Lesson-4 If Not Higher (I.L Peretz, Poland 1852-1915)
Apply the four levels of reading a text to “If Not Higher”.
Ans: i. Literal Comprehension:
Every early morning on Friday praying, Rabi used to disappear from the group. He wouldn’t be found either in the house or in the praying room. Some of the Jews calculated he had gone to heaven at that time but, other thought that he had done much human service. Among them, a Jew Litvak wanted to know the reality. He entered into Rabbi’s room and observed secretly what he was doing. Next day, he woke up early in the morning at the time of prayer and he disguised into the simple farmer’s dress and went into the forest.
He cut a bundle of wood and entered into the hut of a poor Jew woman and forced her to buy wood even on credit convincing her that God was there to pay the money. He did all parts of prayer one after another making fire. Looking at all these activities, Litvak was influenced a lot and planned to be his disciple soon.
This story may be trying to convey the message to us about the beliefs and the importance of practical religion in our life. If someone is in a problem or in the helpless situation, we have to help him. Human service is the greatest service which should be done on this earth. Because, going to temples, reciting religious books, prays etc. are less fruitful than actual bits of help and supports to helpless people. In this story, the work of Rabbi helping the sick widow is far better than other Jews’ praying.
iii. Critical Thinking:
This story has focused on the religion and its rules and regulations. The concept of moral, religions and human helps discussed in this story are very good in practical aspects. But I disagree to some extent so I may put forward my few questions. How could Rabbi to secretly into the house where a widow was sick? Is it possible for mortal human beings to go to heaven when he is alive? Is it possible too, to find out such idealistic person like the Rabbi of Nemirov in real life?
It is a very useful story to any religious people. It has made aware of those people who only become crazy to stone gods with stony heart and inhuman behaviors. Seeing many people making a line in holy places having rough practical manners in real life, I realized that they are not getting the real favor of god. I learned this lesson after reading this story. Like Devkota’s poem ‘Yatri’ the true service of God can be done helping needy and helpless people instead of going to the temples and churches.
“Doing good deeds on earth may be a more exalted activity than doing God’s will in heaven.” Explain this statement on the basis of the story “If Not Higher.”
“Service to humanity is the best way to get the favor of God.” Explain this statement on the basis of the story “If Not Higher.”
Ans: This religious story “If Not Higher” might be trying to point out the real essence of religion. Real worship is to help needy ones for their betterment. Generally, people want to be religious only going to holy places and praying to religious deities but they don’t have humanity by the service to helpless people. Only visiting holy places, reciting religious books is nothing. But it is true that when people apply the religious message of holy books into practical life, it is the norms of real religion. Thus, the more we serve to the humanity and needy people, the more pleasure we receive.
In this story, Rabbi serves human beings helping a poor, helpless and sick Jewish woman. He is reciting the prayer with the service to the helpless woman without going to synagogue. The action and support for needy and helpless people are far more worthwhile. Likewise, the statement of late poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota we can’t find god in temples and morsel. But we have to understand the agonies of helpless people and put the ointment in aching wounds, thus, human service is the best path to have the full flavor of God and source of complete pleasure. Undoubtedly, the same spirit of human service is highlighted in this story too.
Explain whether the Litvak is a critical thinker. In your views, does he carry his skepticism too far? Why and why not?
Ans: In my opinion, Litvak is a real critical thinker. He doesn’t trust on the blind concept until it has proof. This means like other prayers he is not in dilemma about where Rabbi has gone other people think Rabbi has gone to heaven or other places. Litvak wants to prove what is the reality. He is not doubtful about this concept rather he wants to find out the truth, where the Rabbi really goes.
On the time of penitential prayer, Litvak secretly followers to Rabbi. Jew hides under the bed. He observes what Rabbi does whole night and in the early morning. He sees Rabbi wearing farmer’s dress, tour to jungle and firewood bundle. Jew also observes his kind words and works done with old sick Jewish widow. Observing everything very closely. Litvak decides to be Rabbi’s disciple.
In short, we can conclude that Litvak is really a critical thinker, he never believes what other prayers do and does not get satisfied until he has got the real and become Rabbi’s disciple. He is the best example of a critical thinker.
In this way, the Litvak is a critical thinker, he is guided by his reason. If he was not a critical thinker. He would have easily believed on other people who were an illusion that the Rabbi would go to heaven. Being a critical thinker, he brings the reality in front of people at last.
Summarize the story “If Not Higher” in a single sentence.
Ans: Services to needy and helpless people are far better than praying and reciting religious mantras, visiting religious places and offering various things in the name of gods and deities.
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