I’d heard the name thrown around numerous times: Heleni Hamalkah. Between the Gemara learners in my life (read: father, brothers, husband), and whatever I managed to pick up during Jewish history class in high school (hey, not everyone sleeps during those classes; there are some of us who actually enjoy learning about our past!), her name was certainly not unfamiliar to me. Yet I never knew that this Heleni Hamalkah from the Gemara—or, in the English vernacular, Queen Helene—actually had an incredibly fascinating background and story to her.
Until I read Nezirah. That’s when the name blossomed, took off, became a colorful entity rather than a black-and-white, two-dimensional thing. For Queen Helene of Adiabene was an extraordinary character, and a very real one at that. She was a righteous convert who left the pagan country in which she had reigned, to settle in the Holy Land during the tumultuous days before the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash. And…she became a nazir, or rather, a nezirah, for many years. Not your typical woman, huh?
This meticulously researched and beautifully written book brings Queen Helene’s captivating story to life, as well as providing readers with a vivid picture of Jewish day-to-day existence in Eretz Yisrael under Roman rule. It’s a book that will enthrall, enlighten, and inspire you. Yes, even if you were one of those students who snored their way through Historiah class!
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