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  Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen
author of ...

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Jephte's Daughter Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) The Sacrifice of Tamar

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Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) Sotah introduces a family with three daughters approaching the age of marriage: Devorah, Dina and Chaya Leah. In the strict orthodoxy of their world, a sotah is a wife suspected of infidelity who can be tried by ordeal to prove she is guiltless. Which sister could be capable of such a thought, let alone the act? Into the pious world of strict chaperoning, modest clothing, where a married woman's hair must never be seen by a man other than her husband -insinuates this serpent suggestion of evil. Ragen's powerful tale of three sisters spins endless questions: Which one? Could she? Did she? What changes could come into this orderly world because of unthinking actions?

Author's Comments

The basic story in Sotah came from a newspaper article in an Israeli paper in which an ultra-Orthodox married woman described her adulterous affair with an equally religious married man, her neighbor. She described her pleasure in it, her guilt, and how she was discovered by the Modesty Patrol (yes, this really does exist in Jerusalem, and is made up of religious vigilantes who enforce their moral code with whatever means possible, including physical violence.) She was thrown out of her home without a penny, deprived of her children.

The story filled me with awe and wonder. What interested me was not so much the details of the liaison, but how a religious girl, carefully brought up in the sacrosanct streets of Jerusalem could ever find herself in such a situation. I also wondered if there was any forgiveness in the world for a woman like that, any compassion for her human mistake, and any way to earn back all that she had lost. Sotah is my way of exploring that.

Incidentally,this book was recently translated in Hebrew and published in Israel. It made the top of the bestseller list, and has remained in one of the top five spots for half a year with no end in sight. This is extremely gratifying to me since Israelis are a jury of my peers, the people who can really judge how accurately I have portrayed my subjects.

Readers' Comments

In his best-selling book The Chosen, Chaim Potok parted the veil in the richly textured life of the Hassidic Jews - the scholars, the rebbes, the patriarchy. And now Naomi Ragen has woven a tapestry about the women of the "haredi'( literally, 'those who shake with fear of God') world or Jerusalem's Meah Shearim quarter.

This is a book that kept my reading light burning far into the night. I came to know the sanctity of the Sabbath, the cleansing effect of the mikvah, the injunction to love : family, home and faith…Writer Naomi Ragen has opened a door on the loving sisters, wives and mothers who, also, are the chosen.

(Reviewed by Karen Boren, Deseret News, Utah, U.S.A. ,October 18, 1992)

 

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Last modified: January 31, 1999