ISP 2030 – Interdisciplinary Studies
Week #1 assignment – Applying the 5 Levels of Interacting with Texts to “If Not Higher” by I.L. Peretz
· Writer is I. L. Peretz
· Piece is not dated, but it can be assumed it was written approximately between the late 1800’s thru 1915, in the days preceding Yom Kippur
· It could be taking place in Poland since that is where the writer is from or possibly what was a village in the USSR
Historical context seems to be
early Jewish history
is about the mystery of where the Rabbi of Nemirov goes and what he does
the Penitential Prayers in the days before Yom Kippur.
Everyone in the village seems to wonder
where the Rabbi is during this time, but while the Jews of the village
content to assume the Rabbi is in heaven, the Litvak doesn’t believe it. The Litvak tries to pretend
that he doesn’t
care where the Rabbi of Nemirov goes during the Penitential Prayers or
is doing, but he secretly wants to discover the secret.
The Litvak decides to spy on the Rabbi,
hides under the Rabbi’s bed and then follows him when he leaves, all the
believing that he, as a Litvak, is more clever
that others and is the only one who could accomplish this goal
Litvaks would never get caught or become tired waiting as others would. The Litvak successfully
follows the Rabbi
and sees him pretend to be a peasant, chop wood and deliver it to a poor
Jewish woman. What the
Litvak finds is
that the Rabbi not only actually does the Penitential Prayers, he also
out a fellow Jew and said the Prayers for the woman. After seeing this, the Litvak comes to believe in the Rabbi
the Rabbi’s work.
The moral of the story could be that one needs to fully understand something before making judgment. In the story the Litvak, and other Lithuanian Jews, rely on a commentary on the Bible, the Talmud rather than the Bible or the teachings of the Rabbi. Because the Litvak only seems to rely on the Talmud, which is someone else’s views on the Bible, the Litvak doesn’t trust in the Rabbi or his practices. Similar to the discussion on the way television brainwashes viewers into believing things that may or not be true, the Talmud is also only commentary, not fact, and can lead people astray. Once the Litvak himself investigates what the Rabbi does, he comes to realize that the Rabbi is indeed working for the greater good of the Jews. That message may not have been conveyed thru the Talmud.
IV. Critical Evaluation
I think the underlying message in the story is a good one…learn the facts before judging. It also has a good ending, which would be especially positive for Jewish people since it supports what they believe in. I also think that the story keeps your attention since you want to know what the Rabbi of Nemirov is doing when he’s expected to be doing the Penitential Prayers and where he disappears to. It’s nice that the story has a positive ending with both someone in need being helped and also the Litvak’s eyes being opened to the Rabbi’s mission. I also think the story has a comic element to it, with the Litvak’s ultimate confidence in himself since he is a Litvak, while he has much less confidence in those that aren’t Litvaks. The Litvak is portrayed as almost cocky in his confidence.
I do have some problems with
story. First, I wonder
writer was a Litvak? Do
’s only see themselves as part of that group, not
individuals? Also, some of
information is difficult to believe.
After the Rabbi dresses as a peasant, he stops in the kitchen and
an ax from under the bed. Why
there be a bed in the kitchen?
Regardless of where the bed is, why would an ax be under it when
would generally be stored elsewhere?
Also, the thought that no one else has a clue as to where the
disappears to is odd…the Rabbi leaves his home in the morning and we’re
that everyone else is up and about, how is it that only the Litvak was
follow him, or even see him walking thru the village? Finally, while I like what I perceive to be the moral of the
story, if people spent all of their time trying to validate everything
told, read, or see, what would ever get accomplished . I think that it is important
for people to
question things, but that there must also be trusted sources of
I think that I will use the
from this story to help remind myself that sometimes it’s important to
deeper into things so that I fully understand them before making my own
judgment. Always believing
portrayed on TV, in the newspapers or even what family and friends
can cause problems. We see
everyday life where children grow up to have the same political views as
parents, assuming that since their parents voted one way, it was the
thing to do. Without doing
is impossible to completely get an accurate understanding of the big
and one could find themselves fighting
for something they don’t actually believe in.