A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

Get daily updates delivered right to your inbox

What the ‘DaVinci Code’ did for the Catholic Church, Rabbi Shook’s book does for Judaism

In 2013, when Rabbi Emeritus Mark Shook of Congregation Temple Israel first became a published author, the title of his novel was “Ezra’s Scroll.” The book was a story of modern intrigue mixed with ancient tragedy crisscrossing time. Now, a decade later, the book has “evolved” and will be featured at an upcoming book launch event.

An idea is born

The conception of the original book was driven by Shook’s Saturday morning Bible study classes.

“I’d been teaching it for 50 years and the way I taught it was very connected to the ‘Documentary Hypothesis,’” he explained.

The “Documentary Hypothesis” is the theory that the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, were not written completely by Moses but by different authors.

“The Bible is not a sacred book, it’s a human book that describes human beings responding to the spiritual issues of their own time and their own place. And the question was how did these texts come together in the Torah?” said Shook.

The answer to that question is at the heart of what became Shook’s first novel.

“Around 2005, I created a scenario in my head about how the Bible came together based on the facts that I knew,” remembered Shook.

Shook took his scenario and presented it to those attending his class.

“The Babylonians were burning Jerusalem to the ground. So I imagined someone desperately rescuing all of the scrolls they had in the temple. They saved them from being destroyed and took them to Babylonia where many Jews were forced into exile,” said Shook. “Ninety years later, in the book of Nehemiah, we’re told Ezra the Scribe goes to Jerusalem and for the first time reads from the Sefer Torah Moshe, the scroll of the teaching of Moses.”

Shook says the students in the class were mesmerized by his blending of recorded history and creativity.

“So, I said, well maybe fiction is the way to go. Maybe by telling a story, hopefully, a good story, people will read it, ponder it, ask questions and along the way learn something about Jewish life and Jewish tradition,” said Shook.

Shook started writing. At first, he wrote in the mornings for about an hour. Then he began writing more and more.

“I was having so much fun. It was just a lot of fun,” he said. “And then the result was around 2014 when I thought I had a complete story.

Getting published

The world of publishing can be relentless. Shook received rejection after rejection before learning of a self-publishing house called Lulu.com. From there “Ezra’s Scroll” became a reality and laid the foundation for the future.

“A friend got the book in front of the small publisher called Newhouse Creative Group. Keith Newhouse, the man in charge, read it and reached out to say they were interested in the book,” said Shook.

Newhouse not only liked the book but had a vision to remake it into something different. A series.

“They changed everything,” said Shook. “They took my work and created something a lot more dynamic than even I envisioned. What the ‘DaVinci Code’ did for the Catholic Church, ‘Search for the Sacred Scroll’ does for Judaism.”

Reading and signing with Rabbi Shook

“Ezra’s Scrolls” was relaunched in May of 2022 as “Search for the Sacred Scroll: Book 1 – Discovery Under Fire.” The series’ second book, “Book 2: The Secret of the Crowns” was published in May 2023 and will be the focus of the discussion and book signing this Saturday, Nov. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Temple Israel, 1 Rabbi Alvan D Rubin Dr.

A light lunch will be served; the event is free and open to the community. Books are available to pre-purchase when you RSVP. $10 each or both book 1 & 2 for $20. Proceeds benefit Temple Israel’s Learning Fund.



More to Discover
About the Contributor
Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer
Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.