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Posts Tagged ‘Herman Wouk’

No doubt there is much sanctimoniousness in the world and a lot of empty mumbling is passed off as devotion.  A man of urbanity may feel embarrassed at taking part in ceremonies where that sort of thing can occur.  I am not sure my urbanity is quite up to the mark.  Sometimes, all too often, my own praying has been depressingly mechanical.  But sometimes I have felt a sense of communication with the Force that took the trouble to give me life.  The uncommitted reader will overlook this as auto-suggestion or mental ailment.  Something too much about the author here; but it seemed less than honest to proceed on this subject without a certain clearing of the ground.
  —  Herman Wouk
From his book:  “This Is My God
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On This Day In:
2017 Not Yet That Well-Organized
2016 Probably Whatever Was Sought Yesterday
2015 What We Choose To Divide Us
2014 Peace With Honor
2013 Dangerous Systems
2012 Useful Science
2011 Say It, But Please Don’t Make Me Listen

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Economist know that, contrary to the popular impression, slaves do not work hard.  A slave civilization is slow moving and easygoing; we still have traces of one in the American South.  Take away a man’s rights in himself, and, he becomes dull and sluggish, wily and evasive, a master of the arts of avoiding responsibility and expending little energy.  The whip is no answer to this universal human reaction.  There is no answer to it.  The lash stings a slave who has halted dumbly, out of indifference and inertia, into resuming the slothful pace of his fellow slaves.  It can do no more.  The slave’s life is a dog’s life, degraded, but not wearying, and  —  for a broken spirit  —  not unpleasant.  The generation of Jews that Moses led into the desert collapsed into despair and panic over and over in moments of crisis.  Broken by slavery, they could not shake free of improvidence, cowardice, and idol-worship.  All the men who had been slaves in Egypt had to die in the desert, and a new generation had to take up their arms and their religion, before the Jews could cross the Jordan.
   —  Herman Wouk
From his book:  “This Is My God
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On This Day In:
2015 Centered
2014 Economic Trinity
2013 At Both Ends
2012 Holding Allowance
2011 The Power Of Good

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There has never been any decisive proof either way about God’s existence.  Ours would be a decidedly queer world if the Creator of it were as visible as, say, a playwright at his opening night.  Here is the universe, a dazzle of orderly wonders, which seems to imply a Maker.  Here is human life, full of sadness and disaster and futility, ending always in black death; and it seems to many people to refute any notion that a God could exist.  To assert anything about God — that he is there or that he is not, that we can know him or that we cannot —  is to jump off into the dark, either way.
  —    Herman Wouk
From his book: “This Is My God
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On This Day In:
2014 I Would Be Sillier
2013 It Keeps Happening Anyway
2012 Take Time
2011 A Mother’s Lesson
2010 3rd Pair – Shoe Review (DOA and Final)

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The work is not yours to finish; but neither are you free to take no part in it.
   —    Rabbi Tarfon
From: “Ethics of the Fathers
As quoted in: “This Is My God
Written by:   Herman Wouk
[The path to equality in America has not been completed.  There is still much work to do until all are able to share in the philosophy that all Americans are equal under the law.  Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!   —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2013 Amnesty, n.
2012 Best Resolv’d
The Clock Is Running
2011 Magic

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There is no use in talking about religion with anybody who is sure that God does not exist.
   —    Herman Wouk
From the Prologue to his book:  “This Is My God
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On This Day In:
2013 Spoiling For Fame?
2012 How Many?
2011 Too Tired To Chat Much
2010 I Must Be Crazy!!

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…I intend to speak of my faith and my people as well as I can, and I will tell the truth.
One note on style: if I sometimes write here with a light hand, it is not because I am the less serious in what I say.  It is no service to the reader to load him with technical jargon to convince him that my words have weight.  I have risked being as clear and pleasant as I could, and I have worked very hard for clarity.
   —    Herman Wouk
From the Prologue to his book:  “This Is My God
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On This Day In:
2012 Working On Reality
2011 Massive Contradictory Changes

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A couple of months ago, I was talking to my nephew and he told me he was a Jew.
I asked if he had ever been to a synagogue.  No.  I asked if he had ever read the Torah or the Talmud.  No.  I asked if he had ever read the complete Old Testament from the Bible.  No.  I asked if he had ever spoken to a Rabbi about the Jewish faith.  No.
After chuckling, I asked him why he thought he was Jewish.  He advised me that Jesus was Jewish and he was a follower of Jesus, so he was Jewish, too.  Needless to say (after another chuckle), I advised him that declaring yourself to be of a certain faith does not “make” you a member of that faith if you do nothing else to demonstrate your beliefs.
Later, though, it occurred to me that I know almost nothing about the Jewish faith either.  Yes, I’ve read some of the Old Testament, but I’ve never read any of the Torah and would not be able to tell you the first thing about any differences between it and the Old Testament.  So, when I was visiting my local second hand book shop and I stumbled upon a copy of a book which professed to be an “everymans” guide to orthodox Judaism, I picked it up and added it to the reading list.  As it happens, I rested the book close to my computer and it “called” to me repeatedly – so I bumped it up the list.  I finished it last week and the rest of this posting is my review…
The book is titled: “This Is My God” (1988©), and was written by Herman Wouk.  The book was originally published back in 1959, but this is a republishing with a chapter update about Israel (the nation-state).  Mr. Wouk wrote the book because a friend came up to him and said his son knew next to nothing about Judaism and the friend knew Wouk to be a practicing Jew and could he recommend a good “starter” book for him to give to his son with the hope the son might gain some appreciation for their heritage.
Now Wouk admits to not being a Rabbi (a teacher of the Torah) and could not think of (or find) such a book – even after asking around himself – so he decided to write one.  After about a year or so of intense research, he did.  And this book is the result of Wouk’s effort.
I have not read any of Wouk’s other works, but he is a terrific writer!  The book is obviously a very simplistic introduction to Judaism.  That does not mean it is not worth reading.  It merely recognize’s there are whole libraries devoted to the various aspects of Judaism and anything other than an overview would have taken many, many volumes.  Having said this, I felt reading this book was an insightful introduction to this faith upon which my own was based.  Indeed, it is the faith on which both Christianity and Islam are based.  All three faiths are the “children” of Abraham.
Although I don’t usually attribute such sentiments to books, this book has been a blessing to my own personal faith.  (I am a practicing Roman Catholic.)  Wouk’s words are kind and wise, yet humble and moving.  And most of all, they are educational.  There were several times I said to myself, “Wow! I never knew that!” or “So that’s why…”
Two quick examples are: there is no requirement for a person to be a Jew to enter Heaven.  One only needs to live a good life to be judged worthy of Heaven.  And second, not all the stories in the Bible are about Jews.  Some “holy” men are not Jews at all.  Job for example.  This was a real “Wow!” moment for me as I’d always just assumed Job was Hebrew.  Wouk explains why this is not so, but I still could hardly believe it so I had to do some additional research on the internet.  As near as I can tell, there is no proof he (Job) existed let alone that he was Jewish.  Like I said, the book is full of little “gems” to help you explore your faith (if you are a Christian).
The book is a fast read at only a little over two hundred and eighty pages and is so well written it doesn’t even feel that long.  There is a fifty page “Notes” area which has clarifications and recommendations for further readings and an eight page Glossary at the very end.
So, final recommendation:  Highly recommended!  You will, of course, see several quotes from this book over the next few months as I try to share some of Wouk’s writing with you…
So I called up my nephew to thank him for “prompting” me to learn about Judaism as the basis of my own faith.  His response: “Uncle Kevin, I never meant for you to read a book about it!”  I guess he just doesn’t know me that well…
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On This Day In:
2012 When Young
2011 14 Ways To A Better Judgement

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