“‘…our sages tell us to repent exactly one day before we die.’
But how do you know it’s the day before you die, I asked.
He raised his eyebrows.
I’m in a book club with a religious or spiritual focus. Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith was our March book. The cover was designed to look like the prayer book of Mitch’s rabbi, Albert Lewis, well used and held together with rubber bands. It was inspired by a request by Albert Lewis to Albom to write his eulogy.
Albom was raised Jewish, but gradually fell away from the faith. He married a Christian woman of Lebanese descent. He only returned to the New Jersey synagogue of his youth where Albert Lewis was the rabbi for over fifty years when he visited his parents on holidays, but never joined a new one in his home in Detroit. When Albert Lewis asked Albom to write his eulogy, Lewis wasn’t dying, and Albom felt unworthy. Nevertheless, Albom accepted the task, and began visiting Lewis over the next eight years in an effort to know him better. Albom says it best with this:
“And, as is often the case with faith, I thought I was being asked a favor, when in fact I was being given one.” (2)
As we get to know Lewis or, “the Reb”, Albom also introduces us to former drug addict Henry Covington–the pastor of an impoverished Christian church in Detroit. Albom is admittedly skeptical about Henry to start, but gradually grows to trust and admire him as he watches a man with rain coming in through a hole in the church roof, praise God for his goodness, feed and house homeless people, and lead a small but devoted flock.
Have a Little Faith is both interesting in terms of watching Albom grow in his faith and understanding, and instructive to the reader. Through dialogue with the Reb, the actions of Henry, and the excerpts from the Reb’s sermons, Albom creates a short, readable book that’s dense in wisdom and insight–so dense, in fact, that I dog eared at least a fourth of the pages with quotes I want to remember.
Albom (who wrote Tuesdays with Morrie) is a master of tackling matters of faith and human understanding without melodrama or sappiness. Have a Little Faith is universal without being politically correct, challenging without being antagonistic, and uplifting without using cliche. I recommend this book, especially for book clubs or discussion groups.