The Inspiring Tale of an 18th Century Mystic
By Diana Holdsworth
I have yet to read a story like Ani Tuzman’s unique novel, The Tremble of Love. It’s a book of wisdom wrapped in a moving historical novel. The author’s poetic writing is very visual, enabling readers to feel as if they are inside the tale, walking around in that long-ago time and place. The story looks at love in all its aspects: physical, psychological and spiritual.
The protagonist, Yisroel ben Eliezar, who came to be known as The Baal Shem Tov (or Master of the Good Name), is an actual historical figure. To tell his story, the author describes his day-to-day life and the people with whom he lived and worked in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 18th Century, once a thriving center of Jewish life and culture.
The author keeps the story well-grounded with references to daily life in the humble farming and trading communities in which Yisroel lived. For example, when his friends listen to his teachings, the author writes: “Questions overflowed their minds as did milk at the lip of their pails.”
What I find most fascinating about the novel is the author’s ability to get inside the experience of a saint. Tuzman tells Yisroel’s entire life story, from a poverty-stricken orphan who could see God everywhere he looked, to an adult who led a fully human life while connecting to the divine in ways that most people can hardly imagine. He views all people as equally valuable, be they rich or poor, male or female. He heals the sick and psychologically wounded. What happens to Yisroel as he becomes a great teacher, and what happens to those he loves along the way, forms the structure of this story.
While reading the novel, I underlined numerous paragraphs so I can return to passages in which Yisroel explains how to manage the sufferings and trials of everyday life that echo the concerns of people down the ages, including the power of love over fear and doubt. Here are two examples:
[About two evil men who desire vengeance]: “Both mistake their power for God’s. But in truth, the power they wield derives from a desperate sense of powerlessness and renders them weak. No power these men wield will ever ease their pain. Harming others will bring no relief. This is what it is to be in hell: to find no relief from contempt.” [Responding to a friend who believes he should starve himself to become close to God.] Yisroel began softly, “when an instrument’s strings are pulled tight enough to snap at the touch of even the most skilled musician, it is impossible to make music. Your body is the instrument of your soul, the instrument the Creator has given into your care so that love’s music may be played for you and for others. Your body is not an enemy unless you, who are its animating life force, turn against it. This choice is given along with the gift of the instrument.” …. “There is no need to fear your body and its needs: they will not lead you astray. A man who shuns his body becomes a homeless wanderer.”
I highly recommend The Tremble of Love to anyone interested in history and spirituality made manifest in human form.
Tremble with Love as you read this novel of the Baal Shem
By Sheila K. Lewis
“The Tremble of Love, A Novel of the Baal Shem Tov,” by Ani Tuzman, is an absorbing and well-paced read. It tells the story of the odd orphan Srolik of Okup, called Yisroel as an adult, who becomes an innkeeper, farmer, and healer, living deep in the Carpathian Mountains. Gradually, Yisroel humbly assumes the role of the enigmatic Baal Shem Tov, Master of the Good Name. In the novel, his life spans the 18th century in the Podolia region of Poland against a backdrop of pogroms, the rise of the heretical Sabbatean movement, and other tragedies for the Jews.
Reading the book felt like being at a banquet—only after I’d eaten did I think I should’ve slowed down and paced myself. But I couldn’t stop reading, tasting the authentic, flavorful nuggets of shtetl life and the Polish countryside. Though events and places were portrayed in specific detail, Tuzman coaxed out teachings of Baal Shem Tov’s that transcended time. I read the book at all hours, mostly at dawn, a meditation in words that journeys to the essence of the master’s teachings—love God with joy and see that divine joy in others, for one. The novel blends good storytelling, midrash, insight, and rich characterization so that the book feels like a living being.
For the facts, I was grateful for the inclusion of a glossary, map, and list of characters. This helped me keep track of sub-plots and the main thread of the novel. The dark underpinnings of history and especially the evil antics of antagonist Mendel, provided page-turning drama, but without overriding the goodness shining through Baal Shem Tov’s illuminated soul. The author wisely didn’t tackle events after his death. I believe that the gift of “The Tremble of Love” is that it transports the reader to a bygone era as well as to innermost realms that are ever-present.
WWYD (What Would Yisroel Do?)
By Bryan Hayward
As Christians, we have an acronym “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do?)
As I read this book and went through my daily life, I found myself asking “What Would Yisroel Do?”. Yisroel, (The Baal Shem Tov), infiltrated my daily life and helped me to pause in times of stress and think about how Yisroel would react to the situation.
The Tremble of Love includes a wide variety scenes with characters that come in contact with Yisroel from childhood through adulthood. One childhood scene shows an outcast wandering child, Yisroel, who appears to be mute and retarded. I heard the derisive comments that the town’s people would make about him when they saw him. I was angry at the towns people for their inconsiderate and damaging attitude towards this poor child. On the other hand, to my surprise Yisroel felt only love and kindness towards them. He felt no need to defend himself.
My strongest spiritual experience of the book is how Yisroel reacts to aggression in words and actions towards him throughout his life. The author presents one scene after another where as Yisroel acts in love and others become jealous, angry and sometimes violent towards him as a result. I frequently had no idea how I would handle the aggression from others. I learned each time how I could handle these situations with love at a level that I don’t actually comprehend yet. I often thought, “How does the author know these answers?”
From my perspective, as a fairly knowledgeable Christian, the story of the Baal Shem Tov taught me so much about the similarity between the Jewish and Christian faith in God. Having been quite ignorant of the Jewish faith up until now, this was a most enjoyable new spiritual experience for me.
This book includes so many beautifully described scenes that I experienced through the authors words. I don’t feel like I “read a book”. It’s as if I was there in the middle of the daily life of the Baal Shem Tov.
Loved this book!
By Andrea Kinsley
I LOVED this book about the 18th century mystic, the Baal Shem Tov, and looked forward to each day’s end so I could get lost in it before bed. Ani Tuzman has a deep and intimate understanding of this great man and portrays him in such a way that as a reader, I too, felt close to him. The Baal Shem Tov was unconventional in his pure devotion, and unflinching in his trust and faith. To all naysayers and those who vehemently opposed him due to their misunderstanding of his ways, he showed only love and wisdom. I found his example soothing and helpful; a compassionate model of how to behave in the face of hatred and divisiveness. Ani Tuzman so brilliantly brings his beautiful inner world to life. A must read for the times!
A Master Teacher Sheds Light on a Dark Era
By Barbara Cooper
In her breathtaking historical novel, The Tremble of Love, Ani Tuzman brings to life the epic saga of the man and revered teacher who came to be called The Baal Shem Tov. Deftly weaving a wealth of historic research into a rich tapestry of literary fiction, Tuzman employs a large and diverse cast of characters, focusing on generations of families whose lives were transformed by the profound (and surprisingly prescient) wisdom of this little-known Master.
Merging spiritual mysticism with secular rationalism, The Tremble of Love transports the reader into the worlds of both the humblest peasant and the most egomaniacal powermonger. While the novel’s central characters observe Jewish traditions and teachings, the story also illuminates the Sabbatean movement and its ambiguous connection to Christianity; it delves into the mysterious teachings of the Kabbalah, while it also deals with accusations of “blood libel” by those of all faiths whose passion is to incite hatred and cruelty.
For all its heft (500+ pages), this book is a fast read, spinning a spellbinding tale that seems at once ancient and new, “where the despair of centuries [wars] against faith” and one wonders “how we can blind ourselves in order to follow flawed leaders.”
But The Tremble of Love is ultimately about the triumph of hope in the midst of widespread religious and social persecution. It reveals and revels in the ultimate transformation of a homeless orphan into a learned and widely respected spiritual leader who courageously confronted “the world of endless human suffering, fear, greed and loss in order to bring a message” about the indomitable power of love and compassion.
The role of women in this historical novel of spiritual leadership is truly unique and powerful
By Kathy Walsh
I am an avid reader of historical fiction and consider myself somewhat spiritual, but have very little knowledge of Jewish history or the Jewish religion. The Tremble of Love is a treasure for anyone who loves fiction and its broad appeal to readers from all spiritual and religious backgrounds makes it truly unique. From the first page, with the development of the childhood character of the Baal Shem Tov, and through the masterful development of the people who benefited from his presence and teaching, I was taken in. The life of this compassionate mystic (whose values and behaviors exemplify the best in every religious teacher-be it Christ, Buddha or any other), as recreated in this beautiful story, provided me with an invitation to reflect on what is most comforting about spirituality and the importance of the study of those who exemplify love, learning, and a deep connection with a higher power (or God or whatever name is given to that which brings us a sense of meaning beyond ego).
The novel, in its creation of a family of characters with whom we can strongly identify, despite time and place, invites the reader to reflect on the meaning of life and love, without lecture or demand, but rather through the consistent descriptions of Yisroel ben Eliezar and his behavior toward his fellow human beings. Although the main character, in the novel is a man, what was most rewarding and stimulating in the novel, for me, was the strength of the women characters, the exploration of their timeless roles in nurturing not only other human beings but the human spirit and this 17th century mystic’s appreciation and valuation of women as true equals to men. These messages are not only refreshing but essential in this post-election time in the US and so many places in the world where a very different message is being conveyed by non-spiritual leaders.
I intend to give this book as a gift to multiple people in my life as I believe its message is the most positive that can be given in this season in which so much light is needed.
Magical, Mystical and Beautiful
Thank you, Ani, for this beautiful book. I was so uplifted by the story and felt so connected to the characters. They felt like family. The touch of magic and mysticism was awe inspiring. Reading was like looking at a painting, your words were so vivid. It was a joy to read in this time of turmoil. I can’t wait to read it again.
A journey of inspiration – The Tremble of Love
By Susan Olshuff
When I received The Tremble of Love to review, I smiled, thinking inside, “I will never get through a 500-page book of historical fiction.” Fast forward six weeks. I now feel profound gratitude for a book that has deeply changed me.
This first novel by Ani Tuzman has been an easy read with sympathetic and compelling characters. It captures a time and a people about whom I had almost no prior knowledge. It takes the reader on a journey of a lifetime, through the simplest and most ordinary of times, to some of the most extraordinary life lessons possible.
Each night before falling asleep, I read a few chapters. I got to be with the emergence of a beautiful man, his humility as a boy and young man, the blossoming into a teacher who touched everyone he met with a simple wisdom and compassion. The voice of the Baal Shem Tov, this utterly human teacher to so many, was quiet and strong and compelling, and he is alive in these pages.
The Tremble of Love is one of the most riveting and beautiful books I have ever read. I feel myself one with each of the people that the author has brought to life. Several women in the book especially captured my heart. They showed strength and autonomy at a time when women had such prescribed and limited roles. Indeed, they are role models for us today. I cried more than once as these women journeyed through their lives; I was deeply inspired by their commitment to Truth, and powerfully touched by their relationship to death. I also found in this book the most beautiful description of lovemaking that I have ever read.
The profound teachings woven through this book, the love, the deepest trust in Life… these have all merged with my heart. The gifts of the Baal Shem Tov are transmitted by an author who conveys in the most authentic of ways the essence of a truly noble and gentle soul.
The heart of the Baal Shem Tov reverberates within me still. His lessons are for all times. Ani Tuzman has given readers a chance to experience a deep love throughout these pages.
I’ve been unable to give away the book to a friend eager to read it. I think I’ll start at the beginning once again very soon.
The Tremble of Love moves me to tears of understanding and a deepening
By Amazon Customer
Not since reading Siddhartha when I was 16, have I felt this way about a book. Both heartwarming and uplifting, The Tremble of Love moves me to tears of understanding and a deepening inner peace.
The book pulled at me in that wonderful way a rare book can
By Meg Fisher
From the first page of this lyrically written novel I had the dawning physical sensation that I had entered a charmed world, much the way one feels looking at a scene inside of a snow globe as a child, wishing oneself within. I found myself a traveler in a world that was part a landscape of the past, village life in 18th century Poland, and part a living soul-scape, the story of a spiritual leader’s arrival among us, then and now, and dwelling with us, then and now. Once I’d begun to read it, the book pulled at me in that wonderful way a rare book can, and I easily put other parts of my life on hold to keep my experience of it whole.
How do we come to be aware of a spiritual leader among us? Who are we in this person’s presence? Ani Tuzman offers us a colorful, passionate, sensuous, intimate, tender and transformational experience both of what it is to be such a person and of what it is to be a part of his world as wife, daughter, friend, relative, disciple, neighbor, and even enemy. I found Yisroel’s relationships with his wife, his daughter, his brother-in-law, and a highway robber especially moving. The relationships between other characters, especially the strong women, are every bit as compelling: Leah the cobbler with her red hair aflame as she teaches an eager young Rivka to read, Rivka tending to a dying friend or sitting in loving awe beside pregnant Hannah, Hannah alone in a summer field daring to let herself feel the wind on her skin.
This is a novel full of wisdom, one of those unusual books that truly waters one’s roots, and I am eager to pass it on to others.
Absorbing and uplifting!
By Beth Cleary
From the first page through the entire weaving of the story, I found myself absorbed and uplifted, looking forward to each free moment when I could delve in. The novel was a safe refuge for me, drawing me away from the current noisy politics of the world, and instead immersing me in quaint family and village life, involving me with inspiring characters of great compassion and integrity. I felt refreshed and lighter after each nightly “reading retreat”. It is rare that I enjoy and feel so at peace reading fiction.
“The Tremble of Love” – Epic Novel on the Life of the Baal Shem Tov
By Joanie Levine
I just couldn’t put this book down – kept reading and reading, finished the 500 pages in about 10 days. The characters are very engaging, the writing has streams of poetry running through, the historical context compelling. We meet the legendary Baal Shem Tov (“Master of the Good Name”), founder of the Chasidic movement in Judaism – as a youth – inward, thought to be a simpleton – moving on to study about the healing power of herbs, discovering his special gifts as he guides young boys into embracing learning, meeting his “basherte,” his beloved and living for years in a remote village and emerging, slowly, into the deeply magical, gifted rabbi, teacher, healer, husband, father, leader, visionary. His relationship with his wife is deep, sexually juicy, egalitarian, so full of love and respect. I have always admired this mysterious figure through the many stories told about him – so it was quite special to enter his world as seen through the eyes of this writer. I love that he is portrayed as defying the mainstream religious elite of his day by instilling in the common people a respect for their own spirituality – that the cobbler, repairing shoes, would have as much spirituality in his every stitch as the most learned Hebraic scholar. The Baal Shem instills joy into Jewish prayer and urges personal connection, personal truth. You will very much enjoy in this telling the weaving of so many relationships, the epic proportions of the novel’s context.
A book of Feminine Healing
By Joseph Wright
The Tremble of Love illuminates with many Life Lessons. It’s on a scale of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The reader goes on a journey with the characters and makes many discoveries on how to live with joy and love in our hearts; how to crawl out of the well of darkness, despite one’s sufferings; to remember the Source of Healing. The Feminine triumphs over dark forces. I make sure The Tremble of Love is near me when I am in need of Spiritual sustenance.
In The Deepest Forests Of Spirit’s Longing
By Rob Okun
Take a journey with Ani Tuzman, author of the novel, THE TREMBLE OF LOVE, as she leads an inner quest into the deepest forests of the spirit’s longing for healing and spiritual safety. Stay close as she vividly recreates Jewish life in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 18th century. Keep your heart open as she introduces you to a spiritual master whose story is a salve for these troubled times. Walk with her as she renders this healer so vividly that you can see this gentle man stirring up dust on the narrow roads leading to villages and towns where Jews survived in harsh environments, and where struggle and faith wrestled one another like Jacob and the Angel.
The Baal Shem Tov—or Master of the Good Name as Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezar came to be known—was an actual person, a man for whom there is scant historical record. Rather than an impediment to writing the novel, Tuzman, a daughter of survivors of the Shoah, opened herself so completely to receiving his story, that over a long arc of time, she became the channel, the birth canal for the story could pass through. Listening deeply over many, many years, Tuzman offers readers a story of fearlessness, compassion and love’s fierce power. One result is that three centuries later, our hearts can be stirred and opened wide, just as were the hearts of the Jews of Eastern Europe who lived in the time of the mystic and continued to inspire other seekers the decades that followed.
Ambitious in its sweep—the novel has a large cast of characters that readers come to care deeply about—the Baal Shem Tov remains at the book’s spiritual center. At a time when women’s role in Jewish life was limited to the home, THE TREMBLE OF LOVE features strong, independent, wholly realized female characters who study, grow and influence their teacher.
Pain, suffering, and death are of course a part of the novel, but kindness and goodness shine through, stripped of sentimentality, and elevated as a reminder of what human beings can be when we listen to our highest angels.
A heart for all hearts
By Barbara Uhrie
The Baal Shem Tov, a mystic for all ages, vividly coming to life from the eighteenth century to the twenty first . He speaks to the timeless heart beating in all of us. I ordered ten copies and need to get more. The last person I gave a copy to stayed up all night reading it despite having a busy schedule the next day. The person before that read it through in three days. That’s the kind of book this is.
An Adventure to be Savored: “The Tremble of Love“
By Stephanie Shafran
Before opening to page 1, I admit to being a bit daunted by the length of this novel (518 pages), but by the end of the first chapter, I was actually relieved to know that I would be spending a while vicariously living with these characters in their historical milieu and circumstances. And by page 518, I was praying for a sequel, hoping to have yet a second opportunity to share in the joys and sorrows, the mundane and extraordinary comings and goings of the Baal Shem Tov and each individual and community he touched throughout his earthly life and beyond.
Ani Tuzman’s novel is a literary tour de force, both for its linguistic eloquence, its historical breadth and its skillful handling of the evolution of Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezar from childhood to his adult identity as the Baal Shem Tov. I for one knew almost nothing about this particular historical figure or the complexity of circumstances he and his followers lived with from day to day. The gentle yet committed guidance of this omniscient narrator made all the difference to this reader – what might otherwise have been an arduous reader’s journey unfolded instead as an adventure to be savored at the deepest places of the heart.
A great read!
By Katherine Jennings
Ani Tuzman’s book invites one to continue reading from the beginning. It’s an uplifting, positive read with wonderful family stories of struggle and love. As a side note, It presents a bit of historical Judaism, and not being Jewish, I found that fascinating. It is a book about the power of love, how love brings transformation, and it is an example of the oneness that transcends differences and pervades all, with a wealth of characters both kind and unkind, who must traverse the breakage grief brings. It is a loving and uplifting story for anyone.
I highly recommend it!!
Heart Transforming Story
By Amazon Customer
Such a beautifully written book I felt like it was channeled from the Baal Shem Tov himself. Excellent historical information, compelling story of life in those times, and richly woven teachings on how to love more deeply and have compassion and hope despite the difficulties of life. Brought me solidly into my expanding heart.
A powerful story that will change the way you see the world
By Reiki Master
I loved reading Ani Tuzman’s brilliant story of Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezar, the18th century mystic and teacher whose living interpretation of the wisdom of the Kabbalah (the mystical teachings of the ordering of life and the Universe) inspired his small congregation to practice truly unconditional love for all beings of all faiths as The Way of the divine order of the universe. This book is a masterpiece of living blessing and a wow of a story: I had trouble putting it down as I laughed and cried with characters that became as real to me as my own family and friends. I felt that the Spirit of the Baal Shem Tov, the Master of the Good Name, was reaching out to me and through his example, teaching me how to find the joy of love within my own heart so that I can recognize it as the same joy that lives within the hearts of all others, sharing it with no judgment or restraint. This story’s message is about as perfect as it gets. Rosie P.
Joyful, captivating rendering of the remarkable life of the Baal Shem Tov
By Lorraine Grzyb
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book which, from the beginning, held me captive. “The Tremble of Love” was touching to me, beautifully written, with overflowing joy in bringing the timeless wisdom of the Baal Shem Tov to the reader.
The many other characters in this novel, as well as the Baal Shem Tov, were portrayed in a way that gave the impression that the author knew them intimately. She described their lives with affection and pride.
The Baal Shem Tov, even in his childhood as a homeless orphan living on his own, with some help from his community for food and shelter, experienced joy in communion with the stars, the forest, all of life around him. He saw all as carrying a common thread of divinity, linking each to the other and to all that is. Thus, he found nothing to condemn or blame, no enemy to be found, only the beauty and love of Divine Presence everywhere. In this 21st Century, we are frequently in a rush to get somewhere; and in this hurry, or even not in a hurry, surrounded by trees, flowers, clouds, blue sky, we may bypass the life around us and miss the wonder of it all. I find the Baal Shem Tov’s life to be very instructive for our times.
Seeing divinity equally in men and women as well as in the rest of nature, the Baal Shem Tov advocated for girls to be given schooling and treated as the equals of boys–a radical point of view in the 1700s. He taught girls and women the same knowledge and wisdom as boys and men. He revered Nature and her gifts. To no one and nothing did he advocate violence of any kind, but taught his followers to be compassionate even to the Frankists, those they considered the enemy. “Instead of focusing on the Frankists’ misuse of power,” he instructed, “employ your vigilance to go deeper into yourself to find your true power….I am not counseling passivity or indifference. I am counseling you to stand rooted in the truth you wish to protect, rather than bent over by fear. I urge you to strengthen your faith while remaining vigilant.”
I highly recommend this book, so enjoyable to read, so inspiring and relevant to our times.
Meet the Baal Shem Tov
By Joan Epstein
This book is a captivating, excellent read: a detailed account of the Baal Shem Tov’s life from childhood to death. I learned of his unfolding into a beloved teacher, healer and mystical Rabbi. The story and characters are compelling and appear as if to spring from a combination of the author’s deep spiritual connection to the Baal Shem Tov and her thorough research of his life and the time period. This is a beautifully written historical novel set in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 1700s that delves into the economic, political, and religious issues of that time. Rich visual images of Chagall-like quality are brought to mind as one reads. The Baal Shem Tov’s attentive presence and radical teachings inspire joy, love and acceptance. This is a timeless story that touched this reader’s heart.
Thank you Ani, for this wonderful book!,
By Cathy McNally
I took to this book for a respite from the election and the impending doom of the President Elect. (I was tired of Twitter as a night time strategy.) I am now almost at the end of this book and so sorry to see the pages-to-read shrinking. I totally enjoyed this book for the family saga, the inspiring women characters. I’m totally fascinated by the people and the story in the book, apart from the spirituality. I’m also amazed that the writing is so flawless – there are never “glitches” or awkward spots where the writer comes through. Ani Tuzman puts us under a spell and keeps us there with her wonderful writing. Thank you, Ani, for giving me this book, which was the perfect antidote to difficult world we’re in right now.
Review of The Tremble of Love: A Novel if the Baal Shem Tov
By Emily Mentin
A dear friend recommended “The Tremble of Love, a novel of the Baal Shem Tov”. Friends are precious, mainly because they know your heart. I feel touched and honored to have met Srolik, Ani Tuzman’s main character. Every page is packed with rich imagery and fine figurative language. We are transported back in time and it feels as though we have an intimate opportunity to access the unfolding and developing wisdom of a truly great teacher. The story starts in the marketplace with the descent of the Sabbath. Poor Srolik, he is orphaned, cared for by the people of Okup. With his mother, Sarah dead in childbirth, he is left only with his father Eliezars’ wise words. “Do not be afraid, G-d is with you. You are not alone. What we need comes when we need it. Look for miracles and you will always find them”. Although Srolik loses his voice with the loss of his father, he does find his voice and surely finds his way. Similar in niche to Maggie Anton’s trilogy “Rashi’s Daughters” and “Rav Hisda’s Daughter”, the reader gets quite an education. I highly recommend this book. It is a journey of loss, love and redemption. It reassures and reminds us that love is a potent healer.
Historical Fiction: a window into 18th Century Eastern Europe
By Rebecca Reid
This book is imbued with love; not just the love that emanates from the main character, but also the love of the author for the subject. Twenty years in the making, this book is the culmination of a quest to bring to life the wisdom of another age. Set in the 1700’s, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, it is the story of a rather unpromising orphan who grows through its pages to be a wise and revered spiritual leader of his people. The author follows his life from beginning to end, and he grows before our eyes through one totally believable stage of life to the next. This book transports the reader to another time, another place, and another culture as though it were happening now and the characters were whispering the story confidentially in our ears. It is amazingly thoroughly researched. it kept me reading late into the night. I only wish there had been more description to bring the surroundings to life. The book occasionally lapses into a simple narrative of events and actions, especially in the beginning. I wanted to know what all the characters looked like, what they saw when they looked out the window, the texture of their everyday objects. It’s a tribute to the book that I wanted more! Stay with it; you won’t be sorry if you are at all interested in Jewish history, Eastern Europe, the1700’s, or the evolution of a spiritual leader. Based on a true story.
Hope for the future
By Amy Mager
Ani Tuzman’s writing takes you long ago and far away to the possibilities of the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov teaches us to show up and Ani Tuzman’s writing took me away to a place of hope…for a better future.
This is a book for which no review can do justice. It is at once gentle and strong, deeply spiritual and with page-turning excitement
By David Ferleger
This is a book for which no review can do justice. It is at once gentle and strong, deeply spiritual and with page-turning excitement, and brings us into both the spirit of an exciting history and the intimate relationships among its personalities. It is a book of every day, and a recognition of the holiness and connections among all the moments of “every day.” I realize I haven’t yet mentioned the child who grew to be the Baal Shem Tov or his family, community and friends. Indeed, he is central to this biography but one of the beauties of this book is the depth of everyone who appears in it, from those with a “cameo” appearance to those who live through decades in this masterwork. Is there a “plot”? Yes. Are there exciting (and sad and joyous) unexpected turns of events? Yes. Do you wonder from page to page, and chapter to chapter, what will happen next? Yes. To say too much about the story — and this is an epic story — would detract from the pleasure of allowing it to unfold. One final word, perhaps unnecessary: Some may wonder whether the specialness of this book is somehow greater for, or oriented to, Jewish readers or those with a spiritual bent. I’m delighted to report that the answer is an emphatic ‘no.’ This is a real story about real people and Ani Tuzman brings us into their compelling lives. After finishing the book, I still miss knowing what’s up with these folks. Enjoy!
By Kitty Axelson-Berry
Good historical fiction, with massive insights, characters we can all relate to and learn from, and a riveting plot line. Some insights that popped out, for me, revolve around the opportunities for spirituality in our own lives, and the ways love of community, love of nature, love of people, thoughtful living, deep respect, intellectual knowledge, spirituality, leadership, and perseverance can be brought to bear, despite challenges. I am grateful for the author’s emphasis on various women and on positive relationships within and outside families. Altogether, I was inspired.
This is one of those wonderful books, written to savor
By Sydney Flum-Stockwell
This is one of those wonderful books, written to savor, read and reread over time. It is an extremely well written historical fiction, however it is easy to read and get lost in. Obviously Ani Tuzman did an enormous amount of research in the many years during which she worked on constructing this novel.
The story takes place in eastern Europe during the first half of the seventeen hundreds in one of the many Shetetls in which Jews lived, surrounded by communities of Christians. Often the two groups lived side by side and intermingled on a limited basis, mostly for commerce and rarely for friendship. However, often there was conflict and the Jews were persecuted for tiny violations of perceived crimes.
Out of this backdrop, Srolik emerges, overlooked, unassuming, quiet and mysterious. When Srolik’s name becomes Yisroel, the adult mystic emerges. Because I was so involved with the characters and their lives that the switch in names from Srolik to Yisroel eluded me and I became confused for a short while. It was a simple fix to reread a few pages and get caught up once again.
I learned a huge amount about life in that part of the world, during that time period, a time and place in which my own ancestors lived. Never having known much about Jewish mystics, this book was a great introduction and eye opener to that phenomena.
Although I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book it is was a perfect gift to me. It is a substantial novel, one of those books that one doesn’t want to end. I will give it as a gift in the hopes that some of my historical fiction fan friends can share in the pleasure.
Inspiring and rich
By Gita Haddad
This story of the Bal Shem Tov, his humility and the power of his love, was inspiring. Amidst persecution and misunderstanding from within his own Jewish community and from the violent anti-Semitism of that time, he held strongly to his faith and his path of sublime joy. This book had a powerful effect on me as I read. I realized when I finished it that I wasn’t just thinking about its theme of compassion, I was experiencing my own compassion. This is a powerful book!
It’s a book about a Jewish mystic of the 1700s that captures the mystical journey of all seekers—the journey to cultivate the best and find the highest within ourselves amidst the challenges of everyday life.
I also enjoyed it just as a historical novel, a good story, set in the world of eastern European Jews, bringing me into the everyday life of a community of Jews and their Polish neighbors, their work, religious rituals, and their family ties.
One the many things I loved was the portrayal of the women: their thirst for learning and spiritual knowledge that was forbidden to them, and the strength and support they found in their friendships with each other.
Could not put it down!
By Annette Pfannebecker
The Tremble of Love, an historical novel by Ani Tuzman, completely captivated me. Every time I had to put it down, I would look forward to continuing to read it with great anticipation. The historical facts and political events researched by this author provide the background for a remarkable story. With the guide of the map at the beginning of the book, I followed the evolution of the young boy whose story unfolds in a number of places in Poland as he becomes the Baal Shem Tov. This story weaves together characters, relationships and places that are rich in content and development. This book is beautifully written and has much wisdom that applies to everyday life today. I know that other readers will also have trouble putting down this first novel by Ani Tuzman.
A Community’s Deep Shared Experience of Grace
By Frank H. Siegel
The Tremble of Love: A Novel of the Baal Shem Tov is a poetic journey—not simply the journey from beginning to end of a great historical being affectionately known as the Baal Shem Tov, but also of a most wonderful community of people possessing an enormous amount of humility, gentleness and love. In her book, Ani Tuzman masterfully achieves no separation between a community of beloved people (both local and somewhat remote communities) and the life of a great master. We the readers receive – and feel – the master’s words as if we are standing in his presence. At the same time that we are experiencing the wonder of such a being, we simultaneously feel the warmth of heart from the people of the community, their connections with each other, and their connection with the Baal Shem Tov. What good is receiving grace alone without the love and deep shared experience of this grace with a community? Bravo, Ani Tuzman!
No life is without challenge. How else do we grow into the love and light of such a being as the Baal Shem Tov? There are those in the story and in the world who display the behavior of very young souls, such as acting deplorably towards women. In fiction, actual history, and real time “breaking news,” one can observe the quality of contempt in persons lacking heart connections with beings like the Baal Shem Tov. The inspirational and uplifting message in The Tremble of Love is that love will win, whether it feels that way or not in any given moment.
The Tremble of Love tells an unforgettable story that includes skillful and deeply developed characters whose personal journeys in a number of settings all reflect a spiritual essence. This is a book about life, faith, and human relationships that should be read and savored.
I benefited from creating a flowchart of characters, connecting the relationships. I combined the list of characters at the end of the book with my own hand-written character chart with lines. It is without hesitation that I give Tuzman’s book five stars.
Thank you Ani for writing such a wonderful book! You brought to life
By Olly Harari
Thank you Ani for writing such a wonderful book! You brought to life, with such tenderness and insight, the inspiring personality and time period of the Baal Shem Tov. Through describing the Baal Shem Tov ways of thinking, acting and being, the book shows us that love is the strongest force in our life and in the world.
I especially liked learning about the Baal Shem Tov’s childhood and how the freedom he had to spend a lot of time alone and in nature was essential to the development of his sensitivities, awareness and unique character.
The book was helpful for me in the way it deals with grief and sorrow and how one’s attitude could lessen or increase suffering and as the Baal Shem Tov said: “In the darkness of despair, ignorance, hatred, vengeance, and even violence – I see light”.
A Gift to Humanity
By Amazon Customer
The Tremble of Love is a true gift to humanity. It glows with an inner light that touches the light within us all. Highly recommended!
All you need is love
By Joseph Nowak
I completed reading the book Baal Shem Tov, but I have not finished the book.
Yes, my eyes scanned the letters, words, and paragraphs, but beyond reading, the book requires lengthy contemplation over time.
The work is like peeling an onion, there are many layers evoking both tears and smiles.
On a basic level, it has the lyric quality of a European fairy tale. It develops with the magical surrealism of Latin American literature and parallels memories of many a personal journey. Substantively, emerges the revelations of middle eastern holy scripture from profound discernment.
These vines of the soul grow on the trellis of a specific culture and history, but the trellis is not important as these vines may grow in any time and place, God is love, God is with us, if we would but listen to the voice and harden not our hearts.
I am passing the book to my wife, I am certain that it will see many eyes and touch many hands.
A work of wonder.
The Tremble of Love moves me to tears of understanding and a deepening
By Amazon Customer
Not since reading Siddhartha when I was 16, have I felt this way about a book. Both heartwarming and uplifting, The Tremble of Love moves me to tears of understanding and a deepening inner peace.
Behind the Scenes: The Writing Journey
The writing of this novel has been a long journey that isn’t ending … Read more
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