The Chosen

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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 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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I felt myself suddenly very angry, and it was at that point that for me the game stopped being merely a game and became a war.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

In the opening scene of the novel, Reuven and his friends play a game of softball against a group of Hasidic Jews. Although it's "just a game," Reuven feels himself competing with the Hasidic Jews for religious reasons--it's as if both sides are fighting over who the "real" Jews are.

The scene is full of symbolic undertones. Keep in mind that the characters are playing a game of softball--an all-American sport. Thus, the scene is a metaphor for the way that different ethnic groups (the Hasidic and Orthodox Jews) compete with one another under the facade of assimilating with American culture. Furthermore, note that the warlike game of softball takes place at the same time as an actual American war: America's involvement in World War II, a war that was fought partly to end the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust. Ironically, Reuven is "warring" with other Jews when--it's implied--he should be joining forces with them against anti-Semites around the world.

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.

I couldn’t imagine what it was like to know that no matter whether my eyes were opened or closed it made no difference, everything was still dark.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eyes and Blindness
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Reuven has been sent to the hospital after sustaining a nasty eye injury during a softball game. Reuven is told that there's a chance he could lose his vision in the injured eye--a possibility that he finds terrifying.

The passage is important because it suggests blindness as one of the key symbols of the book. In a novel about tolerance and understanding for other people, eyesight symbolizes the human soul's capacity to love those who are "different." Reuven's inability to imagine what blindness is like suggests his natural instinct to sympathize and empathize with others (except, notably, the blind)--an instinct that no amount of mob mentality can suppress. Finally, the image of blindness might symbolize Reuven's understanding of death. In the time of the Holocaust, death hangs over the entire Jewish community, and adds a sense of urgency to Reuven's friendship with Danny. When the Jewish community as a whole is under attack, Reuven and Danny should focus on what they have in common instead of becoming jealous rivals.

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 5 Quotes

I stood in that room for a long time, watching the sunlight and listening to the sounds on the street outside. I stood there, tasting the room and the sunlight and the sounds …

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker)
Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Potok contrasts the silence of Mr. Malter with the ambient noises of New York City. Mr. Malter is a quiet, hard-working man, who believes in the beauty of silence, especially while he's working. While Potok seems to respect Mr. Malter's point of view, he also suggests, very subtly, that Malter is too limited and narrow in his worldview. To be silent in New York City is absurd: there'll always be a million sounds (sirens, cars, kids playing, etc.)--sounds that, it's suggested, Reuven embraces but his father tries to ignore.

Symbolically, then, the passage suggests the difference between the ways that Reuven and his father view the world. In spite of his compassion and broad-mindedness, Mr. Malter might be too serious and focused in the way he perceives life. Reuven is looser and freer in his thinking: he embraces chance and uncertainty, and savors the uncontrollable sounds of the world around him.

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 7 Quotes

“I feel like a cowboy surrounded by Indians.”

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Danny takes Reuven to the local (Hasidic) synagogue. Reuven has never spent so much time around so many Hasidic Jews; he's always stayed within the Orthodox community. Reuven feels awkward and "foreign" among the Hasids: he compares his situation to that of a cowboy surrounded by Indians.

Once again, Potok emphasizes the big differences between the two Jewish communities, Hasidic and Orthodox--differences which, while large from Reuven's perspective, are basically invisible to the majority of the world. At this point in the novel, Reuven still feels uncomfortable outside his own ethnic and religious group--he's too unfamiliar with Danny's community to feel at ease there. Cowboys and Indians are, traditionally speaking, enemies, suggesting that Reuven still feels some leftover antagonism with the Hasids.

Notice also that Reuven frames his discomfort in distinctly American terms. Reuven is an Orthodox Jew, but he shows his awareness of broader American culture (baseball, cowboys, etc.). Reuven is a Jew, but he's an American Jew.

I didn’t agree at all with his notions of the world as being contaminated. Albert Einstein is part of the world, I told myself. President Roosevelt is part of the world. The millions of soldiers fighting Hitler are part of the world.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), Reb Isaac Saunders
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Reuven listens to a sermon delivered by Reb Saunders, the leader of the Hasidic community in Williamsburg. Reb claims that without the laws of the Torah, the world is "contaminated"--i.e., it's a dirty, immoral place.

Privately, Reuven disagrees with what Reb says. The world isn't divided between good and evil, black and white, Hasidic and non-Hasidic. On the contrary, Reuven believes, there are plenty of "good" people who don't embrace the letter of the Torah: Einstein, Roosevelt, etc. Reuven's more nuanced view of the world suggests that he's more assimilated with his American community: unlike Reb, he has respect for quintessentially American (and secular) figures like FDR.

“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 9 Quotes

A spider had spun a web across the corner of the upper rail, and there was a housefly trapped in it now, its wings spread-eagled, glued to the strands of the web, its legs flaying the air frantically.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important bit of foreshadowing, Reuven sees a housefly trapped in a web, about to be eaten by a spider. Reuven is struck by the way the housefly wriggles in pain--it seems to know that it's about to be eaten. Symbolically, the scene anticipates the news of the Holocaust--the greatest tragedy to the Jewish people in the 20th century, and perhaps in recorded history. The nihilistic mood of the scene is surprising: Potok seems to suggest that death and suffering (symbolized by the fly's fate) are natural parts of the universe. The duty of the Jews, then, is to transcend inevitable death and suffering through the strength of their faith.

Chapter 11 Quotes

It was as senseless, as – I held my breath, feeling myself shiver with fear – as Billy’s blindness was senseless. That was it. It was as senseless, as empty of meaning, as Billy’s blindness. I lay there and thought of Roosevelt being dead and Billy being blind, and finally I turned over and lay with my face on the pillow and felt myself crying. I cried a long time.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), Billy Merrit
Related Symbols: Eyes and Blindness
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

In one of the low points of the book, Reuven receives word of Frank Delano Roosevelt's death, the horrors of the Holocaust, and his friend Billy's failed medical operation, all within a few days of each other. Reuven is overcome by the senseless tragedy of the world: there's so much pain and suffering around him.

Reuven's behavior in this scene indicates how compassionate he's become: he's genuinely moved by the pain of other people. At the same time, the scene represents a challenge to Reuven's faith in God--like so many religious people in the 40s and 50s, he questions how a just God could possibly allow so much tragedy to occur.

“The world kills us,” he said quietly.” Ah, how the world kills us.” … “The world drinks our blood,” Reb Saunders said. “How the world makes us suffer. It is the will of God. We must accept the will of God.”

Related Characters: Reb Isaac Saunders (speaker)
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Reb Saunders responds to the senseless tragedy of the Holocaust. Saunders--just like Reuven--is nearly overcome with the magnitude of the tragedy. Six million innocent Jews have been murdered, simply because of their religion. Saunders--knowing full-well that an entire community is looking to him for guidance and reassurance--gives the only interpretation of the Holocaust that his faith allows him to give. He concludes that the Holocaust, while horrible, is a reflection of the will of God, and therefore must be accepted by the Jewish community.

Saunders' behavior reflects both the weakness and the strength of the Hasidic community. The way he accepts the facts of the Holocaust might seem rather weak-willed: instead of trying to overturn tragedy, he just acknowledges it. And yet Saunders also seems incredibly strong in this scene. Instead of savagely looking for vengeance upon the Nazis who committed such enormous crimes, he takes the high ground. All Jews in the world have to come to terms with the Holocaust, sooner or later: because of his boundless love for God, Saunders is able to come to terms with tragedy and be a pillar of strength for his followers.

“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

“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.

“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.

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 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.)

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.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“… words are cruel, words play tricks, they distort what is in the heart, they conceal the heart, the heart speaks through silence. One learns of the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain, he would say, by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s soul.”

Related Characters: Reb Isaac Saunders (speaker)
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Reb Saunders tries to justify his actions to Reuven. Saunders has spent Danny's entire life treating him with stony silence--instead of playing with Danny or talking to him, Saunders has essentially ignored him.

While it's easy to condemn Saunders's actions as cruel, Potok makes it clear that Saunders acts out of love for his child. Saunders wants Danny to grow up to be the best leader he can possibly be: Saunders has been taught that the best way to raise a religious leader is to be silent around him. Even though Saunders' silence causes Danny a great deal of pain and loneliness, Saunders' silence is even more painful to Saunders himself: Saunders is forced to turn off his natural fatherly instincts.

In the end, then, Potok is sympathetic to Saunders' behavior, even if he doesn't necessarily agree with it. To be a leader is to make sacrifices. Arguably Saunders' greatest sacrifice is his affection for his children. And yet by being silent around Danny, Saunders is expressing his love for his child: with every second of silence, Saunders proves his total confidence in Danny's abilities.

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