2131 Potok and Shtisel

It may be a coincidence, but I’m currently reading Chaim Potok’s Wanderings, while also watching the Shtisel series. Potok tells in Wanderings about the history of the Jewish people, where he starts before the creation if I may put it that way. Through him I realize that the creation story is much younger than the beginning of the history of the Jewish people.

It also takes up a lot more time than I have ever realized. The book of Genesis covers a period of about 2,360 years from the words “In the beginning” to the death of Joseph, while the Book of Exodus, about the Exodus from Egypt, covers only a period of 145 years. Also the New Testament, not recognized by the Jews, spans only about 70 years. I got that from Chronology of Biblical History, a beautifully illustrated timeline book, which I couldn’t pass up when we could shop at de thrift store for the first time again.

What I also find interesting about reading Potok is that he tells a very familiar story for me from a different perspective. I spent a total of 3200 hours in the church, that’s just as many Reformed sermons, I went to the youth association for about 520 hours and I followed about 200 hours of catechism, I am also amazed by it, but that whole story was constantly illuminated by the star of Bethlehem. Potok now shines the light of the Menorah and that shows completely different customs and rituals.

The same happened to me with the Shtisel series, which I can wholeheartedly recommend. The story is about an Orthodox Jewish rabbi Shtisel and his son. I had to get used to the clothing and the haredi customs and rituals, but I was also touched by the language, Hebrew and Jiddish, and the surroundings of Jerusalem. Precisely because I have lived in kibbutz Lahav for four months, it feels familiar. I know the country of the small settlement, but the orthodoxy of haredi is less known to me, although I come from an orthodox reformed corner, so I feel an affinity with it. In the world, not of the world, we said.

Anyway, when you get used to it, it quickly becomes normal and you can also appreciate it and then the series has developed into a complicated story about ordinary people with their loves, their views, their shortcomings, and their talents. A beautiful, sober, and yet richly told story. I enjoy it very much and see many parallels to my own life with nice people, tricky types, principals and freethinkers, adventurers and artists, hard workers and slow divers, perpetrators and victims, generous and sneaky people, romantics and scribes, rabbis and indifferent. A highly recommended series with nice plot twists and Potok is always a pleasure to read.

Ate Vegter, April 11, 2021


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