Yehoshua November is the author of God’s Optimism, which was named a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize in Poetry. His work has appeared in The Sun Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and on The Writer’s Almanac. He teaches writing at Rutgers University and Touro College.
Young Men Become Chassidic
Young men become Chassidic and forget their pasts but the G-d in Chassidic philosophy they study does not advise this. Only, they do not understand because they see the beards and black coats and try to jump out of their old bodies. I could not do this. I married my girlfriend from college and then became a Chassid. There was no fading bridge, then, at dusk, separating one half of life from the other. There was a man holding an old leather suitcase with a letter in one of his vest pockets— a letter that connected the past life to this one. It was a letter from a Rebbe predicting the future from under a dark hat in a room professors and Russian officials were trying to find but could not because G-d was hiding it.
A Few Feet Beneath the Surface
I am not a master of words. I have divided my attention between too many disciplines to become expert at any one of them. I would like to study one book for many years, like a man studying his wife’s face from many angles over the decades— seeing something new, something the same, each time. But tomorrow will call on me to dive into many subjects, descending just so— a few feet beneath the surface and back up again toward the sunlight of the superficial life.