Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Promse; 150-168

In the novel right now Reuven is talking with his Rabbinical teacher. His teacher is concerned that Reuven is living two lives. Reuven's father's way of studying Torah involves changing certain words to make the meaning more clear. Reuven tends to agree with this because the commentaries that Jewish students study and the Rabbi's that wrote them also have changed words to identify the meaning more clearly. These Rabbi's who wrote the commentaries are seen as the best there is; they are not to be questioned but rather idolized. The teacher, though, is convinced there should be no rewriting of any kind, including commentaries. Reuven does not study Torah in this fashion while at the Yeshiva (Jewish School)because he knows it is not well received there. And so there comes a point when the teacher reads one of Reuven's father's books and discovers that Reuven is studying two different ways and that the teacher is unwilling to advance Reuven as a Rabbi unless he is sure that Reuven believes what the teacher believes.

So Reuven stands at a crossroad.

Sometimes we believe things and we take those beliefs with us into different groups of people and different situations. We are taught to stand on our beliefs no matter what and we are also taught that we should allow others to speak; to hear their side of the story, to not be closed minded. I can't help but think about the fine line that exists there in that place.

Monday, November 22, 2010

To Care/The Promise

I just picked up The Promise again waiting for something to spark my interest enough to write about. I completed a few paragraphs and was ready to begin. You really have to love a book like that; a book that urges deeper thinking. The main character, Reuven is a college student working towards becoming a Rabbi. He is having trouble with a professor that seems to be dark and lonely. The professor has been in the war, but as a prisoner rather than a soldier. He has different views than Reuven about Judaism and laws. Reuven is beginning to harbor bad feelings towards the professor but he does not sit in that long. He wants to know more; he cares enough about other human beings to want to know more. Reuven goes to a library and looks up the many books the professor has written and begins to read them. It is here when I stopped to write. How many times are we troubled by someone and we sit there in that place of frustration and go no further? To care enough to attempt understanding, well that leads to peace. Just a thought for us all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Promise; 120-135

I was reading a blog about the use of technology, specifically a particular woman's decision to buy an e-reader/kindle. I was immediately brought back to the days when I would walk around San Francisco's step inclines and come upon a dusty old shop of used books. Or what about the smell of an old library book that you know has traveled farther than you have. It has been held in doctors offices awaiting a result of a pregnancy or cancer. It has had tears fall on it and sometimes a midnight snack. It has been used to throw at someone and to hug as if a friend. A book; a breathing book that only speaks when you allow it, can unite people, it is a shared entity. And so, do we replace it with individual readers that when broken are tossed in the wind? When a book tears, it is repaired, sometimes with rolls and rolls of tape so others can enjoy it; so others can pass it on knowing they are part of a circle that hands things to one another and gets pleasure at the thought that others will share in the joy of that book. How would The Promise read if Rueven did not go to the Judaica libraries and work the stacks of books there, finding references and commentaries? I'm just saying this particular time; I will bypass convenience for experience.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Promise

So I have started reading The Promise, another book by Chaim Potok and I am again calmed by the rhythmic simplicity of Rueven's father. Chaim writes, "I heard him sigh. 'Little children, little troubles, big children big troubles',he murmured in Yiddish. 'When my big Rueven is so quiet, there are big troubles. Can I be of help to you, Reuven?' He regarded me in silence for a moment through his steel-rimmed spectacles, his eyes heavy with fatigue. 'I do not mean to pry, Reuven', he said quietly. 'I want only to help if I can'. You are not prying abba. Since when do you pry? 'With a grown son a father never knows when he is prying. Can I be of help to you Rueven', he asked again."

And so I began to understand that the peace I feel when experiencing this father-son relationship is the mutual respect that flows between the two. Each gives the other a quiet place to rest their thoughts. It also occurs to me that a typical human being, myself included, first demands respect from others whether children or spouses or friends and that it almost never achieves this sort of flowing respect. In the end one must act respectful and others then freely give it. I appreciate the little lessons this book throws out; whispers that may not be caught unless the reader shines light on it's psalms. I suppose the lesson is this...Respect cannot be demanded.