Friday, January 31, 2020

Herman Harold Potok Essay Example for Free

Herman Harold Potok Essay Herman Harold Potok was born in the Bronx on the 17th of February in the year of 1929 (McCauley, 1E). It was later on in his life when he started using his Hebrew name, Chaim (McCauley, 1E). As a teenager, Chaim was drawn to the Conservative branch of Judaism, which caused problems in his family because both of his parents raised the family in Orthodox tradition (McCauley, 1E). All these problems in his life eventually inspired him to write one of his greatest books of all time, My Name is Asher Lev, in 1972 (McCauley, 1E). According to Chaim Potok, arts were seen as a distraction to the true purpose of Orthodox Jews. Their main purpose is to study the Torad and Talmud (McCauley, 1E). He went on to some religious and secular schools (Kremer, 202). He earned his B. A. summa cum laude in English literature from Yeshiva University in 1950 (Kremer, 202). He then went on to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he earned his M. H. L. degree, rabbinic ordination, the Homiletics Prize, the Hebrew Literature Prize, and the Bible prize in 1954 (Allen). And lastly in 1965, he received his Ph. D. in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania (Allen). Chaim Potok was also a professor at Penn, Bryn Mawr, and at John Hopkins University from 1995 to 1998 (McCauley, 1E). And although Chaim Potok enjoyed teaching, his true passion was what he did best-writing novels. Over 34 years of his life, he wrote fourteen novels, four plays, and a few children’s books (McCauley, 1E). A novelist, Cynthia Ozick, stated â€Å"Chaim Potok wrote directly from the interior of the Jewish theological experience, rather than from the social experience. And they were best sellers. † Chaim Potok was a great universal writer who appealed to everyone. He lived in Pennsylvania with his wife of 44 years, Adena, and his three children, Rena, Naama, and Akiva until his passing on July 23, 2002 at the age of 73 due to brain cancer (Allen). One of Chaim Potok’s best sellers was his novel, Davita’s Harp. This novel is a story about a young girl, Ilana Davita Chandal, whose parents are involved with the Communist Party and keep up with the happenings of the Spanish Civil War (Potok). Her father, Michael Chandal, is a reporter for the local newspaper and gets sent to Spain to cover the war while Ilana and her mother, Anne Chandal, stay home and wish for the best outcome and his return (Potok). While over in Spain, a bomb goes off in the hotel where Michael Chandal is staying and he passes away (Potok). When Ilana and her mother were informed about Michael’s passing, they both handled it in different ways (Potok). Looking for answers, Ilana becomes interested with the Yiddish songs and saying Kaddish and starts to visit the synagogue even more often than before with her friend Ruthie Helfman and her cousin, David Dinn (Potok). Anne does not entirely agree with Ilana going to the synagogue all the time and so Ilana and Anne had many disagreements when Ilana wanted to start saying Kaddish for her deceased father, who was a Christian (Potok). Her mother then basically devoted her life to the Communist Party where she met and later got engaged to Charles Carter (Potok). Anne Chandal soon starts to question the Party she is in and leaves the Party (Potok). It was at this time when Charles Carter breaks off their engagement, which leaves Anne Chandal devastated and leads her to marry her cousin, Ezra Dinn (Potok). Jakob Daw, a long-term friend of Anne, and a close family friend whom Ilana calls â€Å"Uncle† Jakob, gets deported from the United States back to Europe where he dies shortly after (Potok). It was then that Anne Chandal decided to say Kaddish her dead friend, Jakob Daw (Potok). Time went by and Ilana continued to study Judaism and went to the Jewish junior high school where she graduated with honors. Ilana sometimes would lay on her bed and just day dream of her father and Uncle Jakob. She missed them very much, and eventually had to move on. Her mother becomes much happier after getting married to Ezra Dinn and going to the synagogue every Shabbos, the Sabbath Day. A little after Ilana’s graduation, her mother delivers a new baby girl whom they named Rachel. In this book, Chaim Potok uses the religion of Judaism to help mend Ilana Davita’s heart and structure her complicated life. Finding her culture in being Jewish and practicing Judaism was such an excitement to Ilana. She loved the Yiddish songs that her neighbors had always sung and was very curious to find out about the synagogue and the different practices that go along with Judaism. It was her religion of Judaism that truly gave her closure of losing her father due to the Spanish Civil War in Spain. In Davita’s Harp, Ilana Davita gradually becomes interested in her Jewish culture as more bad things in her life start to happen, like the death of her father and uncle Jakob. Ilana first started to wonder about Judaism when she had lived next door to her friend, cousin, and soon to be step-brother, David Dinn (Potok). She had heard David Dinn and his family singing songs in a different language; she did not know what they were but she wanted to find out. Then, after she moved into a new apartment, she met a little girl named Ruthie, who also sang these songs. Ilana would hear these songs being sung, and loved the melody and tune of the songs but could not understand them because they were in Yiddish. Yiddish is a German dialect that made its way to be a full language which had parts of Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic, and Romance languages in it (Shyovitz). For almost a thousand years, Yiddish was known as the main and sometimes the only language that Jews spoke (Shyovitz). Yiddish, at one point in time was spoken by many Jews of different nationalities all around the world (Shyovitz). Around the twentieth century was when the Yiddish language stopped being a world-wide spoken language and began to be an exclusive language spoken only by very few, older Jews (Shyovitz). The decline in the speakers of the Yiddish language was due to the Holocaust that killed nearly six million European Jews. The ones that escaped being murdered during the Holocaust made their best efforts to learn the Yiddish language and make it their secondary language (Shyovitz). No one ever expected for Yiddish to become a dead language (Shyovitz). Every morning and every night, David Dinn and his father would get up extra early and head to the synagogue to say Kaddish. Upon seeing this day after day and night after night, Ilana Davita started to ask questions about where David Dinn and his father were going at such early times in the morning and what they were doing exactly. Her mother then explained to her that after someone in the family dies, the family goes every day continually for the next year to the synagogue to say Kaddish. Later in the story, Ilana’s father dies while being in Spain to report about the Spanish Civil War, and at this time her mother cannot get over the fact that he had really passed away, so her mother had spent more time away from home as possible (Potok). During all this time, Ilana decides to start going to the synagogue where she starts to say Kaddish. The type of Kaddish that David Dinn and his father are going to the synagogue to recite was called the Mourner’s Kaddish. The Mourner’s Kaddish was to be recited every day and night from the day of the death to the one year anniversary of the day of the death (Schoenberg). The reason for doing this every day and night is because it would stop the rush of everyday life before it began and right before it ended (Alexander, 420). A child under the age of thirteen may recite the Mourner’s Kaddish if one of their parents has died, and a girl is allowed to say it even though she is not required to do so (Schoenberg). Even though the words in the Kaddish have nothing to do with death, some say that it is a way of accepting the death than becoming bitter or angry with God for the death of their loved one (Schoenberg). According to Edward Alexander, the Kaddish stems from Psalms 113:2, which says â€Å"May the Name of the Lord be praised from now and forever. † The mourner’s Kaddish only applies to certain relatives like a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a spouse, or a child (Alexander, 420). It is said that when a child says the mourner’s Kaddish for his parent that he is redeeming them from hell. The word Kaddish actually means sanctification and the prayer of Kaddish is the sanctification of God’s name (Schoenberg). So, what people are doing while they say Kaddish is sanctifying God’s name instead of being mad at Him and insulting Him for taking away their loved one. According to Tracey R. Rich, Jews believe that there is not a set of standards or beliefs that one needs to have in order to be a Jew, but they do believe that actions are more important than beliefs anyway (Rich). Judaism’s main focus is the relationships between God and many different groups including the Jews, human beings, mankind, and the law of Israel (Rich). The Jews have an ideal list of what every person practicing Judaism believes (Rich). This list contains things which make up a Jewish person’s religion of Judaism (Rich). Some of these things on this list include: 1) God exists; 2) God is One; 3) God is the Creator of everything; 4) God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient; 5) the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) were given to Moses as a guide; 6) God knows the thoughts and deeds of men; 7) God will reward the good and punish the wicked; 8) the Messiah will come; and 9) the dead will be resurrected (Rich). There were a few, but important things that drastically make the Jewish religion different than Christianity. This is why it was so bizarre when Ilana Davita thought she could say Kaddish for her Christian father. This is also the reason why Ilana’s mom and she bumped heads about saying Kaddish and also why the church had looked at her funny when she had started to stand up in the synagogue and recite Kaddish with the men. Usually women would not recite it, and Ilana knew that, but did not care at the time. Jews mainly believe everything that Christians believe except that Jews do not believe in the Trinity, like Christians do. Jews believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three different persons. Another main point that Jews believe is that there is no original sin. Jews believe that everyone is born with all purity because if Adam and Ever had to eat from the Tree of Good and Evil to become immortal, then they were born mortal (Judia). Jews believe that death is just a natural part of human existence and we do not die just because of Adam and Eve’s sin (Judia). Although the Jews had some different points than Christianity did, as Ilana’s aunt showed her, Ilana chose comfort in the Jewish religion. Ilana Davita’s main reason for switching to being Jewish was due to her mother’s negligence to her after they both had lost a member of their family. Anne Chandal was extremely hurt and basically tried her best to avoid anything that reminded her of her husband, which led her to stay away from home more. This constant loneliness made Ilana Davita find something that would comfort her. And in this case, it was the religion of Judaism. It was her culture and origin, so she felt as if that is what she was supposed to be doing with her life. It was what her friends practiced and what her mom used to practice. Soon after Ilana’s devotion to the synagogue and Jakob Daw’s passing, Anne Chandal joined her daughter, Ilana Davita, when she went to the synagogue. After Anne Chandal starts remolding her life with her daughter, one could tell that Ilana seems happier to have her mother back in her life, although she never really understood her and most everything that she said. But she looked up to her mother and was delighted when their relationship started to go back to normal, or even better than normal.

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