The Chosen

2015-07-07 16.41.24

I had never read The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Apparently I am in the minority since even Cortney–the self-proclaimed “not-a-reader” has read it.

After I posted about not wanting to be a sheep, my soul sister, The Pastor’s Wife, recommended it to me. After I started reading it, I texted her, “I think I get why you recc-ed this book to me. I really love it. Thank you.” In reply she said, “It’s like a rich dessert.”

Yes. It is like a rich dessert.

It small and easily devour-able in a short amount of time, yet it’s much more enjoyable taken in small bites and savored.

The novel takes place over the course of six years starting in 1944 with the death of president Roosevelt, World War II, D Day, the revelation of the Holocaust, and the struggle for the creation of the state of Israel in the forefront of the story. The story is told from the point of view of Reuven Malter, a Jewish boy living with his father in Brooklyn, New York. Reuven and Danny Saunders, an Hasidic Jew, meet when they are fifteen years old during a softball game between their two school teams. Both boys go to Jewish schools, but Reuven’s is very strictly Hasidic and the softball games quickly becomes a religious war-zone.

During the game, Danny hits one of Reuven’s pitches right into Reuven’s eye shattering his glasses and sending him to the hospital. Against those odds, the boys become friends. Best friends.

You know what a friend is, Reuven? A Greek philosopher said that two people who are friends are like two bodies with one soul” (74).

Reuven quickly realizes that Danny is extraordinary. He has a photographic mind, remembering word-for-word everything that he has ever read. His father, Reb Saunders an Hasidic rabbi, doesn’t speak to Danny except when they are discussing the Talmud. He is raising Danny in silence. This is something neither Danny nor Reuven understand, and Reuven grows to hate Reb Saunders for how he treats Danny. Danny, however, respects and trusts his father.

Reuven’s father, a Jewish scholar and writer, gives Danny book recommendations even though he knows Reb Saunders would not approve of his boy reading secular works.

I will admit I had to look up some of the Jewish references. I didn’t know what the Talmud was or what some of the Hasidic garments were.

I loved that the story was told from Reuven’s point of view even though it was as much about Danny as it was him. It allowed the reader to be amazed by Danny as Reuven was. To watch Danny’s story unfold and be explained by Reuven’s father to us as well.

As I read, I kept thinking about the title, The Chosen. The Jews are known as “The Chosen People” by God in the Old Testament. They are the ones who will inherit the kingdom of God. No one in the book seems to have “chose” Judaism; it is part of who they are. Danny and his father strictly practice the Hasidic tradition, and that means Danny will take his place as a rabbi., even though he doesn’t want to. There is no choice in Danny’s future, unless he gives up being a Hasidic Jew.  Reuven, on the other hand, is free to choose what he wants to be, and while he excels at mathematics, he is choosing to become a Jewish Rabbi.

I don’t know that my question about needing to be a sheep was answered, but I was able to see the idea of choice and following a faith in a new way.

you will discover that the most important things that will happen to you will often come as the result of silly things, as you call them–‘ordinary things’ is a better expression. That is the way the world is” (110).

The Chosen is as much a thought piece as it is a beautiful read. It’s a rich dessert for the mind.

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