Book Review: Secret & Sacred by Yehudis Litvak (2018)
Reviewed by Teva Saks
In this final book in Yehudis Litvak’s young adult trilogy that began with Swords & Scrolls, the Chanukah saga is about to take a darker plunge. This historical novel guides the reader through the deception, tension, and denial of the Chashmonayim period.
The Seleucid Empire dominates the Land of Israel; Yerushalayim is in ruins, the Hellenists’ Jewish allies murder their fellow Jews, and the Maccabbees are fervently fighting back. The Beis Hamikdash—the Jewish nation’s pride and joy and the place where Jews best connect to Hashem—has been defiled.
As they fight this civil war, the cast evolves and discovers deeper truths and new relationships:
Pinchas, a zealous kohen, yearns to complete his avodah in the Beis Hamikdash—but first he must avenge his father’s murder. Will he lose his priestly privileges in the process?
Miriam dreams of her upcoming marriage to Pinchas. But he insists on fighting for his people. Will he return alive?
Elisha has returned to the ways of Hashem, but who will marry him given his shady background?
Leah arrives in Modiin, claiming to be a Jewish orphan from Yerushalayim. Yet her Greek garb and past associates make Miriam and her family suspicious.
All these characters struggle to find answers to timeless questions about Hashem and the way He runs the world. The book is not only about the Jews battling the Greeks; it’s the Jews loyal to Hashem fighting the Hellenist Jews, lies pitched against truth, dreams rising above despair. Through Litvak’s steady pacing, in-depth research, and ageless discussions, the reader experiences intrigue, mystery, distrust…and the ultimate miracle of Chanukah.
The book was a pleasant read, igniting a deeper yearning for the Beis Hamikdash while bringing the pivotal miracle to life. For those looking for blood and gore, this book will not completely satisfy. For those looking for a detailed portrait of the devastating rule of the Seleucids: look no further.
This YA book will be enjoyed by teenagers, who will be able to relate to Leah’s quest for truth and will thrill at the bravery and determination of the Jewish army. But any reader, from middle grade to adult, will enjoy discovering the heart, mind, and backdrop to the miracle they thought they knew.
Secret & Sacred is available via Amazon.