It is Danny and Reuven’s last year of college. Reuven tells a joke to Danny about Hasidim, which Danny finds very funny and then Reuven tells one about being able to hear silence and Danny doesn’t laugh. Danny says that he is able to listen to silence. Reuven doesn’t understand and Danny says that you have to want to listen to be able to hear it.
Although Danny disagrees with some aspects of Hasidic tradition, he has come around to see the value of silence. Reuven hates this practice but in this chapter he comes to learn that silence can be used as a powerful, alternative form of communication.
Reuven tells Danny that he should find a girl to distract himself. Reuven has been going out to dates on Saturdays. Danny says that he cannot because he already has a pre-arranged wife. This is another reason why it will be hard to break from his Hasidic path.
Danny presents another reason that it will be difficult to leave his role. There are other people involved (in addition to his father) in Danny’s following tradition and becoming a tzaddic.
Reuven is invited to Danny’s brother’s bar mitzvah. Levi is tall and thin and 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 also says that Danny is especially worried by Levi’s sickness because he wants his brother to take his place as tzaddic.
Levi gets sick after just the excitement of a bar mitzvah, which does not bode well for his future as a tzaddic. Reuven turns to his father for advice, and Mr. Malter is put in the position of acting as a father figure for both Reuven and Danny as he did early in the novel.
Mr. Malter encourages his son to speak to Danny about how he will break the news of his plan to Reb Saunders. Reuven then asks his father about Reb Saunders’ silence and Mr. Malter mutters angrily, “why must they feel the burden of the world is only on their shoulders?” He tells Reuven that he does not really understand; all he knows is that it is a way of bringing up children.
Mr. Malter is clearly bothered by Reb Saunders’ silence but he knows that it comes from a point of suffering or “burden.” At the same time, he responds to his son with silence when Reuven asks more questions, as he always does when this topic is brought up. Mr. Malter is willing to counsel Danny, but not to interfere in Reb Saunders' parenting techniques, even just to explain them.
Levi returns from the hospital and Danny tells Reuven that Levi should be fine. Danny then says that he is planning to apply to Harvard, Berkeley, and Columbia for fellowships in psychology. Reuven suggests that he should tell his father about it right now and get it over with, but Danny says that he does not want explosions from his father over the meals every day. Reuven suggests that Danny should talk to Mr. Malter.
Danny is moving forward with his life even though he does not know how to present it to Reb Saunders. This shows how important psychology is to Danny – he has chosen to go for it no matter what.
Mr. Malter tells Danny that he needs to prepare very carefully exactly what he will say. Mr. Malter then asks Danny if he can hear silence. Danny nods. Danny is not angry with his father but he also does not understand why his father acts as he. Mr. Malter says that no one can help Danny because it is between him and his father, but reminds him to plan carefully what to say and anticipate what Reb Saunders’ questions will be.
Throughout the novel the conversations have typically been between pairs. Now the structure has broken and Danny, Reuven and Mr. Malter are all speaking together, showing that there changes occurring in their lives and futures.
Danny gets in to all three universities. Reb Saunders must have seen the letters because he picks up the mail, but he did not say anything. Danny’s sister gets pregnant. Danny says that his father keeps asking why Reuven is not coming over on Shabbat anymore. Reuven says that it is because he studies Talmud with his father on Shabbat, but in reality it is because he does not like Reb Saunders and does not want to see him.
Danny’s sister is following her role perfectly, as contrasted to Danny’s rebellion. No one has mentioned Danny’s transgressions but Reb Saunders must know.
Danny has decided that he will go to Columbia and thinks he might live at his sister’s house. Reb Saunders continue to ask Reuven to come over and Reuven says he will try, but does not actually try very hard because he hates Reb Saunders.
Reuven’s avoidance of Reb Saunders and the latter’s desire to see Reuven is becoming clearer.
Winter turns to spring and Danny has buried himself in his work to keep his anxiety over his father at bay. Reb Saunders asks Reuven (through Danny) to come over on 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 must speak with them.
This is the second time Mr. Malter ever gets mad at his son; the first was when Reuven turned away Danny in the hospital. Both times involve Reuven not listening, or not giving another the opportunity to share, to communicate.
Reuven tells his father that Reb Saunders just wanted to study Talmud, and Mr. Malter says that Reuven has not been listening. He says that Reb Saunders wants to talk to Reuven about Danny as he did years ago when Danny was going to the library. Reuven calls Danny to tell him he will come over on Sunday at around 4.
This conversation demonstrates the symbols of silence and listening. Because Reuven distrusts this form of communication he has not been listening to the way Reb Saunders has been speaking through few words.