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The Chosen | Quotes


Hasidic Jews ... whose habits and frames of reference were born ... of the land they had abandoned.

Reuven Malter, Book 1, Chapter 1

Reuven Malter is remarking on the paradox of the Hasidim bringing the marks of their oppression over to a new country. They emigrated but remained, in essence, as if they had stayed in Russia.


Remember why and for whom we play.

Young rabbi, Book 1, Chapter 1

By invoking God in a softball game, the young rabbi both elevates the importance of the game and sets up a culture war. Implying that the Hasidim are playing for God suggests that the other team is godless. One of the primary tensions of the novel is between the different ways of practicing Judaism.


I told my team we're going to kill you apikorsim this afternoon.

Danny Saunders, Book 1, Chapter 1

Danny Saunders lays out a central tension in the narrative in this quote. By calling Reuven Malter's team "apikorsim," he suggests that non-Hasids are not people of the book; they are heretics and apostates, people who abandoned the Commandments. In fact, Reuven's teammates all consider themselves Orthodox Jews and followers of the Commandments.


Radio brought the world together ... Anything that brought the world together he called a blessing.

Reuven Malter, Book 1, Chapter 2

David Malter brings Reuven a radio in the hospital so that he can listen to the war news. A radio is a link to a more secular world, which the Malters are not averse to. This is a key difference between the Malters and the Saunders families.


If a person comes to apologize for having hurt you, you must listen.

David Malter, Book 1, Chapter 3

David Malter introduces the Talmud in this quote. He and Reuven Malter both live by Talmudic law and he expects his son to be familiar with it. David's sympathy for Danny Saunders is consistent throughout the book.


Reuven, if you can, make Danny Saunders your friend.

David Malter, Book 1, Chapter 4

This quote sets the entire trajectory of the narrative into play. Reuven Malter is to make Danny Saunders his friend.


But I never really saw it until I went through it that Friday afternoon.

Reuven Malter, Book 2, Chapter 5

Since having the bandage over his eye removed, Reuven Malter is seeing the world anew. Sight and senses figure prominently in The Chosen. Reuven's new friendship with Danny Saunders is also making him see the world in a new light.


Reb Saunders's son is a terribly torn and lonely boy ... He needs a friend.

David Malter, Book 2, Chapter 5

Again, David Malter exhorts Reuven to be Danny Saunders's friend. David senses something special in Danny and is afraid for him. He knows Reuven can offer him the emotional support he needs to find his place in the world.


He always has to approve of my friends ... Especially if they're outside the fold.

Danny Saunders, Book 2, Chapter 7

Reb Saunders is very controlling of any outside influences over his son and over the rest of his community. His acceptance of Reuven Malter is critical for the boys to remain friends. Danny Saunders is very nervous that his father will not approve of the friendship, as Reuven is not Hasidic.


He's more than a rabbi ... He's a tzaddik.

Danny Saunders, Book 2, Chapter 7

Reuven Malter cannot understand the blind devotion that Reb Saunders's community has for him. He is unfamiliar with the very notion of tzaddikim, as it is completely outside his experience as a Jew. The tension between the Hasidic world and the more secular Orthodox world is a recurring theme in the novel. The elevation of a religious leader to God-like devotion is offensive to Reuven.


The world kills us! The world flays our skin ... and throws us to the flames!

Reb Saunders, Book 2, Chapter 7

Reb Saunders's emotional and pessimistic sermon does not resonate for Reuven Malter, who is much more optimistic about the world and its people. Reb believes Jews have been put on Earth to suffer.


We're blind about the most important thing in our lives, our own selves.

Danny Saunders, Book 2, Chapter 8

Danny Saunders is just getting into psychology here. This is an example of tension in the book, between secular humanism and faith. Reuven Malter and Danny both spend the rest of the narrative learning about themselves and each other.


That's ... pretty sad ... To be doing things without really knowing why you're doing them.

Reuven Malter, Book 2, Chapter 8

Danny Saunders is telling Reuven Malter about the things he finds most exciting about psychology. Reuven is upset to hear of the subconscious. Danny has no idea why he is being raised in silence or why he accepts it.


You have toiled and labored, now you are worthy of rest.

David Malter, Book 3, Chapter 13

David Malter says this is what God said to Moses when he was about to die. He wants to make sure his life is meaningful, so that when it is time to die, he is worthy of rest. After the Holocaust, David believes that his life, and the lives of the murdered Jews, will be given meaning in the reality of a Jewish state. He works tirelessly for the cause, so much so that it nearly kills him.


Fanaticism of men like Reb Saunders kept us alive for two thousand years of exile.

David Malter, Book 3, Chapter 13

The isolationism and insularity of the Hasidim has preserved their traditions, language and lifestyles. David Malter is suggesting that if all Jews had embraced secularity, there would no longer be Jews.

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