source: free review copy via Meryl Moss Media
title: Love, Faith and a Pair of Pants: a novel in stories
author: Herb Freed
first line: The top floor of the Rabbinical academy dormitory was the quietest place in Manhattan until six-fifteen in the morning when the clicking of high heels reverberated all the way down the marble-tiled hallway and woke Ben…
Ben Zelig thinks he has his life all figured out. Graduate from rabbinical school. Get hired by a spiritually enriched community. Meet a nice Jewish girl and start a family. Simple, right? Naturally, nothing goes according to plan, but life can still work out as long as you have Love, Faith and a Pair of Pants.
Herb Freed, the author of the timeless love story Bashert, is back with a collection of five short stories about the smart, witty, spiritual and, according to his mother, incredibly handsome, Rabbi Ben Zelig. In five stories about a rabbi’s life, Zelig navigates romance, family ties, colorful congregants and the meaning of faith. We follow him through the decades as master storyteller Freed takes us from humor to pathos and back again in an uplifting examination of what it means to be human.
As Love, Faith and a Pair of Pants starts off it is 1969 and Ben Zelig is in Rabbi school in NYC. He is in the intern program and doing hands on work. The novella takes us through Ben’s life through 2007, we meet his family, friends and quirky characters like Uncle Joe, who is his mentor and advises him on everything from business deals to women. The story goes on as Ben goes on dates, trains to be a Rabbi and as he is there when his mom Bertha takes the test to become a U.S. citizen. It is mainly about Ben’s personal journey and how people and events tie in together and there is faith and hope within the pages as well. It all comes full circle at the end for Ben. I enjoyed some of the insightful writing like this passage…
“A soft rain began to fall, as it increased, Ben felt he was Adam banished from the garden. Where to go from here?”
p. 31, Love, Faith and a Pair of Pants by Herb Freed
Most of the story was amusing and quirky and it was interesting getting a glimpse into Jewish culture. Ben was dramatic and I did feel that some of the dialogue was over the top for the time and place. Like this conversation which takes place at a club.
The Chasid leaned forward , his intense sad eyes trying to understand. He cupped his ear with one hand. “You don’t got a name?”
Ben didn’t know how or why it came out, but the words flowed from the depths of his soul. “I am Benjamin, son of Solomon, of the tribe of Levi,” he said proudly.
p.29, Love, Faith and a Pair of Pants by Herb Freed
Speaking of which, the club is called La Cucaracha (The Cockroach) and Ben is on a date and that is where a few stereotypical Latin characters make an entrance and it was just plain bad. *insert eye roll here* Later on in the book a man who is beating a woman is described as being short and having a “Puerto Rican accent”. More stereotyping. But also, a Puerto Rican accent?
Maybe he meant a Spanish accent? How could Ben possibly decipher the difference between Spanish accents? I can barely do that and I am fluent in Spanish. If I hear a person speaking Spanish I can usually tell where they are from, like I can tell if they are from Spain or from Mexico or from the Dominican Republic because of the difference in dialects. But I definitely would not be able to decipher where someone is from if they are speaking English with a Spanish accent. And of course the Puerto Rican man is beating the Puerto Rican woman and of course the woman is begging the man telling him she loves him and to please believe her etc. Ridiculously enough the couple ends up kissing after all that physical fighting. I was like “What?!”
So, the book gets a little weird and offensive at times, but it has glimmers of hope in between that. It mainly centers around Ben and his family life, his inner struggles and the way he’s finding his way in life. It was a fast read and although I had my qualms with some of it, different readers will interpret it differently.
“Ben told the biblical story faithfully, but the subtext was about Bertha and Soji. There could be no doubt in their minds that he was talking directly to them. Ben was asking his mother for forgiveness and thanking Soji for opening his heart.
About the author:
HERB FREED started his adult life as an ordained rabbi and became the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Lake Mahopac, New York while producing and directing three shows at the Maidman Playhouse in New York City. Eventually, he resigned his pulpit to become a movie director. He has directed and produced 15 feature films most of which have had psychological, spiritual and/or social themes in spite of their commercial categories. He is best known for Graduation Day, a horror film, and Tomboy, a teenage romp, as well as the psychological drama Haunts, and CHILD2MAN, a story of survival during the Watts riots.
disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I received my free copy of Love, Faith and a Pair of Pants: a novel in storiesvia Meryl Moss Media in exchange for an honest review.
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