Two Worlds Critical Essays

David Daiches


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

If Two Worlds is a “tribute” to his father, it is also a son’s selective recapitulation of formative experiences. Despite Rabbi Daiches’ ability to reach dissident groups within his own religious community and in the secular world of Edinburgh and beyond, his son was lonely as a child. He had few close friends in the small Jewish community and few at the secular Watson’s Boys’ College, where his orthodox observance of the Sabbath precluded participation in sports and debating. Food at the schoolboys’ favorite eating place was not kosher, so here too David felt excluded. Even on vacation at the shore, the family seems to have been a fairly separate unit. Grandfather Daiches, rabbi of an Orthodox Jewish congregation, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Leeds, is described as a wonderfully loving person, but David saw him quite infrequently; the mature Daiches suspects that his father was trying to escape a ghetto mentality.

Assessing his own break with tradition, Daiches describes the “enormous change” once he entered the University of Edinburgh. He was popular and participated actively in university life—including leadership in the literary and debating societies, closed to him earlier at Watson’s because of Sabbath scheduling.

One alternative to Orthodoxy, Liberal Judaism, was closed to him by his father’s convincing argument:My father’s chief objection to Liberal Judaism was thus that it made the individual conscience...

(The entire section is 451 words.)