming a grandfather.
“The Kabbalist” is my first published novel.
[from his website]

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