Life is busy. So many things to think about; to get done; to achieve; to teach; to love each day. Lists are made and goals are realized, but in all of this I like to have retreat. It may be a television show or a day out or an hour to myself or a good book. For me, this book was a calming book. Each night when I read it, I felt like it eased my soul somehow. I thought maybe it had that affect on me because it was simple, but it certainly is not. Chaim Potok, the author, discusses mathematics and Hasidic Jews and Zionism, so certainly it is not a simple book. It is read with ease though. It is welcoming despite the philisophical nature of the book. Almost like watching a bird soar so simply and gracefully without realizing the very intricate nature of the bird that allows it to flow so well. The author repeats certain phrases repeatedly through the book such as, "Where my father and I prayed" instead of simply synangogue. In this way those phrases became like the rituals we all adhere to day to day such as how we make our coffee or when we watch the news. As a people we are calmed by things that do not change such as the smell of a certain laundry detergent or God. The author usese this to calm the reader and it works.
This is the story of Danny and Reuven. Danny is a Hasidic Jew and Reuven a Jew nonetheless. Their lives are different, but they undertand themselves through the language that connects them, in their soul and also in physicallity, namely Yidish. Their religion seperates them though it is the same. Danny is to become a Rabbi, he has been predestined for it by his family and his father. Reuven can be all that he wishes to be. In the end it is Reuven was chooses to be a rabbi and it is Danny who breaks away to become a psychologist which ultimately crumbles a family. Danny was chosen, but he decided instead to choose.
What makes this book such a joy is listening to these boys grow up and interact and how often they choose what is right and just. I guess I don't see that very often. As a reader we are feeling what Reuven feels and he is such a good boy. He listens to his father and treasure what he says and he does right by his friend and is polite when the situation desires politeness. To read of a teenage boy which such a moral ground was calming and relaxing to me. This is so much of what I want for my own son. Reuven's father is a man who thinks before he speaks and when he does he is careful with what he says. There is much to learn from him.
I finished this book last night, but I did not want it to end. I wanted to see Reuven's life and what he became. I wanted to see how he raised his children and how they behaved in their lives. Danny, on the other hand, had a father who taught him with silence. The father would never talk to Danny directly unless it was to study Talmud. The book explains that this was a way to raise a child; to teach a child to listen to silence...the silence that exists in suffering. It was a way to have a child tune into what is not being said but could be felt in the silence of a person. Reuven and his father do not agree with this method and as a reader we are also not to agree with this way, but I do see it's value. I most definitly would want to speak with my child, give advice, and listen to their own stories as they go through life, but silence also has something to teach. It is in silence that vulnerability yearns to escape. I agree with Danny, silence does speak indeed.