Empathetic inquiries into the challenges of faith.

FILLED WITH FIRE AND LIGHT

PORTRAITS AND LEGENDS FROM THE BIBLE, TALMUD, AND HASIDIC WORLD

A posthumous collection probes sources of Jewish wisdom.

Adapted from a series of lectures delivered between 1967 and 2014, Nobel laureate Wiesel (1928-2016) celebrates the lives and struggles of spiritual leaders appearing in the Bible, Torah, and Hasidic lore. How, he asks, can one person make a difference when faced with evil and oppression? With a special affection for prophets, the author introduces Elisha ben Shafat, “strange, elusive, complex, full of contradictions,” a man of volatile temper, at times directed cruelly at children. His teacher was the prophet Elijah, to whom Elisha felt unwavering loyalty. Purveyor of 16 miracles, especially in the aid of women, Elisha fought hunger, repelled enemies of the king of Israel, cured the afflicted, and intervened in affairs of state, including the incitement of a bloody revolution. Among biblical kings, Wiesel singles out Josiah, “one of the notable exceptions to the corrupt idol-worshipping Jewish kings,” who restored the commemoration of Passover among his people. From the Talmudic universe, “a place where conflicts and contradictions meet and rarely get resolved,” Wiesel examines the odd friendship between Rabbi Yohanan and the courageous gladiator Resh Lakish, to whom the rabbi offered marriage to his beautiful sister. The contrast between the two men, Wiesel observes, inspired their grappling over meaning in the Torah. Each attracted Wiesel: Resh Lakish for his “sense of urgency” and commitment to seek the truth; Rabbi Yohanan for his compassion. The enigma of Satan focuses one chapter. In another, Wiesel creates an admiring portrait of the philosopher and scholar Rabbi Schneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Hasidim, a deeply humanitarian sect that offered “a new way of attaining hope” and community to Jews—often uneducated and disaffected—who were scattered throughout Eastern Europe. Wiesel counts himself among Hasidim. “Faith in memory,” Wiesel reminds readers, “helps individuals transcend their condition” and justifies “faith in the future.”

Empathetic inquiries into the challenges of faith.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4353-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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