"I once met a great kabbalist and heard him laugh. We actually laughed together. For years afterward, whenever I needed a lift, I would remember the rebbe's laughter – our co-mingled laughter – and it sustained me. Sometimes I think I wrote In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
in order to relive that laughter."
Researching the novel led Ruchama to kabbalists, Israeli ex-convicts, Arab laborers, archeologists, Temple Mount police men, connoisseurs of Israeli prison slang, and soup kitchens, among other places. One of the most transformative experiences was her time spent at a Jewish funeral home in New Jersey where she observed a ritual purification for a scene she was writing. Afterward, she volunteered at the Hevra Kadisha burial society for three years. The story
of her initiation appeared in the New York Times
In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist
was originally published by NYRB Lit as an e-book, and was its first novel to be followed up a paperback. While all of NYRB-Lit's books have received critical acclaim, In the Courtyard has received, says editor Sue Halpern in Bloom Magazine, “not only a bounty of reviews, it has gotten uniformly phenomenal reviews.” It was a finalist for the Jewish Book Awards, was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal, and Jonathan Kirsch, in his review in The Jewish Journal, called Feuerman “a Jewish Graham Greene."