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Bolts from the Blue

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Perhaps our expectations were unnaturally high when we began to read “Bolts from the Blue” by Rabbi Lionel Blue because, unfortunately, they were soon dashed. Perhaps we had been lulled into a false sense of security having enjoyed the books of choice for the previous two meetings. Rabbi Blue failed to send out any bolts and turned out to be a rather damp squib.
All of us had heard his talks on the radio at some time or other and enjoyed them for those brief two or three minutes in the early morning but, when it came to reading them one after another, the kindest thing that can be said it that they did not translate well from the aural/oral perceptions to the written word.
Occasionally a talk would induce a small smile but more frequently than not his anecdote or joke simply passed our understanding. We could recognise that he had recounted something humorous because of its place in the talk/chapter – that is where they nearly always appeared – but too frequently we did not get it. Perhaps we are more akin to his fellow Jews and unlike the ancient Irish nun in “One Lost Soul. Finder Rewarded” and never got the key of the story.
Sometimes a chapter resonated with us, for example, “It’s the Real Thing.” This is one of the rare ones in which the author is serious. There are no jokes, anecdotes or mock accents. He seriously writes about the ways to God, which are legitimate, and those that we pervert for our own ends. To make us seem bigger more important in our eyes or men’s eyes rather than God’s. We diminish Him instead of trying to grow towards God. Become more God-size, be kinder, more patient, do more than strict duty or self-interest requires. In other words, we make ourselves more generous and more loving.
The illegitimate way is for “religious ‘committees’ to be so absorbed by the small print” that the great print of generosity is lost. We all could identify with and understand the point he was so clearly making.
The sad thing about this style of book, which is, after all, not a book but a collection of short talks, is that we all recalled his talks on “Thought for the Day, “ with pleasure but in an anthology like this they became almost repetitious in style. We knew roughly how long each would be and where the joke would come and then there would be a sentence or two – no more than 4-5 lines to summarise. It became boring. Easy to read; easy to lift up for five minutes and then put down without any desire to read more and easily forgotten.

Author: Rabbi Lionel Blue

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