The Book of Lights is the story of two young men and their navigation through an evil and crumbling world. Indeed, when author Chaim Potok brings Albert Einstein onstage to honor the first recipient of the (fictitious) Leiden award, Einstein observes that “loran” has something to do with navigation (it is an acronym for Long Range Navigation) and that in his studies Gershon Loran has set an example for others to follow.
Gershon has long sought the Light that could somehow encompass the death light. At sixteen, he witnesses a dog giving birth on the roof of the family’s old apartment building. Such fecundity triggers an ecstatic vision: Gershon feels for a moment as if he could touch the sky, the very stars. The promise of this moment is fulfilled when he begins to study cabala in seminary; his mystical visions are given legitimacy within the Jewish tradition.
Korea changes him further. His feelings of abandonment, of the randomness of events, are no less strong, but he returns from the service with a new strength. He has learned and suffered much in Korea, but he has survived. His studies in the Zohar, he realizes, provided a curious refuge for gathering the resources within himself needed for facing a demanding chaplaincy. Inwardly, he had done battle with the voices from the other side, the voices that called for him to give up hope and dreams in a broken century.
Gershon finally understands that those voices are...
(The entire section is 567 words.)