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As a Driven Leaf

The story of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah's struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. With forewords by Rabbi David Wolpe and Chaim Potok
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The age of the Talmud is brought to life in a breathtaking saga. First published in 1939, this masterpiece of modern fiction tells the gripping tale of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah's struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Set in Roman Palestine, As a Driven Leaf draws readers into the dramatic era of Rabbinic Judaism. Watch the great Talmudic sages at work in the Sanhedrin, eavesdrop on their arguments about theology and Torah, and agonize with them as they contemplate rebellion against an oppressive Roman rule.

Steinberg's classic novel also transcends its historical setting with its depiction of a timeless, perennial feature of the Jewish experience: the inevitable conflict between the call of tradition and the glamour of the surrounding culture. A literary masterpiece, As a Driven Leaf is still regarded as a major influence on contemporary Jewish life and thought.

This new edition includes two forewords: One new,   by the renowned American Rabbi, Rabbi David J. Wolpe, the second from author Chaim Potok, originally written in 1996.

Both Wolpe and Potok stress in their pieces the contemporary relevance of As a Driven Leaf. As Wolpe recounts, "As a Driven Leaf tells a gripping story of Elisha ben Abuyah, the only Talmudic sage to be denounced and cast out as a heretic. It explores the two forces acting on us today…We are divided between the twin pulls of assimilation in the modern world and faithfulness to the tradition of the old.”

As a Driven Leaf is an ideal selection for adult education classes and as recommended reading for congregational lay leadership. 


Great American rabbi and writer Milton Steinberg served as the Rabbi of the prestigious Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City from 1933 until his early passing in 1950.  Steinberg became renowned for his thought-provoking sermons that combined contemporary philosophical ideas with insights into traditional Jewish texts.

Rabbi David Wolpe is an author, lecturer and rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California. He has has been listed as one the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek Magazine, The Forward, and the Jerusalem Post. Wolpe’s column “Musings”, appears weekly in The Jewish Week.

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