“There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”
for most, the end of life is not dramatic. it is the cruel process of ageing and illness. diseases, such as alzheimers, have an immediate impact on one’s living legacy. for those around them, they experience a life that is a mere shell of what was present.
ms. graciela mochkosky’s the prophet of the andes documents mr. segundo villanueva’s remarkable creation of an emerging jewish community in peru. he was a man whose family experienced an injustice, his father being murdered and justice never being served. upon his father’s death, he inherited a bible. the bible sent him on a lifelong religious journey which ended with him becoming jewish and establishing the community called the bnei moshe.
the book documents how mr. villanueva, despite immigrating from peru to israel struggled with and challenged his faith. he was a man of many questions. there were very few with the answers that he needed. the book documents that eventually he returned to peru and his time there was not as what he may have desired. in the end, he returned to israel where he started to suffer from mental deterioration. when he passed away, he was in or on the way to jerusalem. he was buried in the prestigious mount of olives cemetery where many dignitaries are buried and which is considered as the most important cemetery in judaism.
the prophet of the andes documents how mr. villanueva, his family and followers created a new branch of judaism. a new people among peoples. he created a south american brand of judaism that was bible based and supplemented with source material such as the shulchan aruch. the shulchan aruch a book by joseph karo, is otherwise known as the code of jewish law and is widely used authority. many who met mr. villanueva’s group, the bnei moshe, were taken aback for their knowledge and religious practice. many find them inspirational.
what will be mr. villanueva’s legacy? with ms. graciela mochkosky’s book, the prophet of the andes, there is some reference material. the book reports that he has inspired many in south america to take on judaism and establish jewish communities. with that in mind, his legacy, however, cannot be determined in the present. perhaps one hundred or two hundred years from now, mr. villanueva will be recognized as one of the transformative figures in jewish history. from reading the book, i would characterize him in three ways. he was part moses, part ruth, and part a religious scholar who constantly frustrated others as a result of frequent inquiries. the book also leaves me to believe that the father’s murder and the lack of justice that was received by the family left him with a permanent emptiness that he could never fill. perhaps, this is why he could never find all of the answers he sought.
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