Literature Study GuidesThe ChosenBook 3 Chapter 18 Summary

The Chosen | Study Guide

Chaim Potok

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Chosen Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 July 2017. Web. 16 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, July 13). The Chosen Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Chosen Study Guide." July 13, 2017. Accessed November 16, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Chosen Study Guide," July 13, 2017, accessed November 16, 2018,

The Chosen | Book 3, Chapter 18 | Summary



Reuven Malter goes to Danny Saunders's house on Passover. Reuven is contemplative, remembering the first time he walked to Danny's house. Now, it is nearly the end of their senior year.

He and Danny go up into Reb Saunders's study. Reb greets them, and says to Reuven, "You have become a man ... The first day you sat here, you were only a boy." He goes on to say, "My son, my Daniel, has also become a man." He asks Reuven what he will do in the next year, and Reuven replies that he has another year to study for his smicha. Reb replies that Danny is getting his smicha, but in September the two will go separate ways.

Reb, through Reuven, begins to talk to Danny. He says, "I know ... I have known it for a long time." Danny lets out a choked moan as his father continues. Reb, still only talking to Reuven, says that although he may hate him for what he has done, he wants him to listen.

Reb explains that man is born with only a tiny spark of goodness. The goodness is God, it is the soul. The rest is ugliness and evil, a hard shell. The spark has to be guarded and fanned into a flame so that it is bigger than the shell. Anything can be the shell—even genius—and choke the spark. When Reb realized the genius that was within his son, he felt cursed and anguished. A great mind without compassion is not what he wants for his son.

Reb explains that his brother had a great mind but was often sick, like Levi. Because his body was weak, their father did not raise him the way he raised Reb. His brother went to Odessa to study; he had a cold mind, one that was eager for knowledge but couldn't understand pain or suffering. He says that he never saw his brother again. He became a great mathematician and died in Auschwitz. Reb says his brother was a Jew when he died, not an observer of the Commandments but not a convert, either. He continues, "I would like to believe that before he died he learned how much suffering there is in the world ... It will have redeemed his soul." Reb does not want Danny to be a great mind that cannot understand human suffering.

Reb goes on to explain that his father used to wake him up from slumber and tell him stories about the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem and the suffering of the Jews, and make him cry. His father raised him in silence, only speaking to him during study. His father did this in order for him to understand the pain others feel. He must suffer his own pain. He must be comfortable in the company of his own soul. It is important to know pain, as it destroys pride and makes one aware of how small he is and how much he depends on the Master of the Universe. Reb continues, "Of all people, a tzaddik especially must know of pain." Reb sees that Reuven doesn't understand, but says, "My Daniel ... understands it well."

Reb explains that he was afraid of raising a son without a soul. He says it was so hard, because he loves Danny and could not comfort him or help with his nightmares. But Danny grew to understand pain.

Reb tells Reuven that he and his father have been a blessing to him, sent to him by God when Danny was ready to rebel. He says, "He sent you to be my closed eyes and my sealed ears."

Finally, Reb says that he knows Reuven thinks him to be cruel, but he has raised Danny to be a tzaddik. He can be a psychologist, but he will be a tzaddik to the world. Reb finally addresses his son directly, asking him if he will shave his beard and earlocks. He asks if Danny will still follow the Commandments, and Danny says yes. Reb apologizes to Reuven for his anger and for keeping them apart. He apologizes to Danny for all the pain. He says today is the Festival of Freedom, and that Danny is free. Then he tells them he is tired and must go rest.

Reuven listens to Danny cry. He joins him, crying for the years of Danny's pain. They go for a walk, and walk for hours. Later, Reuven goes home and tells his father what has happened. David says that while silence isn't the right way to raise a son, maybe it is the right way to raise a tzaddik.

Later that year, Reb announces to the congregation that Danny is going to study psychology and that Levi will become the next tzaddik. He breaks off Danny's engagement. Later in June, Danny and Reuven both graduate with honors.

Danny goes over to the Malters' one evening in September, before he leaves for Columbia. He is without a beard and earlocks. Danny tells David that he and his father talk now. David asks Danny if he will raise his own son in silence. Danny thinks for a while and then says yes, unless he can find a better way.

Reuven walks Danny home. He promises to study the Talmud with Danny and his father on Shabbat, occasionally. They shake hands and turn away.


Passover is the Festival of Freedom; it celebrates the liberation of the Jews from Egypt. Chaim Potok uses Passover as a direct metaphor for Reb Saunders freeing Danny from the life of a tzaddik. However, by freeing Danny, he is enslaving Levi Saunders. There is no indication in the book that this is a happy ending.

Potok uses this chapter to explain Reb's rationale for raising Danny Saunders in silence. The silence is intended to teach Danny compassion toward humanity and obedience to God. This overlooks the cruelty of denying a child the protection of his father. Potok does not spend much time on Mrs. Saunders. She is often sick and, somewhat stereotypically, pushes food on Danny. With no father and no mother, Danny essentially raises himself. It is as likely that Danny will learn indifference and cruelty as it is that he will learn compassion.

It is suggested, when Reb says, "I know ... I have known it for a long time," that he has actually known for many years that Danny threw off the yoke of Hasidim. These words put the narrative in a new focus. Reb, whose characteristic explosions and tears mark him as a man guided by emotion, manipulated the friendship of his son and Reuven Malter, so that David Malter, a rationalist, could act as a father figure, and Reuven as an emotional support system. Reb did have the strength of mind and character to move his entire community of over 40 families to a strange land and keep them intact and thriving. It is not outside the realm of possible interpretations that he has been a silent force bringing Reuven and Danny together. This paints him in a compassionate light; knowing he cannot be emotionally present for his beloved child, he finds people who can.

Reb leaving the room and saying, "I am very tired," is a reference to David's conversation with Reuven about death. David wants to be worthy of rest. Reb, worthy or not, is going to rest. His task with Danny is accomplished. They can break their silence; his job is done.

Danny shaving his beard and earlocks is an obvious step away from Hasidim. However, by maintaining that he may raise his own child in silence, it is clear that his heart is still somewhat bound to his father and their shared tradition.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Chosen? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!