Sunday, April 22, 2018

Q&A with Yemima Bakol

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Disillusions?

A: It began with my asking myself what I am actually doing to further Torah study. I wanted an easy-to-read and relatively small novel-form narrative (and Disillusions is only 180 pages) that’s a kind of simplifying digest of most of the central spiritual concepts of Torah.   

Q: The book jacket describes Disillusions as “an answer to two international bestsellers, Richard Bach’s 1977 Illusions and Dr. Stephen Hawking’s 1988 A Brief History of Time.” How did you choose that particular format for this book?

A: When I was in high school, the big rave was Richard Bach’s books Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions. I remember thinking, even back then, that he totally misses the mark on the concept of illusion – as in “this world’s an illusion” – and that I’d love to answer him by redefining it in Torah terms. 

Plus Bach’s two characters kept posing existential questions that they did not and could not answer, which, again, I knew Torah could.

Ditto for Dr. Hawking’s book, which was the rave when I was in college. Everyone was saying how it answers all the questions of the cosmos. But it really doesn’t at all. 

When you actually read it, you see that it’s primarily a book of unanswered existential questions and statements on where science has failed or can go no further. Here too, I felt this urge to present Torah as the only source and answer to all those questions.

So, these stashed-away ideas that I already had to answer these two books were the perfect jumping-off point and format for presenting all the Torah material in Disillusions. 

Regardless, Disillusions does not require the reader to have read either of the addressed books.

Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: The main framework of the story and focus of Disillusions is to answer Bach’s Illusions. Thus the similarity in titles. The meaning of disillusions represents the bursting of Bach’s illusions or mistaken beliefs. Disillusions becomes their restatement.

Actually, the full title of the book is Disillusions: A Spiritual GPS For the Journeyer & The Real New World Order. I wanted to present Torah in its true spiritual light, sans religiosity and politics, and I wanted to emphasize Torah’s essence as metaphysical and eternal by reframing it in modern and tangible terms. Thus the second part of the title.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

A: Optimally, a fascination with, awe, and love of Torah! I hope readers take away a totally new view of Torah: that it contains all of the answers to everything in the universe, is timeless, and is pertinent to our lives today. I hope readers find Torah their personal spiritual guide, and I would love if it also brought them to teshuva! Ditto aliya, as Disillusions tells why Am Yisrael needs to come home ASAP.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Something a bit more autobiographical. I’m putting together the tales (or trials and tribulations, plus the happy and funny ones) of raising my youngest child, who is handicapped, here in Israel.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: When you’re done reading Disillusion, I hope you’ll also read and enjoy my first book, To Cross The Line With A Bridge (Rabeinu Publications, 2015) and my poetry on my blog “Songs of a Soul of Israel.” Thanks!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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