SEVEN BLESSINGS Gets More Critical Acclaim…

. . . and shoots up to 407 on Amazon’s rankings. Here’s Lisa Haddock’s piece from

New Book Looks at Life and Love in a Jerusalem Few See

By Lisa Haddock

Meet the author of the critically acclaimed novel, one that makes for perfect summer reading


That word defines “Seven Blessings,” the debut novel by Ruchama King.

The critically acclaimed book — set in 1980s, pre-intifada Jerusalem — is a love letter to the faith that King cherishes. That passion fuels a compelling story about the search for love  “of G-d, of Torah, of life, of soul mates” in the land of Israel.

“Seven Blessings” tells the story of ordinary religious people in the spiritually charged city of Jerusalem: matchmakers and singles, bus drivers, grocers, lingerie merchants, rebbetzins, Torah scholars, and mystics.

“When we think of Jerusalem lately, the images that come up are of death and despair. And yet the people I know living in Jerusalem — family, friends — are going about their lives with a grace, a richness — and even joy,” says the Passaic, N.J., resident.

“Of course we should be aware of the terrible things Israelis are going through. They are fighting our battle — the battle against Jew hatred — for all Jewish people, everywhere. But that battle doesn’t have to eclipse who and what Jerusalem is. Jerusalem is life,” says King, whose background reflects some of the diversity of Jewish life. She grew up in a religiously observant home with a U.S.-born Ashkenazi father and a Morocco-born Sephardic mother.

Just as the Torah itself does not shy away from the flaws of its characters, King points out, she also wanted to be realistic. She portrays the beauty and the flaws of the community she loves with poignance and humor.

“People hear ‘matchmaker’ and their minds turn to farce caricature Yenta, the local busybody. These are not ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ characters from a distant nostalgic haze. These are flesh-and-blood people — lovable, hatable.”

Back in the Eighties, King spent nine years in Jerusalem, where she studied and taught Torah, volunteered with the disabled, and thrived on the spiritual energy of the city regarded as the center of the world.

In fact, she gained much of the inside knowledge for her book during the two years she lived in the home of a matchmaker.

“She told me her secrets of the trade. She critiqued Yeshiva scholars — their hair, their beards, their glasses, and they listened. She took young women by the hand and decked them out so they looked nice.

“Sometimes I thought these couples continued dating each other just to have this woman tinkering in their lives,” says King.

The author describes matchmaking as a national obsession in Israel and a natural extension of the belief that all Jews are responsible for one another.

“You can’t go 10 feet without bumping into a matchmaker. … Bus drivers and postal clerks get involved. Everyone does. After the Holocaust, every couple that comes together, every family formed, is cause for national celebration.”

King’s knowledge of Torah and matchmaking pay off. She uses her characters’ relationships with G-d and religion as a litmus test for the difficulties they have in their intimate relationships.

Her matchmakers are well-drawn characters who face problems of their own. Judy, the wife of a rabbi who now works as an exterminator, misses the trappings and honors of being a rebbetzin. Tsippi, a Treblinka survivor who makes matches as a way of getting even with the Nazis, yearns for a romantic connection with her husband, who spends most of his time with his nose buried in the Talmud. Yet both women lay aside these hurts to help make the all-important match.

“I don’t think people realize how much of a psychoanalyst a matchmaker can — or even must — be,” says King, a native of Nashville, Tenn., who grew up in Maryland and Virginia.

And the single Jews she portrays also have their problems. Beth, a 39-year-old American, is afraid to hope that she’s met the man of her dreams even as she struggles with religious questions. Akiva, a 41-year-old Canadian, is plagued by wild spasms that frighten away prospective mates. Binyamin, a 42-year-old American artist, is so fixated on superficial physical perfection that eventually, the matchmakers refuse to set him up — until he grows up.

King says she also wants readers to go beyond the basic question: Will these characters find true love?

“Matchmaking and romance are the perfect camouflage for thornier issues. Along the way, you can slip in a little Torah, a little G0d, a little coming to grips with the dark side of your own soul and self,” says King, who has a master of fine arts from Brooklyn College.

After her own struggles as a single in a Jewish world that so highly values marriage and family, she’s a happily married mother of four.

Her husband, Yisrael Feuerman, has been a big supporter of her ambitions.

“He is an excellent writer with a background in modern psychoanalysis. …. I cannot imagine a husband who could be more supportive: on the both the literary, emotional, and financial end.”

For now, King is pleased that she’s broken into the literary mainstream.

As for her future literary plans?

“I don’t know what will be, but I’m growing more aware of what compels me to write.” She pauses as her dark eyes grow pensive.

“I grew up with a skeptical eye toward religion and spirituality, and at the same time I was captivated by it. I was inside and outside at the same time. That’s why I write. I’m in touch with that tension.”


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