Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Ozzie Freedman has been attending a synagogue Hebrew school in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah confirmation. He is a bright student, but entirely too inquisitive for the comfort of his teacher, Rabbi Marvin Binder. Binder is irritated by Ozzie’s inability to accept traditional doctrinal answers to fundamental religious questions, and he has summoned Mrs. Freedman three times to discuss her son’s disruptive influence on his class.
During the Wednesday afternoon class prior to their third scheduled meeting, tensions between Ozzie and Binder precipitate a crisis. Earlier, Ozzie resisted Binder’s facile dismissal of Christian claims for the divinity of Jesus. He was also dissatisfied with Binder’s explanation for an airplane crash and for why Jews were particularly grieved over the number of Jews on board. Now they clash over the issue of God’s omnipotence.
During the free discussion period, none of the boys volunteers any comments or questions. Binder, however, sensing that Ozzie has something on his mind, goads him into speaking. Ozzie wants to know why, if God can do absolutely anything, it was not possible for Him to have arranged a virgin birth for Jesus. His insistence that Binder does not know what he is talking about provokes an uproar in the class and an angry reaction from the rabbi.
When Binder slaps him, Ozzie runs up onto the roof of the synagogue. The fire department is summoned, and Ozzie soon finds himself...
(The entire section is 389 words.)
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‘‘The Conversion of the Jews’’ starts with a theological conversation between Ozzie Freedman and his friend, Itzie Lieberman, two Jewish teenagers. Ozzie recounts an argument that he had that day with Rabbi Binder in Hebrew school at their synagogue, or Jewish place of worship. The rabbi had denounced the virgin birth of Jesus as impossible. Ozzie was confused because he had been taught to believe that God was all-powerful, which would mean that He could create a divine birth if He chose. Ozzie pushes the issue, and Rabbi Binder says he needs to speak with Ozzie’s mother. This is the third time that Ozzie’s widowed mother will have to come speak to the rabbi about Ozzie’s religious questions. (The first two times were sparked by Ozzie’s rebellion against the belief that Jews are the chosen people.) That night, Ozzie delays telling his mother about his day, waiting patiently while his mother performs her Sabbath candle-lighting ritual. Afterwards, he tells his mother why she needs to go meet with the rabbi the next day, and she slaps his face for the first time in his life.
The next day, during free-discussion time, Ozzie asks his previous question about why God cannot do anything He chooses to do, then he insults the rabbi by attacking his knowledge of God. The rabbi smacks Ozzie’s face, giving him a bloody nose. Ozzie curses the rabbi and escapes to the roof of the synagogue. Yakov Blotnik, the old custodian at the synagogue, calls the...
(The entire section is 459 words.)