The Chosen


By Chaim Potok
 "I have to take my father's place. I have no choice. It's
an inherited position. I'll work it out-somehow. It won't
be so bad, being a rabbi".
"Are you going to like being a rabbi?"
"No,' he said".
"How can you spend your life doing what you don't like?"
This is the fundamental issue that confronts Daniel
Saunders. Should he take over his father's position and
become a tzadik, or should he do what he wants and become a

The position of the tzadik is inherited. It is a position
that has been in Danny Sauders' family for many
generations. Danny grew up knowing that he must become a
tzadik. However, he is a genius and can't help but wonder
what the secular world has to offer. Danny has secretly
been reading books by Darwin, Freud and many other secular
authors. Reb Saunders, Danny's father, believes that the
outside world is polluted and that man's goal in life is to
serve g-d through Torah. Danny's father is an extremist. He
even says, "The world kills us! The world flays our skin
from our bodies and throws us to the flames! The world
laughs at Torah! And if it does not kill us, it tempts us!
It misleads us! It contaminates us!" This is what Danny was
taught as he was growing up.
As Danny matures, he becomes more and more fascinated with
the outside world. He starts to study psychology at a rapid
pace. Each day he goes to the library and devours books. He
enjoys the intellectual challenge of learning about the
human mind. When Danny first started to study Talmud, he
found it rather difficult. But now it has become too easy
for him. "I get bored studying just Talmud. And the English
work in my school isn't too exciting........But it's
exciting being able to read all those books". Daniel has
made his decision. He wishes to become a psychologist.
Danny has a major problem relating to the world. He must
conduct his pursuit of the secular world in secret and in
silence. This silence parallels the silence between his
father and him. His father never speaks to Danny unless it
has to do with the studying of Torah. Danny is very afraid
that his father might discover his secret life. However
deep inside he knows that eventually his father will catch
on and Danny dreads that day.
Most children grow up trying to please their father. As a
child gets older he realizes that this is not always
possible. Sons are not clones of their fathers. Their
desires and beliefs are often different. It is sometimes
necessary to live together and resolve their differences.
As a consequence of the silence in Reb Saunder's and
Daniel's relationship, Danny is certain that once his
father becomes aware of Danny's secret life, they will no
longer be able to live together. Reb Saunders constantly
dreams about Danny's future as a tzadik and his silence is
part of the preparation for this future. Reb Saunders wants
Danny to become a tzadik and Danny knows this. One
consequence of this, is that Danny is in constant pain. He
does not wish to disappoint his father but he also
understands that he will, and that it is only a matter of
time until it happens. 

Danny continues this status quo for many years,however,
eventually Reb Saunders begins to act in a strange fashion.
He constantly appears to be upset and in severe anguish.
Daniel understands that the fearful day has finally
arrived, and his father now speaks to him with Reuven,
Danny's closest friend, as intermediary. Reb Saunders says
that he knew that Daniel would leave for the secular world.
He says that he can not stop him, but that he hopes that
entrance into the modern world would not force Daniel to
leave the world of the Torah. Daniel tells Reb Saunders
that he is determined to combine both worlds, and conduct
his life in a manner that would both fulfil his need for
secular fulfillment and Reb Saunders' desire for piety.
This is the message that Chaim Potok wishes to convey.


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