In the book Have a Little Faith compare and contrast the Reb and Pastor Henry. How are their stories similar, different?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You are right to think about Reb and Pastor Henry as a good duo to compare and contrast.  In fact, in the book Have a Little Faith written by Mitch Albom, Reb and Pastor Henry are both religious teachers or leaders.  (This is the first comparison.)  The book is based on conversations the author had with each of these leaders.  Albom wrote the book because Rabbi Albert Lewis, Reb, asked him to write the eulogy for his funeral.  Albom agreed, with the stipulation that these discussions for the book were to take place.

Reb (which is short for the Yiddish word for Rabbi) is from an affluent community in New Jersey.  He is eighty-two and on his death bed.  Through asking the questions to construct the eulogy, they create a truly beautiful relationship that grows into a deep friendship full of faith and love and trust.   Reb is always truthful, even if the answers hurt.  Albom realizes that these conversations are more of a gift than his eulogy could ever be for the Rabbi.

On the other hand, Pastor Henry is an African American protestant minister from a low socio-economic neighborhood in Detroit.  Pastor Henry is an African American minister in a Church so poor that the roof leaks.  It is an urban church serving a largely homeless population.  An outcome of the conversations with Pastor Henry was the creation of the A Hole in The Roof Foundation.  This is a non-denominational foundation which helps faith groups who work with the homeless population take care of the properties which these groups utilize.  Albom learns much about how, even in the midst of poverty, one holy man can make a difference.

In conclusion, Albom has been taught something very important from two very different religious men:  one Jewish and one Christian.  In the process, Albom found how much faith is truly divisive around the world.  From conversations and mini-stories or sermons delivered by Reb, Albom begins to focus more deeply on his own faith and what it means in the greater sense of faith in the world.  So, in reality, it is Albom who explores his own self in the midst of exploring these two characters.

laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though Rabbi Albert Lewis and Pastor Henry Covington could not be from more different backgrounds, they are both men driven by a strong sense of faith and dedication to their communities. Mitch Albom spends time with both men while he attempts to write a eulogy for Lewis in Have a Little Faith.

The differences between the men have a lot to do with their pasts. Lewis has been a teacher, principal, or spiritual leader for all of his adult life. He spent his childhood in the Bronx. Covington, on the other hand, has a more checkered past. He was a drug user and dealer, and he committed many crimes. At one point, he confesses to having broken all of the Ten Commandments. 

The faiths and organizations run by the two men also differ on the surface. Lewis is Jewish. Covington is a Christian. Lewis ministers to an affluent community, while Covington's flock are largely poor, often homeless. There is a hole in the roof of the broken-down building where he preaches. These differences are reflected in the concerns and teachings of each man as they attempt to best serve their communities.

The similarities between the two men are more striking than their differences. They both teach Albom about the power of faith and comfort. They both do what they can to encourage others to believe in a higher power. They're intelligent, thoughtful men who have dedicated their lives to serving others.

By the time he was done writing, Albom decided to donate some of the profits of his book to each of the men's congregations.

Read the study guide:
Have a Little Faith: A True Story

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