Jacobi, Yehuda. “Precious Scars: My Journey to Freedom through Forgiveness”, Chazak Press, 2014.
A Moving Memoir
One of the great pleasures of reviewing is that I get to read so many different books by so many different people on so many different subjects and sure, I read a lot of trash but I also come across some very exciting books that otherwise I might never have known about. If you are familiar with my work, then you know that I gravitate toward books about being Jewish and gay because that is so much a part of me and it is not only the books that I enjoy but also the friendships that come out of reading. Whenever I read a new author, I am a bit apprehensive and especially towards a writer who chooses to write in my special field of interest. Please understand that apprehension is not vindictiveness and I always think positively when beginning a new book. My method is simple—each book gets two readings (just like when I taught college English)—the first reading is for the plot, the story, the ideas and the second is for the grammar and style and no, they do not always go hand-in-hand. As I read this book, Yehuda Jacobi caught me at the very beginning and I was totally into by page 5. There was something magical happening as this man was pouring out his heart on the pages of his book. He writes with a brutal honesty and holds nothing back.
Jacobi’s early life was one of abuse perpetrated by his father and enabled by his mother. Without doubt this caused him emotional distress that plagued him until he was able to leave home and these were issues that he would have to deal with for a long time.
There was all the pressure of dealing with his sexuality and he even went as far as contemplating taking his own life but someone or something was watching over him and a chance meeting with an LGBT-friendly church and a Taoist saved his life. He actually was able to gat a sense of spirituality and began to do self-exploration. He dealt with heavy concepts such as self-worth, forgiveness, acceptance of self and of others and he began to explore not just Eastern philosophy and religion but Christianity and Judaism as well.
As Jacobi learns more about the concepts of forgiveness, acceptance, and suffering, he begins to form a new sense of self and is increasingly drawn to concepts found in Christianity, Judaism, and Eastern religions. The big change came when his parents died and Jacobi got a glimpse of who he had become. Confronting his abuse head on, he began to write his feelings down and these are the center of the book. He did something that many of us should do and that is to explore options. So many of us do not want to be associated with religion or philosophy for two major reasons—either we feel we do not need to be bothered or we feel that religion has no place for us. He explored the main religions as well as astrology, Taoism, Spiritualism and even tarot cards. He came to the conclusion that Judaism was the best fit and begin to study the mystical aspects of Kabala hoping to find a place where he could be comfortable and receive the solace he yearned for.
During this time he kept journals and now he shares what he wrote and how he was above to incorporate what he felt into the kind of man he wanted to be.
This could have been a truly depressing read and I imagine some might find it such but I found it to be inspiring. Jacobi was able to find redemption through forgiveness and I am sure that all of us know how difficult it can be to forgive, especially an abusive parent—but then holding on only increases the anger and the pain. He reached the point that he was able to understand why his father acted as he did and he then concentrated on the positive aspects of his parenting. There is also humor in the pages and the balance is fine.
Sometimes we need help from others and are too egocentric or embarrassed to ask for it. Jacobi shows us that we need to ask when we need help and that gratitude is also important. We are all vulnerable but we can channel vulnerability into strength. There is a lot to think about here but so much of it is just plain common sense that it can be a bit embarrassing not to recognize it. In my personal life, I can vouch for having been lucky enough to have received help many times—I moved to Israel, alone, really knowing no one there and was able to build a life. When I came back to the States, I faced Hurricane Katrina and once again had to start over and finally I moved to Boston knowing maybe two people (but not knowing them well) and I have built a life here. We must never be too proud to say we need help and that is also one of the tenets of Judaism. Just because some of us have never faced the kinds of issues that Jacobi was forced to deal with does not make our own problems less significant.
The book is divided into sections—each with a Hebrew name and an English name—i.e. “In the Beginning (Bereshit)”, “Confrontation (Imutim)”, “Return (Chazara)” and “Revolution (“Pitaron)” and this is my only issue with the book. I do not particularly care for the transliterations but then I am a Hebrew speaker. I know this is a minor point but I would hate to be responsible for Yehuda Jacobi to get a swelled head. I am not sure that this is a book for everyone and others will react in the way that I have reacted but that is the beauty of having a mind. Just imagine how boring this world would be if we all agreed on everything. I give this book 5 stars because it speaks to me.