In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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Rising from the rabbi’s texts, Ester might pore over her father’s copy of a French treatise about the soul and matter, and the extension of matter in space. The contrast riveted her: the difference between the thinking of Christians and the increasingly complex rabbinic texts Rabbi HaCoen Mendes brought for her to study. The Christians, it seemed to Ester, wished to fathom the mechanism of the soul: by which levers did it pull the body into motion, and by which was it pulled by the divine? Yet the rabbis had little concern for such deliberation. What, they wished to know, were the minute instructions for doing God’s will? How must the economy of devotion be paid in laws of kashrut, in decorations of house and body, in the number of repetitions of a prayer…how were laws for behavior to be observed under this and that specific circumstance?
The difference between the two manners of thought seemed to hold the key to something she couldn’t name. Must the two—the Christian and the Hebrew, the soul and the measurable, tangible world—remain disconnected? Or was there some middle terrain where a person —even someone like Ester’s own too-thin self, with her always-cold hands, her ribcage that felt too narrow to contain all the air she needed to gulp—might understand the purpose of life more readily? And what of the arguments of the apostates—why did the rabbis ban such speech, rather than welcome it in order to refute it?
Business Manager Diane John
Excerpt from The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
It starts with the name, Keisha. It’s not a name handed down from previous generations, nor is it aspiration borrowed from television heroines. Keisha is a name that became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Black parents adopted names entirely their own. It has since become a shorthand way of referring to Black women of Generation X—be she the woman who works in the post office or your mother’s wise-cracking best friend, the deaconess at the Baptist church or now the mayor of a major American city. Such was the significance that local rap artist TopNotch composed a song in her honor, “Atlanta’s Got a Mayor Named Keisha.”
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “A Mayor Named Keisha” in Glamour