This spellbinding historical novel by celebrated Israeli author Yochi Brandes tells the story of the venerated yet enigmatic Rabbi Akiva, placing him in the context of his contemporaries, the Sages of Jewish tradition and of early Christianity. Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Ishmael, Rabban Gamaliel, Paul of Tarsus, and many others become flesh and blood in this stunning interweaving of biblical and Talmudic lore.
At the heart of the novel is Rabbi Akiva and his complicated relationship with his wife Rachel, who meets him as a forty-year-old illiterate shepherd, marries him against her father's wishes, and compels him to study until he becomes the nation of Israel's greatest sage. Rabbi Akiva's innovative method of interpreting Scripture provides his people with a life-giving elixir after Rome's destruction of the Second Temple, but also fuels the lethal Bar Kokhba Revolt, with disastrous consequences. The Orchard offers a brilliant narrative solution to the fascinating story of four sages who entered a metaphysical orchard: one died, one lost his mind, one became a hater of God, and one—Rabbi Akiva—made it out unscathed. Or did he?