Sunday, April 10, 2011

Guest Post: Ezra Barany

Ezra Barany, author of The Torah Codes, has written a guest post to go along with a book feature of the book that is posted in the previous blog selection.

First of all, I want to thank Laura for having me here today. It’s quite an honor to have the chance to reveal where the inspiration for my book came from. In general, inspiration for a novel can come in many places. Mine came from a course, a person and an event.

A Course: While spending some time in the old city of Jerusalem, I first learned about codes in the book of Genesis through a course at Aish Ha-Torah. The course forced me to face a Truth I wasn’t so keen on facing. I didn’t want to believe that God wrote the Torah. (The Torah is comprised of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). As a result of learning about the codes, I spent a lot of time chatting with guys who were once physics and philosophy majors but traded it all to study Torah.

I asked them questions like, “How do we know God is always right?” and “How do we know God is always good?” My questions were treated with respect and the college-aged religious men around me seemed happy I was asking these kinds of questions. It was bizarre. I thought I’d be considered a heretic or something of that nature for asking such questions. But instead the bearded black coats would shout out, “Hey, Jacob! We got another philosophical thinker here!” “Awesome!”

That was one of my favorite Jewish experiences. I always knew that Judaism held respect for questioning authority, but actually feeling such respect and emotional support was a powerful experience, indeed.

That experience of learning about the codes in Jerusalem inspired my suspense novel, The Torah Codes. I didn’t want it to be religious fiction, though.

The thought of religious fiction always struck me as being something preachy. I’m sure religious fiction isn’t preachy; I’ve never read religious fiction, so I wouldn’t know. But I felt like the story’s protagonist, Nathan Yirmorshy, should be someone who wouldn’t be religious, someone who relied on science to determine what was real and what wasn't.

In a western society such as ours, we tend to trust science over religious belief, so I thought it best if Nathan Yirmorshy felt that way, too. It would be easier for us to relate to him.

A Person: On the other hand, his love interest, Sophia Patai, is a spiritual, but non-religious, woman who makes her living doing tarot readings on the street. My wife was the inspiration for Sophia. My wife reads tarot cards, too.

An Event: Lastly, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) inspired me to actually sit down and write my book. Actually, I took the previous month to plan the book, so that come November 1, I could just write it while I was teaching physics at a high school.

Fast forward 5 years later, and we have The Torah Codes: A reclusive computer programmer, Nathan Yirmorshy, pounds out ones and zeros in the quiet of his home while his landlord secretly watches behind a two-way mirror. When an intercepted note connects the landlord to a secret society, and a detective ends up dead, Nathan must abandon his home and everything familiar to him, open his heart to a tarot reader he has never met, and trust her with his life—just as the ancient scriptures have foretold.

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