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By WENDY SHALIT
Published: January 30, 2005 in the New York Times

JONATHAN ROSEN'S novel ''Joy Comes in the Morning'' features a beatific Upper East Side Reform rabbi named Deborah whose days are spent reassuring insecure converts, studying the Talmud and cuddling deformed newborns whose parents have rejected them. This paragon is, we are told, like a ''plant . . . nourishing herself directly from the source.'' But if Deborah is a plant, she's certainly not a clinging vine. When she propositions a man named Lev, it's with a sexy whisper: ''I'm a rabbi, not a nun.''

In contrast, Deborah's Orthodox ex, Reuben, is a Venus' flytrap. Although he wasn't supposed to touch her, he had no qualms about sleeping with Deborah, a slip she's sure was ''only one of the 613 commandments he had violated, but perhaps the one he most easily discounted.'' Curiously, Reuben showed ''more anxiety about the state of her kitchen'' than he did about spending the night -- next morning, he went through the dishes to make sure she had separate sets for milk and meat.
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