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
psychologist? 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
always taught at home. 
Over time, Danny 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 until 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 surprises Danny when
he 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 leave
us with.


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