Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Our Dinner with Chaim Potok

Image result for johnpiippo jerusalem
(Linda, in Jerusalem)
Morality is learned more by contact with 
a living embodiment of virtue 
than by a moral treatise.

Linda and I once treated the great Jewish novelist Chaim Potok to dinner. One moment I will never forget. Linda shared with Dr. Potok that her mother was Jewish. Upon hearing this Potok leaned forward, raised his hand, pointed it towards Linda, and said, "You are a Jew!" 

I was part of a team that brought Potok to Michigan State University to speak on writing religious fiction. We hosted him for dinner, and followed him to the various venues we had set up for him to speak.

One of these venues was East Lansing High School. The students prepped for Potok by reading one of his many novels. Potok's novels are about the clash of ancient Jewish culture with modernity, and the moral implications arising in that clash.

On that day, in the high school auditorium, Potok was emphasizing the importance of a moral foundation. When he ended his presentation he asked the students if they had questions. One girl stood up, and said, "Dr. Potok, I don't have a moral foundation. Where can I get one?"

Potok's response was brilliant. He replied, "Find a family that has a moral foundation and hang around them."