The Chosen

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The Chosen Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Danny and Reuven don’t speak to each other for the rest of the semester. The silence hurts Reuven so much that it starts to affect his grades. He feels a “blind, raging fury” towards Reb Saunders. Reb Saunders starts staging anti-Zionist rallies, which are not successful. School becomes increasingly tense, and fist fights keep breaking out over Zionism in the lunchroom.
The Zionist vs. anti-Zionist conflict is turning into its own war. The symbol of blindness returns to show how Reb Saunders is acting closed-minded. The fighting between the Jews because of differing responses to their shared tragedy seems senseless and blind.
Themes
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World War II and War Theme Icon
More news of violence comes from Palestine and Mr. Malter becomes increasingly passionate. He becomes even more involved in Zionist activities and Reuven rarely sees his father. Reuven thinks about Danny and Reb Saunders constantly and cannot understand how Danny can respect him.
Mr. Malter is now acting as single-minded and obsessed as Reb Saunders. In the novel, when someone believes that they have the right cause they become controlled by this cause; they lose individual will or choice.
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Choosing and Being Chosen Theme Icon
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In September, Reuven is seated near Danny during the school’s opening assembly and Danny looks thin and pale. He does not even acknowledge Reuven and appears almost blind, which makes Reuven very angry. Reuven tries to forget Danny but cannot, especially because they are now both in Rav Gershenson’s Talmud class.
Reuven thinks that Danny looks blind, showing his fear that, by following his father's rules, Danny is stating to agree with those rules and the Hasidic view of the world.
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Rav Gershenson has a practice of asking his students progressively harder questions until they are stumped. Then comes Gershenson’s “dreaded silence” after which he asks if anyone else knows the answer. Danny inevitably raises his hand and then a long conversation occurs between the two of them.
Rav Gershenson uses silence in his teaching but it is different from Reb Saunders’. He uses silence to teach his students and show them when they do not know something. Not to leave them on their own.
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Rav Gershenson would cold call students in his class, so everyone had to be prepared for every passage. Towards the end of the semester Reuven had still only been called on once. Danny smiles at Reuven when he gets a difficult answer right, and Reuven becomes sad (rather than angry) all over again, but Reuven’s sorrow over losing his friendship is no longer affecting his schoolwork.
Danny shows that he is still on Reuven’s side. Reuven is starting to reach some sort of acceptance of Danny’s absence. Reuven is also starting to experience the value of communicating without speaking, a practice which he so despises in Reb Saunders.
Themes
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Friendship Theme Icon
During this time Mr. Malter is looking even more frail and doesn’t even have time to speak with his son. They no longer study the Talmud together on the Shabbat. In November the UN votes on the Partition Plan and grants Israel land in Palestine. The Malters cry with joy. The next day the school is still filled with the leaflets of Reb Saunders’ anti-Zionist league. Reuven is so angry that he wants to punch one of them, but he remembers that he could be expelled for doing this and restrains himself.
Mr. Malter is now fanatical as well. He is sacrificing his time with his son and his own health for the Zionist cause. Yet Reuven still clearly respects his father and supports his cause. The growing success of his cause only makes the anti-Zionists more active. The hatred between the two groups continues.
Themes
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As the violence increases against Jewish communities in Palestine, the anti-Zionist groups grow quiet. Their pain over more violence against Jews, after they have already been through the Holocaust, has trumped their hatred of Zionism. Reuven is happy that he restrained his anger earlier.
In spite of their zealous hatred of the Zionist cause, the Hasidim cannot stand more violence after all that they have been through with the Holocaust. They realize that they are ultimately on the same side as other Jews.
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Mr. Malter has another heart attack. He nearly dies and has to remain in the hospital for over 6 weeks. Danny passes Reuven in the hall and looks at him for the first time in months in order to share his sadness. Reuven now lives alone. He combats the silence by studying, and spends most of this time studying the Talmud. He studies in great depth and cross-references with other forms of the Talmud, using all the techniques his father taught him.
Mr. Malter nearly works himself to death. Reuven is now completely alone. When confronted with silence he does what Danny has always done – fills his life with study. He also shows how much he has learned from his father; Reuven is now able to use his father’s teachings without his help.
Themes
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Reuven encounters a very difficult passage and somehow knows that this is the one that Rav Gershenson will ask him about. He reconstructs the text using his father's method and also memorizes all of the text and commentaries.
Reuven uses both Mr. Malter’s and Reb Saunders’ forms of Talmudic study, showing how he has been influenced by both as parental figures.
Themes
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Rav Gershenson does call on Reuven when it comes to this difficult passage. Reuven starts to explain the passage and goes through is slowly and carefully, dominating the class for four days. Rav Gershenson then asks him some questions ending with whether he is satisfied with the late medieval attempt at interpreting the passage. Reuven says he does not agree with it because it is pilpul (interested in tiny details of no consequence). Gershenson agrees that it is difficult and he cannot truly understand it himself.
This is the major action scene of the novel – a rather sedentary action scene, but suspenseful nonetheless. Reuven proves himself in the most difficult class in the school by demonstrating all that he has learned and showing, therefore, that he will be a good rabbi. In this public interpretation he mostly uses the techniques he learned from Reb Saunders but shows that he disagrees with them in the end.
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Rav Gershenson asks Reuven to stay after class. He asks Reuven whether he studied by himself and Reuven says that he did. Gershenson asks Reuven how his father would have interpreted it. Reuven tells him how he reconstructed the text using different forms of the Talmud. Gershenson says that he is impressed but that Reuven must never use this modern method of explanation in his class.
Reuven proves that he is worthy of Gershenson’s respect and that he is successfully able to interpret the Talmud in a novel manner. Gershenson's response, however, also shows the power of tradition in Judaism. Just because the methods Reuven used to interpret the Talmud aren't the traditional methods, Reuven is forbidden from using it.
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After school Reuven goes to look up Gershenson’s name in the library and he cannot find it anywhere. He realizes that he is not able to publish many things because he works at such a conservative school, and Reuven realizes now why his father does not teach.
Reuven learns that even the best professor is school is controlled and held down by tradition. He is not allowed to publish, or even teach what he wants, because of the conservative beliefs of Hirsch College.
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Fathers, Sons, and Rebellion Theme Icon