Times: Book Review Items That We Don't Understand

There are normally a few good Jewish themed books reviewed every week in the Times Book Review on Sunday. This week too. Note. We did not understand a few items. See below.

An Israeli at the Mandelbaum Gate, 1956. 'Crossing Mandelbaum Gate' By KAI BIRD. Reviewed by NEIL MacFARQUHAR. 
A memoir of growing up American in the postwar Middle East, free to cross the checkpoints that defined others’ lives. (That review is fine.)
Adam Thirlwell

This novel follows a licentious 78-year-old widower’s conquests in the Alps.

In this review we did not follow the Orthodox metaphor about sex and the eruv. To wit,
...And yet, despite his guilt and melancholy, Haffner’s sense of his own sexuality remains a complicated tangle... “Haffner had used the infidelities within his marriage as the Orthodox used the eruv. They were exercises in invention; the riches of self-blame. His interior life was festooned with sagging squares of string, marking out the permitted areas within the forbidden world. He believed in marriage like the Orthodox believed in God. It was a territory for permitting the unpermitted. And for testing the soul of Haffner.”

This is fine psychological insight. And it demonstrates how powerfully Thirlwell can dominate the world of his story.
Perhaps there is insight here but we sure as heck don't get it. And speaking of things published in the section that we do not get, there is a letter that makes no sense to us responding to a review of 'Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years,' by Diarmaid MacCulloch: Thine Is the Kingdom (April 4, 2010):
To the Editor:

Jon Meacham ascribes a supernatural belief in the “kingdom of God” (heaven) to Jesus’ circle of rabbinic students or “disciples.” Yet this Hebrew term of a heavenly kingdom was recorded in books of the Prophets long in existence before the bar mitzvah of Jesus, when he would have studied them. The term’s meaning and usage was allegorical, not literal. Jewish rabbis like Jesus, whose wide range of quotations from biblical and other sources clearly depict an educated man, would not have attracted gullible dreamers who were awaiting his immediate supernatural return. As far as we know, none of the thousands of such proto-rabbis at the time were supernatural, including Jesus’ Jewish cousin, John the Baptist....more...
Not a word of the letter makes any sense, certainly not the use of terms like allegorical, supernatural, or literal or the anachronistic reference to the bar mitzvah of Jesus. We are mystified.

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