The Chosen Plot Summary
Reuven Malter, a fifteen-year-old religious Jewish boy meets Danny Saunders, an Orthodox Hasidic Jew, in a climactic baseball game on a summer day in the early 1940s. Although the two have grown up only blocks away from one another and were born several days apart, they have never met, never hung out in the same crowds, and never prayed in shul (synagogue) together. During a holy war of a baseball game between the secular modern orthodox baseball team lead by Reuven and the Hasidic baseball team led by rabbis and Danny Saunders, Danny hits a baseball straight at Reuven, forcing him to block the ball with his face. Reuven is rushed to the hospital where he must remain for a week and undergo surgery to remove the piece of glass from his eyeglasses stuck in his eye. While in the hospital, Reuven undergoes a transformation on how he sees life, meets two special patients and friends, Tony Savo and Billy, and begins his life altering friendship with Danny Saunders.
From his first hospital visit, Danny apologizes and tells Reuven that he wants to become friends with Reuven. They see each other almost every day and on the first Shabbat that Reuven is discharged from the hospital, he visits Danny at his house and shul. He is shocked by the Hasidic customs, a Jewish world seemingly frozen in time from centuries past, and even more surprised by the habitual public testing that Danny endures each Shabbat. His revered father, Reb Saunders, the tzaddik and leader of their Hasidic community, only speaks with Danny during the study of Talmud, and furthermore tests him in front of the congregation during Shabbat sermons. A mathematical genius, Reuven is even brought into the game as Reb Saunders tests Danny's new friend in front of the congregation, as well. Later that day, Danny explains his bizarre relationship with his father to Reuven. He is raised in silence. He and his father do not speak, and he is to inherit the rabbinical position from his father one day, despite his desires to become a psychologist.
Mr. David Malter, Reuven's professor father, has been secretly feeding Danny with books in the library, consequently advising Reuven to befriend him. Danny has a brilliant mind and is unfortunately imprisoned by his family's customs and restrictions. While Danny and Reuven's friendship blossoms over the course of the year, with weekly Talmudic learning sessions, honesty, and sharing, both Mr. Malter's health suffers and the war in Europe escalates. When he suffers a heart attack, Reuven moves into the Saunders' house for several weeks.
President Roosevelt dies and the war in Europe ends. Danny and Reuven enter Hirsch Seminary for college, as they study their respective fields of interest: Psychology and mathematics/Talmud. Mr. Malter's health continues to suffer as he becomes more obsessed with the idea of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. With the end of the war comes the news of the six million Jews slaughtered by Hitler's rage. This change brings about two opposing viewpoints: Mr. Malter and the secular Jewish world rally for a Jewish homeland so that such atrocities can never happen again. The American Jewry must rebuild Judaism, for it is all that remains. However, Reb Saunders and the Hasidic community are vehemently opposed to such an establishment, for they believe a Jewish homeland can only be created upon the arrival of the messiah. Due to this split, Reb Saunders issues a ban upon Reuven, Mr. Malter, the library, and all secular Jews. For two years, Danny and Reuven do not speak and therefore must communicate in silence, just as Danny does with his father. Reuven is heartbroken, for he needs his friend desperately during this time when his father suffers yet another heart attack.
When several Jews are murdered by Arabs in Palestine, including one from Hirsch, the ban is lifted and Danny and Reuven are reunited. Reuven expressed his pain, but ultimately rejoices at the sight and sound of his longtime friend. Reuven continues to study Talmud with his father on Saturdays instead of with Reb Saunders and Danny. Mr. Malter helps Reuven realize that Reb Saunders is ready to speak to Danny, but through Reuven. Reuven visits Reb Saunders on Passover. Reb Saunders explains the method of raising a child in silence and his fears for his child. He understands that Danny has a brilliant mind, and now he knows he has a brilliant soul. He knows he is ready to leave the fold and become a psychologist. He only hopes that Danny will continue his observance of the commandments.
Danny visits Reuven before he leaves for Columbia Graduate School of Psychology. He has shaved his beard and cut off his ear locks, now looking like an attractive secular Jew. They part their separate ways, knowing that they will always have each other's friendship and love.