Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir (2007, Shalom Auslander)

A special to the Stop Button

A non-­observant Orthodox Jew with a firm belief in his God lays bare the torture to which the true believer is subjected merely living his life. He grapples with the core of his religious upbringing and shares sometimes with almost unintended humor and sarcasm the twists and turns of fundamental belief.

For Auslander’s God is one who toys with us, deciding just what plague to subject us to–which way our God will kill us. There’s repetitive nature to the theme that God actually enjoys in some perverse way tormenting us so; pulling the rug from under us at the last possible moment.

His wife is pregnant with their first child and he lives braced for the tragedy that is sure to befall them. It’s his heritage, after all, to be beset with tragedies upon tragedies, as Job was.

But, does this lead him to lead a ‘good life’? Hardly. Auslander is in this way all of us–the most human of us… strong in intent, but weak in followthrough… Read that as the spirit is willing, but…. “Porno was my Isaac…” he postulates when as a child he can’t resist tabloid fleshy offerings of temptation… what young child could? And yet his punishment for indiscretion is certain, as day gives way to night… at least in his own mind.

Is he punished? He seems always to find some misfortune to connect with his transgressions and it gives him a sort of assurance and peace, the proof that his God is there….

There is a enough here for the non-Jew to identify with. Bring your own bagels.

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