The Chosen

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Danny Saunders Character Analysis

Danny is the other protagonist of the novel and Reuven’s best friend. They despise each other at the start, but quickly become close confidants. Danny desperately needs a friend like Reuven as he has a particularly difficult adolescence. Danny is the eldest son of a Hasidic Jewish tzaddic (religious leader) and as such is expected to take over his position. Danny is incredibly brilliant and does not want to remain in the closed, traditional world of Hasidism. He finds escape in academic study and hopes to become a psychologist one day. During the length of the novel he has to learn how to communicate this radical choice to his traditional and deeply religious father, Reb Saunders.

Danny Saunders Quotes in The Chosen

The The Chosen quotes below are all either spoken by Danny Saunders or refer to Danny Saunders. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Fawcett edition of The Chosen published in 1987.
Chapter 3 Quotes

“What I tried to tell you, Reuven, is that when a person comes to talk to you, you should be patient and listen. Especially if he has hurt you in any way.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter, Danny Saunders
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Reuven has stubbornly refused to see Danny in the hospital. Danny has come to apologize to Reuven for injuring him in their game of softball, but Reuven refuses to listen to the apology. Reuven's father is disappointed with his son for being so stubborn. He reminds Reuven that the Talmud encourages Jews to practice love and tolerance at all times--especially tolerance of people who have caused others pain.

The notion that we should be compassionate to everyone--especially those who have hurt us--can be found in many world religions. Despite mentioning the Talmud, Reuven's father doesn't frame his advice in explicitly religious language in the passage, suggesting that Reuven owes Danny the chance to apologize for the sake of human decency more than anything else.

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Chapter 6 Quotes

“Reb Saunders’ son is a terribly torn and lonely boy. There is literally no one in the world he can talk to. He needs a friend. The accident with the baseball has bound him to you, and he has already sensed in you someone he can talk to without fear.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter, Danny Saunders, Reb Isaac Saunders
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Danny Saunders needs a friend. Danny Saunders has been raised to believe that he has been "chosen" to lead his community. Danny is only a kid--therefore, the burden of being a community leader is too much to bear. Danny needs someone to talk to about his burden, and his father is purposefully silent to him at all times. Mr. Malter believes that Reuven can play such a role as Danny's friend.

The passage is interesting because of the reason Malter gives for Danny's friendship with Reuven: he claims that the very fact that Danny hurt Reuven binds them together as friends. While it's odd for Mr. Malter to make such a claim, the passage suggests that he sees the "silver lining" in every tragedy--just as the Jewish community has always moved past historical tragedy by looking ahead to the future. The passage also reinforces the sacred side of friendship: it's suggested that Danny and Reuven's friendship is bigger and more important than either one of them can fully understand--that in a sense they're fated to influence each other's lives.

Chapter 7 Quotes

“You think a friend is an easy thing to be? If you are truly his friend, you will discover otherwise.”

Related Characters: Reb Isaac Saunders (speaker), Reuven Malter, Danny Saunders
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

Reuven meets Reb Saunders, and Reb seems to approve of Reuven's friendship with Danny, in spite of the boys' religious differences. Like Reuven's father, Reb thinks of Danny and Reuven's friendship in large-scale, almost sacred terms. Danny and Reuven aren't just two boys spending time together--their relationship is broader and deeper than that. Reb insists that Reuven will soon discover how difficult it is to be a true friend to Danny.

Notice that while Reb alludes to the challenges of true friendship, he doesn't clarify what these challenges are. The implication is that no amount of teaching or lecturing can show Reuven how to be a good friend to Danny: he'll have to figure it out for himself. The passage suggests that The Chosen isn't just a book about friendship: it's a coming-of-age story in which Reuven's friendship will teach him valuable lessons about maturity and respect.

Chapter 8 Quotes

“Master of the Universe,” he almost chanted. “you gave me a brilliant son, and I have thanked you for him a million times. But you had to make him so brilliant?

Related Characters: Reb Isaac Saunders (speaker), Danny Saunders, Reb Isaac Saunders
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Reuven tells Reb about the books Danny has been reading--books that, much to Reb's annoyance, have nothing to do with the Torah. Reb is impressed with his son's obvious intelligence (the intelligence that's led him to read so much) but he's equally irritated that Danny's intelligence has led him to focus more on psychology and history than religion.

Reb's problem illustrates the pitfalls of being a father, and of being a community leader. Reb is grateful to have such a brilliant son, but he also knows that his son must (he feels) one day replace him as the leader of the Hasids. Thus, Danny needs to focus on his studies--specifically, his studies of the Torah. Ironically, Danny's brilliance and love for reading--the very qualities a Hasidic leader needs to have--are pulling him away from his religious duties.

Chapter 13 Quotes

“What followers of a genius aren’t dogmatic, for heaven’s sake? The Freudians have plenty to be dogmatic about. Freud was a genius.”

Related Characters: Danny Saunders (speaker)
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Danny Saunders gives us his interpretation of Freud and of the scientific method. Danny is a student of the teachings of Sigmund Freud; he believes in Freud's model of the unconscious. While Danny wants to be a psychologist, like Freud, his relationship with Freud is almost religious in nature. When criticized by his college professors, Danny defends Freud to the point where he admits to being "dogmatic" in his respect for the man.

Danny's defense of Freud is both rather un-scientific and deeply Hasidic. The scientific method is based on constant questioning of the world--even of the people and theories one believes in. Danny rejects the premises of the scientific method here because he's always been taught to embrace what he believes in with his whole heart. As a Hasidic Jew, Danny's model for "truth" isn't science at all--it's the Torah. Thus, Danny has a hard time accepting that good science hinges on questioning truth at all times.

Poor Danny, I thought. Professor Appleman, with his experimental psychology, is torturing your mind. And your father, with his bizarre silence – which I still couldn’t understand, no matter how often I thought about it – is torturing your soul.”

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), Danny Saunders, Reb Isaac Saunders, Professor Nathan Appleman
Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Potok sums up the challenges that Danny faces as a Hasidic student of science. To Professor Appleman, his teacher, Danny's religious affiliation is interfering with his scientific studies: Danny is more focused on his subjects' souls than on their minds. By the same token, Danny's own father sees him as being overly scientific: Danny is focusing too much on psychology when he should be studying the Torah.

With great difficulty, Danny tries to balance his commitment to science and his commitment to Judaism. In doing so, however, he alienates both the scientific and the Jewish community. To Danny's father, he's overly invested in science; to Danny's college professors, however, he's allowed his Judaism to warp his scientific sense of the world.

Chapter 15 Quotes

We had begun to communicate with our eyes, with nods of our heads, with gestures of our hands.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), Danny Saunders
Related Symbols: Eyes and Blindness, Silence
Page Number: 255-256
Explanation and Analysis:

After Danny and Reuven's fathers become rivals (one supports a Zionist state; the other doesn't), Danny and Reuven are forbidden to talk to one another. Even though Danny and Reuven obey their parents, they find ways to communicate with one another: smiles, gestures, nods, etc. Both boys realizes that it's possible to communicate without ever opening one's mouth. Moreover, silence need not be an expression of anger or severity--silence can communicate love and affection. Danny and Reuven don't talk to each other, but they make it clear that they're still friends.

The passage is important because it foreshadows arguably the most moving scene in the novel, when Danny's father shows that his silence was always intended as a sign of love, not cruelty or austerity. As a vital part of his coming-of-age, Reuven learns that silence can mean many things. On a more symbolic level, Reuven's embrace of silence teaches him that a seemingly tragic or painful event can be blessing in disguise, and that the same event can be interpreted in many different ways.

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Danny Saunders Character Timeline in The Chosen

The timeline below shows where the character Danny Saunders appears in The Chosen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...protagonist, mentions that for the first 15 years of his life he did not know Danny. They live close to each other in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but Reuven is Orthodox and Danny... (full context)
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Reuven believes that he and Danny would never have met if it were not for America’s involvement in the Second World... (full context)
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...look like murders, and Davey tells him to just wait for the boy practicing batting: Danny Saunders, Reb Saunders’s son. (full context)
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Danny comes up to bat next and hits the ball on the third try straight at... (full context)
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...and Reuven thinks about what his father has told him about strict, Hasidic Jews like Danny Saunders: that they believe that they alone are chosen by God. He gets very angry... (full context)
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...takes over as pitcher. He strikes out the first batter, using his curveball, and then Danny comes to bat. He stares and grins at Reuven. After two strikes and two balls... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...a stretcher and thinks that the lights are changing colors in the elevator. He remembers Danny Saunders’s grin and then sees a bright light over his head. (full context)
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...to him, Tony Savo, who is an ex-boxer. Reuven thinks about how much he hates Danny. He also meets a young blonde boy, Billy Merrit, and realizes that Billy is blind. (full context)
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...Malter also says that Reb Saunders called him to ask how Reuven was, and that Danny is very sorry for what happened. (full context)
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...and Reuven tells him he should take better care of himself, and adds that it’s Danny’s fault that Mr. Malter is sick. Reuven tells his father that Danny hit him deliberately,... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Reuven falls asleep and has a nightmare about his eye. He wakes to see Danny standing by his bed. He is shocked. Danny apologizes and asks Reuven not to hate... (full context)
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Mr. Malter comes to visit and is angry with Reuven for not allowing Danny to apologize. He reminds his son that the Talmud advocates forgiveness. Mr. Malter goes on... (full context)
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Reuven is shocked by Danny’s lack of a Yiddish accent. They talk about their studies. Danny recites a passage from... (full context)
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Reuven forgives Danny and they discuss how Danny’s team was formed. Danny had to convince his father, Reb... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Reuven tells his father about his conversation with Danny, and that he now likes his former enemy. Mr. Malter says that people are not... (full context)
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Reuven says that Danny does not seem like a Hasid and Mr. Malter agrees. Reuven also says that he... (full context)
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...high school students. Mr. Savo warns Reuven that he shouldn’t become friend with someone like Danny, who hit him. Reuven tries to tell Mr. Savo that it wasn’t Danny’s fault but... (full context)
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Danny comes to see Reuven again and they sit out in the hallway because of Mr.... (full context)
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Danny describes that he has no choice but to take his father’s place because the dynasty... (full context)
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Mr. Malter walks in and Danny recognizes him. Reuven finds out that they know each other because Mr. Malter has been... (full context)
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...so after a brief talk with his son he returns home. Reuven keeps thinking about Danny and his father. The next morning he wakes up excited and nervous for his examination.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...was only five days ago because he feels like a changed man. He remembers that Danny is coming tomorrow and sits thinking about him for a long time. (full context)
Chapter 6
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The Malters sit down for Shabbat dinner and Reuven asks his father about Danny. Mr. Malter says he will have to go far back in Jewish history to explain.... (full context)
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Mr. Malter tells another story that he says relates to Danny. A brilliant man named Soloman who lived in the 18th century abandoned his family to... (full context)
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Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Danny needs a friend. He is lonely and confused over whether he should follow his mind... (full context)
Chapter 7
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When he wakes Danny is standing over him and asks Reuven to come over and meet his father, who... (full context)
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...a block filled with robed Hasidim and the line parts “like the red sea” as Danny leads Reuven through. They go into the synagogue, which is the same size and layout... (full context)
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Reb Saunders walks in and everyone stops speaking. Danny’s brother, a young, pale boy, holds on to his father's robes. Reb Saunders briefly speaks... (full context)
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...men and they all begin to eat a meal. Reb Saunders stares at Reuven and Danny eats in complete silence. Someone begins to sing a prayer and everyone joins in. The... (full context)
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...in a chanting voice, swaying back and fort as everyone leans forward to pay attention. Danny is looking down at his plate and looks up every once in a while at... (full context)
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Reb Saunders finishes and everyone stares at Danny. Reb Saunders asks Danny if he heard any mistakes. Danny points out his father’s error.... (full context)
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Danny and Reuven walk home together and talk about the test. Danny says that Reb Saunders’... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...the softball game. The game feels very far away to Reuven. He goes to see Danny at the library after school and finds him reading in the back of the third... (full context)
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Danny is reading remarkably quickly and doesn’t notice Reuven at first. Because Reuven can’t read yet... (full context)
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Danny starts speaking about the concept of the unconscious, which he has been reading about in... (full context)
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As they are leaving the library Danny looks around to make sure that no one he knows has seen him there. When... (full context)
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Mr. Malter feels guilty that he has been telling Danny what to read behind Reb Saunders’s back. But he believes that Danny would have continued... (full context)
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Reuven goes over to Danny’s house of Shabbat to study the Talmud with Reb Saunders. Reuven meets Danny’s kind mother... (full context)
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This discussion is different from what happened in front of the congregation – now Danny and his father are truly battling. They speak quickly and passionately and Reuven sits and... (full context)
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...he can contribute. He enters the “field of combat,” making a point in support of Danny. The Saunders seem unsurprised that he is finally contributing. (full context)
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The argument comes to an end and Reb Saunders sends Danny to get some tea. Reb Saunders tells Reuven that he has “a good head.” He... (full context)
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Danny comes back and the three continue to discuss the Torah. As they are walking home... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Reuven is very busy with schoolwork and not able to see Danny. They talk on the phone and Danny says he will spend his summer studying the... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Danny and Reuven spend time together every day once school ends. Danny studies Talmud every morning,... (full context)
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Reuven goes over to the Saunders every Shabbat to discuss the Talmud with Danny and his father. Reb Saunders doesn’t talk about Danny’s secular reading anymore but he is... (full context)
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Danny is struggling through Freud. Although he has basically learned German, Freud uses very complex terms... (full context)
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Reuven leaves for the Catskills for a month with his father and Danny has started to make slow but steady progress with Freud. The narrative skips the Malter... (full context)
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When Reuven gets back he sees Danny who looks older, has read more Freud and wants to talk with Reuven about it.... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...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... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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Danny gets better but then Reuven catches the flu. When he gets better he has missed... (full context)
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Reuven goes to Danny’s for Shabbat and Reb Saunders does not make them study Talmud. Instead they discuss the... (full context)
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...at first but then Reb Saunders offers to take Reuven in. Reuven moves in to Danny’s room. (full context)
Chapter 12
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...Saunders home. The mother heaps food on his plate and the sister teases him. Levi, Danny’s brother, is sickly and wanders “ghostlike” around the house. Danny and Reuven now spend all... (full context)
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Danny and Reuven argue over the Talmud when Reb Saunders is free but he is almost... (full context)
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Danny has gotten deep into Freud, whose writings upset him, but he cannot stop reading because... (full context)
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Danny now understands and reads Freud with ease and begins teaching some of it the Reuven.... (full context)
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Reuven does not talk to his father about Danny because he does not want to worry him while he is in the hospital. Mr.... (full context)
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Danny explains to Reuven that a secular Jewish state is a violation of everything his father... (full context)
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Danny talks about his brother, Levi. He is worried about his brother’s sickness because he realized... (full context)
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Reuven tries to talk about Danny’s sister but Danny won't. He says that his sister was promised to be married when... (full context)
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...States bombs Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war in Japan ends. In September, Reuven and Danny both start at Hirsch College. Danny now wears glasses. (full context)
Chapter 13
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Danny and Reuven begin Hirsch Seminary and College, an Orthodox Jewish college that combines both religious... (full context)
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Danny becomes the “talk of the Talmud Department” and the unwilling leader of the Hasidic students... (full context)
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Appleman thinks that the followers of Freud are dogmatic. Danny thinks that Freud is a genius, so of course they follow his teachings dogmatically. Reuven... (full context)
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...next day Reuven goes to the library to read about experimental psychology. He sees how Danny must be very frustrated with it, because it focused on psychology from a physiological standpoint... (full context)
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Danny follows Reuven's advice and speaks with Appleman, and tells Reuven that he know realizes that... (full context)
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The tutoring with Danny is going well. Mr. Malter now speaks of nothing but Zionism and the education of... (full context)
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...day. Reuven is so caught up with all the excitement that he doesn’t notice that Danny did not have lunch with him as he typically does. (full context)
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The next day, Danny indicates to Reuven that he should follow him into the bathroom. There, Danny tells him... (full context)
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...avoid all contact with him. He is angry with “Reb Saunders’ blindness” and frustrated “at Danny’s helplessness.” Reuven talks to his father about this and his father explains that Reb Saunders... (full context)
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...the same fanaticism. Reuven can't fall asleep and lays awake thinking of everything he and Danny had done since his ball struck Reuven’s eye. (full context)
Chapter 14
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Danny and Reuven don’t speak to each other for the rest of the semester. The silence... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...now run by Israelis and is less a worry of American Jews. Then, one day, Danny comes over to Reuven’s lunch table and asks him for some help with math. (full context)
Chapter 16
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Reuven and Danny, after not speaking for more than two years, talk about the silence they both had... (full context)
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Danny and Reuven continue their old habit of meeting before and after school. They now dominate... (full context)
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Danny has decided to become a clinical psychologist, which means that he will work with people.... (full context)
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Reuven goes to Danny’s sister’s wedding and he is the only person there who is not a Hasid. Reb... (full context)
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...As they are walking up to his study, and old man reaches out and touches Danny’s arm and Reuven finds this “distasteful,” and he is beginning to feel similarly towards everything... (full context)
Chapter 17
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It is Danny and Reuven’s last year of college. Reuven tells a joke to Danny about Hasidim, which... (full context)
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Reuven tells Danny that he should find a girl to distract himself. Reuven has been going out to... (full context)
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Reuven is invited to Danny’s brother’s bar mitzvah. Levi is tall and thin and after the ceremony becomes deathly ill... (full context)
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Mr. Malter encourages his son to speak to Danny about how he will break the news of his plan to Reb Saunders. Reuven then... (full context)
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Levi returns from the hospital and Danny tells Reuven that Levi should be fine. Danny then says that he is planning to... (full context)
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Mr. Malter tells Danny that he needs to prepare very carefully exactly what he will say. Mr. Malter then... (full context)
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Danny gets in to all three universities. Reb Saunders must have seen the letters because he... (full context)
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Danny has decided that he will go to Columbia and thinks he might live at his... (full context)
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Winter turns to spring and Danny has buried himself in his work to keep his anxiety over his father at bay.... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Reuven comes to Danny’s house to see Reb Saunders. He first sees Danny, who looks very nervous, and then... (full context)
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...that he plans to become a rabbi. Reb Saunders stiffens and says that Reuven and Danny will “begin to go different ways.” Danny looks shocked, but Reb Saunders does not look... (full context)
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...Universe blessed Reb Saunders with a brilliant son, but that Reb Saunders could see that Danny had no soul. Reb Saunders had a brother who was like Danny. He was very... (full context)
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Reb Saunders repeated this practice with his son so that Danny would not become like Reb Saunders’ brother. This was the only way he knew to... (full context)
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...and say how hard it was to watch his son suffer. But he knew that Danny was learning about the suffering of the world as he needed to. Reb Saunders tells... (full context)
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Reb Saunders now speaks to Danny. He asks him whether he will shave his beard and earlocks and Danny nods. He... (full context)
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...of the Holocaust and a secular Jewish state did not fit. He then apologizes to Danny saying, “a wiser father may have done differently. I am not wise.” He says he... (full context)
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Danny and Reuven, now alone in the room, both cry. They walk for hours through the... (full context)
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...possibly the only way to raise a tzaddic. Reb Saunders announces to his congregation that Danny will study psychology and that Levi will take his place. Reb Saunders also says that... (full context)
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The students at Hirsch College are also surprised by Danny’s choice. They talk about it for a couple days and then get wrapped up in... (full context)
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Danny comes over to the Malters’ to say goodbye, now with his beard and earlocks shaved.... (full context)