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THE OLD DATA MINER by Abraham Boyarsky


by Abraham Boyarsky

Pub Date: Feb. 29th, 2024
Publisher: Bayou Wolf Press

Boyarsky’s novel follows one man’s quest to connect technology and the Messiah.

Eighty-year-old retired mathematician Jacob Lazerson lives with his wife, Sarah, in Montreal. The couple doesn’t have much money, but they do have hope for the future: They are part of an Orthodox Jewish community that believes the Messiah may arrive any day. (Jacob fondly recalls the famous Chassidic Rebbe saying “The advent of the Messianic age is only a gesture away.”) Jacob feels he can usher in that event with a little help from science. When Jacob is not observing the Sabbath or attending the synagogue, he runs a computer program of his own design that will, he believes, validate the Bible and “consequently bring about the Messianic Age.” The program works by identifying “associated Hebrew sequences for all exons in the human genome,” which will prove the Bible’s “divine intelligence.” Jacob’s obsessive quest is not the only challenge he faces—it’s 2020, and the Covid-19 virus is on the rise. Jacob must be extra cautious, as some in his religious community forgo precautions such as face masks because they might signal “that their faith in God to protect them was lacking.” Jacob takes readers on a curious, winding path; he’s immersed in a world where people actively anticipate a messianic figure, yet he’s still comfortable with aspects of the modern world like computer programming. Jacob’s love of hard science and religious adherence is an intriguing mix that finds him dreaming about a debate with a famous atheist. Some of the narrative’s flights of fancy can be on the dull side—Jacob’s imagined conversation between the Rebbe and Albert Einstein is not particularly illuminating, for example. Vague insights, such as Einstein saying he recognizes the “impact faith and philosophy have on shaping human values and society,” do not make for page-turning moments. Yet readers will remain curious about what, if anything, Jacob’s struggle will amount to.

A memorable combination of science and faith and the determination to unite the two.