I don’t usually read Hebrew books for pleasure. I read the Makor Rishon newspaper every week for the news, but until now I always thought that reading a novel in Hebrew would be too difficult, and that I wouldn’t enjoy it.

That was until our yishuv librarian came over and recommended “Mikimi” by Noah Yaron Dayan. I told her that the book had to be “meod moshech” (“very engrossing” in slang) for me to enjoy it in my second language. She assured me that it was – and she was right.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Dayan was a very popular radio show host on IDF radio, and she also had a tv show (I am not sure on which station since we don’t own a tv). In short she was a very secular celebrity – with all of the trappings that go with this, including interviews in the papers, people asking her for autographs, etc.

In addition, as she tells it, her life was excruciatingly superficial. She describes how she was constantly surrounded by lies. One example is the five page magazine spread on “the real Noa” – where the author brings a whole wardrobe for the photo shoot, and then claims in the article that the clothes belong to Dayan.

As luck would have it, she meets up with a boyfriend who is just as unhappy in this superficial life as she is. At one point a mutual friend barges into their apartment with a small book by Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. He then takes them to the window to gaze at the stars – at “einsof” (“infinity”). They think he has completely lost his mind. He describes this great Torah class he has started to attend, and makes himself such a pain in the neck that Noa’s boyfriend, Ben, makes a deal with him. “If I go to one of these Torah classes with you, will you promise never to mention Rabbi Nachman ever again?” Their mutual friend agrees. Unknowingly the couple has started on a journey that will turn their lives upside down.

Noa waits anxiously in their apartment the next week for Ben to come home from this class. She expects him back in an hour, and after six hours pass she is frantic. Ben comes home a changed man – and he finds it difficult to explain why. Noa almost loses her mind when he insists that he will go back the next week to hear Daniel, the Rabbi who is both down to earth and extremely charismatic.

As you can probably guess Noa ends up attending the class too – and is very touched. She is both attracted to what the Breslaver is teaching her – and scared to death. She is so scared, as a matter of fact, that she tries to run away. She convinces Ben to go with her to Holland, and freaks out when Ben wants to light Chanukah candles. Thinking that she can run even farther from her Jewishness, she suggests they go to a remote little village in the boonies of Holland. After showing up there, they find the one and only bed and breakfast run by none other than Jacob. You guessed it, Jacob is Jewish, and proudly shows off his little sefer Tehillim (book of Psalms).

Accepting the fact that she can’t run away from it – Noa starts slowly to become observant. What is so wonderful about the book is her honesty about the way there. Most people who know b’aalei teshuva (those who become observant Jews by choice) know that they were once secular, and now they are Orthodox. A lot of b’aalei teshuva are ashamed of their past, and do not want to describe the details of their transition. Dayan gets over this embarrassment (which almost leads her to lose the love of her life) and writes it all in the book. She talks about the emotional highs and lows – the fear of not knowing what to do, the fear that she is changing too much, and the sadness that comes with causing her parents and sister pain – along with the tremendous joy at finding her path in life.

I enjoyed the book immensely. I do not follow the Breslav derech (“way of life”) myself, but I very much admire those who do. Their honesty and unabashed love of G-d and other Jews is an example for all of us. If I daven (pray) with 1/10th of their kavana (“intention”) I am doing well!!

If you want to read first hand about how one very sad and lost person found meaning in her life – go out and get the book. It is worth the time – even if Hebrew is your second language.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. debby
    Mar 26, 2008 @ 09:26:20

    Noa comes to yishuvim and does evenings for women, I saw her recently and found it very interesting.

  2. Ben-David
    Mar 26, 2008 @ 10:19:32

    Important to note that this is a roman-a-clef, and not a first-person non-fiction work.

  3. tzip
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 20:17:22

    it’s so funny seeing your review right now – i just read this a few days ago. it was my first hebrew novel that i’ve ver read and it was great!

  4. Jameel @ The Muqata
    Apr 02, 2008 @ 17:06:11

    I absolutely LOVED the Mikimi book! (Reviewed it also a few months back – http://muqata.blogspot.com/2007/08/elul-posting.html

    Another great book you would like is “Michtavim L’Talya”

  5. Sheila Hampton
    May 31, 2010 @ 15:33:03

    westbankmama.wordpress.com’s done it once more. Amazing article!

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