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It’s Saturday morning, kids, and, at the beginning of the chapter, Reuven announces that this is the day he meets the Reb.
First, he and his dad wake up early and go to the synagogue. Most of the men at their synagogue are like David Malter – they do not approve of the insular ways of the Hasidim.
The services make Reuven think of Billy and Mr. Savo constantly.
After lunch, Reuven chills in his backyard and thinks of how the sky is as blue as Danny’s eyes.
Then, he remembers that Billy’s eyes are also blue.
He falls asleep thinking about their eyes, sleeps for three hours, then wakes when he senses Danny near him.
They walk together to meet Danny’s father, and Reuven wonders what his friends will think.
We learn that Reuven’s mother died very soon after he was born, and that Danny has a mother, a fourteen-year-old sister, and an eight-year-old brother, and that Danny and Reuven almost have the same birthday.
When Reuven asks if Danny’s brother will become a rabbi, too, Danny acts a little bit funny.
Which makes us say, hmmm….
When Danny says that his father doesn’t like his followers to "mix with outsiders," Reuven says that he thinks the Reb is a "tyrant."
They talk a bit about how Danny’s father doesn’t talk to him. Reuven thinks it’s awful.
But, as Danny explains to Reuven, the Reb is no ordinary guy.
See, Danny’s grandfather lived in Russia and had two sons. The Reb was the second-born. Since his older brother disappeared, the Reb inherited his father’s position when he died.
The Reb got married and had a son and a daughter. In 1917, during the Bolshevik Revolution, or the October Revolution, both of the Reb’s kids and his wife were killed.
He was shot, too, and was presumed dead, but a Russian peasant woman found him and helped him regain his health.
The synagogue was destroyed and over half the Jews in the community were murdered.
He recovered, but things were no better for the Jews, so the Reb lead his followers to America – probably saving their lives.
He remarried and had Danny, his brother, and his sister.
Reuven says that he thinks the Reb’s followers follow him blindly, but Danny says there is more than one way to look at a thing.
As Reuven and Danny near Danny’s block, Reuven sees a wall of men blocking their passage.
Big surprise – they are all wearing Hasidic clothing.
Danny taps one of the men and the crowd parts, letting them through.
Reuven feels really out of place and conspicuous.
Danny leads Reuven into the synagogue, which is as big as his whole apartment. Danny and his family live on the top floor.
There is a big meal laid out, and Danny and Reuven chat while the crowd begins to enter, noisily and excitedly.
Soon, Danny tells Reuven the Reb is coming in. At almost the same moment, the crowd falls quiet.
The Reb walks down the aisle wearing a black hat trimmed in fur. He looks just like Danny, with finely chiseled features, but his eyes are black and his hair is dark, while Danny has reddish hair and blue eyes.
Danny’s little brother (we won’t learn his name for some time) is with him, and he’s a mini-Reb Saunders, right down to the hair and the eyes.
Danny leads Reuven over to his father, and introduces them.
The Reb asks if he’s David Malter’s son, if he’s good at mathematics, if his eyes is OK, and if he knows Hebrew. Reuven says "yes" to all the questions, and the Reb says they will talk later.
They hold the prayer service, and then everyone goes to the table.
Reb Saunders cuts the chalah (a bread used on Shabbat and other holy days). First, the Reb takes a bite, then Danny, then Reuven, then Danny’s brother, then all the other men, and then the meal begins.
Danny isn’t hungry, but tries to eat to be polite. We see Danny’s little brother doing about the only things we ever see him do in the book: pick at his food, pick his nose, and look pale and sickly (because he is pale and sickly).
Reuven also feels a totally naked, because he can feel the Reb staring intently at him.
Finally, the meal is over, and everybody starts singing. Reuven knows the songs and sings along, beginning to feel more comfy.
Then, the Reb says grace, and begins to talk. He stresses the importance and difficulty of studying Torah. Notice, as you read your book, just how heavy-duty Reb Saunders’ talk gets. The Reb is a heavy-duty guy.
During this intense talk, he performs a complicated set of gematriyot. Gematria is a kind of numerology.
A gematriot is a little math problem, that, in the end, is meant to prove a theological point.
As Reuven says, "Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is also a number."
It’s a play with numbers and words to make an argument, as well as a back-and-forth translation – translating Hebrew words (from the Torah) into numbers, and numbers into Hebrew words.
The men listening seem to really enjoy the gematria and the talk.
After the gematria, Reb Saunders quizzes Danny. He wants to know if Danny found any mistakes in his talk.
Danny did in fact find a mistake, and he and his father go through a complex and lengthy discussion in which Danny quotes all kinds of things from memory and demonstrates his total brilliance.
This pleases the Reb, but he demands to know if Danny found the other mistake. He had not, and things are slightly uncomfortable. He knows Danny stopped listening after the first mistake… and then, the Reb asks Reuven.
Reuven is scared, but summons the courage to tell the Reb there was a mistake in one of the gematriyot. He explains, and the Reb is pleased.
After yet another prayer service, everyone leaves except the Reb, Danny, his brother, and Reuven.
The Reb gets all moist in the eyes, and tells Reuven that he’s glad he’s Danny’s friend, and to keep on coming back to his synagogue.
As Danny walks Reuven part way home, they discuss his father. Reuven is torn about Reb Saunders. He thinks he’s both a tyrant and a kind, gentle man.
Danny agrees that his dad is complicated, and reminds Reuven that the Reb has a lot on his mind.
Another issue for Reuven is the find-the-mistake game.
Danny says he enjoys it.
Then, he downplays it and claims the game is rigged, that his father plants "easy" mistakes, and that it’s just for show, a tradition to please the people.
He says it will end soon anyway, when Danny goes to study with Rav Gershenson at Raphael Hirsch Seminary and College – "the only yeshiva in the United States that offered a secular college education."
Reuven is going there, too, so they get to go to college together.
Danny’s going to major in psychology.
As they near Reuven’s house, they make plans for tomorrow, and part.
David is worried because it’s so late, and Reuven never even called.
Reuven explains and apologizes, and David gets up to make tea and listen to Reuven’s recounting of the events.
At first, David is flinching – he doesn’t much dig gematria, but, when he hears about Reuven finding the mistake, he brightens up.
Then, Reuven starts whining about how cruel the process is to Danny.
So, David tries to explain that. while slightly cruel, it’s also beneficial, and necessary to highlight Danny’s brilliance before his future followers.
Still puzzled, Reuven expresses his confusion over Reb Saunders.
David tells him that great men are always hard to figure out, and that the Reb is a great man with huge responsibilities to many people.
He’s emphatic that the Reb is not a fraud – regardless of what David thinks of Hasidism, and regardless of the fact that David thinks Danny will be wasting his mind if he follows in his father’s footsteps.
David gets tender and says that he’s happy Reb Saunders has approved the friendship, and that he’s proud of Reuven.
Reuven gets tender, too, and apologizes for being late.
They says good-night, and Reuven has a hard time falling asleep – wouldn’t you with all that crazy-exciting-confusing stuff whirling around in your mind?