Reuven gets elected president of his class and this, along with his schoolwork, means that he is rarely able to see Danny. The war is accelerating and Reuven and his father listen to news of the Battle of the Bulge. Danny calls Reuven and says he wants to talk. Reuven says he is very busy and Danny says that it can wait.
Mr. Malter told Reuven in the beginning of the novel that being a friend is difficult and requires responsibility, but Reuven is now too wrapped up in his own business and the excitement of the war to be there for his friend.
The Allied forces are advancing on the Germans and everyone is very excited that the war will end soon. Danny catches the flu and then bronchitis and Reuven is not allowed to see him.
Here Potok sets up a pattern that will be continued in the chapter: good news followed by bad, excitement followed by tragedy.
The next week they find out that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has died and Reuven is utterly shocked. People are weeping on the street, and Reuven realizes that he never really thought of FDR as mortal. Mr. Malter talks to his son about what great things FDR did during the Depression. Reuven feels like this is a senseless tragedy akin to Billy’s blindness.
Reuven encounters more senseless tragedy in his life. He cannot understand how FDR could die just as the war is coming to an end. It seems cruel and absurd to Reuven, like Billy’s blindness.
Danny gets better but then Reuven catches the flu. When he gets better he has missed so much school that he has no time to see Danny. Then Reb Saunders and Mr. Malter become ill.
Potok creates a chaotic structure for the chapter with one person falling sick after another as life changing news comes in.
In May the news comes out that the war has ended and everyone is overjoyed. But only a few days later they start hearing about the German concentration camps—about the Holocaust of the Jews. As he is reading Mr. Malter breaks down in tears and cries “like a child.” Reuven can’t comprehend how six million Jews could have been murdered – how six million people of any kind could be murdered.
Here is the real senseless tragedy—the Holocaust. All of the previous tragedies seem like they were building to this horrific tragedy, asking in small ways the tremendous questions that the Holocaust forces Jews to ask about God and evil in the world. Again, Reuven encounters tragedy that he cannot understand and for once his father cannot help him through it because he is too devastated and confused himself.
Reuven goes to Danny’s for Shabbat and Reb Saunders does not make them study Talmud. Instead they discuss the Holocaust and Reb Saunders’s youth in Russia. He cannot understand how God could have allowed this genocide to happen, but he says that it must be God’s will, and we must accept it.
Reb Saunders shows the conservative orthodox interpretation of suffering, that everything is God’s will and that his people must just wait for the Messiah. Ultimately the Hasids believes that we have no choice besides following God’s laws and maintaining faith.
Reuven tells his father that Reb Saunders believes the Holocaust is ultimately God’s will. Mr. Malter disagrees and says that they cannot wait for God, they need to make an answer for themselves. He says that the European Jewry has been destroyed and it is the responsibility of American Jews to rebuild their culture and lead their people.
Mr. Malter represents the opposite opinion from Saunders. He cannot wait, but must take action to help his people. He believes people must act in the world, and not just wait for God. The Malters' and Saunders's different opinions on suffering will clash later in the novel.
Soon after this conversation, Mr. Malter has a heart attack. Reuven is in a “blind panic.” Manya takes care of him at first but then Reb Saunders offers to take Reuven in. Reuven moves in to Danny’s room.
Again Mr. Malter’s physical health seems connected to his emotional and mental state. Potok shows how the war directly and personally affects his characters. It is not simply a temporal setting for the story.