Magen David

Sefer Torah - Book Reviews

Magen David

Almost Midrash



Book Review: Almost Midrash (related article on Arutz 7)
By Moshe Burt

What did the Viceroy's interpreter make of alleged spy charges against 10 brothers? Were Bigthan and Teresh acting alone in their plot to assasinate the Persian King? Or, were the two part of something larger? Shades of Barry Chamish?

These questions and more are addressed in a half dozen short, believeable, almost Biblical stories written by 34 year veteran oleh and contract consultant, former Philadelphian and noted Israel news commentator, Jay Shapiro.

Shapiro has penned 4 previous books which have provided commentary and understanding regarding the trends in the Jewish State's self-definition both politically and spiritually and regarding it's ability to face up to threats, both internal and external, to it's existence.

However, unlike his previous works, "The Megillah of Tabriz and other Almost Bible Stories" creates a picture of what it's like to be the guy who is either the enabler of, or in the shadow of the Newsmaker, the guy who unwittingly is part of a historical event and who sees the event, of which he is part, only in the perspective of the present. The individuals portrayed in these stories have neither a retrospective understanding of that which led up the historical event nor a full understanding its meaning and it's unique impact on Jewish history in generations subsequent to the event.

To illustrate Shapiro's book, One example of such a character is, Duaf of Memphis who, in his
old age, was asked to relate to a scribe the highlights of his army career and his many years of service to Pharoh. The following is a synopsis of the story

As a young man, while serving as an apprentice barber (as in "a little off of the top, a bit off of the side..."), Duaf's husky build was noticed by an officer in Pharoh's army who convinced his parents that he had a better future in the army.

Duaf had the good fortune and courage to have been with and stood with Pharoh as he regrouped his army after a wartime battlefield setback (apparently there were a lot of desertions in Pharoh's army) and was among those few chariots who fought alongside Pharoh when he led the insuing battle which snatched war victory from the jaws of defeat.

Pharoh took notice of this small, valiant, courageous group of warriors who fought beside him to victory. He called together the leaders of his army and sacked them, replacing them with these few Charioteers as the chief leaders of his army.

After the war, life for Duaf was good, pleasant and routine. Once Pharoh sent him on a mission to Canaan where Duaf learned the Habiru language. Pharoh was a benevolent , even-tempered ruler until suddenly things changed. 

Pharoh became distraught and ill-tempered, apparently from a number of disturbing dreams.

Duaf was called to Pharoh's presence and instructed to take a barber and haberdasher and go to the dungeon for one of the prisoners. He then brought Yosef from prison to the barber for a shave and a haircut, and to the haberdasher for a wardrobe of clothing before bringing him before Pharoh.

Late that night, Duaf was again called before Pharoh and given a new assignment. Pharoh appointed him Assistant to the new Viceroy -- Tzaphanath Pa'aneach (Yosef).

He related to the scribe how Yosef told him, "Duaf, I appreciate your kindness to me today. You treated me, a lowly prisoner, like a human being. You are a decent person. You speak my language fairly well. I need your assistance to accomplish this assignment. I think that with the help of the invisible Creator, protector of my fathers, we shall together succeed." 

Yosef then requested that his relationship with Duaf be very informal and that, in private, Duaf should speak to him in the Habiru language. "It's important to me not to forget from whence I came." Duaf continued, "And as though he had read my mind, he added with a slight smile, 'And if you would like to occasionally direct your prayers to the invisble Creator, I think that it would be acceptable. He created the world and he could also watch over you. I need your help and both you and I need his. Good night and get a good rest. Starting tommorrow, we have 14 years of hard work ahead of us.' "

Duaf recounted the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of drought, Yosef's planning in order that the nation get through the time, the sequence of events regarding the appearance of his brothers to buy food for their father during the famine in Canaan; the spy charges, the money in each of their sacks, the planted gold and silver which they were accused of stealing, the order to bring Binyamin to him and finally the emotional revelation to the brothers of his true identity and the tearful reunion. 

He told how Pharoh was informed of the reunion and that the brothers would be returning to Canaan to bring Yaakov to Egypt to with them, to be reunited with Yosef and to settle in the land of Goshen.

Duaf lamented to the scribe how he wished that he could have ascertained how and why Yosef was in Egypt, how he came to be imprisoned over charges that something happened with the wife of Pontiphar. He disbelieved that such charges could have happened. He observed that "in all the years we worked together, I never saw him show any interest in any woman other than his wife. He surely had many opportunities because he was a very handsome man and power is a very effective aphrodisiac, perhaps the most effective. He had a wonderful family, a distinguished father, and loyal brothers. I tried finding out from them but to no avail. So it will remain a great mystery even to me. What Yosef did for Egypt is one of the great tales of this dynasty. Greater even than the victories over Nubia and the Assyrians. Yosef saved the empire from famine and starvation. There is no doubt that, together with his Majesty and the other Pharohs, he will be remembered forever in the chronicles of Egypt."

Shapiro indicates a moral to the story at the end of "Duaf of Memphis" although it is not spelled out in his book. Jews should never think that by playing up to the Goyim, by attempting to emulate them or by being just like them or by assimilating with them, that they will love us or be our friends. For we see all theYosef did for Egypt and how quickly Pharoh and the Mitzrayim didn't remember Yosef and enslaved the Jews.

Shapiro has put together a group of stories which are entertaining, thought-provoking and place a unique perspective on the personages and events related in the Torah. This book makes for great conversation and raises many questions regarding the supporting cast at historical biblical moments.

For information regarding purchase of "The Megillah of Tabriz and other Almost Bible Stories", please contact author Jay Shapiro via email at; <>. Proceeds from the purchase of this book go to Ulpanat L'Hava (a Girl's School 7th -12th grades) in Kedumim, Israel.

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network <>. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.


The Ultimate Website On Israel's Security

The JewishWeb


Website authored and designed by R'Mordechai Makor


orbwebsThe Sefer Torah Recycling Network is priviledged to be hosted by , the fast-growing Web Host of Jewish Religious organizations, business and e-commerce sites.

copyright 2003

Sefer Torah, Sifrei Torah, Sefer Torah Recycling, Sefer Torah repairs, Torah scrolls, Torah Scroll Restoratation, Sefer Torah restoration, Sefer Torah transfer, Israel, Eretz Yisrael, Mokom Torah, Mekomot Torah, chessed, mitzvah, tzedaka, donations, raise funds, Shuls, Israel, Eretz Yisroel, Yeshivas, Yeshivot, Israeli Yeshivot, chizuk, Ahavat Yisroel, Sofer, Sofrim, Sofrus, Synagogues, Synagogues in Israel, Beit Knesset, Israeli Batei Knesset, Israeli cities, Israeli towns, needy locations in Israel, Memorials in Israel  Mission: Acquires donations of Sifrei Torah and raises funds to restore them to a Kosher state for transfer to needy locations in Israel.Mission: Acquires donations of Sifrei Torah and raises funds to restore them to a Kosher state for transfer to needy locations in Israel.