The Chosen Chapter 6
After the glorious Shabbat meal, Manya quickly cleans the dishes and leaves the two men to discuss Danny Saunders. Reuven wants to know more about him and why he is the way he is. Mr. Malter tells him that in order to understand Danny, he must understand his ancestry and Jewish history, and begins a lecture on the history of Polish Jewry. He talks about the Cossacks, the Polish oppression, the Jewish prosperity in Poland, the coming of the messiah, and finally Jewish scholarship.
Sounding like the soft spoken professor that he is, Mr. Malter discusses the Baal Shem, the great teacher and leader of Hasidic Jewry. There is the new teaching of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, instead of Talmud, Jewish learning, and the emergence of the tzaddik, the righteous ones. "The Hassidim believed that the tzaddik was a superhuman link between themselves and God" Chapter 6, p. 111. The tzaddikim are inherited positions, and Reb Saunders is a great tzaddik who will one day pass his position on to his eldest son, Danny. The Hasidim live in a world that is frozen, as if it were the Polish world of centuries past, and they believe they must absorb some of the suffering of the Jews of the past. Mr. Malter also talks of other brilliant minds that were able to use their intellect outside of suffocating traditions, such as Maimonedes, Kant, and Aristotle. He compares Danny to these men, for his mind is brilliant and superior to most human beings. The mere difference lies in the fact that Danny lives in a free world and is therefore struggling with his own traditions and those of free Americans around him:
"Now, Reuven, listen very carefully to what I am going to tell you. Reb Saunders' son is a terribly torn and lonely boy. There is literally no one in the world he can talk to. He needs a friend. The accident with the baseball has bound him to you, and he has already sensed in you someone he can talk to without fear." Chapter 6, p. 113
Reuven understands what his father is saying and cannot believe that so much has changed within himself in just one week. It is amazing what extraordinary things can happen from such simple ordinary actions.