Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Virtual Blog Tour, Giveaway, & Interview ~ Flying Without a Net by E.M. Ben Shaul


Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality—until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life, but he can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.

Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?


May the words of my lips match the words of my heart.

* * *

Avi looked at him, concern plain on his face. “What is it, Dani? Are you all right?”
      “I'm fine. I just realized that I really needed to tell you now.”
      “Tell me what, Dani?”
      “I love you. You're… you are the best person I've ever met, and I'm proud and humbled to call you my boyfriend.”
      He paused, part of him wondering why this was all spilling out now. It's not as if he hadn't known, probably since Avi's bike accident, that he loved Avi, but he hadn't been ready to say anything. And what he'd said to Avi was true—he wasn't saying this because he expected to receive anything in return or to hear anything specific from Avi.
      In that moment, he wasn't sure what Avi would say or how Avi would react. The silence, though it had only been seconds long, was making Dani twitchy.
      “Avi?” Dani was terrified that Avi would see his declaration of love as manipulative, as a ruse to try to get Avi back into bed, which it wasn't at all. “I… I don't expect you to say it back. I don't want you to feel compelled to express feelings you don't actually feel just because I said it. It's just that, while I was sitting in the bedroom trying to give you space and time to process, all I could think about was how much I wanted to wrap my arms around you and hold you and make you comfortable and happy.”
      “Oh, chamudi, I…” Avi put his head on Dani's shoulder. “I love you with all my heart. I feel like I've loved you forever.”

* * *
(NOTE: FLYING WITHOUT A NET includes several prayers, including the following two excerpts.)

Tefilah: Blessed are You, Who Has Such Phenomena in His World
      We say, Hashem, that you created humans in Your image. Yet we believe with complete faith that You have no corporeal body.
      If You did, and it looked like Dani's, well, then.
      Is it chillul Hashem—desecration of Your name—to say, Good going? He is…gorgeous. And I finally perhaps understand what people mean when they talk about human beauty. I mean, I've appreciated good looking people before. But this is the first time I've been literally up close and personal with another man's body. With Dani's body, specifically.
      And he is… amazing.
      Dani is as beautiful on the outside as he is on the inside. And while I knew that he was a very handsome man, I had not thought about what that might mean for his physique. He is the physical embodiment of the fantasies I did not know I had. As Shlomo HaMelech—King Solomon—wrote in Shir HaShirim, “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the sons; in his shade I delighted and sat, and his fruit was sweet to my palate.”
      I understand Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, much more now. I can relate to the lover who is basking in the beauty of their beloved, who is so struck by the appearance of the one who is in their heart that they wax poetic, that they write the most epic of love songs.
      “My beloved is mine, and I am his, that feeds among the roses.”
      I have never completely understood all the blessings we have for all the random occasions of life, but the one for seeing a beautiful person or creature now resonates with me. Baruch atah, Hashem, Elokainu melech haolam, she'kacha lo ba'olamo—blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, who has such phenomena in His world.

* * *

Tefilah: Create for Me a Pure Heart

      In these, the earliest hours of the day after Yom Kippur, please, Hashem, hear my request.
      My heart is torn. I am caught between love of You and Your mitzvot and love of myself. Love of myself and love of my family. Love of my family and, perhaps, the possibility of love for another man.
      I know. It's too early for me to call any feelings I have for Dani anything other than friendship. And I know that from the perspective of halacha, of Your laws, there is no sin involved in thoughts, in feelings.
      But what if those thoughts, those feelings, cause others pain? What if by my actions, or at least by my consideration of future actions, I am causing pain to another person.
      To my parents? To my family?
      I stood next to Abba at shul all day. We sat in the same seats that we have used for as many Yom Kippurs as I can remember. But I was a different me from whom I have been. And when we struck our hearts with our fists and asked forgiveness “for the sin we have committed with false denial and lying” and “for the sin we have committed by disrespecting parents and teachers,” I couldn't help but look over at him and also think about Ima sitting in the women's section on the other side of the mechitzah. When they find out, when they learn that I am not exactly the son they think I am, when I tell them that I am still their Avi and I hope they can still love me, how will they react?
      I have friends who have left Your path when they could not find a way to reconcile their love for You with their love for another man. I do not want to turn away from all of Your laws, from the way I have been taught and from the life I have grown up loving. But I fear that my parents will reject me outright when I tell them.
      I should have more faith in them. I should have more faith in You. Please, Hashem, help me to have faith.
      Lev tahor be'rah li, Elokim–God, create for me a pure heart. Al tashlicheni milfanecha–do not send me away from before You.

* * *

“All of the dati people I knew before I came out, they all thought that gay people were an abomination. And while, yes, I’m learning that not all dati people feel that way, I still have trouble understanding how someone can identify as dati and gay,” Danid said. I mean, yeah, halacha doesn’t mandate thought, just action. But how many people know that? How many people practice that?”
“A lot of people know. Think of it this way. Halacha has a lot to say about kashrut. But not everyone keeps the same type of kosher, even among the dati community. So, for example, I don’t hold that you have to only eat glatt meat or chalav Yisrael milk, but other people do. That doesn’t make my type of kosher any less legitimate than their type of kosher. The people who only eat glatt or chalav Yisrael won’t eat the food I make, but that’s because of how they interpret the rules. In my experience, most of them don’t believe I’m not keeping kosher; they just hold by a greater stricture.”
“We have a difference of opinion on how to interpret the law,” Avi continued. “Judaism allows for that; we have a long tradition of different communities having different standards, all of which are considered legitimate interpretations of halacha. Same with this. My interpretation of halacha has no problem with my being gay and my being frum. Someone else’s opinion of halacha may not be as inclusive, but those people may also say I don’t keep kosher enough or that the fact that I have a television in my house or an Internet connection means that I’m not frum. I disagree. My community disagrees. If they don’t like my interpretation of halacha, they can leave me to my life. I’m not going into their houses and saying they have to be accepting of my kashrut standards, but at the same time they cannot come into my house and tell me that I cannot eat my own food to my own standards of kashrut.
      Avi stopped and took a breath. Dani closed the distance between them and took Avi’s hand. “Okay, motek, I get it,” he said. “I think. I mean, it’s still a huge thing for me to work through, since I have been so used to the dati community that I know judging me simply for whom I choose to love. I just… Until I met you, I had never met an Orthodox Jew who was open-minded about gays. So I admit it will take me some time to adjust my biases. Please be patient with me, motek.”
      “We’ll be patient with each other,” Avi said, bending for a kiss.

* * *
V'ahavtcha, al tassir mimenu l'olamim—and Your love, may You forever not remove it from us. Please help us to find our way as we navigate our love, through Your love.

* * *

Flying Without a Net will be published by Interlude Press on November 17, 2016. Connect with author E.M. Ben Shaul at embenshaul.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/EMBenShaul and on Twitter at @embenshaul.

VBT: Flying Without a Net—EM Ben Shaul

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing E.M. Ben Shaul author of Flying Without a Net
Hi E.M., thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

1)      Do you buy a book because of the cover, the blurb, or something else?
All of the above! For example, I am currently reading a book called Like Dreamers by Yossi Klein Halevi. It first caught my eye in the bookstore because it had as its cover photo one of the famous pictures of the paratroopers who captured the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six Day War. When I read the blurb, it intrigued me further. And then when I flipped through it, I found that it had maps inside, and I’m a sucker for books that include maps.

2)     What does ‘romance’ mean to you?
For me, romance requires a real connection between people. It can’t just be flowers and gifts and the material objects that people give each other; it can’t just be nights out at fancy restaurants and expensive dates to shows. Romantic gifts incorporate elements unique to the gift giver and the gift receiver. A gift of a dictionary for a word lover, when the gift giver has taken time to think about what kind of dictionary the person might like in view of which ones they might already have, that to me is more romantic than a bouquet of flowers.

3)     What are your current projects?
I have a partially written novel that is a romance between an injured retired gymnast and his physical therapist, who is a retired competitive swimmer. I’m also working on a novel about a man who gets involved in political intrigue because of gifts sent to him by his grandmother. What he doesn’t know is that his grandmother has a past that she’s never divulged to anyone, and now he is getting drawn in.

4)     What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Remembering to add in the visual aspects of the story: describing the room the characters are in, the clothing they’re wearing, the food they’re eating. With Flying Without a Net, especially, the characters are very talky. I had to work to break up the long sections of dialogue to remind the reader where in space and time Dani and Avi were while having their in-depth conversations.

5)     Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people.

I do the majority of the household maintenance in our home. If it needs to be hammered, screwed, or epoxied, I’m the go-to person. The toolbox in the hall closet is mine, and our daughters have learned to ask Mommy, rather than Daddy, to fix broken toys. My father taught my sister and me the basic maintenance skills that he thought we would need, and those skills stood me in good stead when I was in college and after when my husband and I formed our own household. And then I tend to put away my tools and pull out my knitting or my sewing machine or some other handcraft.

About the Author
E.M. Ben Shaul lives in many communities. An Orthodox Jew and writer of gay fiction, E.M. lives in the simultaneously gay-friendly and Jewish-friendly Boston area with her husband and twin daughters. A technical writer by day and freelance editor by nights and weekends, E.M. likes to knit, cook and coin neologisms. E.M. seeks to explore the seeming conflict between religious teachings and the heart’s desires.

Flying Without a Net will be published by Interlude Press on November 17, 2016. Connect with author E.M. Ben Shaul at embenshaul.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/EMBenShaul and on Twitter at @embenshaul.

Purchase Links:
Interlude Press Web Store


Barnes & Noble

Apple IBookstore

All Romance eBooks




  1. Thanks for having me today! I'll be back later to answer any questions!

  2. Thanks so much for hosting me today! I really appreciate it!

    1. Thank you for taking the time out to stop by and good luck!! <3



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