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Father Of Us All
Book examines the legacy of the biblical patriarch
Abraham, the man at the heart of the world's
three great monotheistic religions.
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DEBRA B. DARVICK
Special to the Jewish News
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Don't Forget...The Sheik caters all occasions
ruce Feiler's latest book,
Abraham: A Journey to thC
Heart of Three Faiths
(William Morrow; $23.95),
is sure to fly off the shelves every bit as
quickly as his fifth book, Walking the
Bible: A Journey By Land Through the
Five Books of Moses, published last
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Feiler, an intrepid and gifted
whose ear is attuned to issues
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simultaneously global and personal,
has written a must-read book for this
post-Sept. 11 world.
Indeed, that day's terrorist
attacks were the impetus for
this nonfiction exploration of
the legacy of the biblical patri-
arch Abraham in the Jewish,
Christian and Muslim traditions.
Enjoy gracious dining amid a beautiful
As Feiler recalls it, he was working
atmosphere of casual elegance
on a sequel to Walking the Bible when
his brother phoned that fateful
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September morning and told him to
look out the window of his Manhattan
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apartment. At that moment, he wit-
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nessed the Twin Towers falling in
"It was the most beautiful day any
of us could remember," he says, "and
like everyone else, I was mute for sev-
"Then, in the weeks that followed,
everyone began to hear these ques-
tions: Who are they and why do they
hate us? Why can't the religions get
Feiler heard one name echoing
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man stood at the heart of all
three religions that seemed to be at
war — Abraham. I realized that he is
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TERIYAKI I 14 the father of 12 million Jews, 2 billion
Christians and 1 billion Muslims.
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That's half the humans alive today.
But who was he?"
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Feiler's answer to the question,
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is Abraham?" is a fascinating
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of the man whose relation-
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ship with God changed the world.
And pursuing that answer gave the
author a new understanding of his
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The patriarch Jews hold dear is also
deeply meaningful to Christians and
Muslims. And in true Jewish form, the
book's original question has left Feiler
with another question, one that he
now poses to his readers: "Can
Abraham be a vessel for reconcilia-
A Tangle Of History
In addition to a crack reporter's deter-
mination to go the mile for his story,
Feiler has a novelist's eye for detail.
"No one is alone in Jerusalem: even
the stones know your father," he
As he enters a Judaica store in
the Old City, his eye falls upon
a cardboard box filled with
shofars. He writes: "A tangle of
polished rams' horns claw out
of the top like some snarl of pet-
The analogy is as jarring as it is
Feiler brings this same eye for detail
to the task at hand — learning from
scholars and clergy Abraham's history
and how each of the three monotheis-
tic religions used Abraham's legacy to
define their own flock's identity.
Feiler takes a subject as complex as
that tangle of rams' horns and pulls
out each strand, dissecting its history,
Abraham is a crash course in com-
parative religion and a provocative
challenge for self-examination, as the
author shows how each religion
claimed Abraham's legacy for itself and
Feiler's encounters with theologians
and other experts in the field are as
instructive as they are challenging. He
relays his conversations with the likes of
Reverend Petra Heldt, a German
Lutheran minister who heads the
Ecumenical Theological Research frater-
nity in Jerusalem; Sheikh Abu Sneina,
the imam of El-Aksa; and Jon Levenson,
a professor of comparative religions at
Harvard and a leading authority on the
history of Judaism. They provide food
for thought and discussion to last weeks
if not months or years.