To Die In Secret

by Haviva Ner-David

Coming out in the summer

When we first meet Nomi, she is gazing out the window of an airplane taking her from the kibbutz that’s been home all her adult life to her childhood home state of Massachusetts, which she has not seen since she left after a traumatic fallout with her parents in high school. She wonders how she will manage the conflicting demands and emotions awaiting her, as her only sister and nephew were found mysteriously dead in their big farmhouse on the outskirts of Salem, and her widowed mother is suffering from dementia in a nursing home nearby.

Recently widowed herself, and childless, Nomi, at sixty, is still youthful and still grappling with the consequences of the event that sent her into exile as a teenager. She hasn’t seen her mother in forty years and fears it’s too late to heal wounds that have festered far too long. She simply wants to settle her sister’s estate, make sure her mother’s safe, and return to her secure kibbutz life. But what seems like a straightforward mission is complicated by the mystery of her sister’s death, the plight of a pregnant teenager rejected by her Orthodox Jewish parents, and John, the sympathetic police officer who befriends her.

The old farmhouse Nomi inherits from her sister holds mysteries, and maybe a ghost, of its own. As she explores the seventeenth century dwelling, she discovers evidence of multiple tragedies, from the Holocaust to the Salem Witch Trials. The interlocking threads of this richly complex tale share themes of trauma, parenting, and forgiveness, as succeeding generations face horrific situations and unimaginable choices and struggle to find the hope and faith to carry on.

About the Author

Haviva Ner-David is a writer and rabbi. In 2006 she became the first woman to publicly receive Orthodox rabbinic ordination, only to leave Orthodoxy and call herself a post-denominational rabbi. Ten years later, she received interfaith ordination from the One Spirit Interfaith-Interspiritual Seminary and now goes by post-denominational inter-spiritual rabbi.

She writes both fiction and non-fiction and is the author of three spiritual journey memoirs, a novel, short stories, essays, a blog on Times of Israel, scholarly articles and a guidebook for engaged couples. Her short story, “Blame,” won the 2016 Lilith Magazine short fiction contest.
Link to short story.

Her rabbinic specialties are spiritual companionship, water immersion rituals, wedding and marriage preparation, coming of age ceremonies and other ritual and ceremony creation and innovation. Founding rabbi of Shmaya: A Mikveh for Mind, Body and Soul on Kibbutz Hannaton in the Lower Galilee, she officiates and helps create on-site personalized immersion ritual ceremonies and facilitates group mikveh workshops. As a spiritual companion, she works with individuals and couples and specializes in dreamwork, inner child work and nature soul work, as well as general sacred listening.

Photo credit: Carmel Avivi

Other books by the author

Life on the Fringes:
A Feminist Journey Towards Traditional Rabbinic Ordination

Hope Valley:
a Novel


Chanah’s Voice:
A Rabbi Wrestles with Gender, Commandment, and the Women’s Rituals of Baking, Bathing and Brightening

Getting (and Staying) Married Jewishly:
Preparing for your Life Together with Ancient and Modern Wisdom

Dreaming Against The Current: A Rabbi’s Soul Journey

Yonah and the Mikveh Fish
Jonah and the Mikveh Fish