Sunday, February 24, 2008


This is an excerpt from With All My Heart, With All My Soul by B. D. Da'ehu. It's pages 286-288.


"Josh," she said calmly and deliberately, "I want you to kiss me- I want you to hug me and hold me tightly and not let go!"

Josh's eyes opened wide in dismay. "Chris!"

"I want you to do it- now!"

"Chris- please-"

"I can make you, you know," she said determinedly, unmoved by his plea, and there was no doubt in his mind that she could and that she would.

A strange look came over him, and the expression on Chris's face turned from desire to fear.

"Listen to me-" he said in a terrible voice which frightened her "-listen!"

His face was pallid, his voice shook with an awful tremor, and had he seized both her arms and shaken her in agonized frustration, the effect upon her could not have been greater.

"Have you never wondered why I never call you anything but 'Chris'- nothing sweet, nothing loving? - do you think I'm so cold not to have such feelings? I'll tell you why," his voice began to crack with emotion "- it's because I'm afraid of what it might do to me. I love you so much it hurts- it hurts me in every nerve of my body. From the time I came to know you, you have never been out of my thoughts. I see you in everything that is beautiful, in everything that is noble, in everything sublime- in every joy that I can possibly hope for and in every prospect of happiness I can possibly imagine. And at night, I dream of you- and when I wake up I can barely tell whether I dreamt or not. With you next to me, the poorest piece of barren earth I stand upon is transformed into an Eden- and without you, I sometimes hardly care whether one exists or not. I have as much hope of finding happiness without you as I can think of being someone else- oh, Chris!"

And now the pent-up emotions of many a torturous hour, resolutely suppressed over days and weeks, gushed forth unimpeded as his tears fell fast and free.

"If I could-if only I could-" he gesticulated imploringly with his hands "- a pack of wild animals couldn't keep me from you! You want me to kiss you- to hold you- and don't you think I want to- to kiss you- to hold you- to press your face against me and never let go? But I can't, Chris- I can't! Oh, I've sinned- I've sinned terribly in letting this happen- I've wronged both of us- again and again...

"Chris- this is the one vestige of dignity I still have- please, don't take it from me- because then I've lost everything. Perhaps...perhaps some day, some other time- in some hallowed corner of the universe- but not here...not now..."

Chris looked into his tear-stained, tormented face, and now, not for her own sake but for his, longed to reach out and cradle that poor, troubled head in her arms, to wipe away the tears and soothe the pain. But she could no more do that than fulfill her own desire.

Chris lowered her head and sobbed quietly-

"I'm...I'm sorry, Josh- I'm sorry. It won't happen again. Good night."

She unlocked the door and closed it behind her.


And this is what power is, to have the ability to force someone else to give up their principles and ideals, even for a moment. And this is what restraint is, to refuse to do it, to refuse to use the power that is yours, for the sake of the other person and his dignity, for the sake of what you truly know them to be, and the fact that you love them more than yourself.

It is the hardest thing in the world to do- to practice restraint, when that power is in your grasp.

It is possible to do. I honor those who have done it, because I know what it means, and what it costs. One's strength lies in what one does not do, having had the ability to do it, far more than what one does do...


been there/done that said...

"One's strength lies in what one does not do..."

I agree with this statement comoletely,even though some perceive this as an easy out. I say it's much harder to restrain oneself and not do/say things that one might regret later. I consider this a gift.

Moshe said...

One of my favorite parts of the book...I am so glad you enjoyed it!

And yes, we are stronger because of what we do not do.

So true.

the one in the wrong/per him said...

' One's strength lies in what one does not do, having had the ability to do it, far more than what one does do..."

This is a golden quote. I lost the love of my life due to the fact that I wouldn't tell him what would hurt him so terribly. He,of course,interpretes it as me being"gutless"....
His peace of mind is more important to me than anything else in the world,he simply doesn't get it.

Yair said...

"Self-respect is the fruit of discipline, the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself."
-Abraham Joshua Heschel

jackie said...

Very reminiscent of when Jane leaves Rochester in Jane Eyre. She must deny her own wishes because if she were to fulfill them she would destroy her soul/moral standards.

This theme is one of the most powerful in literature and in human nature.

People say that what distinguishes us from animals is free will--but how do we know that animals lack free will? Don't they also choose to do just about anything they want? The answer that animals can indeed do whatever they want. But free will is not the power to do what you desire. It is instead the power to do what you do not desire.

Aaron from YU said...

Chana,the content of one of your recent posts "Steel" addresses the point in this current post rather well. Hope the person who didn't experience your wrah that day is appreciative of your thoughtful restraint not to hurt him/her. You are indeed wise for your years.

Bas~Melech said...

B.D. Da'ehu... heh :-)

Moshe Y. Gluck said...

Great book.

G said...

One's strength lies in what one does not do, having had the ability to do it, far more than what one does do...

--If you only knew the author.

B.D. Da'ehu... heh :-)

--You have no idea.

Moshe said...

Wait, G, do you know the author? I heard a rumor that he's from Cleveland --- do you know who it is????

upset and hurting said...

Some people consider restraint not to offend/hurt someone an emotional shut-down/inability to communicate. I find this ridiculous. Why should I yell at the person if he doesn't understand things the nice way? The guy I'm seeing currently often interprets my emotional withdrawal as shutting down. He will not own up to the fact that his actions are causing my reactions.I pointed him to psych books,we had discussions to clear the air-nothing helps. It's so very sad.I'm the cause of all negative inthe relationship,he is just a passive participant.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but post my review on said book that I wrote for Amazon. I cannot just stand by.

Lord Help Me (and the author), July 8, 2007
By B,D, DayeNU

RETCH. This book defies words for its incredible awfulness. I was intrigued - how could I not be - by the premise of a young man 'shteiging' in Lakewood yeshiva while pursuing a phD in lit at Princeton ... that's enough to pull me in (especially since the author himself is rumored - pseudonym, of course, but at this point his cover is blown - for having done the same) but then - da dam! - he falls for a non Jewish girl (beautiful of course) named Christine, funnily enough (this should've been a warning sign, if the title wasn't one enough- I'm surprised the author didn't make her last name Magdalene) - and the plot thickens. Well I'm all for the mind soul - heart soul? - conflict, so, sure, sign me up.
AAAAGGHHH! Explain to me how a literary scholar can write SO poorly? Is there a cliche he left out? We have our hero, Josh/Yehoshua, who is handsome, brilliant, beloved and a seemingly perfect man. So perfect, in fact, that he doesn't even register the conflict that one SHOULD be feeling leaving an institute of kuloh Torah twice a week to immerse himself in secular studies with the same fervor. No, he's actually totally fine with that because he is a Jew first and foremost and this is just a fun side activity. yeah. Whatever. Then enter the heroine, who is so beautiful that Josh (heads up, this is a definite winner for talmudic pick up lines) can't help but think - there is a commandment to make a blessing upon seeing beauty thatis out of the ordinairy - surely she would qualify.
It gets even vomity-er as the book continues. The author uses this book as a mouthpiece for all of his knowledge of Torah and philosophy and lit and his own opinions on all of that (hey buddy, Ayn Rand called, she wants her pretense of fiction back) and just tacks on a he said, she said at the end and calls it dialogue. YAWN. he's also a great one for going on and on in his speeches and then having the listener marvel at how clever and witty and brilliant the character is. Way to pat yourself on the back.
Sigh - what a shame. All that potential. There is no subtlety, and for all the complexity of the conflict, no complexity! He spells out, LOUD and clear, all the feelings of the characters without leaving anything to be deduced, but leaves out huge chunks where character dimension and plan old realism ought to be. Um, where are the shadchans that should be knocking down Josh's door, with him grappling over how to tell them he's 'busy'? Where are his friends wondering why he's never around? How is it that after three encounters in the library Josh and Chris declare undying love for each other? Hello? How bout the Rosh Yeshiva - telling Josh to go ahead and give Princeton a go -- yeah that's SO realistic. Please! And the fact that Josh insists from the getgo that they be shomer negiah - and it only comes up once that she raises the issue? How is JOsh so comfortable with women, given his limited access? We hear very little about his family life and background (save for his, of course, saintly sister who somehow seems to take this bombshell of her holy brother dating a gentiel with a lot of equanimity) which I guess makes sense since the depth of his character was clearly not on the author's mind. If he wanted an excuse to espouse all sorts of philosophical banter (the way brilliant people flirt, apparently) then couldn't he have just written them up in some style akin to his musings, journal entries or whatnot? I mean, really. This just gives fiction a bad name.
This book was so bad I had to finish it so I could properly complain. Everyone was perfect and no one seemed to have any development beyond puppet like motions to move along the, er, "plot." This book is beyond editing. It needs to be rewritten, and it should be, because this could be one great book, idea wise, if the author could just get over himself and lay off the harlequins ('the sun had never risen before she met Josh' ... o..m..g...). Stick to your day job, man - apparently your critique of literature only goes so far.

Moshe Y. Gluck said...

Anonymous: It is a morality tale. It doesn't need a strong plot or character development or even realism. (BTW, the author includes a note at the beginning of the book saying that the existence of circumstances described in the book is a virtual impossibility.)