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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Reuven's family lives on the first floor of a three-story brownstone house. It has a tiny lawn in the front with tall sycamore trees facing the structure. Reuven is delighted to return here to familiar surroundings. Manya, the Russian housekeeper, is overcome with relief to see Reuven well. She cooks special dishes for him for lunch.
Reuven's father retires to his study, which is lined with floor-to- ceiling bookcases that are filled to capacity. Reuven is happy to note that his father's cough has improved considerably. Reuven goes out to the porch, where he sits in a lounge chair and thinks about the events of the last few days, including the presence of Danny in his life.
This chapter centers on Reuven's homecoming. The author begins by giving an elaborate description of Reuven's cozy house, both inside and out. He emphasizes the study of David Malter.
Manya, the Malter's Russian housekeeper, is introduced. She is a mother figure to Reuven, worrying about him in his absence and smothering him with love and affection upon his return. To show her fondness for him, she cooks all of his favorite foods for lunch.
Although the chapter is devoid of action, a mood of sedentary comfort is clearly conveyed. All seems peaceful again in Reuven's world.
On the night that Reuven returns home from the hospital, he and his father have dinner together. Reuven seizes the opportunity to question his father about Danny and his religious sect. To explain about Danny and his upbringing, Mr. Malter tries to explain some Polish history. He tells Reuven about the horrors that the Jewish Poles had to endure. At first they were welcomed into the community, but then the Cossacks began to feel that the Jews were exploiting them. As a result, there was a revolution against the Polish Jews, which lasted for ten years. During the revolution, many Jews were tortured and killed. The Polish Jews began to hope for a Messiah to come and save them. Many false messiahs presented themselves. The first was Shabbtai Zvi, who gained many followers. Unfortunately, he inflicted much damage on his people, preventing Jewish scholarship and destroying Jewish spirituality.
At about the same time, a man named Israel presented himself. He spent his time roaming in the woods, looking at flowers and brooks, and studying the holy Jewish books. He preached that God was everywhere and that no man was so sinful that he could not be purified by love and understanding. People admired Israel's gentleness and believed in his teachings; they began to call him Ba'al Shem Tov, the good master. He soon had many followers, who eventually became the Hasidic Jews. Rabbi Elijah of Vilna was a strong opponent of Israel and Hasidism, and tried unsuccessfully to stop their influence.
In the following century, Hasidism began to degenerate, for people began to exploit these Jews. In reaction, the exploited Jews became very rigid. They forbid any of their people to read secular literature and dictated how they would dress and think. It is like they tried to freeze their lives into the past, and even in the present they have not changed much.
Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Danny's father is a genius and a great Talmudist. It is expected by the community that Danny will automatically follow in his father's footsteps. To help Reuven understand Danny better, he tells him the story of Solomon, a Polish genius of the latter eighteenth century. His thirst for knowledge could not be satisfied by the Talmud, so he began to read other philosophical books to satisfy his mind, just like Danny. Mr. Malter seems to think that both Solomon and Danny are special phenomena.
He once again advises his son to develop a strong friendship with Danny.
In this chapter, the author gives an insight into Jewish history, emphasizing the formation of Hasidism. Because the Polish Jews were so miserable, they looked for a messiah to save them. When the gentle Israel appeared and began to preach about God's love, many Jews followed him as their master and eventually became the Hasidic Jews. But this sect was exploited because of their gentleness. In reaction, the Hasidic Jews became very rigid and began to dictate how its members should think and dress. That rigidity still exists in Reuven's day, as clearly evidenced by Danny's father.
Mr. Malter also tells Reuven about Solomon, a Jewish genius of the latter eighteenth century. Believing that the Talmud could not answer all of his questions, he began to read secular literature. Reuven's father then compares Danny Saunders to Solomon, pointing out that Reuven's new friend is a genius with a thirst for knowledge beyond the Jewish holy books, just like Solomon.
Mr. Malter encourages Reuven to become Danny's good friend. It is obvious that this wise teacher understands Danny and his needs. He realizes that Danny is a genius, torn by doubt and uncertainty. Even though he knows that everyone expects him to become a Hasidic rabbi like his father, Danny cannot find all the answers in the Talmud. As a result, he goes to the library in search of challenging secular books. When Mr. Malter meets Danny and sees his thirst for knowledge, he eagerly recommends books to the boy, trying to help him.