The Chosen. Chaim Potok. A Fawcett Crest Book. Published by Ballantine Books. Copyright © by Chaim Potok. ISBN Table of Contents. The Chosen Teacher's Guide. By Chaim Potok. The Chosen by Chaim Potok Teachers: If you'd like a printable version of this guide, click on the PDF link at. Bloom'sGUIDES Chaim Potok'sThe Chosen CURRENTLY AVAILABLE The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn All the Pretty.
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She sends Mickey, the boy, from the ward, and after scolding Savo she soon goes also, leaving him to sleep. Reuven spots Galanter coming up the aisle. Billy then asks that Reuven turn off the radio so he can sleep, and Reuven dozes too, dreaming about his damaged eye. He wears a dark suit, a black skull cap, earlocks, and fringes below his jacket.
Danny asks about the scar tissue, having called David to inquire about Reuven the night before. Reuven, more awake and alert, angrily asks how it feels to blind someone. He does, apologizing once more, and Reuven is left shaking, frightened by his own anger. Reuven says he wants to sleep, and while coming to regret his behavior, he watches Savo play solitaire.
He is truly alone in the world: a gentile without a family or a community. That evening, David Malter comes to visit, and Reuven explains what happened.
Angry, Mr. Malter admonishes Reuven, then quickly apologizes for scolding him.
He reiterates, though, that Reuven must learn to be patient and listen, then changes the subject, wanting to discuss the war. Reuven agrees, then lies back in bed, depressed. The following morning Danny arrives for another visit. Reuven wonders, in this moment, at the strangeness of the situation—how quickly a friendship seemed to be developing from animosity.
Reuven, who considers one page of Talmud a day to be strenuous, wonders at this, and Danny explains that only he has to work at this pace, because of his father. Danny asks what page Reuven is studying now, and upon hearing the answer, Danny mechanically recites the page from memory, including commentaries and legal decisions.
Reuven says he might also be a rabbi, and Danny wonders at this, stating that he could be so many other things. Readers witnessed already how openly, lovingly, and encouragingly the Malters speak to each other, while here we learn that Danny and Reb speak not at all, other than Talmud study. A few minutes later, at the opening of Chapter Four, David Malter comes in, looking pale and ill.
He tells Reuven that Dr. Reuven is just thrilled by the idea of going home. David rather vehemently insists that Reuven make Danny his friend, and then inquires about Billy, who sleeps in the next bed. Reuven explains that the accident that blinded the boy also killed his mother, stirring pity in David. After David leaves, Mr. Savo also asks about Danny and warns Reuven not to trust him completely.
Like Potok, it seems, Savo believes religious fanaticism to be ultimately destructive. He hears people moving around, and a tense nurse tells him to go back to sleep, so he does. Carpenter is moving down the aisle. While eating breakfast, Reuven sees Dr. Snydman and Mrs. After going out into the hall so as not to disturb Savo, the boys settle on a bench and talk about how they were both born at this hospital. Though distant, Danny continues, explaining that he reads seven or eight books a week in addition to his schoolwork, including books by Darwin and Huxley secular thinkers whose writings were forbidden among the Hasids.
Danny reads in the library secretly, because his father is strict about what he reads. He says yes, and that he believes in God, though Reuven remains skeptical. In these exchanges, readers again see how vital and important intellectual exercise is to these young characters: they are willing to dedicate all their leisure time to extra-academic pursuits. Reuven introduces his friend to his father, and the two stare at each other until David finally remarks that Danny must play ball as well as he reads books; David is the man at the library who has suggested books for Danny.
David explains how he sat at the table one day and Danny approached him, asking for recommendations; after David gave him one, he came back two hours later, asking for more. Soon, the two discussed the books Danny read, though Danny demurs when asked his name, so David later finds out who the boy is from the librarian. In the hospital, Danny thanks David for his suggestions and says he will keep coming to the library.
The next morning, Savo greets him. Savo then lies back to sleep, and Reuven prays for Billy. After adjusting to the light in the room, feeling the cold on his eye, Reuven realizes that he can see. Snydman says Reuven can go home, but he wants to see him in ten days. When leaving with Mrs. Carpenter, Reuven asks about Billy, and the nurse evasively says that they always hope for the best.
Getting dressed in the clothes he last wore at the ball game, Reuven waits nervously for his father, who finally appears. Reuven says goodbye to Savo and learns that he lost his eye. Though Savo only appears briefly in the novel, he represents secular American society. Potok scholar Edward A. Billy, on the other hand, evokes compassion and a grounded sense of perspective in Reuven.
He and his father live on the first floor of a three story brownstone, and as they enter the apartment, Reuven smells chicken soup. Manya, the Russian housekeeper, runs from the kitchen to greet him.
Reuven and his father eat a lunch feast, prepared by Manya, and then Mr. Malter goes to his study to work on an article. Reuven walks through the apartment, overwhelmed by how new everything now appears to him, emphasizing again how much his perspective has shifted in this short time. His room, a narrow space, has New York Times war maps on the wall near his bed, as well as torn out magazine photos of Albert Einstein and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
He enters the study quietly. The room is the same size as his room, though there are no windows, and the walls are covered floor-to-ceiling with bookcases. Malter sits at his desk typing, wearing his black skull cap and surrounded by scattered papers.
He frowns, not liking to be disturbed, and Reuven moves through the study to the living room. There, Reuven stood at the windows a long time, watching children play in the street. He feels like a completely different person, though the surroundings are familiar. He 37 thinks about Danny visiting him the next day, pondering this new presence in his life. After the Shabbat meal that night, when Manya had cleaned and left, Reuven and his father linger at the kitchen table Chapter Six.
David then says that Reuven should keep Danny in mind as he hears the next story, one of a Polish boy in the second half of the seventeenth century. The boy, Solomon, had been a genius, though he later changed his Polish name to Maimon.
As a boy, Talmudic study could not satisfy his thirst for knowledge. He wanted to learn things from the world outside his community, but he could not, since secular books were forbidden. At age twenty-five, however, he left his wife and child to escape to Berlin, where he read the work of philosophers, found a set of intellectual peers, and wrote his own philosophical tracts.
David wants the two to be friends, he says in conclusion. Reuven voices how strange it is that everything in his life has shifted because of a baseball game, and he explains to his father how, when he came home from the hospital, everything seemed new.
Reuven goes to bed, leaving his father at the kitchen table. Reuven and David seem a wholly complete family unit. Primarily, this chapter fills in the historical context of the story. The next day Chapter Seven , Reuven goes with his father to synagogue—a converted grocery store—where other teachers and students from their yeshiva worship.
Afterward, when Reuven and his father have lunch, David says that Reuven can return to school and listen, but he is still forbidden to read. While in this haze, Reuven opens his eyes to find Danny before him. Reuven cleans up and they head out.
Walking along the street, Reuven asks Danny why his father wants to meet him. Danny asks Reuven about brothers and sisters, but Reuven explains that his mother died soon after his birth.
This information may seem jarring to readers at first; previous to this—particularly at the baseball game—the two boys seem younger, lacking sexual interest or curiosity, and many scholars have long criticized the corny clunkiness of much of their dialogue.
Danny explains that Reb is strong-willed, and although Reb almost never talks to Danny outside of Talmud study, Danny made a point to tell Reb about Reuven. This was the only personal interaction he had had with him, apart from convincing him about the baseball team. He soon goes back to discussing Reb, who he admires for leading his community from Russia to America after World War I.
Reb himself had a bullet lodged in his chest 40 and a saber wound in his pelvis, and the Cossacks left him for dead. The temple had been destroyed by fire, and of the more than one hundred Jewish families in the community, only fortythree remained. Russia, meanwhile, pulled out of the war, but chaos within its borders proved just as lethal.
Soon, Reb announced to his people that they were through with Russia, and that they would go to America. After five months of bribing and bargaining their way across countries, they finally landed at Ellis Island. They settled in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where three years later, Reb re-married; his first son from this marriage, Danny, was born two days before the stock market crash.
This harrowing, tragic backstory for Reb sets up readers to have some sympathy and understanding for his perspective. Danny explains that Reb is the bridge between his people and God, and Reuven remarks that this sounds like Catholicism.
Trash blew around on the street, and women in long sleeves and kerchiefs, often with children in their arms or pregnant, sat on steps and spoke Yiddish.
He takes a seat, and Reuven tells Danny, in a low voice, that he feels like a cowboy surrounded by Indians; though they are all Jews, the distinctions between the groups are sharp. The boys sit down as the men file into the temple. Danny identifies and repeats, word for word, the passage and dispenses his interpretation of it, quoting commentators along the way. He tells them that they are both right, in a way, and the men smile and leave.
Reuven opens the old, yellowed prayer book before him, so different from the new one he had used at his own temple that morning; this emphasizes again, albeit subtly, that one community lives in the past while the other embraces the present.
The noise in the room ceases, and a tall man in a black satin caftan and a fur-trimmed black hat makes his way up the aisle, while a young boy trails behind him. The men bow, and some lean out to touch him. Reb approaches Reuven and Danny, and they stand. Danny introduces Reuven in Yiddish, and Reuven knows that Reb is staring at his injured eye.
He knows he should answer in Yiddish, but his grasp of the language is poor, so he responds in English. Soon, Reb steps up to a podium, his back to the congregation. The boys sit, and the service gets underway. The meeting ends with the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead.
Reb heads back up the aisle again with the boy in tow, and Danny nudges Reuven to rise and follow Reb. The four sit at a table, and the other men, after singing and clapping, assemble at tables of their own. Reb stands, washes his hands, and says a blessing over the bread, followed by Danny and Reuven. As Reb finishes his food, someone clears his plate away, and Danny fills another plate for him. The meal ends in song, which Reuven joins in singing.
The contradiction, Reb explains, is that people are powerless, so why should God do their will? According to Reb Saunders, God is inside the man who does His will, thus raising that man from his lowly, powerless status as a human.
Someone who gets distracted from his study by the outside world may forfeit his life, according to scripture; at this, Danny quickly looks at his father, then lowers his eyes. His body goes limp, he fights a smile, and he sighs; this body language, astutely described by Potok, indicates that Danny and Reb perpetually have this unspoken tension between them about this issue.
Reb asks whose task it is to study the Torah.
Reb pursues this exercise with several different words and phrases, gleaning spiritual messages from numerical equations. Einstein, Roosevelt, and the soldiers fighting Hitler are part of the outside world, too, he argues, just as much as the villains Reb named.
Everyone stares at Danny, and Reb sits and crosses his arms over his chest. With some prodding, Danny finally speaks, correcting his father on the name of one of rabbis he referenced.
The crowd murmurs approval, and Reb nods and asks Danny if there were other mistakes. Danny says no. Reb asks Danny more questions, the answers to which require memorization of passages as well as conflicting commentaries.
Danny supplies all answers without strain, and Reuven sits in wonder, watching Reb and Danny. In the temple, the quiz ends, but Reb presses Danny on 44 whether or not anything else in the service needed correction. Danny tenses up and says no, but Reb keeps asking, admonishing Danny for listening only until he heard the mistake. Reb asks Reuven if he noticed anything wrong. After initially freezing up, Reuven says that not all of the gematriya were good: one of the words he used comes to five hundred and three, not five hundred and thirteen.
After the evening service, the men all exit the room, leaving Reuven alone with Danny, Reb, and Levi. Reb sighs and shakes his head again, saying that he is glad Danny and Reuven are friends.
This comment throws the two fathers into direct contrast, wherein rigid, Old World Reb faces off against David, who rationally brings together the best elements of the religious and secular worlds to achieve an advantageous balance in his life and work.
Reb is glad Danny has friends, because he, himself, has many responsibilities and cannot always talk to his son. Reb tells Reuven that it will not be easy to be a good friend, then turns to leave, his youngest son trailing behind. Reb and Danny had said nothing to each other all day, Reuven realizes, outside of the Talmud quiz.
Danny walks Reuven home, noting that Reuven must see Reb as a tyrant. Reuven says that Reb seems a tyrant one moment, kind the next. Reuven asks about the quizzing, which Danny confirms happens every week. The congregants are proud of Reb and Danny and love to hear these exchanges, he explains. Reuven asks if Reb always does gematriya, and Danny says no. David appears pleased. Reuven protests, though, that he thought the quiz cruel and terrible. Danny, too, will have to follow the same path, which David regrets.
Reuven goes to bed, leaving his father sitting at the kitchen table. In this chapter, for the first time, readers can directly contrast the two father-son relationships.
Critic Sam Bluefarb observed, The Saunderses seem to have an excess of head in their makeup; but the Malters have heart and head: they are in balance Sidney Goldberg and Davey Cantor approach him at recess to talk about the game, but this strikes Reuven as silly now. After school, Reuven goes to the public library to meet Danny. A quote from Keats about truth and beauty is engraved in stone above the entrance, and trees, a lawn, and flowers compose the area in front of the library. Upon entering, Reuven finds a mural of great thinkers, which includes both religious figures, like Jesus and Mohammed, with giants of 47 science, like Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein.
On the opposite wall, a mural of great writers spans the space.
All these images of the library represent that which Danny is not allowed—officially—to notice or explore. His father, and Hasids in general, think that to remain pure and be a bridge to God, one must refuse outside temptations and stay focused on the Talmud, but it is precisely these secular studies and ideas that fascinate Danny.
Also, ironically, the beauty of nature outside the library hearkens back to the story of Israel, the original founder of the Hasids, who chose to venture into the woods instead of sitting in a classroom. In this passage, Potok subtly underlines how Reuven himself had been blind, in a way, previous to his injury.
After having almost lost his sight, his vision, and powers of perception, seem more powerful and focused than before. Reuven finds Danny hunched over a book in a corner on the third floor. Reuven observes how Danny reads quickly, down the center of each page.
Instead, he works through symbolic logic problems with his eyes closed.