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To Play With Fire: One Woman's Remarkable Odyssey [Paperback]

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Item description for To Play With Fire: One Woman's Remarkable Odyssey by Tova Mordechai...

How does Tonica Marlow, an evangelical female minister find her way to becoming Tova Mordechai, an Orthodox, practicing Jew? To Play With Fire is the riveting tale of one who rose through the ranks of her religion, educated and ordained at a noted theological seminary - not only as a minister, but as a "prophetess" of her faith - while remaining unfulfilled, despairing and numb inside.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Urim Publications
Pages   447
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 5.5" Height: 8"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 7, 2002
Publisher   Urim Publications
ISBN  9657108357  
ISBN13  9789657108352  

Availability  0 units.

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Reviews - What do customers think about To Play With Fire: One Woman's Remarkable Odyssey?

A lively name for an excruciatingly monotonous book.  Nov 21, 2005
Tonica aka Joy aka Tova has the misfortune to be born to a couple of warped religious fanatics. Her mother a Sephardic Jew is the daughter of an orthodox father and not so observant mother. Eventually, Tonica's mother and grandmother become Christians while her grandfather and two uncles remain orthodox. Sally, Tonica's mother meets and marries Jim Marlow, a born again Christian. They move to England where Jim is content to live in the shadow of his wartime buddy, Raymond who eventually becomes cult leader "Daddy Raymond."

Tonica is 16 when Daddy Raymond gets the "revelation" that her father and mother are supposed to sell everything they own (including Tonica's beloved horse), donate it to the church/cult and quit their jobs and move into a one bedroom apartment and work for the cult for free. Her father the head of the household dutifully complies, even though he is only two years away from a full pension, and Tonica is left homeless. They dump her at Daddy Raymond's new Bible college for "training." Tonica is abused physically, verbally, and spiritually to the point that she stays with church/cult and severs all contact with her parents after Daddy Raymond excommunicates them.

If you replace church with revolution, Jesus with Chairman Mao, and Daddy Raymond with one of Mao's lower henchmen you could be reading a memoir of the Cultural Revolution. The basic premises are the same; impressionable young people are beaten into submission physically and psychologically. Then they try to out do each other in their adoration of a so called deity who becomes their raison d'etre. In the process they spy and tattle on each other, turn in and or disown family members, in order to win favor and work their way up the hierarchy. They also devise petty backstabbing machinations that rival day time soaps. The final reward for all this effort is group acceptance and recognition from the cult leader.

This book is just under 450 pages and the first 300 or so pages we are dragged through Tonica's thought processes during her nine years with the cult; I think I'm really Jewish, no I love Jesus, no I'm Jewish, no I love Jesus. The redundancy itself was agonizing, but what I found extremely frustrating was her inability to wake up and leave this cult of freaks. She is very capable of making a bonafide living, has had positive contact with the outside world, and even been offered a ticket to Israel by her estranged uncle. Instead she chooses to stay and continue to be abused and used as slave labor.

This book would have been much more palatable if it had been kept under 150 pages and or written by a third party with some insightful commentary about cults and missionaries. Other than her thoughts on modesty for a woman's spiritual development versus modesty to prevent male temptation very little of this memoir was thought provoking. I found Tonica's husband's story impressive, but he doesn't' appear until page 413. He was born into a blueblood church family. He came to Judaism completely on his own after reading through the Bible and after a priest is unable to successfully answer his numerous questions. At age 18 he immigrated to Israel. I thought that was pretty gutsy. On the back of the book it says; "Tova also lectures throughout the world on being Jewish in a contemporary society." Given her and her husband's backgrounds I think they would be very well suited to do a Noahide outreach and or anti-missionary work.

Turbulent Souls by Stephen Dubner is a similar, but much better book. Dubner's American WWII Era Jewish parents for some reason felt compelled to convert to Catholicism. Then they met and married. Dubner is more sophisticated, does his research, and asks thought provoking questions as he winds his way back to the religion of his grandparents.
little meat,alot of mush  Jul 19, 2004
If you are looking for a book which details the intellectual and rational search of a person for the soul's home in the Jewish faith, this is not the book to read. Coming from a cultic, dysfunctional Pentecostal family, the author is very emotional and seems to judge religious precepts purely on the basis of how they "feel". I don't doubt that she had a life-long feeling of inner-connectedness to Judiasm,but all one reads is how a woman exchanged a christian faith which controlled all her action for a jewish version of the same.
more than five stars!  May 1, 2003
Tova Mordechai's story of her journey from a Pentecostal cult to Judaism reads like a Jewish _A Little Princess_: she lives in poverty surrounded by plenty, is forcibly separated from her family; she succeeeds at everything she tries and yet receives no recognition for her successes, but she is cheerful and good-hearted throughout. If this book were fiction, it would be remarkable for its excellent writing, suspenseful plot, and believable characters. The fact that the book actually happened is all the more amazing. _To Play with Fire_ compellingly tells a truly fascinating and inspirational story, giving the reader an insight behind closed doors of two little-understood religions.

Any autobiographical work about an author's religious "odyssey" sets off alarm bells in the mind of a demanding reader, yet this book avoids the clichees. Despite telling a very personal story about the evolution of the author's fundamental religious beliefs, it maintains a distance from them: much to her credit, the author does not attempt to persuade readers of the truth of her new belief system, and she does write a relatively honest assessment of her new life. Further, it is clear that Ms. Mordechai is writing for her audience, not herself: she tells her story because others have found it fascinating, not because she thinks herself a model of humanity, again quite unique of autobiographical works.

Nevertheless, I do wish that she had written more about her current life. She mentions her reluctance to accept anything blindly, and indeed she argues extensively with the Lubavitch rabbis at her seminary, but she nonetheless stayed within Lubavitch during her struggles, rather than exploring other streams of Judaism, such as the Greek-Jewish and Egyptian-Jewish traditions of her ancestors.

While the most important part of her exploration occurred in the transition from Christian to Jewish, I wish she had discussed her thoughts about the nature of religion itself: whether power in any religious group should ever be centralized in one figure whose opinion determines the policy of the religious group, or whether decentralized power (as in the classical Jewish model of multiple rival opinions) is safer.

It is understandable that she cannot risk personal relationships by giving a complete discussion of her own life in her small community, but I was disappointed to watch her lush prose become sparse at the very end, and to see her incisive commentary become more muted.

One warning to the reader: it is impossible to read only one chapter and it compelled me to stay up until 3 am to finish it.
Clever, sincere, and emotionally deep  Apr 8, 2003
This book is a very honest one. I especially loved the fact that Tova did not show Orthodox Judaism in rosy colors, but were describing her negative feelings and experience with Orthodox Judaism as well. And there were plenty of what to be upset about. However, she chooses Orthodox Judaism for the rest of her life.

She made it clear that she despised Christianity not just because she was abused by so called "Christians" but also because she was rejecting the New Testament itself. She wrote openly inside her book that Jesus was a false prophet, and that Gospels were misquoting and distorting the Jewish Scriptures. She revealed herself as a very educated and knowledgeable minister quoting the verses from the Bible in order to explain us why according to her the entire Christian doctrine is wrong.

I highly recommend this book to all people: both Jews and Christians. Written in a very sophisticated English it will certainly help them to understand it other.

Also, this new edition "To Play with Fire" is much better than the old one "Playing with Fire". This new edition is longer on sixty pages and reveals more details about her experience and feelings. Even if you own the book "Playing with Fire", you certainly should get this uncut and unedited edition, too.

This is an honest book  Jan 18, 2003
I read this back when it was called "Playing With Fire". I am not sure which branch of fundimentalist Christianity her family was with....perhaps the British group "Plymouth Brethren", they were really cultlike. Her background was extreme, but her issues with Christianity are thoughtful and not merely colored by her strange community.

I recognized alot of things from my sojourn with fundimentalism, and I found her honesty refreshing. She is also very straightforward about the Jewish community she has joined. She doesn't paint an easy rosey picture of her transition. I still think of her and her husband, a convert from Episcopalianism. I think if you are interested in conversion stories and people affirming their Judaism you will love this book.

I remember vividly her description of the heartrending time of her sister's death, and her parent's programmed reaction.

Good Luck Tova! I am so glad to see this reissue of your book!


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