The Chosen: Book One

The Chosen by Chaim Potok (Amazon Link)


The reputation of this book, and Chaim Potok, should precede this post. All of the reviews scream its praises. Through the first book, it seems to be a fairly easy read. A fair choice for summer vacation. It has piqued my interest in Judaism. It had not occurred to me, rather naively, that Judaism might have factions and religious animosity toward other people of the same faith, just as many other religions do. But then the only Jewish people I ever came in contact with lived in the same community as my best friend, and hung out at the Jewish Community Center along with many of my cousins.

The interaction in Book One of The Chosen that caught my interest, as most likely intended by the author, was that between the narrator, Reuven and a boy of another branch of Judaism called Hasidism, Danny.

As a front, Danny professes religious domination over the Orthodox Jews, calling them apikoros, someone who denies revelation and the prophecy, or someone who’s essentially a heretic. The term is meant as an insult as both baseball teams (oh, yeah. They’re playing baseball.) come from yeshivas, or Jewish schools. Long story short, Danny hits a baseball at Reuven’s head which causes Reuven’s glasses to break and a piece of glass to become embedded in his eye. There was already hatred brewing from the name-calling incidents, and the fact that these two teams were rivals. We find out later that Danny’s enmity was so strong that he wanted to bash Reuven’s head in with his baseball bat.

It is not overly interesting that Danny came to apologize to Reuven in the hospital. And it is not surprising that Reuven gave Danny a tongue lashing for the incident. What did interest me is that Danny came back the next day. His hurt was not in the fact that Reuven was mad at him, but in the fact that Reuven had not given him the opportunity to speak his mind. It is over this that the two boys become friends. The Talmud says that if someone comes to make amends, one must listen and forgive.

I think it is the act of listening that many people have forgotten. Conversation is so much about waiting for ones own turn to speak, that no one hears the entirety of what someone else says. So Danny and Reuven share a special gift in Reuven’s misfortune. Danny speaks and Reuven listens and asks questions accordingly. Who does that anymore?

I wanted to say more on this, but since the post was abandoned, then readdressed, I have forgotten the points I waned to make. If I remember, they shall appear in a subsequent post about the book. I promise.


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