Chaim Potok died today.
I'm sitting, somewhat amused at myself for creating an entry about such an event, not necessarily amused about a man dying, but about a life well lived that seems so convivially out of place on a Diaryland special.
Novelist, Philosopher, Historian, Playwright, Artist, Editor. The web site says. I knew him only in the light of his most profound and widespread contributions, which was as a novelist.
If you are of a bent to do so, he is one of my favorite authors. It sounds so trite, to list a man with his incredible way of describing Jewish life as a favorite author. As an entity that sounds more suited to Dave Barry or Stephan King than a mind like that of Potok.
When I was 15 years old, I read The Chosen and The Promise, two of his books. I read as much of his published material as I could scour out of the public library, he is relatively obscure and not widely published at all. I am not of the Jewish faith, if you wish to call it that, it seems more of an entire lifestyle to me than just a religion, and I suppose I have Chaim Potok to thank for that knowledge, that furthering of my own awareness. For the introduction to Hassidism, for showing me that faith can be more than just a putting on of bright colors and parading to the local Unitarian Church or what have you, to congregate and feel better about oneself. It can be an entire lifestyle, a yearning and overwhelming thing, a thing which transfixes you in the light of a glory which mortal man has yet to be able to aptly describe.
At 15, I was as impressionable as most 15 year old boys are, and reading of the scholarship sought by boys my own age hit home with me, I thought I was the only one, and here were an entire conclave of youths described by Potok as being seekers after truth, absorbers of the Torah, scholars in mind and being that sought wisdom from the writings of ancients and would pore over the old manuscripts and writings in search of the one pure nugget which would allow a stream of truth to emerge. It was marvelously liberating.
Mr. Potok, I wish you well in your travels, however they might be arraigned, to read and be influenced by you at 15 and still, to this day, be haunted by the words you crafted is a wonderful thing, a thing which you made great by your life and your steadfast course toward enlightenment. Bless you, in the way you have chosen.
"Come let us have tea and continue to talk about happy things."
Yes. Indeed. Always.
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