In her first book to be translated into English, Calderon presents seventeen Talmudic tales, retold as finely nuanced fictional short stories. At the start of each one is the bare bones original text version that provides the general outline for what’s to come. The retold story is then followed by Calderon’s reflections about the meaning, both currently and at the time it was first penned. These interpretations are frequently every bit as interesting as the tales themselves as they reveal how our attitudes have changed, especially when it comes to women and their roles. Several of the stories such as “Return” tell of a husband’s conflict between pursuing religious interests, maintaining a meaningful presence at home and the consequences of ignoring family responsibilities. The title story “A Bride for One Night” is troubling as it records what was apparently an acceptable version of polygamy when a learned Rabbi visits a small community and is married to a widow for one night despite having a wife at home.
Thought provoking and entertaining, the retelling of these ancient stories puts the lessons into perspective when seen through the eyes of fictional characters with all the hopes, dreams and expectations of their time. Calderon’s interpretation of classic Talmudic literature is like a breath of fresh spring air clearing out the cobwebs and is sure to be enjoyed by scholars and anyone interested in learning more about the rich Jewish heritage.
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