The Chosen: Novel Summary: Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

Summary
Reuven visits Danny and visits Reb Saunders in his study. In response to Saunders's question, Reuven tells him he plans to become a rabbi. Saunders responds that Reuven and Danny are therefore going in different directions. He says that he knows what Danny's plans are. Then he addresses Reuven at length, although Reuven knows he is really speaking to Danny. Reb Saunders talks about what a curse it is to have a brilliant son. Danny is all mind and no soul, whereas what Reb Saunders thinks he needed was a son with heart and compassion. He recalls his brother, who was similarly endowed with a powerful mind, but was indifferent to the suffering of others. He died during World War II, in a gas chamber in Auschwitz.
Reb Saunders continues, telling Reuven about how he was raised by his father. His father taught him about the suffering of the Jews, but later taught him only with silence. Through not speaking to him, he forced him to look into himself and to find his own strength. The idea was that a person learns about the pain of others by suffering his own pain. Later, his father told him that a tzaddik (a Hasidic leader) must know how to suffer for his people. When he raised Danny, he wanted to find a way that he could teach his son, who was so brilliant, about pain, so that he would want to take on the sufferings of another. He did this through withdrawing from him, teaching through silence, so that Danny would find answers for himself. Reb Saunders says he can allow Danny to become a psychologist, because he has learned from suffering and will be a tzaddik even though not a leader of the sect. He also asks Reuven's forgiveness for his anger at David Malter's Zionism,
After Reb Saunders finishes speaking, he leaves the room. Danny cries, and Reuven cries, too. Later, in the evening, they walk together through the streets. When Reuven returns home, he talks with his father, who says that a man has a right to raise his son in his own way.
In June, Reb Saunders announces to his congregation that his son intends to study psychology. The announcement is greeted with astonishment. Later that month, both Danny and Reuven graduate. In September, Danny visits Reuven to say goodbye. He is moving to a room he has rented near Columbia. It transpires that Danny and his father talk to each other now. Danny also says that if he has a son, he will also raise him in silence, if he cannot find a better way.
Analysis
In his final speech, Reb Saunders comes across as a more compassionate and human figure than perhaps might have been expected. His attitude is softer than it has been in the past. He asks his son for forgiveness, and admits that he is not wise. He accepts that Danny must go his own way. He also makes a tacit acknowledgement of the demands of the secular world when he says that Danny "will be a tzaddik for the world. And the world needs a tzaddik." This is an acknowledgement of the importance of psychology and psychiatry in a modern world that no longer looks exclusively to religion for moral guidance and intellectual understanding. It is hard to imagine the Reb Saunders of the earlier part of the book making such a statement, so like Danny and Reuven, he has evolved during the course of the novel. And Danny reveals that although his father's method of teaching through silence has been hard, he has gained something from it.

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