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The Promise by Chaim Potok

The Promise (1969)

by Chaim Potok

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Chosen (2)

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1,833245,685 (4.05)102



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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This continues Reuven and Danny's story from The Chosen. Reuven's at Hirsch University studying to be a rabbi, and Danny's is studying to be a psychologist while interning at a mental hospital.They’re both interested in Rachel, the attractive daughter of a liberal analyst of the Talmud (his writings are considered a danger to Orthodoxy), and both become involved with her troubled nephew Michael, who ends up in the mental hospital where Danny is. Reuven has to square off against his teacher Reb Kalman, a Holocaust-survivor fiercely attached to established views of the Talmud, and opposed to more progressive views of Reuven and Reuven's learned father. Kalman has the power to deny Reuven his becoming a Rabbi, and that battle is high energy. I liked that story thread a good bit more than Michael's.

The second half of the book was much more involving, and the book ended up being a very good read, even if it falls short of the exceptional The Chosen. The contrast between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, and more progressive Jews is fascinating, and Potok is so good at steeping us in the conflicts. Here's a quote from Reuven as he reacts to being among the Hasidim:

"It was strange enough being on those streets during the week. But on Shabbat, when I could feel them making the very air tremulous with exultation, when I could see them in their respective garbs, most of them in fur-trimmed caps, some in dark suits, some in white knickers, all of them walking quickly, sometimes in groups, sometimes alone, sometimes the father accompanied by a troop of male children - on Shabbat it was particularly strange, and I felt myself to be an uncomfortable outsider who had somehow been transported to a world I once thought had only existed in the small towns of Eastern Europe or in books about Jewish history. They were my own people, but we were as far apart from one another as we could possibly be and still call ourselves by the name 'Jew' - and I never felt as distant from them as I felt that evening walking along Lee Avenue with my father to the synagogue where we prayed." ( )
  jnwelch | Jan 30, 2019 |
I couldn't put it down. I'm so glad Potok wrote a sequel for readers to spend in the company of (the main characters) Reuven and Danny. It's a spare book in many ways because of Reuven's focus on his studies. The relationships are just luminous and Potok is insightful as usual about the interplay between tradition, orthodoxy, modernity, and progress. ( )
  LauraBee00 | Mar 7, 2018 |
For me this was a glimpse in at a moment in time and a world or clash of worlds. Orthodox-but-assimilated Judaism in repressed-but-optimistic postwar America, leafy walks and healthy physical activity and a chair in theology and Cornell and marrying a girl with chestnut hair and you don't know if McCarthy and Red China are gonna presage the end of it all but you feel like in the end, after all, humanity has weathered its storms; and up against it the new arrivals from the old world, both the awakened Orthodox with their living (and livid) HaShem and their dead world and the Hasids, whose disengagement from the mainstream lets them reanimate that dead world in their hermetic communities in places like Brooklyn. And then, a live wire around which the characters are all so careful and that periodically lights up and makes the narrative writhe and dance, historical trauma--and its nauseous blossoming over the generations and the inevitable laying open of the tradition and the history by that peculiar Jewish–gentile discipline, psychoanalysis. The intellectual content here was hard to get purchase on, since I lack the level of conversancy to approach it from within while from without, too often, it yields only platitudes like "People need people, people need shared experience." So for me, this was a very well done rendering of a place-time-ethos, let us say a period piece, and one that gave rise to that familiar uncomfortable envy that I always feel at that that serious, prosperous, intellectual Central European Jewish culture--uncomfortable because while that urban Danubian thing is the part of my Austrian heritage I've always identified with, it's a part I can't illegitimately, genealogically claim: I come instead from the Alpine matrix that produced both courtly Grüß-Gotting old men and brownshirts, and given the history that we all know it's queasy of me at best and deeply twisted at worst to be--what I guess I am!--any kind of Judaeophile. Potok did me a solid in that sense, reminding me that the "Wien ist anders"/"wir Patrioten im Urwald" kind of divide that queers my heritage is paralleled by a kind of shtetl/shul divide, and I should just sit with it and not be a weirdo and remember that everyone's relationship with their heritage (like everyone's with their parents, a fact I'm only sort of belatedly acknowledging in my own regard, stay tuned for a future review perhaps) is complicated and ambivalent. This book is a drama of complicated ambivalence. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Sep 19, 2016 |
I haven't read anything by Chain Potok in years - but reading The Promise was like coming back to an old friend. You haven't spoken in forever but nothing changes and it's beautiful. ( )
  TracyRae | May 4, 2016 |
The follow-up to The Chosen and just as good.
It was enjoyable, reading about the same characters from the same voice/main character. It's also a time period I know very little about, so to see life after The War ... I really enjoyed it. That aspect was educational.

Adrianne ( )
  Adrianne_p | Mar 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chaim Potokprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moel, Ed deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sollet, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Rena, Naama, Akiva
To The Children Rena, Naama, Akiva
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All around us everything was changing in the order of things we had fashioned for ourselves.
"It is inconceivable to me that Rachel finds anything sensible in Daniel's God." 
"There is a great deal of beauty in that sort of faith," Abraham Gordon murmured.
"I find no beauty in nonsense," she said coldly.
"Only because you don't believe in it. Nonsense is often that in which a person cannot believe."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449209105, Mass Market Paperback)

"A superb mirror of a place, a time, and a group of people who capture our immediate interest and hold it tightly."
Young Reuven Malter is unsure of himself and his place in life. An unconventional scholar, he struggles for recognition from his teachers. With his old friend Danny Saunders--who himself had abandoned the legacy as the chosen heir to his father's rabbinical dynasty for the uncertain life of a healer--Reuvan battles to save a sensitive boy imprisoned by his genius and rage. Painfully, triumphantly, Reuven's understanding of himself, though the boy change, as he starts to aproach the peace he has long sought....

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Reuven Malter lives in Brooklyn, he's in love, and he's studying to be a rabbi. He also keeps challenging the strict interpretations of his teachers, and if he keeps it up, his dream of becoming a rabbi may die. One day, worried about a disturbed, unhappy boy named Michael, Reuven takes him sailing and cloud-watching. Reuven also introduces him to an old friend, Danny Saunders--now a psychologist with a growing reputation. Reconnected by their shared concern for Michael, Reuven and Danny each learns what it is to take on life--whether sacred truths or a troubled child--according to his own lights, not just established authority. --From publisher's description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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