At the end of July I was privileged to attend the Sami Rohr Prize Literary Institute, where I spent three stimulating days with the other prize finalists and judges. We were each asked to offer a short presentation about our favorite book of all time. I panicked–I like too many books, and too many genres, to name just one. I offer here my presentation, as transcribed by the Institute staff (and spruced up just a bit by me).
Sefer Yermiyahu, the Collected Poems of Avraham Halfi, and Paradise Lost
I had a hard time coming up with a single most important book, so, to make the assignment easier, I limited myself to my most important reading experiences of the last year—and managed to get myself down to three books. All three share, I think, an effort to deal with the question of what do we do about God when we don’t see God in the world. That is, the empirical evidence that we see before us precludes God’s presence in the universe, even though we intuit that we need or should have, or have to have a God. The first book was Sefer Yermiyahu, the Book of Jeremiah, which I completed this year with my Friday morning study group. The second is the poetry of Avraham Halfi, who was a poet and actor, and whose Collected Poems I have been reading slowly for a couple years and am now close to completing. The third is Paradise Lost, by John Milton.