Dave Schwarz, a thirty-year-old British oleh who lives in Jerusalem's German Colony, is dismayed that "all his childhood friends were married plus two or three kids. Somewhere along the tracks of life, [he] had derailed."
Finding a suitable life partner obsesses Dave. "The symbols of marriage hounded him at every turn. Judaism was no religion for single men." He knows he needs "a wife and fast, and not just to get his mother off his back or even to fulfill the Divine command to 'be fruitful and multiply.' Family life was the only path to normalcy."
It's not that Dave hasn't tried. He has a profile at an online dating site, listing his religious inclinations as "Modern Orthodox; Three Daily Prayers; Eats Kosher at Home and Out; Strict Sabbath Observance." Even so, due to the demands of his job as a quality assurance programmer at a high tech start-up, he downgrades the listing of his Torah Learning from daily to weekly.
Dave is regularly invited to Shabbat meals at the homes of his married friends, but can't help but embarrass himself when he doesn't recognize single women he has previously dated.
And then he meets Mandy Rosenberg, the new girl on the dating scene. But, typical of the hapless bachelor that he is, he messes up the connection.
Such misadventures of dating in the Holy City would leave readers to conclude that this novel is nothing more than a single male's version of chick lit. But there is another layer of the plot, one that occasionally goes deep underground.
Dave's friend Ben Green is an archaeologist at the City of David. "He discovered an ancient artifact called the Foundation Stone. It's supposed to have mystical powers." There is also the matter of some ancient scroll jars, and fragments of pottery and parchment that can be traced back to the Judean desert cult that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.
"These jars have something in common besides the letters [etched into their surface]," Ben tells Dave. "None of them contained scrolls. And all of them originated in a single [Qumran] cave."
Could these urns be tied to the Copper Scroll? According to legend, this "scroll lists deposits of gold and silver along with their locations."
That buried treasure has attracted a band of men apparently suffering from Jerusalem Syndrome complications. Led by their Teacher of Righteousness, these Sons of Light will stop at nothing to put together the pieces leading to the treasure originating in the Holy Temple.
Can Dave and Ben stop the Sons of Light before they steal the Temple's treasures? Will Dave ever get his act together and find true love?
A Love And Beyond deals with a mysterious crime; a ruthless secret society; and a desperate bachelor. More than anything else, this fast-paced novel is a fun, light read – perfect for a Shabbat afternoon.
Dan Sofer made aliyah from South Africa in 2001. He lives with his family in Jerusalem, and the city's sights, sounds, legends, and spirit of adventure fill his stories. When not writing tales of romantic misadventure, he creates software for large corporations. His next novel is due for release later this year.
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Originally published at The Times of Israel.