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The Chosen: Novel Summary: Chapter 14

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Chapter 14

For the rest of the semester, Danny and Reuven do not speak to each other. This is extremely painful for Reuven, and his schoolwork suffers. He hates Reb Saunders. Saunders has organized a group called The League for a Religious Eretz Yisroel, which declares no Jewish homeland without the Torah as its center. Tensions at the college run high as Reuven takes his finals in June. During August, Reuven sees little of his father, who is involved in furious activity on behalf of Zionism. At the beginning of the fall semester, Reuven promises himself that he will forget all about Danny. But that proves difficult because Reuven has joined him in Rav Gershenson's Talmud class, in which Danny is the star student. On one occasion, when Reuven excels in class, Danny responds with a smile, and this makes Reuven drop his anger at Danny.
Reuven goes to Madison Square Garden to hear his father speak at another rally. The Palestine issue is being debated at the United Nations. Both Malter and Reuven are overwhelmed with joy when the UN votes to establish a Jewish state. At college, Reb Saunders's group distributes leaflets denouncing the UN vote. But in the face of Arab violence against the Jews in Palestine, the anti-Zionist forces fade away.
Malter has another heart attack and has to spend six weeks in the hospital. During January and February, Reuven lives alone. He increases his study of the Torah, preparing hard for when he gets called on in Rav Gershenson's class. He uses his father's method of trying to reconstruct an authentic text of a particularly difficult passage from the various versions that exist. But he knows Gershenson does not care for this method, and has no intention of using it in class.
Reuven is correct in his guess that Rav Gershenson will call on him to explain the exact passage he has been studying. It is a very difficult passage, and Reuven gives a lengthy and detailed response. He talks for an hour and a half without interruption. The next day, Rav Gershenson calls on him again, and he spends two hours explaining a seven-word passage. Reuven is called on again for the next two days, and he notes that Danny seems delighted with his explanations, even though Danny does not look directly at him.
After one particularly intense Talmud session in class, in which even Rav Gershenson admits that he cannot explain a particular text, Rav Gershenson asks to see Reuven in private. He asks Reuven how his father would have explained it, and Reuven tells him about the method Malter uses of reconstructing authentic texts where he thinks the existing text is wrong. Reuven then explains how he used that method to explicate the difficult passage that had stumped them all in class. Rav Gershenson says he is not against such methods, but asks Reuven never to use them in his class.
In this chapter, Reuven is more alone than he has ever been. He sees little of his father, who is too involved in Zionist activities, and later has a heart attack. Reuven is also cut off from Danny, following Reb Saunders's ban on their friendship. He now finds that the silence Reb Saunders imposes between himself and his son, applies to him, too, and he loathes it. "Silence was ugly," he says, "it was black, it leered, it was cancerous, it was death. I hated it." In this situation, Rav Gershenson becomes especially important. He is like a father figure to Reuven, and the contrast between the kindly scholar and the fanatical Reb Saunders is clear. But even Rav Gershenson makes use of silence in his teaching method, allowing long silences in the classroom when a student cannot answer a question. The students come to dread these silences, and Reuven is determined that when his turn comes, he will be able to respond fully. But later in the chapter, Reuven practices a silence of his own. He almost gives way to his desire to shout abuse at the anti-Zionist students, but manages to restrain himself. For weeks after this, he "was grateful for the silence," because the anti-Zionist forces at the college fade away without him having to do anything. He learns that sometimes, silence is the best way of responding to a situation.


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