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Looking at Chaim Potok's the Chosen

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Anonymous

Honors Theology 221

October 7th, 2005

Looking at Chaim Potok's The Chosen

David Malter was part of the Jewish sect that took on a more modern approach. He is very understanding, and he cares very deeply for his son Reuven. Reuven and his father's relationship would be considered healthy by most people. They love each other very much, and they have a very open communication with each other.

David Malter sought for every opportunity to teach his son from the Talmud, the Jewish Holy book. At the beginning of the book, Reuven was in the hospital as a result of Danny Saunders intentionally hitting a fast line-drive that hit Reuven in the face. Reuven was rushed off to the hospital were he would spend five days there recovering. It was at the hospital where Danny and Reuven's friendship was planted, but they were off to a rocky start. Danny came to visit Reuven seeking his forgiveness, and Reuven denied him. Reuven was telling his father at the hospital about Danny's visit and that he had come to ask for his forgiveness. Reuven boastfully explained to his father that he ignored Danny's request. In response, Reuven's father taught him an important lesson by saying, "You did a foolish thing, Reuven. Do you remember what the Talmud says? If a person comes to apologize for having hurt you, you must listen and forgive him." (pg. 63) It was this early experience and many more to come that Reuven's father taught him an important doctrine of the Jewish Faith, to forgive those who seek forgiveness.

As the story evolves, Danny and Reuven become very good friends. This is a highlight for Danny, given that he has never had a close friend before Reuven. Danny has lived a very lonely life. He has not had any friends because he feels that no understands him. Reuven's father realizes Danny's loneliness, and gives Reuven some fatherly advice. He comments, "Reb Saunders' son is a terribly torn and lonely boy. There is literally no one in the world he can talk to. He needs a friend." (pg. 110) David Malter continues by saying, "The accident with the baseball has bound him to you and he has already sensed in you someone he can talk to without fear. I am very proud of you for that." (pg. 110) Reuven's father expresses his confidence to his son very openly which is an important aspect in comparing with Danny and his father's relationship. As the friendship blossoms, Danny and Reuven talk freely about their feelings towards one another, and we learn why Danny has been so lonely and torn for most of his life.

Danny Saunders' father is the Tzaddik, the religious leader of the Hasidic sect in New York. The Hasidic Jews are extremely conservative, especially Danny's father, to the Hasidic Jewry laws, family life, and culture. Reb Saunders believes that Hasidic Jews must associate with their own kind. For this reason, Danny's father must meet Reuven and approve of him before Danny can be friends with Reuven- quite the opposite perspective of Reuven's father. Danny explains to Reuven, "My father doesn't like us to mix with outsiders." (pg. 116) Upon hearing this, Reuven comments, "I hope you don't mind my saying this, but you father sounds like a tyrant." (pg. 116) It is here that we begin to establish Danny and Reb Saunders' father-son relationship. Danny somewhat agrees with Reuven and tries to explain his father by saying, "He's a very strong-willed person. When he makes up his mind about something, that's it, finished...that's why he wants to meet you." (pg. 116) Upon meeting Reuven, Reb Saunders comments to Reuven, "I worry myself about my son's friends, especially if such a friend is the son of David Malter." (pg. 142) Reb assures Reuven he is happy that they have become friends.

It is important to understand the feelings that Reb Saunders and David Malter have for each other. Through their relationship we gain a better understanding of their character, and their character reflects the why they treat their sons. As established in the paragraph before, Reb is very skeptical of David Malter. He feels that David Malter is too modern and does not follow the old Jewish ways. Reb feels that this perspective of Judaism is almost damning to one's soul. David Malter's feelings towards Reb Saunders are very different. Soon after arriving home from meeting Danny's dad, Reuven comments to his father, "Reb Saunders is a very complicated man, abba." (pg. 147) Reuven's dad defends Reb Saunders by explaining, "Reb Saunders is a great man, Reuven. Great men are always difficult to understand...it is not a simple task to be a leader of people. Reb Saunders is not a fraud." (pg 147)

In the Saunders' home, the study of the Talmud is very extensively with debated discussions between Reb and his son. Danny explains to Reuven early in their friendship that he and his father never talk except when they debate over the Talmud. If Danny has any kind of conversation with his father it is over a discussion of the Talmud, so when Danny tells Reuven that his father wants to meet him, Reuven asks, "I thought you said you father never talks to you?" (pg. 116) Danny responded by saying, "He doesn't. Except when we study Talmud." Danny continues, "..he said to bring you over today. That is the longest sentence he's said to me in years." (pg. 116)

In the sixth chapter we find out that Danny is next in line

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