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The Chosen

The Chosen

by Chaim Potok

The Chosen Chapter 8 Summary

  • The next day is Sunday, and I guess Reuven goes to school on Sundays, because he goes to school.
  • All the kids think he’s a hero, and talk some trash about Danny.
  • Reuven doesn’t say anything.
  • At recess, he looks at the baseball field, remembering the crazy game a week ago.
  • Around 2pm, he leaves school to keep his date with Danny at the library.
  • The library sounds totally amazing and beautiful. (Maybe something like this.)
  • Up on the third floor, Reuven finds Danny reading, almost hidden by a bookshelf.
  • Reuven stands back and watches him read.
  • Apparently, the Danny is speed-reading like crazy, and Reuven is amazed.
  • Reuven, not wanting to interrupt Danny, and irritated at not being able to read even though surrounded by books, chills in a chair and tries to do symbolic logic in his head.
  • Then, he hears Danny’s voice calling him "sleepyhead."
  • Reuven announces that he wasn’t napping, just reviewing the old logic in his head.
  • Danny is perturbed by something he’s been reading, a controversial 1898 book called The History of the Jews by Heinrich Graetz.
  • Graetz has some awful things to say about the Hasidim – charges of drunkenness, debauchery, and inappropriate behavior.
  • Danny asks Reuven if that meets what Reuven saw yesterday at his father’s temple. Angry, he talks about how much his father cares for his followers (which we know from the story Danny told Reuven yesterday), and then goes on reading disturbing things to Reuven from the book.
  • Apparently, David did not give Danny this book, but recommended that he study Jewish history.
  • The book gives Danny a really weird image of himself, and Reuven suggests he talk to David about this book before he comes to any conclusions.
  • The topic shifts from Hasidism to psychology. Danny’s been learning about it.
  • Reuven has heard of the "subconscious," but hasn’t heard that many psychologists think that our deepest fears and desires live in the subconscious and express themselves in dreams.
  • When Reuven hears that Danny is planning to learn German, so as to read Sigmund Freud’s work in the language it was written in, he is horrified!
  • Danny explains that, just because Hitler speaks German, German is not an evil language. Yiddish, Danny tells Reuven, is a language derived from Middle German. Many Jews speak German, and much important philosophy is written in German.
  • Reuven is not entirely convinced.
  • That night at the supper table, Reuven tells David about Danny’s reading. He’s not too pleased about the Freud thing – he feels Danny might be too young for it, and he confirms Reuven’s suspicions that Graetz was biased and his sources were inaccurate.
  • Danny and Reuven meet at the library again the following week, and Danny isn’t pleased with David’s assessment of Graetz – he’s now read other books on Hasidism that bring doubts to his mind.
  • Danny is deep into studying German, and plans to start on Freud soon.
  • That night, David admits to Reuven that he feels weird about giving Danny books to read behind the Reb’s back.
  • He’ll feel better if Danny picks his own books, but comes to him to discuss them.
  • Next Saturday afternoon, Reuven goes back to the Saunders’ place to study with Danny and his father.
  • He meets the mother and sister (who is pretty), but doesn’t tell us their names. We learn that Danny’s mother is ill.
  • In the Reb’s book-filled study, the debates begin.
  • Reuven explains (to the readers) that there are two ways to study Talmud – either covering as much material as possible, or going deeply into each passage.
  • Reuven is used to the latter method, even though "the ideal" is to do both.
  • Reb begins with a book called Pirkei Avot or Ethics of the Fathers (which, if you are feeling ambitious, you can read here).
  • Soon, Danny and his father are deep in debate, while Reuven listens. Reuven notices that the Reb is much happier when Danny "wins" a point that when he "loses" one.
  • Eventually, Reuven sees an opening, jumps into the debate and hold his own.
  • After a while, Reb Saunders sends Danny down to fetch some tea, and he and Reuven are alone.
  • Right away, the Reb says that he knows Danny has been reading at the library. He knows he can’t stop him, nor does he feel he can ask Danny what he’s reading – yet he must know!
  • He wants Reuven to spill.
  • First Reuven is quiet, not sure what to do, and then he goes ahead and forks over Danny’s reading list – except for the Freud, the German, and the books on Hasidism.
  • The Reb wishes Danny wasn’t quite so brilliant. He makes Reuven promise that he and his dad will be good to Danny, and not turn him into a "goy," or non-Jew.
  • When Danny gets back with the tea, he can see that something heavy has gone down.
  • Yet, they continue the debate, and then attend the afternoon services.
  • On the way home, Reuven confesses to Danny what transpired between him and the Reb.
  • Danny is not surprised, and he again stresses to Reuven that he and his father don’t talk.
  • Again, Reuven can’t wrap his mind around the idea.
  • Apparently, the silence has been going on since Danny was eleven.
  • Reuven strongly suggests that Danny try to force his father in to conversation, and Danny gets all irritated and passionate, insisting it’s impossible.
  • Reuven is so upset by the idea of this silence that he brings it up to his father that night.
  • David is stunned, but changes the subject, sort of, by saying that he’s glad the Reb knows about Danny’s reading habits.
  • Of course, Reuven presses the point. David, sighing, says the Reb did talk to Danny, but through Reuven – he acknowledges that middleman isn’t the best position in the world.
  • Here, the chapter ends.

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