Reuven and his father go 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 be able to say a blessing if he had been blinded. They come back and have lunch and Reuven takes a nap.
This passage again questions how it is possible to thank God during times of suffering. Reuven’s own experience of tragedy is through Mr. Savo and Billy so he thinks of them in such circumstances. This foreshadows later discussions of the Holocaust.
When he wakes Danny is standing over him and asks Reuven to come over and meet his father, who has to “approve of his friends.” On the walk over Reuven says that he has no siblings because his mother died after he was born. Danny has a brother and a sister. Danny tells the story of how his father saved his Russian community from anti-Semitic attacks during World War I. His saw his first wife and child killed and brought his community to America
After hearing a history of the Hasidism last night, Reuven is now hearing the history of Danny’s personal experience. Reb Saunders has been through a very similar tragedy to early Polish Jews, which helps explain some of his strongly held ideas.
They come to 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 at Reuven’s house. Reuven feels like “a cowboy surrounded by Indians.” Everyone is speaking Yiddish. Two old men come up to Danny and ask him to settle a dispute they have over a passage in the Talmud.
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 with Reuven (“almost like an accusation”) about his eye, his studies, and his father. He says that they will talk more later and then the service begins.
Reb Saunders, as a tzaddic, has complete control over his congregation. Reb Saunders’s questions are normal but his tone demonstrates that he is vetting his son’s friends. He also has a serious view of friendship, although his qualifications are stricter than Mr. Malter’s.
The room fills with more 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 singing continues and Reuven joins in, swaying and clapping and even enjoying himself. The singing stops abruptly and everyone starts to pray. As everyone turns to look at Reb Saunders, Danny prepares himself “as a soldier does before he jumps ... into open combat.”
Reuven gets swept up in the enthusiasm of the service. Just as he starts to feel a part of the community, and to understand their fervor, the moment ends. Reuven feels the tension growing and he witnesses the battle that Danny must undergo each day to prove himself to his father.
Reb Saunders begins to speak 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 his father. Reb Saunders uses a gemitraya (interpreting works in Hebrew by giving them number equivalents), which his followers greatly enjoy. His sermon argues that without the Torah people are nothing. The world is contaminated without the Torah. Reuven privately disagrees, thinking that Einstein, FDR and the soldiers fighting Hitler are part of the world.
This passage shows both Reb Saunders’ command over his followers and his strict, exclusive view of the world. He sees the world as black and white: God and Judaism is good, and everything else is bad. Reuven, with his father’s influence, believes that there is also good in the secular, intellectual world, and that people can do good deeds (ex: soldiers) without being Jewish.
Reb Saunders finishes and everyone stares at Danny. Reb Saunders asks Danny if he heard any mistakes. Danny points out his father’s error. Reuven realizes that Reb Saunders is testing his son and that this must happen every Sabbath. Reb Saunders then asks Reuven if he heard any mistakes and Reuven very nervously points out an error in his gemitraya. Reuven thinks “what a ridiculous way to gain admiration and friendship!”
Reb Saunders is testing both his son and his son’s friend. This implies that his evaluation of people is based solely on their knowledge of and thoughtfulness in regard to Jewish law. This is how he determines whether he “approves” of Danny’s friends.
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 a friend.” He asks Reuven to come again and now seems friendly and warm.
Danny and Reuven walk home together and talk about the test. Danny says that Reb Saunders’ followers love it. Reuven and Danny are happy to realize that they plan to attend the same Jewish college.
The test is not to teach Danny, but also to prove to the followers that Danny will be ready to take his fathers’ position.
Reuven comes home late and Mr. Malter is waiting up, worried that his son has been out so late. They discuss Reb Saunders. Mr. Malter says that this testing is not terrible, it is part of a long tradition. He says that Reb Saunders is a great man and if he were not a tzaddic he could do great things for the world.
Mr., Malter argues that there are aspects of religion that keep you from helping the world. This will become important when Mr. Malter and Reb Saunders disagree over their responses to the Holocaust.