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The Chosen | Book 3, Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

David Malter returns from the hospital in March 1948. Although Reuven Malter must not tire his father out, his father's presence in the apartment alleviates his sadness and loneliness.

Danny Saunders and Reuven communicate with their eyes, nods, and hand gestures. Reuven is, by now, used to the silence from Danny.

There is more violence in Palestine; the British seem unable or unwilling to stem the slaughter. Zionist groups at Hirsch College become more vocal. One day, Reuven cuts his afternoon classes to go load uniforms, helmets, and supplies for the Haganah onto transports bound for Palestine. He feels good about the hard physical work, and more connected to the Jewish state. By April, the Haganah occupies strategic cities in Palestine: Tiberias, Haifa, and Safed. The Irgun, with the help of the Haganah, captures Jaffa.

David is still consumed by his Zionist work. He tells Reuven that on the night of his heart attack, he had been invited to go to Palestine as a delegate to the Zionist General Council over the summer. He says, "Now I will be glad if I can go to the cottage this summer." They never talk about it again, but Reuven knows that his father thinks often of his missed opportunity to go to Palestine. Reuven says, "He had worked so hard for a Jewish state, and that very work now kept him from seeing it."

Israel is born on May 14, 1948. Reuven and David weep with happiness. Immediately, Arab armies begin an invasion, and the next few weeks are filled with violence. Reuven begins to worry again about his father's health.

In June it is learned that a recent Hirsch graduate had been killed fighting near Jerusalem. The entire school mourns. On the day of the U.N. cease-fire, and Israel's first day of peace since her inception, the school holds an assembly memorializing the dead young man. On that day, Reb Saunders's anti-Zionist league dies as well, at least within the walls of Hirsch College.

Reuven has finals and earns all As. He and his father are able to return to their cottage in Peekskill, and David is given permission to begin teaching again.

September brings a new school year, Reuven's third. He is committed to the rabbinate, but because logic is part of philosophy, he declares philosophy as his major.

Later that year, in the spring of 1949, Danny stops by Reuven's table at lunch. A year has passed since the inception of the Jewish state. Reb Saunders has lifted the ban, and Danny asks Reuven for help on a graph.

Analysis

More than a year is compacted into Chapter 15. Reuven Malter and his father are so focused on the nascent state of Israel that Chaim Potok inserts Danny Saunders's return almost as an afterthought.

The death of a former Hirsch student resonates with Reuven; the dead young man had been a math student, like Reuven, and had gone to earn his doctorate at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. There, he volunteered for the Haganah. It is easy to imagine Reuven taking the same path; his father had always hoped he would become a mathematics professor at a university, and the opportunity to study in the Holy Land would be an attractive one for Reuven. The death of this young man, whom Reuven did not know, is a death that is not abstract or difficult to imagine. It is difficult for Reuven to comprehend the sheer magnitude of deaths in the Holocaust, but this death makes the fighting in the Jewish state quite real.

Reuven states that the anti-Zionist league dies on the day of the memorial. Reb Saunders, with his fanatical view of the Jewish state, and his explosive temper, is also a rational being. It is evidenced by the death of his anti-Zionist league; the state of Israel is a fact, not an abstraction. It is time to turn his energies elsewhere.

Allowing Danny to once again speak to Reuven also shows Reb's rationality and compassion. David had explained Reb's ban to Reuven as necessary; Zionism is very public. Reb could explain away Danny's odd choice of reading materials or his friendship with an apikoros. He could not, however, explain to his followers that his son was openly flouting one of his most treasured convictions. Reb may truly believe that a secular Jewish state tramples on the memory of six million slaughtered Jews, but in allowing Danny to finally speak to Reuven again he is acknowledging that it is time to move forward and heal the Jewish community.

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