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Free Study Guide-The Chosen by Chaim Potok-Free Online Booknotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 17

Summary

When Reuven cracks jokes about Hasidism, Danny has loosened up enough to laugh at them; however, when Reuven makes a snide comment about silence, Danny stiffens up.

Later Danny admits that he can now appreciate silence, having learned that there is a dimension and quality to it. Reuven is unable to understand Danny's explanation.

Reuven suggests that Danny needs to find a girlfriend. Danny replies that a Hasidic girl has already been chosen for him. Reuven again realizes that Reb Saunders will never let his family change.

Reuven attends the bar mitzvah of Levi, Danny's younger brother. At the celebration, he is greeted by the rabbi, who urges Reuven to come and meet him again. Reuven is not eager to honor the request. Sometime after his bar mitzvah, Levi falls violently sick. The whole family, especially Danny, is in a panic about the boy.


Reuven reveals to his father that Danny has decided to study for a doctorate in clinical psychology, rather than becoming a rabbi. Mr. Malter listens grimly to the news and then urges his son to talk to Danny about abandoning Hasidism. He knows that Danny will never be accepted by the Hasids if he does not follow in his father's footsteps and become a rabbi. When Reuven asks his father what it means to hear silence, Mr. Malter becomes grimmer, showing contempt for the strange way of silence demonstrated by the Hasidic Jews. He never attempts to answer Reuven's question with words.

After Levi is discharged from the hospital, Danny has time to spend with Reuven once again. Reuven invites Danny to come and speak to his father, and Danny agrees. At first, he is tense as Mr. Malter questions him, but Danny tries to give honest answers. When Mr. Malter asks him about hearing silence, Danny affirms that he can truly hear silence, almost as if it speaks to him. Danny also admits that he has decided to refuse the Hasidic girl chosen for him to be his wife

Danny receives letters of acceptance from three universities for his graduate studies. He knows that his father has seen the letters, but the rabbi has not said a word about them to his son. Danny is sick with fear about discussing his plans with Reb Saunders.

Reuven tells his father that Reb Saunders has asked him to come and see him. Mr. Malter is annoyed that his son has not responded. He knows that the rabbi wants Reuven to serve as a go-between between him and Danny. At his father's request, Reuven calls Danny to tell his that he is coming over. It will give him an opportunity to speak with Rabbi Saunders.

Notes

Danny has matured in many ways. For the first time is able to talk about his relationship with his father, especially the silence between them. He tells Reuven that he has become so attuned to the silence that he has begun to comprehend the meaning of it; he thinks he understands the delicate nuances and cadences that silence seems to possess. In addition, he has decided to reject the Hasidic girl chosen for him as a wife, which represents a real break in tradition. Finally, Danny has applied to graduate school to study clinical psychology. Although he has received letters of acceptance from three schools, his father refuses to break the silence and discuss the future with Danny.

Levi's poor health causes a double panic for Danny. He is genuinely worried about his brother's well-being; but he has also been depending on Levi to placate their father by becoming a rabbi, saving the rabbi's pride.

Mr. Malter has fully comprehended Reb Saunders' behavior throughout the novel. Whenever Reuven has discussed the rabbi with his father, he has never spoken against Reb Saunders or criticized him in any way. Instead, Mr. Malter has tried to help Reuven understand the reasons behind the Hasidic values. When he learns that the rabbi has been asking Reuven to come and talk to him, Mr. Malter insists that Reuven comply. He makes his son understand that the rabbi needs him to serve as a go-between for the silence between father and son. To satisfy his father, Reuven calls Danny and tells him he is coming over.

It is sad that Reb Saunders cannot even speak freely with Reuven. He is too proud to tell the boy that he needs to talk to Danny through him. Instead, he pretends to want to see Reuven for a study session on the Talmud. Mr. Malter, however, is wise enough to see through the request and explain its purpose to Reuven.

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