The Assistant

by: Bernard Malamud

Important Quotations Explained

"If you live, you suffer. Some people suffer more, but not because they want. But I think if a Jew don't suffer for the Law, he will suffer for nothing." "What do you suffer for, Morris?" Frank said. "I suffer for you," Morris said calmly.

This quote comes toward the end of Chapter Four after Frank asks Morris some questions about what it means to be Jewish. Morris explains that being Jewish means adherence to the Law, the Torah, which for him means being honest and compassionate with other people. Some people interpret religion solely according to the specifics of its regulations, like its dietary laws, however for Morris Bober it is more important to live with a moral and religious heart. Morris's explanation is one of several lectures on ethics that he delivers to Frank Alpine. Morris's instruction is important because it is through hearing and absorbing Morris's lessons that Frank will begin to transform and his transformation is what drives the plot of the novel. This quote also helps to demonstrate Malamud's own opinions on Judaism. Malamud suggests that the key to being Jewish lies in acting in a humane way with a willingness to suffer for other people. By defining Judaism according to one's behavior and not one's racial ethnicity, Malamud opens the definitions of who is a Jew. In fact, in a much-debated quote Malamud once stated that "All men are Jews", an idea that seems consistent with Morris's philosophy quoted here.