February 19th, 2011


Book review: "Hush" by "Eishes Chayil"

Thanks to jadelennox's recommendation, I took "Hush" out of the library and read it this past week.

"Hush" is a fictionalized narrative based on the horrific reality of child rape among Chassidim, and the cultural insistence that "such things don't happen here" and the ostracization of those who break the black-hat line of silence. Those who read the Failed Messiah blog will be sadly aware that such things happen. So for the author to write such a book, even under a pseudonym, is itself an amazing act of courage.

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This is a must-read for many of the people who follow my blog. It is a powerful picture of certain segments of Chassidus and their worldview (completely aside from the subject of abuse). It is a damning indictment of the silence that has enabled rapists and abusers to get away with it. And it is a well-written book. (Obviously, given the subject matter, this may be "triggery" for some readers; I'm not qualified to provide any additional guidance on that point.)

Haftarah note

While today was my bar mitzvah Torah reading (Ki Tisa), the oddities of the Jewish calendar meant that it was not my haftarah (Parah). Instead, we read the actual haftarah for Ki Tisa, which is the amazing narrative from I Kings 18 where Elijah returns to confront Ahab and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.

I have long wanted to have the opportunity to chant this haftarah, so when it was offered to me this morning I didn't hesitate to accept. This chapter has it all --- there's sarcasm, fear, anger, humor, and vivid descriptions of the people's actions. I tried to read it not with separate voices for each character, but with different vocal mannerisms. Elijah's words were loud and self-confident; Ovadiah was terrified; Ahab contemptuous. When Elijah mocks Baal ("Maybe he's busy, y'know") I tried to capture his sneer.

Basically, I chanted it not only as a sacred text with a prescribed cantillation, but as a story that needed telling. I think it worked. What I'd really like to do now is practice it and do it again, more smoothly. (Since at our synagogue's early minyan, haftarot are usually assigned about ten minutes before they're chanted, all I had was a chance to glance over it to make sure there were no surprises, such as the one kri/ktiv mismatch.)