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In the Beginning Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
My one and only meeting with Dr. Potok occurred in 1975, while I was one of two *goyim* attending Jacob Hiatt Institute in Jerusalem, a study center maintained by Brandeis University. I was fascinated by his talk, and went out and bought "My Name is Asher Lev" and devoured it. Interestingly, Dr. Potok's visit coincided with classes on Biblical History taught by Dr. Chaim Tadmor from Hebrew U - which interested me so much in scientific Biblical criticism that I added a religion major when I got back to my college, and immersed myself in that discipline.
"In the Beginning" is, in my estimation, probably the most honest of Dr. Potok's books. It holds particular synchronicity for me, having been published in 1975, the same year that I began to learn about its core issues and the same year that I met him. The main character, David Lurie, is forced to confront both his growing awareness of scientific Biblical criticism, and its value, and the insistence of the world around him that he is rejecting all that they hold dear. He is given a choice between truth and isolation, or the society of those he holds dear and ignoring that truth. In the end, Dr. Potok's picture of "watering the roots" of religious faith is a powerful image, especially for someone who understands exactly what the book is talking about.
The book is longer than the three preceding it, and more complex; but it's issues are more easily understood by even a non-Jewish audience.Read more ›
This book was, in some ways, a departure from Potok's earlier works about Hasidism. This takes place before THE CHOSEN, and MY NAME IS ASHER LEV, and has barely any mention of the "pious ones", save for the character's father voicing his distaste for them.
This is the story of every typical jewish kid in NYC in the between-war-years, (with the exception of the constant illness this caracter is afflicted with) and for that, it is very successful.
Reading this, for me, was invaluable in doing genealogy research on my family. This helped me get in the "mindset of the time". My family, like the family of the main character, had come over, had children, and then watched their relatives get killed in Europe, and this gave me a very good sense of what it was like, from the American viewpoint.
It showed how the Americanized Jews dealt with the problems in Palestine, how Jews and gentiles interacted, all the while with Henry Ford and Father Couglin taking up arms against them [the Jews]. It also showed how they responded to the early Nazism in 1930s Germany, and then what happened when they learned the awful truth.
Like most of Potok's main characters, this one is involved in Torah and Talmudic study, so non-jews and secular ones, BEWARE: YOU MIGHT HAVE TO LOOK SOMETHING UP! (oh, the horror!)
But, despite whatever minor issues one might have with this book, it succeeds in the end, and it is a very compelling story.
Perhaps it is fitting that I should love so much his most obscure title considering this book's power is in the understanding Potok has of the quiet genius no one seems to understand, yet who struggles so desparately to try to understand the world and his place in it. His brilliance brings him suffering. At the climactic confrontation between David and his father, I sobbed. You just do not know unless you live it. How many quiet geniuses are there to identify--and fall in love--with this book?
And perhaps it is this identification and the fact that his novel's are so autobiographical (Potok did indeed "live it") that I felt such a profound loss at Potok's death on July 23, 2002. For as long as I am able to read, for as long as there are printed pages I will love him through his books. Thank you, Dr. Potok, so much for Ilana Davita, for Asher Lev, for Danny and Reuven, but thank you especially for David Lurie. He has shown me a beginning. . .
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As in his other novels such as The Chosen and Asher Lev, Chaim Potok writes about growing up Orthodox in 20th century America. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Shmuel M
Chaim Potok is a master. This is a story of growing up, of facing fear and disillusionment, of appreciating and critiquing one's own subculture. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Paul Bramer
I have always loved Chaim Potok's writing. I think I have read them all. I am re-reading In the Beginning aloud to my husband, and it's been so long since I read it the first... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Elizabeth
I loved the feel and the realism of the Jewish world.
The reader is a part of the Lurie family and of their world. Read more
Not as gripping as his other books. There are three stories here and though one can see the connections, I never really got involved with any one of them. Read morePublished 15 months ago by K. Huggs
I have never particularly cared for first person novels. But in Chaim Potok's case I always make an exception. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Bill Towey
Well, I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed reading My name is Asher Lev, but this one was difficult to finish. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Mona Gaspar
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