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The Promise (2005)

The Promise (2005)

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4.11 of 5 Votes: 5
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1400095417 (ISBN13: 9781400095414)

About book The Promise (2005)

In The Promise, a follow-up to The Chosen, we catch up with Reuven Malter as he is continuing his graduate education in the 1950s Jewish community of New York. While The Chosen focused on Reuven's life-altering friendship with Danny as the two boys found their way to manhood, The Promise deals with the clash of belief and unbelief, tradition and secularism, Orthodoxy and unorthodoxy, and supernaturalism and naturalism that hit the post-war American Jewish community. Secularism was a rising force before the war, but the horrors of the concentration camps and the anti-Semitism of Germany had shaken Judaism and Jewish scholars and Rabbis reacted differently. Some stood firm in the belief in a God who verbally and miraculously gave the Torah to Moses and in The Promise. This is represented by Rav Kalman, Reuven's teacher. Rav Kalman stands as a fierce fighter for the old ways and the old belief, even as more "enlightened" Jews turn away. Other Jews sought to find a way forward in the world of unbelief while still maintaining their identity and culture as Jews, and The Promise's Abraham Gordon represents this extreme. Reuven stands between the two clashing ideas, and his own father provides a middle way, of sorts. Reuven finds himself drawn into a close relationship with the Gordon family and as the book opens we find that he is dating Gordon's niece and befriending Gordon's troubled son. Before long, the Gordon family seeks Danny's clinical psychology services for their son, and the plot pulls together characters whose ideas repel them from one another.At one point in the book, Rav Kalman asks Reuven accusingly about his association with the secularist Abraham Gordon. As Reuven's smicha hangs in the balance, Kalman wants to know how Gordon's writings have influenced Reuven. "No," Reuven replies, "I don't like his answers." What about his questions, asks Rav Kalman. "I ask the same questions," Reuven responds. But Reuven has yet to find the answers.This is the crux of the book. For Judaism in particular, the events of the holocaust brought a crisis of faith. Where was the promised Messiah? How could this happen to God's chosen people? His treasured possession? First the pogroms in Russia, then the Nazi concentration camps. Where was God? With the forces of naturalism already sweeping through intellectualism, Orthodox belief was in peril. But even for Gentiles, the central question of the book is a question for all of us. Is God real? Must we abandon belief? Does modernity make faith obsolete?As a Christian, I believe that the answer to Reuven's questions is found in Jesus. The Messiah came, and the promise was kept. God is real and His reality demands a response. While I loved The Chosen and would recommend it to my teenagers, I think that The Promise is more difficult to understand without having a context in place historically and spiritually. I am sure a young reader would enjoy the plot of the book and enjoy discovering what happens to Danny and Reuven, but I would suggest that The Promise is a book best read after already gaining a strong understanding of 20th century history and philosophy.

I wanted to write a long review on this marvelous novel ..However I think I won't find enough words to describe my admiration!This is the sequel of Potok's novel "The Chosen" Which I didn't think anything can beat it , We have the same old characters beside lots of other new scholars and their families. Potok continues drawing his characters that you feel you already can see & feel them , his major strength point in writing is the dialogue between characters and the description of places & people that is neither lengthy nor too short.. His weak point is the description of discussions without focusing on a single topic or giving an example .. maybe I wanted that cos I liked to focus on how do Jews study their religious books, are they complex? how they find contradictions & assertions in other places? and so many real questions not imaginary situations.Our old characters (Danny & Reuven) have been matured now, one can't do anything but fall in love with Danny's character, while Reuven drove me crazy with his silence in so many important situations .." he just didn't find anything to say" quoting the writer in so many places.. I was amazed by the similarities between Hasidics and Radical Muslims, they get married to virgins, the separation between males & females while worshiping and even in weddings!! This came to me as a shock we "Muslims" are not the only reserved people in the world! and religious people in all around the world had many things to share!! Even the strange feelings that Reuven , Rachel & her family felt while dealing with Danny's family was a great deal to consider!During the middle chapters and the confrontations/contradictions between East Europe method of teaching, Pink Floyd's The Wall-Part2 was running in my mind in the background : "We don't need no education ..We don't need no thought control" !! Potok simply reserve Noble Prize, I wonder why he didn't get it till now!P.S: Again I'm here evaluating the literature and the great gift the writer has as you can imagine how different his thoughts can be from an Arab Muslim girl!

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This was the second book that I read from Potok. I liked the well known the Chosen but not as much as I liked the Promise. I highly recommend reading the Chosen before reading the Promise as you get a better and more coherent picture in the Promise. As someone who is interested in New Testament textual, form, redaction and now narrative criticism, I've found some of the discussions that Reuven Malter has with his professors quite interesting but I fear that for other people some of the intricacies and thorough descriptions of these discussions may be irrelevant for some readers that do not have any interest in scholarship of ancient texts. Nevertheless, one learns a lot about Judaism today from these discussions alone. The comment above was my only criticism. In terms of the plot, I have found my own story and life experiences in Potok's characters. The world of Christianity, especially the relationship between critical scholarship of the academia and the reaction of the church in general and the effects of traditionalism and fundamentalism exist everywhere, not only in Judaism. If you are inclined towards critical scholarship, not satisfied with the tradition for the sake of keeping the tradition, you'll find this book filled with conventional wisdom and direction. Some of the lines and anecdotes will hit you hard no matter where you find yourself in your particular journey. I highly recommend this book!

Wow, I forgot how much I love Chaim Potok. The last book I read of his, the painfully lugubrious Gift of Asher Lev, kind of colored my memories of his other books, making me forget their beautiful symbolism and character work and emphasizing their poor pacing and multitude of solitary, ponderous walks. But he has risen from the ashes in my mind. This book is rife with with what makes him so memorable; he marries what initially seems to be a niche struggle and ends up making powerful, universal statements with it. So glad that my library's poor selection forced me to read this.

Chaim Potok is well beyond brilliant. My admiration for him soars with each book I discover. In "The Promise", two friends take different paths through Judaism and life and are able to enrich themselves and others through the efforts they apply in their work and studies and through their gifted minds and wise hearts. The story takes place in the mid-1950's, and many of the older characters are haunted by having survived the Holocaust when so many of their families, friends, students, and complete strangers did not. The younger characters including Reuven Malter and his boyhood chum Danny Saunders; they also have to adjust to a brave, new world. Old teachings seem to have perished in the ashes of Majdanek and other concentration camps, and new teachings--and new ways of learning--have yet to establish footholds in old-as-ages beliefs and new theories of humanity, particularly the study of psychology. Both men must break bonds to build new ones, and, in the process, both have the challenge of trying to heal a young boy of severe mental and emotional challenges using untested theories and strong ties of friendship. Potok is better at exposing the deepest details and workings of the human heart than any other author I have encountered--and that is saying a lot. I still have several of his books to discover and eagerly anticipate those journeys. Meanwhile, I hope the lessons of "The Promise" become a part of my being. I will be honored if they do.
—Jill Holmes

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