This enjoyable book tells the story of Elisha, son of a Holocaust survivor and beloved rabbi in a Chassidic community in Brooklyn, who wants much more than to study Talmud in the yeshiva. He emulates his uncle Shaya by reading secular literature, attending university, and tasting the outside world, slowly moving away physically and emotionally from his strictly religious home life and isolated community.
This is an updated variation of Chaim Potok’s classic The Chosen, although in this story the father is open and loving and Elisha’s rebellion is more extreme. Elisha’s father tells his son Chassidic tales to reach out to him; Elisha repeats the old parables to his Gentile friends, demonstrating how attached he really is to his roots.
Chassidic social and religious life is vividly described by the author, who knows what he’s talking about; Halberstam, a professor of philosophy, is the grandson of the first Chassidic Rebbe who moved to Borough Park after World War II, and both his parents come from unbroken generations of illustrious rabbis tracing back to the sixteenth century.