By COLlive reporter
The time: Sivan, 3450. Thousands upon thousands of Jews are arriving on Har Habayis laden with baskets of grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates to be offered as bikurim. Among them is a ten-year-old girl. This is the culmination of her dream: to go inside the Bais Hamikdosh and see the service of the Cohanim. It’s been a long time coming.
This is the premise of the new historical novel “First Fruits,” scrupulously researched and exquisitely written by Chaika Goldstein, a resident of Crown Heights who is a retired court stenographer.
Over 230 pages, the book tells the story of Rachel who lives with her family just outside of Beit She’ahn in the northern part of Israel during Bais Sheini. She’s been to the Temple Mount with her parents and brothers every year for Pesach but has never been inside the Bais Hamikdosh.
It is Rachel’s deepest desire to go inside and see the service of the Cohanim and feel the special closeness to Hashem that comes with the experience. Rachel faces the obstacles of her age and gender, but she is a strong-willed, inquisitive girl, up to the challenge.
Set against the historical backdrop of the time of the second Temple in Israel, this adventure story follows Rachel from age 8 when she first comes up with her plan. From the outset, it doesn’t go smoothly as she meets hurdle after hurdle until the final climax.
“The story itself is fiction, but it is replete with the particulars of daily life in Eretz Yisroel as well as halachic issues,” the author told COLlive.com.
Goldstein, who grew up in Canarsie and went to college in Buffalo, says the idea for the book was born during her residence in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Like Rachel, the protagonist in the book, Goldstein says she is fascinated with all the goings-on in the Bais Hamikdash. The Rebbe has pointed out that learning about the Beis Hamikdash is one more way to hasten its rebuilding.
The book includes many delightful details, including a procession of farmers from the northern district and their very special ox and a Pesach seder on the Temple Mount. “The Four Questions were different in those days!” Goldstein notes.
Goldstein spent two years researching and writing this book. “It is my fervent hope that it will inspire and arouse the curiosity of its readers and kindle a yearning to see the Third Temple built speedily in our day,” she says.
The book is available online at SeforimDeals.com and local Judaica stores.