The Chosen: Novel Summary: Chapter 8
Reuven returns to school the next morning and finds that he is treated as a hero for his performance in the baseball game. In the afternoon he meets Danny in the large public library. Danny is on the third floor, reading, and Reuven at first does not want to disturb him. Since he is not allowed to read, he reviews by heart some of the symbolic logic he has been studying. Then Danny comes over to him. He explains that he has been reading a passage from a book by Graetz, a great nineteenth century scholar, called History of the Jews. The book presents Hasidism in an unfavorable light, calling it "vulgar and disgusting." Danny is reading it because Reuven's father suggested that he should read about Jewish history. But he does not like the image that this book gives of himself, as a Hasid. He then talks to Danny about his interest in psychology, particularly dreams and the unconscious. He has learned that the unconscious contains repressed fears and hatreds, and these are sometimes expressed in symbolic fashion in dreams. He is teaching himself German so he can read the works of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, in the original language.
The subject of Danny's brother comes up. He is not in good health, because of some problem with his blood chemistry. He has to avoid strenuous study or exercise.
After they have gone home, Reuven asks his father whether Graetz was right in his view of Hasidism. Malter says he was biased and his sources were not accurate. He adds that there is enough to dislike about Hasidism without exaggerating its faults.
A week later, Malter expresses his doubts about whether it was ethical for him to give Danny books to read behind his father's back. He justifies it by saying that Danny was going to read anyway, so it is better if he has some guidance from an adult. He plans to give Danny other books in psychology, so that he will learn that Freud's views are not the only ones available.
The two boys meet again on Shabbat afternoon to study Talmud with Reb Saunders. At Danny's house, Reuven meets Danny's mother and sister. Then he goes to Reb Saunders' study. The rabbi has a Talmudic text open, and reads from it, and Danny and Reuven take turns explaining it. Then Danny and his father take over, and a battle between father and son develops, as they fight over each passage. Reuven sits quietly, watching and listening. It seems like a battle between equals, and the father loses almost as often as the son. Eventually Reuven joins in. He often resolves contradictions with references to grammar, which his father has taught him.
Reb Saunders sends Danny away to bring some tea. While he and Reuven are alone, the rabbi reveals that he is aware of the fact that Danny reads for hours in the public library, and he wants Reuven to tell him what Danny reads. He also knows that Reuven's father has been recommending books for Danny. Reuven is panic-stricken. He does not know what to do. He decides he must tell the whole story, although he does not mention that Danny is learning German and planning to read Freud. Saunders is clearly distressed by this news that Danny is reading the work of Darwin and others. But he does not intend to try to stop him. He talks about the pain of raising children.
When Danny returns, he guesses that something important has been said in his absence, but Reb Saunders carries on as if nothing has happened.
When Danny and Reuven walk home after afternoon and evening services, Reuven tells his friend what happened between him and his father that afternoon. Danny regrets that his father did not ask him, instead of Reuven, but he says that his father never talks to him other than during Talmud study. Reuven does not understand why this should be, and he asks his father about it. Malter seems to understand something about this strange silence between father and son, but he does not explain it to Reuven.
Danny is understandably troubled by what he reads in Graetz's History of the Jews. It is the first time he has encountered a negative view of Hasidism, or a view delivered from outside the sect, using the objective study of historical evidence. It is equally clear why Reb Saunders should be concerned about the scientific and other modern books that Danny is reading. The theory of evolution espoused by Charles Darwin had in the nineteenth century produced a dichotomy between science and faith that had been widening ever since. The implication of Darwin's work was that humans have no special place in the universe. They have evolved from lesser life forms by a process of natural selection. This is a challenge to the religious world view of Christians and Jews alike, which sees man as specially created by God and as qualitatively different from the rest of creation. Similarly, the theories of Freud attempt to explain human behavior in terms of subconscious forces and desires, without reference to God. It is as if the subconscious has replaced God as the supreme power that must be acknowledged and understood.
Reb Saunders' pain and fear at the thought that his son may be led astray from his mission as the future leader of the sect is conveyed in his poignant words to Reuven, "You will not make a goy out of my son?" Goy means Gentile, a non-Jewish person. The rabbi fears that his son may embrace the world like a goy-the very world that, according to the doctrine he preaches, should be shunned because it is hostile to the Jews.