Tar Baby: Novel Summary: Chapter 15-16
David Malter returns from the hospital in March. He is still weak and can undertake no activity. He has to rest for months. There is still turmoil in Palestine, and Reuven volunteers for the Zionist Youth Group at college, helping load uniforms, helmets and other supplies onto a truck in a warehouse in Brooklyn. The supplies will be sent to Palestine to aid the Jews. Malter tells his son that he had been invited to attend the Zionist General Council meeting in Palestine in the summer, but because of his ill-health he will not be able to go.
In the second week of May, 1948, the state of Israel is created, followed by the Arab war to destroy it. A graduate of Reuven's college is killed in the fighting.
In September, Malter resumes teaching, and Reuven enters his third year of college. Danny comes up to talk to him, and says the ban on his seeing Reuven has been lifted. Since the state of Israel has been established, Reb Saunders has decided it is a dead issue. Danny and Reuven begin once more to spend a lot of time together. It turns out that Danny has begun to enjoy his study of experimental psychology, and wants to become a clinical psychologist, applying his knowledge and working with people. He talks about pursuing a doctorate at Columbia University. Reuven meets Reb Saunders again at the wedding of Danny's sister, and again a month later, in Saunders's study. Saunders speaks warmly to him, but Reuven cannot get over his dislike of the man.
In the two years that have elapsed since they last spoke, Danny and Reuven have matured and discovered their paths in life. Danny has made his peace with the scientific method, and Reuven has decided to become a rabbi. It does not take long for them to overcome the memory of the long, enforced silence between them. But for Reuven, silence is still an issue. He does not understand Reb Saunders' refusal to talk to his son, which he regards as "crazy and sadistic." He asks his father about it, but Malter does not give him an answer, other than to say that a father can bring up his child any way he chooses. By repeatedly bringing the issue of Saunders's silence to the reader's attention, Potok prepares the way for the climactic final chapter, in which Reb Saunders explains himself.