Washing the Dead by Michele Brafman
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Preparing the dead for traditional Jewish burial is considered the holiest and most sacred mitzvah that a Jew may perform because there is no way for the dead to repay the act of goodness. In her debut novel, Michelle Brafman has woven her story around two episodes of washing the dead. In performing this mitzvah, the protagonist cleanses herself of hatreds and misunderstandings that she has been carrying around since her youth.
Growing up in a wealthy suburb of Milwaukee, Barbara and her family worship at the Rabbi Schine’s mansion-like synagogue. Barbara and her family are baalei teshuva, Jews who have returned to Orthodoxy under the influence of a mentor—in this case, Rabbi Schine and his wife, the Rebbetzin. Barbara was proud of her mother’s friendship with the Rebbetzin: her mother always sat next to the Rebbetzin in the synagogue. Barbara herself is best friends with Tzippy, the Schine’s daughter, but little by little the friendship diminishes asTzippy left New York for the summers and for high school to receive a proper education…