Study Guide

The Magic Barrel Religion

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Malamud doesn't go overboard in his religious descriptions, but hey: Leo's studying to be a rabbi—religion and God are on this story like white on rice. In fact, what at first appears to be a quest for love actually turns into a search for God.

In "The Magic Barrel," finding God can only be achieved through man. By seeking out loving connections with our fellow human beings, we actually discover God's love… or at least the hope that we can find that love someday. It isn't easy and it doesn't come without a price. But in the end, it's the only struggle worth making.

Questions About Religion

  1. Why doesn't Leo have a loving relationship with God?
  2. How does Leo's rabbinical studies affect other people's impression of him?
  3. In what ways does God make his presence known in the story?
  4. How does Salzman's plan fit into a seemingly larger cosmic plan?

Chew on This

God's presence is a palpable force in Leo's life, designed to restore his faith.

God's presence is incidental and Leo finds his way through his own choices.

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