The Frozen Rabbi

The Frozen Rabbi

A Novel

Book - 2010
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Rabbi Eliezer ben Zephyr is inadvertently frozen in 1890 and, after being transported to twenty-first century Memphis, is accidently thawed by fifteen-year-old Bernie Karp, who begins to follow the rabbi's teachings with unforeseen consequences.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010.
ISBN: 9781565126190
Characteristics: 370 p. ;,24 cm.


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KatSu Aug 28, 2012

Not bad, got bored in spots, but was interesting so kept going

madame_librarian Dec 16, 2010

How, I ask you, could I pass up a book with such a marvelous title? Before I even cracked open the cover to read the book flap, I had conjured up a wealth of possibilities for it. Were I a writer, I just might have taken that title and run with it. As it happens, the story written by Stern is quite wonderful so you are spared my amateurish attempt at novel-writing.

In 1889, Rebbe Eliezer ben Zephyr, the "tzaddik" (a righteous man) of Boibicz, due to a habit of letting his soul wander to get closer to God, gets himself flash frozen during a sudden ice storm. Don't ask how this soul-wandering trick works, but because of it he is not technically dead. When the block of ice is discovered by a peasant, the rebbe becomes a family legacy, handed down from generation to generation for safe albeit frozen keeping. Of course, along the way the family's destiny becomes very connected to the cold storage business, and Rebbe Eliezer ends up in the bottom tray of the basement freezer belonging to the Karp family, successful appliance retailers, in Memphis, Tennessee.

The rebbe's journey to America, as well as the trials, tribulations, and escapades of the colorful family members who care for him is a rollicking tale of the immigrant experience in turn-of-the-century New York, post-World War II Israel, and middle-class suburbia.

The rebbe's saga shares the limelight in alternating chapters with that of young Bernie Karp. In 1999, 15-year old Bernie--spotty, overweight couch potato par excellence--deep in the throes of teenage nerd-dom and sexual angst, is home alone during a lengthy power failure resulting in the rebbe's rebirth. The rebbe, delighted to be thawed, is a fast learner and thrives in the care of the hapless Bernie, learning all he needs to know about how to make it big in late-20th century America by watching daytime TV. Bernie's life takes off in a direction almost beyond belief as he discovers his inner thin, deeply spiritual, cute guy self.

Stern's skill at spinning this story entails a fair amount of Jewish magic realism blended with philosophizing, mysticism, Kabbalah, and New Age hucksterism, and it will entertain, amuse, and maybe, just maybe, clear up a few questions about the meaning of life.--Madame Librarian

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