The Chosen

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Reuven’s father and an Orthodox Jew, Mr. Malter teaches Jewish studies and writes academic papers on the subject. He has created an educated and religious home for his son and teaches him from early on how to be caring, thoughtful and honest. After World War II Mr. Malter also becomes a supporter and leader of the Zionist movement. His work in this cause as well as his controversial religious papers make him hated by the Hasidic community, but for most of the novel Reb Saunders greatly respects Mr. Malter and his work. Mr. Malter also acts as a father figure to Danny, introducing him to secular authors and providing guidance in lieu of his actual, silent father. Mr. Malter is also sickly from the beginning of the novel, and only becomes more ill as he works himself to the bone trying accomplish what he believes is his life cause: to create a Jewish state is Israel.

David Malter Quotes in The Chosen

The The Chosen quotes below are all either spoken by David Malter or refer to David Malter. 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:
Judaism and Tradition Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Fawcett edition of The Chosen published in 1987.
Chapter 1 Quotes

What annoyed him was their fanatic sense of righteousness, their absolute certainty that they and they alone had God’s ear, and every other Jew was wrong, totally wrong, a sinner, a hypocrite, an apikoros, and doomed, therefore, to burn in hell.

Related Characters: David Malter
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

In the first chapter of the novel, we're introduced to the tense relationship between two types of Judaism: Hasidic Judaism and Orthodox Judaism. Reuven and his father, David Malter, are Orthodox Jews, who believe in obeying the laws of the Torah (the holy book of Judaism, and the first part of the Christian Old Testament). In this scene, Reuven is playing a game of baseball against a group of Hasidic boys: Jews who consider themselves the "original" Orthodox Jews, and who believe that they have a responsibility to act as religious leaders within their community.

As Reuven reports, his father resents the Hasidic Jews for what he perceives as their self-righteousness. The Hasidic Jews, we're told, believe that they and they alone have the love of God. The irony of the scene, of course, is that from the perspective of most Americans (certainly in New York, where the novel is set), the Hasidic and Orthodox Jews are more or less identical. Instead of focusing on the 99% of their beliefs that they share with the Orthodox, the Hasidic Jews in the scene focus on the 1% of their beliefs that are different: a classic example of what Freud called the "narcissism of petty differences." (For that matter, the critique of Hasidic Judaism that David makes here could easily be applied to Judaism as a whole: the Jews claim to be God's "chosen people," thus making all other religions wrong.)

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Chapter 2 Quotes

“Things are always what they seem to be, Reuven? Since when?”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter
Related Symbols: Eyes and Blindness
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Malter angrily tells his son Reuven to question his assumptions about other people. Reuven, who's in the hospital with a ruined eye, claims that Danny Saunders (his opponent in the softball game) deliberately tried to hurt his eye with a softball. Mr. Malter tells Reuven not to jump to conclusions based on what "seems" to be true: instead, he must weigh the facts and assess all the evidence.

Mr. Malter's advice is both rational and deeply emotional. On one hand, he's trying to teach his kid to be logical and rational; in other words, to be a good student and (one day) a great mathematician. On the other hand, Mr. Malter's words can be interpreted as a plea for tolerance and friendship: as we'll see, Reuven will use his father's advice as an inspiration for befriending Danny, the very boy who hurt him.

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.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“You know what a friend is, Reuven? A Greek philosopher said that two people who are true friends are like two bodies with one soul.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Malter tells his son to befriend Danny Saunders-- the same boy who sent Reuven to the hospital in the first place. Mr. Malter suggests that Reuven's friendship with Danny is bigger and more significant than Reuven could possibly imagine. Friendship isn't just an interaction between two people: it's a vital, nearly sacred relationship.

Mr. Malter's advice to his son tells us a lot about his character. Malter doesn't care that Danny Saunders is of a different religion than his son: he wants the Orthodox and Hasidic Jews to get along and move past the mob-like rivalries we saw in the first chapter of the book. Notice, too, that Mr. Malter doesn't cite Jewish texts at all in this passage; instead, he mentions Greek philosophy. That Malter would mentions the Greeks' moral teachings, not the Talmud's, suggests that he's wide-ranging in his thinking, and embraces many different points of view. Just as Mr. Malter thinks that there's value in reading about other religions and ideologies, he thinks that there's value in a Hasidic and an Orthodox boy becoming friends.

Chapter 6 Quotes

“We are like other people, Reuven. We do not survive disaster merely by appealing to invisible powers. We are as easily degraded as any other people.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Mr Malter tells Reuven about the Hasidic community in Brooklyn. As Malter sees it, the Hasidics have always been too superstitious; too willing to believe that God will protect them through all their trials and tribulations. In Poland, the Hasidic population endured tremendous suffering: the leaders of Poland slaughtered thousands of innocent Jews. Years later, during the Holocaust, Polish Jews were sent to concentration camps to die.

As Malter sees it, the Hasidics have always been too naive in their acceptance of "disaster." Instead of using logic and rationality to solve their problems, the Hasidics have always appealed to "invisible powers"--i.e., God.

It's important to notice how pain and suffering are integral parts of what it means to be Jewish, at least as Mr. Malter sees it. For a Jew, the question is--how do we respond to tragedy? In large part, the rivalries and arguments that we see between the different types of Judaism reflect Jewish communities' different responses to the historical tragedies that Mr. Malter alludes to here.

“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.

“Reuven, as you grow older you will discover that the most important things that will happen to you will often come as a result of silly things, as you call them – ‘ordinary things’ is a better expression. That is the way the world is.”

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

At the end of the chapter, Mr. Malter gives Reuven some interesting advice: he claims that the most important events in a person's life are often the result of (what appears to be) random chance. While it appeared to be "silly things" that led Danny Saunders to hurt Reuven's eye with a softball, the accident has led to a friendship between the boys--a friendship that, Malter insists, is of vital importance to the entire Jewish community.

Mr. Malter's worldview suggests his faith in God. There are no accidents in life, he believes: everything is the product of God's work. And yet the fact that God has "planned" to bing Danny and Reuven together as friends doesn't automatically force Reuven to change his behavior. Reuven must choose to befriend Danny: he must choose whether or not to embrace God's plan for him, and for Danny.

Chapter 11 Quotes

“I am not satisfied with it either, Reuven. We cannot wait for God. If there is an answer, we must make it ourselves.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Malter here gives Reuven his own interpretation of the Holocaust. Mr. Malter takes offense to the quiet, almost passive way that Reb Saunders accepts the tragedy of the Holocaust as "God's will." Whether or not the tragedy is God's will, Malter insists, Jews can't just wait around for God to make the tragedy better. Instead, they need to mobilize their ranks and find ways to care for Holocaust survivors, repairing the Jewish communities that were devastated by the Nazis. In short, where Saunders responds to tragedy with calm, arguably noble acceptance, Malter responds with action.

In a nutshell, Malter and Saunders's responses to the Holocaust sum up the differences between Orthodox and Hasidic Judaism, while also reminding us that the differences between types of Judaism have always reflected the differences in the ways human beings cope with pain. Hasidism accepts pain and moves past it, trusting that God will resolve all human problems in the end; Orthodoxy tries to remedy pain with concrete, real-world action.

Chapter 13 Quotes

“It is beginning to happen everywhere in America. A religious renaissance some call it.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker)
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Malter explains to Reuven that the Jewish-American culture is rapidly changing. After the atrocities of the Holocaust, many non-observant Jews are turning back to their synagogues for guidance and comfort. Malter mentions his non-observant friends, who have unexpectedly donated large amounts of money to their temples. Throughout the country, Jews are uniting together in the face of tragedy.

Note that Mr. Malter doesn't necessarily claim that the changes in Jewish culture are a "religious renaissance"--he just suggests that they could be interpreted that way. Perhaps the changes Malter describes are cultural more than religious. While some non-observant Jews are rediscovering their faith in God, many more are turning back to their religious communities for reasons that have nothing to do with religious faith. A temple isn't just a place for Jews to worship God; it's a place for them to feel a sense of love and community. Following the atrocities of the Holocaust, Jews feel a need to rekindle their communities, recognizing that religion provides comfort and acceptance, not just faith.

Chapter 14 Quotes

The death of six million Jews had finally been given meaning, he kept saying over and over again. It had happened. After two thousand years, it had finally happened. We were a people again, with our own land. We were a blessed generation. We had been give the opportunity to see the creation of the Jewish state.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), David Malter
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

Following the events of the Holocaust, a schism breaks out in the Jewish community. There are some, like Reuven's father, who see the Holocaust as paving the way for the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel. As Mr. Malter argues, Israel will give "meaning" to the meaningless tragedy of the Holocaust: it will finally give the Jews a homeland (the very thing they've been lacking for thousands of years).

It's characteristic of Mr. Malter's worldview that he manages to find a "silver lining" even in a tragedy as horrific as the Holocaust. Malter cannot allow himself to accept pain and suffering--he's always trying to take action to reduce pain. Here, for example, Malter tries to mobilize the Jews in his community to support the establishment of an Israeli state. (The sad part about the post-Holocaust Zionist movement, Potok acknowledges, it that it tore apart the Jewish community once again. Some of the Jews in the country believed in a Jewish state; others bitterly opposed it.)

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David Malter Character Timeline in The Chosen

The timeline below shows where the character David Malter appears in The Chosen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...a double. As the next batter comes up, Danny asks Reuven if his father is Mr. Malter , who writes about the Talmud. Danny then says that he told his team to... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Mr. Malter comes in, looking unusually disheveled. Mr. Malter tells his son that he had an operation,... (full context)
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Mr. Malter begins to cough and Reuven tells him he should take better care of himself, and... (full context)
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Mr. Malter has brought Reuven a radio so that Reuven can keep up with the news of... (full context)
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Mr. Malter has also brought his son his tefillin and prayer book and tells him to pray.... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Mr. Malter comes to visit and is angry with Reuven for not allowing Danny to apologize. He... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...his father about his conversation with Danny, and that he now likes his former enemy. Mr. Malter says that people are not always as they seem to be and he tells Reuven... (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 has been praying from memory even though he can’t... (full context)
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Reuven tells Mr. Savo that Mr. Malter teaches the Talmud to high school students. Mr. Savo warns Reuven that he shouldn’t become... (full context)
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Mr. Malter walks in and Danny recognizes him. Reuven finds out that they know each other because... (full context)
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Mr. Malter is feeling sick, so after a brief talk with his son he returns home. Reuven... (full context)
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...on the scar tissue. Mr. Savo is happy that Reuven will be able to leave. Mr. Malter comes to pick up Reuven. As he is about to leave, Mr. Savo tells Reuven... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Reuven walks through his father’s room to get to the living room. Mr. Malter does not like to be disturbed while working, but Reuven walks through the dark, book-filled... (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. He asks... (full context)
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Mr. Malter describes the growth of Hasidism in Poland in the 18th Century. Jews were invited to... (full context)
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Mr. Malter continues that it was hard to believe in God during this time of tragedy. The... (full context)
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Mr. Malter pauses to asks his son if he is going on too long and Reuven tells... (full context)
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Mr. Malter tells another story that he says relates to Danny. A brilliant man named Soloman who... (full context)
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Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Danny needs a friend. He is lonely and confused over whether he... (full context)
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...and tells his father about everything he noticed when he came home from the hospital. Mr. Malter says he wishes Reuven's mother were alive but doesn’t finish the thought. Reuven goes to... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...to their storefront synagogue together in the morning, which is filled with yeshiva teachers like Mr. Malter . During the blessing Reuven thinks about Mr. Savo and Billy and whether he would... (full context)
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Reb Saunders speaks with Reuven and tells him that Mr. Malter is a great scholar. He tells Reuven that it is not easy to truly be... (full context)
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Reuven comes home late and Mr. Malter is waiting up, worried that his son has been out so late. They discuss Reb... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...he tells his father that Danny has been studying German in order to read Freud. Mr. Malter is surprised but says that there will be no way to stop Danny. Reuven asks... (full context)
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Mr. Malter feels guilty that he has been telling Danny what to read behind Reb Saunders’s back.... (full context)
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...him. Reuven is nervous but tells Reb Saunders everything that Danny is reading, and that Mr. Malter has been suggesting books. He leaves out the fact that Danny has been learning German... (full context)
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Reuven tells his father about everything that happened, including the Saunders family silent treatment. Mr. Malter tells Reuven that he has heard about this before but won't say anything more. Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...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... (full context)
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...so much school that he has no time to see Danny. Then Reb Saunders and Mr. Malter become ill. (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Soon after this conversation, Mr. Malter has a heart attack. Reuven is in a “blind panic.” Manya takes care of him... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...now spend all their time together, and finally have time to discuss Freud. They visit Mr. Malter at the hospital, spend time with Danny’s mother and sister, and read together. (full context)
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...Danny because he does not want to worry him while he is in the hospital. Mr. Malter has become obsessed with the plight of European Jews. He is very sick and weak... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Reuven tells his father that he wishes he would take it a little easy. Mr. Malter responds that it is not the time to take things easy when so much is... (full context)
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Mr. Malter tells Reuven that “man must fill his life with meaning.” Mr. Malter says that he... (full context)
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To change the subject, Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Jack Rose, a non-observant Jew that Mr. Malter has known since he... (full context)
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...this conversation, Reuven tells his father that he is definitely going to become a rabbi. Mr. Malter says that Reuven would have made a great professor, but if Reuven has truly decided... (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 American Jews. Hirsch College is... (full context)
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Mr. Malter is preparing for a Zionist rally at Madison Square Garden. In his speech he says... (full context)
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...should follow him into the bathroom. There, Danny tells him that his father read about Mr. Malter ’s Zionist rally in the Yiddish newspaper and that Danny was no longer allowed to... (full context)
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Reuven calls Reb Saunders a fanatic and Mr. Malter responds that “the fanaticism of men like Reb Saunders has kept us alive for two... (full context)
Chapter 14
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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... (full context)
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During this time Mr. Malter is looking even more frail and doesn’t even have time to speak with his son.... (full context)
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Mr. Malter has another heart attack. He nearly dies and has to remain in the hospital for... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Mr. Malter returns home from the hospital but is still too weak to do anything. Rav Gershenson... (full context)
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...become more active. They take off some afternoons to help pack supplies for the soldiers. Mr. Malter tells his son that he was asked to be the Zionist General Council in Palestine... (full context)
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In the second week of May, Israel becomes a country and Reuven and Mr. Malter weep with joy. But the Arab attacks against the Jewish state continue. Mr. Malter becomes... (full context)
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...final exams and he goes to the cottage with his father for August. In September, Mr. Malter resumes teaching and Reuven enters his third year of college. He greatly enjoys school and... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Reuven tells Mr. Malter what happened when he comes home and Mr. Malter says, “what a price to pay... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...after the ceremony becomes deathly ill and is taken to the hospital. Reuven then tells Mr. Malter about Danny’s plans to get a doctorate in psychology and not become a tzaddic. He... (full context)
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Mr. Malter encourages his son to speak to Danny about how he will break the news of... (full context)
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...from his father over the meals every day. Reuven suggests that Danny should talk to Mr. Malter . (full context)
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Mr. Malter tells Danny that he needs to prepare very carefully exactly what he will say. Mr.... (full context)
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...the first or second day of Passover. When Reuven tells his father about this request, Mr. Malter gets angry with Reuven. He says that when someone asks to speak with you, you... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...suffering of the world as he needed to. Reb Saunders tells Reuven that he and Mr. Malter have been a blessing. The Master of the Universe sent them when Danny was ready... (full context)
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Reuven tells Mr. Malter , who responds that this was possibly the only way to raise a tzaddic. Reb... (full context)
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...comes over to the Malters’ to say goodbye, now with his beard and earlocks shaved. Mr. Malter says that Columbia is not so far away and they will see each other soon.... (full context)