Flower of God: A Jewish Family’s 3,000-year Journey from Spice to Medicine, by Herbert Ausubel is an incredible book, which takes the reader on the paternal ancestral road of one family over a 3,000 span.
The book holds a wealth of information regarding Dr. Ausubel’s family, which has been researched in depth, not only by him, but by others, including historians. The extensive research and familial stories take the reader around the world, literally. During times of Israel being conquered by Assyrians, to several places in Europe, to Australia, China, Siberia, back to Israel and to America, the tapestry of time is woven with extremely beautiful prose, prose that is almost poetic.
Dr. Ausubel’s research is intricate, and the stories reflect three millennium, generation upon generation of family members who lead peaceful and productive lives. But, within each situation, they had to flee their environment in order to survive, due to antisemitism.
There were so many fascinating and intriguing family accounts. The family story in the beginning of the book, entitled Azuvel, about Avraham and his son Moshe journeying to the Temple of Solomon, was filled with word imagery that filled my senses in every respect. The story was told with extreme detail and magnificent prose. I was stunned while reading it, and caught myself with my mouth open in awe, as I could picture the very essences that Dr. Ausubel’s prose described. The sacrificial aspect was extremely detailed, and the fact that Avraham and his son were privy to the innermost workings showed the respect bestowed upon Avraham. His “azuv” spice, derived from the blue-flowering hyssop plant was a necessary aspect of the ritual, used for cleansing of those entering the Temple, those who might have been in the presence of the dead. It was a masterful story, a story filled with the wonder of the Temple interior and wonder of ritual within its walls.
I enjoyed every story within the pages, and reading the book was an education in itself, both historically and familial. Dr. Ausubel described each era thoroughly, as far as word descriptions of clothes, food, the towns and cities and their architecture, and daily life within each era was exceptionally documented.
The section on the family journey across Siberia, the long and arduous way, in order to avoid the soldiers and authorities is extremely gripping. Throughout the centuries ancestors died from survival hardships while fleeing for their lives, and died of disease. Persevere, the ancestors did, through every hardship and horrendous situation, they never lost their faith, never gave up, and held steadfast to their religion, their beliefs and ideals.
The hardships that the generations of ancestors faced were magnificently stated, and each generation had its own compelling quilt to add to the family tree.
Dr. Herbert Ausubel’s writing is masterful, exquisite, filled with word-images that paint a beautiful tapestry of his ancestors and their struggles against all odds. Flower of God is a compelling read and one that will leave you breathless at times. It is a stunning book that is historically relevant and one that encompasses historical importance. I highly recommend it to everyone.
January 28, 2013 – 17 Sh’vat, 5773
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