What annoyed him was their fanatic sense of righteousness, their absolute certainty that they and they alone had God’s ear, and every other Jew was wrong, totally wrong, a sinner, a hypocrite, an apikoros, and doomed, therefore, to burn in hell.
“Things are always what they seem to be, Reuven? Since when?”
I couldn’t imagine what it was like to know that no matter whether my eyes were opened or closed it made no difference, everything was still dark.
“What I tried to tell you, Reuven, is that when a person comes to talk to you, you should be patient and listen. Especially if he has hurt you in any way.”
I stood in that room for a long time, watching the sunlight and listening to the sounds on the street outside. I stood there, tasting the room and the sunlight and the sounds …
“We are like other people, Reuven. We do not survive disaster merely by appealing to invisible powers. We are as easily degraded as any other people.”
“Reb Saunders’ son is a terribly torn and lonely boy. There is literally no one in the world he can talk to. He needs a friend. The accident with the baseball has bound him to you, and he has already sensed in you someone he can talk to without fear.”
“Reuven, as you grow older you will discover that the most important things that will happen to you will often come as a result of silly things, as you call them – ‘ordinary things’ is a better expression. That is the way the world is.”
“I feel like a cowboy surrounded by Indians.”
I didn’t agree at all with his notions of the world as being contaminated. Albert Einstein is part of the world, I told myself. President Roosevelt is part of the world. The millions of soldiers fighting Hitler are part of the world.
“Master of the Universe,” he almost chanted. “you gave me a brilliant son, and I have thanked you for him a million times. But you had to make him so brilliant?
A spider had spun a web across the corner of the upper rail, and there was a housefly trapped in it now, its wings spread-eagled, glued to the strands of the web, its legs flaying the air frantically.
It was as senseless, as – I held my breath, feeling myself shiver with fear – as Billy’s blindness was senseless. That was it. It was as senseless, as empty of meaning, as Billy’s blindness. I lay there and thought of Roosevelt being dead and Billy being blind, and finally I turned over and lay with my face on the pillow and felt myself crying. I cried a long time.
“The world kills us,” he said quietly.” Ah, how the world kills us.” … “The world drinks our blood,” Reb Saunders said. “How the world makes us suffer. It is the will of God. We must accept the will of God.”
“What followers of a genius aren’t dogmatic, for heaven’s sake? The Freudians have plenty to be dogmatic about. Freud was a genius.”
“It is beginning to happen everywhere in America. A religious renaissance some call it.”
Poor Danny, I thought. Professor Appleman, with his experimental psychology, is torturing your mind. And your father, with his bizarre silence – which I still couldn’t understand, no matter how often I thought about it – is torturing your soul.”
The death of six million Jews had finally been given meaning, he kept saying over and over again. It had happened. After two thousand years, it had finally happened. We were a people again, with our own land. We were a blessed generation. We had been give the opportunity to see the creation of the Jewish state.
“… words are cruel, words play tricks, they distort what is in the heart, they conceal the heart, the heart speaks through silence. One learns of the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain, he would say, by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s soul.”