The Chosen: A Novel Info

Browse best sellers, historical fiction, literary fiction and find out our top picks in Literature & Fiction. Check out our top reviews in Literature & Fiction books and see what other readers have to say about The Chosen: A Novel Read&Download The Chosen: A Novel by Chaim Potok Online


“Anyone who finds it is finding a jewel. Its themes are
profound and universal.”—The Wall Street
Journal

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and
two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they
share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into
young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a
link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In
effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever
retreat from again. . . .

Average Ratings and Reviews
review-bg

4.28

82012 Ratings

5

4

3

2

1


Ratings and Reviews From Market


client-img 4.5
411
84
34
11
23
client-img 4.05
33592
32592
10511
3
1

Reviews for The Chosen: A Novel:

4

Feb 17, 2018

The book jacket tells us that this was the first book (published 1967) that introduced Jewish culture to a wide American audience.

The story centers around two boys growing up in the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn in New York City of the 1940s. The main character is a high-school aged boy who lost his mother years ago and is raised by his father, a teacher at a Jewish school, and a housekeeper. They are devout Orthodox Jews.



Due to a baseball injury, he makes friends with another The book jacket tells us that this was the first book (published 1967) that introduced Jewish culture to a wide American audience.

The story centers around two boys growing up in the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn in New York City of the 1940’s. The main character is a high-school aged boy who lost his mother years ago and is raised by his father, a teacher at a Jewish school, and a housekeeper. They are devout Orthodox Jews.



Due to a baseball injury, he makes friends with another devout Jewish boy who is a Hasidic Jew, destined to inherit his father’s position as a rebbe (tzaddik). The boy is so exceptional – the main character’s father says he has a mind that is seen once in a generation -- that the father encourages him to befriend the boy. Both boys are exceptional scholars. In addition to going to school from 6 am to 6 pm and then coming home to do hours of homework they manage to read 3 or 4 books of outside reading each week. The Hasidic rebbe raises his son “in silence” – never talking to him outside the context of Torah lessons.

We follow the two boys through various troubles. World War II enters into the story. As the boy recovers from his sports injury to his eye in the hospital, he listens to radio news about the D-Day landing. The war ends in 1945, news of the horrors of the Holocaust is absorbed by the community, and shortly after (1947) Israel is founded. The main character’s father becomes a fund-raiser and a political advocate supporting the establishment of the Jewish state. This causes a rift between the boys because some members of the Hassidic community thought it was blasphemy to re-establish Israel prior to the coming of the Messiah.

Interspersed with the plot, the book gives us details of other differences between Orthodox Jews and Hasidic Jews. The latter culture grew out of the Eastern European Jewish tradition (Ashkenazi) after the mass atrocities committed by Cossacks against the Jews, known as the Chmielnicki uprising. This took place in Poland in the 1600’s.

The community was so devastated (100,000 killed) that its faith was impacted. False messiahs and mysticism appeared (which generated the Kabballah). Non-sensical scholarship (pilpul, which reminds me of ‘how many angels on the head of a pin’ in the Christian tradition) was pursued by some. The tzaddiks evolved – rebbes of inherited position who are so revered that their followers want to touch them. Another permutation of the faith was gematria – assigning numerical values to letters and words in the Torah and searching for multiple meanings through what outsiders would call numerology.

We follow the boys as they mature, and they don’t necessarily fall into the paths expected of them.

This is a good read. The author does a good job of interspersing the cultural and historical details into the narrative so that it remains a novel, not a sociological text. (I should add that many of the words I’ve used in this review have alternate spellings from those used in the edition I read.)

photo of Chasidim in Williamsburg from vosizneias.com
...more
5

May 16, 2008

This was required reading for my sophomore-year honors English class; upon reading chapter one, I prepared myself for great disappointment, firstly because the chapter was entirely about baseball (which although Ive tried to enjoy I cant seem to get in to, Im sorry to say), and secondly because it was so descriptive. It was hard to imagine me being interested in something so...flowery (in some time Ill post a review on another required reading, the oh-so-detailed Great Expectations, which hasnt This was required reading for my sophomore-year honors English class; upon reading chapter one, I prepared myself for great disappointment, firstly because the chapter was entirely about baseball (which although I’ve tried to enjoy I can’t seem to get in to, I’m sorry to say), and secondly because it was so descriptive. It was hard to imagine me being interested in something so...flowery (in some time I’ll post a review on another required reading, the oh-so-detailed Great Expectations, which hasn’t improved for me even through chapter thirty-six).

Coming into the later chapters of The Chosen, I began to enjoy it a lot more. Not only was the storyline interesting and the characters likable, but its deeper meaning was insightful and reminded me of the events happening in the U. S. concerning Jews and the Holocaust—about Mr. Malter rallying for a Jewish state, about Reb Saunders opposing this movement, and most prominently sticking out in my mind, the quote from the Hasidic boy who told Reuven that "Hitler destroyed the Jewish body, but you destroy the Jewish soul" (paraphrased). It gave me a certain perspective that makes me regret not having read the book sooner.

This is one of those books that I love, but can’t really explain why. With Dune it’s easy: great story, great characters, it’s got everything I’ve ever asked for. With Harry Potter, it’s got great people, great creatures, great symbolism. With The Hobbit it gives you a fun story and lovable characters. But, like The Chosen, books like The Invisible Man, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 all leave me mind-boggled. I love those books. They make me think. They make me wonder. It’s like the brief, fleeting moment in Algebra when you realize that you’ve got it! and it’s all clicking into place: there are no words to describe how you feel when you realize, Hey, I understand what the author means by this, I see it’s deeper meaning—all just before the feeling goes and you’re left paralyzed by the knowledge that you’ve understood what it’s all about, even if you don’t understand it now quite as completely as in that moment, but instead of the movement of clicking into place it’s like you’ve understood it all along. With these kinds of books, there’s a supernatural element to them that entirely surpasses other novels, and your literary understanding is taken to new levels and into new lights.

These are the kinds of books I want to be reading for the rest of my life.

The Chosen is one of those books...and as much as I’m disliking Dickens at the moment, I’m glad I had that bit of required reading. ...more
4

Mar 27, 2017

"This is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing, not one little thing, without a woman or a girl
He's lost in the wilderness
He's lost in bitterness, he's lost lost"
(James Brown, of course)

This must have been one of the most solemn books I've ever read.
It's a poignant story about two teenagers, Reuven and Danny, who grow up in Jewish Orthodox families in Brooklyn, during the period between the end of the second world war and the creation of Israel.
Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew, and "This is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing, not one little thing, without a woman or a girl
He's lost in the wilderness
He's lost in bitterness, he's lost lost"
(James Brown, of course)

This must have been one of the most solemn books I've ever read.
It's a poignant story about two teenagers, Reuven and Danny, who grow up in Jewish Orthodox families in Brooklyn, during the period between the end of the second world war and the creation of Israel.
Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew, and his friend Danny is raised in a Hasidic family.
The author explores their friendship, the relationships with their fathers, and the struggle between faith and secularity; Modern Orthodox and Hasidic beliefs.

These boys’ lives seem to revolve around the study of the Talmud and orthodox scholarship, and there are extensive passages about it in the book. To my surprise, I quite enjoyed reading this as it immersed me in a world of logical reasoning and critical thinking, which to me have always seemed incompatible with the study of any religious texts, without losing your faith.

Zionism is also a theme the book touches upon, in particular the radically different views within the Jewish communities.

The story is told in a rather straightforward style, and has a sad tone throughout. I believe it were this tone and writing style that prevented me from really loving the book, although it’s not always clear why I liked a book, but didn’t love it.

The book immerses the reader not only in a fundamentalist atmosphere, but also in a man's world, in which women are almost totally absent. This book at least offers women a glimpse in these men’s peculiar world.

"You ought to get yourself a girl, it's a wonderful tonic for a suffering soul"
This was by far the best advice Reuven gave to his friend Danny.

7/10 ...more
5

Jan 01, 2012

NEW YEAR RESOLUTION NUMBER 62: READ EVERYTHING WRITTEN BY CHAIM POTOK.

I think I might actually end up fulfilling this resolution (unlike most of the others), because the chosen was a masterpiece.

It's a poignant story about friendship, father-son relationship, about 2 Jew families on the other side of the Zionist movement and the reaction of American Jews to the horrors of holocaust. Its about two deeply religious boys, trying to strike a balance between modernity and their deep rooted NEW YEAR RESOLUTION NUMBER 62: READ EVERYTHING WRITTEN BY CHAIM POTOK.

I think I might actually end up fulfilling this resolution (unlike most of the others), because “the chosen” was a masterpiece.

It's a poignant story about friendship, father-son relationship, about 2 Jew families on the other side of the Zionist movement and the reaction of American Jews to the horrors of holocaust. It’s about two deeply religious boys, trying to strike a balance between modernity and their deep rooted traditions, it’s about the influence parents have in shaping their children’s belief system. In fact, Chaim Potok encompasses so many varied topics with in this novel, and he does so with great expertise.

The tensions between tradition and modern American life are a frequent theme in any immigrant literature. Yet Chaim Potok explores this theme in an unusual and distinctive manner, focusing on the ways in which different Jewish communities react to modernization. He uses complementary and contrasting pairs of characters like Danny Saunder and Reuven Malter (and their fathers) to study the different ways of balancing Jewish observance with life in twentieth-century America.

Danny Saunder belongs to the Hasidic sect whereas Reuven is an orthodox Jew. At first glance, they seem as different to the reader as they seem to each other. But despite Danny and Reuven’s religious differences, each must deal with the fact that, by virtue of his birth, he belongs to the Jewish tradition. As Jews, both Reuven and Danny must deal with religious commitments and responsibilities that most children their age do not have to encounter. Both share an intense competitive drive and a fervent intellectual passion. This forges a friendship between them, which develops through out the novel.

Reuven and Danny’s friendship is like a breath of fresh air. They play a mutually beneficial role in each other’s life. Danny is interested in science and the humanities, while Reuven’s strength is in mathematics. Hence, they complement each other: Each teaches and is taught by the other and their relationship is delightful to the eyes! It is so refreshing to read about a set of friends, not bickering or gossiping and actually doing something constructive. If only more people were like them!

Both the characters have vastly different relationship with their father. While Reuven and David Malter have an open and free relationship built on mutual love and respect, Reb Saunders comes across as a tyrant. The only time when he speaks to his son is while teaching him. Like Reuven, I think it’s a very crappy method of teaching one to look into their soul. But, since even me and my dad can spend weeks not talking to each other when we are mad, I think I understand.

Again, David and Reb Saunders come across as poles apart. They share different views about the Zionist movement, about science and religion, and they frequently come into conflict. Still, as the novel progresses, one again sees beyond the superficial appearances to realize how similar they are. The message that, people are not always how they initially appear and we cannot dismiss that which we do not understand, resonate through out the novel.

In The Chosen, personal developments are intricately related to historic events. The first third of the novel unfolds during the Allied offensive in World War II, the middle third deals with the American Jewish community’s response to the Holocaust, and the final third is concerned with the Zionist movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine. These events are not merely backdrop for the novel, but contribute significantly to its plot and thematic content.

Okay, confession time!

My reason for immensely liking the novel might be briefly personal. The story of two adolescents trying to reconcile the idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing God within events of random, senseless suffering, struck a chord with me. I could greatly empathize with the struggle that the world’s Jews—and the characters in the novel—faced in the wake of the Holocaust. Chaim Potok raised several questions, which I myself have pondered countless times.

When does thinking for oneself become disrespecting traditions and deep rooted beliefs?

What is the worth of religious ceremonies and rules?

And, most importantly

If God existed, how could he let this happen?

If you have ever asked yourself those questions, you would love this novel!

If you haven’t (lucky you!) you would still love it.

Highest possible recommendation and 5 twinkling stars.
...more
4

Oct 28, 2008

Danny Saunders was raised in silence to save his soul. His father saw that his mind was so keen that his soul would be lost if there was not some awful tragedy to break his soul into a living space. So his father raised him in silence, never speaking to him until Danny learned to listen to that silence, to hear in the silence the cry of millions of his people as they were slaughtered, starved, beaten, and experimented upon by Hilter's army. It did not make Danny a rabbi, but it saved his soul in Danny Saunders was raised in silence to save his soul. His father saw that his mind was so keen that his soul would be lost if there was not some awful tragedy to break his soul into a living space. So his father raised him in silence, never speaking to him until Danny learned to listen to that silence, to hear in the silence the cry of millions of his people as they were slaughtered, starved, beaten, and experimented upon by Hilter's army. It did not make Danny a rabbi, but it saved his soul in the end. It gave him the ears of a psychologist as he could listen to that silence.

As I read this, I kept thinking about how God has raised us in silence. We are only allowed communication with him in certain ways, through rituals, through scripture. All else is silence. In this silence, we long for a closer relationship. We suffer. We hold respect for God and the methods used for communication. And in that silence, we hear the suffering of the world, of each child that dies every five seconds of hunger. We hear that silence, and, I hope, it gives us a heart. ...more
5

Jun 27, 2017

I'm 23 years old and I've been reading for most of the time I've been alive.

In all those years of reading, I can recall openly sobbing on only two occasions.

The first time was in Little Women, when Beth March died.

And the second time was in The Chosen, when Reb Saunders said this:

"In the silence between us, he began to hear the world crying."
1

Aug 14, 2007

i was litterally gnna shoot myself when reading this boook. i couldnt evn stand it so i decided to buy the audio version on itunes and that was even worse and cost me like 20 dolllaa. i wass like heyllll nawww im not reading dissss but den i did cuzz i kinda had too. its about a jewish nerd who gets hit in the eye when the rivalryy jewish team hits him. they dont like eachother or something i dont know. it was all downhill from there. ysaaaaa heardd???
5

Oct 14, 2008

The Jewish Talmud exhorts a man to do two things for himself. First, acquire a teacher. The other is to choose a friend.

Danny Saunders got the package deal when he made the acquaintance of Reuven Malter. Theirs is a Jonathan and David friendship, the two-bodies-with-one-soul type of friendship that happens rarely in a lifetime.

As the oldest son of the tzaddik (righteous leader) of a strict, Hasidic Jewish sect, Danny is the chosen. Upon the death of his father, he will be expected to step up as The Jewish Talmud exhorts a man to do two things for himself. First, acquire a teacher. The other is to choose a friend.

Danny Saunders got the package deal when he made the acquaintance of Reuven Malter. Theirs is a Jonathan and David friendship, the two-bodies-with-one-soul type of friendship that happens rarely in a lifetime.

As the oldest son of the tzaddik (righteous leader) of a strict, Hasidic Jewish sect, Danny is the chosen. Upon the death of his father, he will be expected to step up as head of the dynasty. Thus his father, the brilliant but eccentric Reb Saunders, focuses his full attention upon the proper upbringing of his son.

But what is a proper upbringing for a genius? Listen to the agonizing dilemma of Danny's father:

"A man is born into this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is God, it is the soul; the rest is ugliness and evil, a shell. The spark must be guarded like a treasure, it must be nurtured, it must be fanned into flame. {Snip} Anything can be a shell....anything. Indifference, laziness, brutality, and genius. Yes, even a great mind can be a shell and choke the spark.

Reuven, the Master of the Universe blessed me with a brilliant son. And he cursed me with all the problems of raising him. Ah, what it is to have a brilliant son! Not a smart son, Reuven, but a brilliant son, a Daniel, a boy with a mind like a jewel. Ah, what a curse it is, what an anguish it is to have a Daniel, whose mind is like a pearl, like a sun. Reuven, when my Daniel was four years old, I saw him reading a story from a book. And I was frightened. he did not read the story, he swallowed it, as one swallows food or water. There was no soul in my four-year-old Daniel, there was only his mind. He was a mind in a body without a soul. It was a story in a Yiddish book about a poor Jew and his struggles to get to Eretz Yisroel before he died. Ah, how that man suffered! And my Daniel enjoyed the story, he enjoyed the last terrible page, because when he finished it he realized for the first time what a memory he had. He looked at me proudly and told me back the story from memory, and I cried inside my heart. I went away and cried to the Master of the Universe, 'What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul!"



Reb Saunders makes a very unusual choice for his son. He chooses to raise him in silence. Except for weekly dialogue over the Talmud and Torah, no words pass between father and son. Though it seems cruel, it is the father's best hope that the suffering it creates will fan into flame that spark of a soul that lies within Danny.

Reuven becomes the counter-balance for Danny's relationship with his father. As a more liberal Jew, Reuven is able to bring a rational element into an otherwise emotionally volatile situation. Without their friendship, it is easy to see that Danny would crumple either from rage or simply from the heavy load of expectation he carries as a burden.

Ultimately, Reb Saunders can claim at least partial victory for his son's upbringing. Danny will break the the multi-generational traditions of his ancestors; he will not step into the chosen role of Tzaddik. Rather, he will be a "tzaddik for the world", a different kind of a healer in his chosen field of psychology. But he will remain a practicing Jew, a man with a soul in whom the spark of life burns brightly.

I loved this book. It was fascinating to look behind the scenes at the traditions of the most orthodox sect of Judaism. The Jews have remained a people apart, separate from the nations. This story gives a glimpse of the challenges they incurred as a people group after WWII. The struggle was to keep their traditions intact, but at the same time to acclimate to their new home country of America. Rich, rich, rich. I have scouted out two others by the same author The Promise, which is a sequel to The Chosen, and My Name is Asher Lev, which some feel is Chaim Potok's best work.
...more
4

Feb 11, 2016

At its core The Chosen is about the relationship between two Brooklyn boys Danny and Reuven, the world they grow up in, and their relationship with their fathers. Both are Jewish, but while they share the same faith, they belong to radically different portions of that faith. Danny is Hasidic. What's more he is the son of a Rebbe and expected to take up the mantle with the passing of his father. Reuven, on the other hand, is part of modern Orthodox Judaism and is the son of a Talmudic teacher.

At its core The Chosen is about the relationship between two Brooklyn boys Danny and Reuven, the world they grow up in, and their relationship with their fathers. Both are Jewish, but while they share the same faith, they belong to radically different portions of that faith. Danny is Hasidic. What's more he is the son of a Rebbe and expected to take up the mantle with the passing of his father. Reuven, on the other hand, is part of modern Orthodox Judaism and is the son of a Talmudic teacher.

While growing up mere blocks from each other they do not cross paths until a baseball game brings them together... and then sends Reuven to the hospital when Danny slams a line drive into Reuven's face, breaking his glasses and sending glass into his eye. So, not the best foot for a relationship to get off on. Danny visits Reuven in the hospital and while Reuven is initially hostile to Danny his father convinces him to give Danny and chance and they begin to become friends.

The relationship between the two boys blossoms as they grow up. We discover Danny is brilliant, with a once in a generation mind who fears being trapped into the role of his people's Rebbe. His father only speaks to him when they discuss the Talmud and forbids him from reading world book such as Freud and Darwin. Reuven, while still very smart, is much more mathematically inclined than Danny. In spite of their differences they become great friends, spending many evenings and Sabbaths together. In the background WWII is coming to a close and the horrors of the Holocaust are being reveled.

This leads to the big clash in the book, Zionism. Immediately post-WWII, when the full horrors that had been visited on the Jews was made widely known there was a resurgence in Zionism, specifically a homeland in British Palestine. While many Jews were in favor of a return to their historic homeland, the more religious ones (such as Edah HaChareidis) thought that their could never be a Jewish state until the return of Messiah. Danny's father passionately felt this way while Reuven's father was an ardent Zionist. This matter was further complicated by Jewish terrorist attacks as well as attackes by Arabs and the British on Jewish neighborhoods and immigrants. It was a huge mess and naturally the boys are caught in the middle with Danny's father forbidding Danny from seeing or interacting with Reuven.

Potok's writing in conveying all the emotions Reuven experiences throughout the book is stupendous. We see him grow both as a person coming into his own as a man and his relationship with Danny. We see his evolving attitude towards his own religion and how he chooses it to affect his life. Naturally Potok, an orthodox rabbi himself, treats all these conflicts with a deft and empathetic hand. There are no good guys or bad guys, just people trying to navigate the turbulent times they live in. Even the rather monstrous silent treatment Danny's father subjects him to comes from a place of love and compassion. The tragedy of the book is what circumstances people find themselves in through no fault of their own and how it affects their relationships with others. But such is the nature of life, so beautifully encapsulated by this novel. ...more
3

Aug 24, 2009

I'm really struggling with how to review this book. It was beautifully written. The relationships between Danny and Reuven and between Reuven and his father were real and touching. I enjoyed learning about different systems of Jewish faith and the interactions (or lack thereof) between their communities. The historic insights into WWII and its aftermath, particularly the realization among American Jews of the extent of the Holocaust and the formation of the state of Israel, were fascinating.

But I'm really struggling with how to review this book. It was beautifully written. The relationships between Danny and Reuven and between Reuven and his father were real and touching. I enjoyed learning about different systems of Jewish faith and the interactions (or lack thereof) between their communities. The historic insights into WWII and its aftermath, particularly the realization among American Jews of the extent of the Holocaust and the formation of the state of Israel, were fascinating.

But I was so distracted and disturbed by Reb Saunders's coldness toward his own son, his lack of willingness and/or ability to even talk to him outside of Talmudic discussion that it's difficult for me to get past it. His explanation toward the end of the book didn't really help. It was obvious that he loved his son and was incredibly proud of him, and that he truly believed that he made the best choice he could at the time in how to raise his son with a soul, though he admitted when asking for forgiveness from Danny, "A wiser father...may have done differently. I am not...wise." My heart just ached for the pain and suffering he had put both himself and his son through. And I was especially disheartened that Danny said he may raise his own son in silence, too, "if I can't find another way." I don't understand the reasoning behind being cruel to your child (because this was definitely emotional abandonment and neglect, if not outright abuse) in order to teach him compassion. There are better ways to teach compassion, even to intellectual geniuses like Danny.

For more book reviews, visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves. ...more
5

Sep 20, 2017

Chaim Potok says in his foreword to the book that he wanted to write an encompassing metaphor. How to make a unity of such disparate entitlesthe war in Europe, a childhood eye injury, the mesmerizing quality and dark menace of certain books, Freud, religion, psychology, mathematical logic, sacred texts, scientific text criticism, Zionism, the Holocaust.

In that he did a great job. The book was beautiful and memorable. It teaches history and a few life lessons, but overall, I found it tedious, Chaim Potok says in his foreword to the book that he wanted to write “an encompassing metaphor. How to make a unity of such disparate entitles—the war in Europe, a childhood eye injury, the mesmerizing quality and dark menace of certain books, Freud, religion, psychology, mathematical logic, sacred texts, scientific text criticism, Zionism, the Holocaust.”

In that he did a great job. The book was beautiful and memorable. It teaches history and a few life lessons, but overall, I found it tedious, boring. I continued reading it because the story will last in my mind, and I knew that I could never consider that it was not a great novel.

A rabbi teaches his son, Danny, the Talmud but otherwise never speaks to him. It is the Hasidic way to teach. The silence causes suffering, but it is through this suffering that he is to learn compassionate and how to find his own answers in life. This is true. In my own life the silence from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the shunning, caused me suffering, but out of that I learned to have compassion for others who suffered and are suffering. Finding my own answers in life, well, maybe there are no real answers, but that is now okay.

Then there is the boy Reuven, whose father is a teacher that studies the Talmud with him, but they are Orthodox Jews. Reuven’s relationship with his father is one of admiration because his father is approachable, warm, and kind towards him; it contrasts with Danny’s own relationship with his dad.

The relationship between the fathers and sons, and between the boys, made this story work somewhat for me. Still, I didn’t want to read a blow by blow account of a baseball game that lasted throughout entire first chapter, nor did I like hospital stories which took up a few more chapters.

I thought after the baseball game, and then the hospital stay that the book would pick up, but then Danny was interested in psychology, mainly Freud. I had lost interest in psychology after 3 college courses, and I continued to lose interest in it when some of the Jewish men that I had dated back then wanted to analyze me. Maybe they became psychologists and don’t have to use dates for their case studies, but I understand that they still can’t stop analyzing their family members. So by now, as I am reading this book, I am irritated with it and an thinking of my women Jewish friends who I knew back then, who, when they would hear something that they didn’t like, said, “Oy vey.” I silently screamed, “Oy vey” over and over again.

So while Danny wanted to become a psychologist, his father wanted him to become a rabbi. He was depressed over this but Freud’s thoughts on the human condition depressed him even more. Psychology can do that, but religion can as well. I considered him stuck between a rock and a hard place.

And so yes, there was religion, the long lessons that each boy had to learn when their fathers taught them the Talmud. They learned it inside and out, and my own mind was screaming inside and out, yet I also knew that this way of learning could be applied to other curriculums. It is just that have grown sick of religion over the years, over my own struggles to find answers in life. I am sick of the shunning that goes on in them, of the righteousness, of believing that your religion is right and all others can go to hell or wherever their lack of faith takes them.

I wanted to read a book about Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., but I didn’t want to read one that was academic. I thought more along the lines of their playing, not baseball, but in the creeks catching pollywogs. I also thought more along the line of their stealing apples out of a fruit stand that was outside of a store. But then I thought about my own Jewish friends who were in college, and none of us where interested in anything other than college, and well, men. We were past the age of pollywogs, but as I grew older I came back to the pollywogs.

As I read this book I saw how the American Jews reacted to the end of WWII when they learned that 6 million Jews had been murdered with many being gassed and then burned in incinerators. My mind went back to two weeks ago when my husband and I were driving past a funeral home, and the smoke was coming out of the chimney of the crematorium; I cringed, thinking of those gas chambers in Auschwitz. I thought how uncivilized it was and how horrible to have it at the edge of our town. Maybe there is a reason that hell is beneath the earth.

Then I went back to thinking of how Danny’s father reacted to the fact that some of his family was murdered during the holocaust, and how he became depressed and emotionally disturbed, which lead me to thinking of how close Jewish ties were and still are, and I thought of how I didn’t relate to any one race or religion, but that I mourned for the world, but also I feel that doing so has never affected me as much as it did them; it is too scattering, because there isn’t that same sense of loss that you have with a family, with a close knit culture. Yet we must care for everyone and not limit ourselves.

And as the years went by in my own life, as I learned more about humankind, I grew to believe that there is nothing that man cannot and will not do to another human being once he considers him his enemy. I learned how it doesn’t make much to turn a friend, a family member, or even a group of people into the enemy. But both religion and politics divides us like this, and other expectations do as well, and there is probably no way to get around it. Still, I have to hold on to the belief that some men will never change; they will always remain humane.

Now, American politics reminds me of how Hitler came to power, and while I still read non-fiction books, when things get too heavy in regards to the news, I like to pick up a book about childhood memories; it is my own therapy. This book was not therapy.

I think of how Americans, according to an article in the Aarp Magazine, are having health problems due to the news, and those who need therapy don’t talk about their own problems in therapy, they just talk about Trump. But America, outside of the men and women in the military, has not faced war in their homeland since the Civil War, and I know that some Americans fear that this can happen here, or that our world will just be blown up. They don’t know what real fear feels like, yes, they know of the sleepless nights, of the worry, but they don’t understand the suffering. No one does that has not experienced it. ...more
5

Jul 05, 2007

My brother Matt suggested this book, and I'm very glad that I read it. (And glad that he was there to fill me in a little more on the history it brings up.) It is very well written, and enjoyable as well as educational. It helped me better understand the Jewish faith and branches of Judaism, the horror of WWII, what is unique about American Jews, and some of the conflict over the Israel as a Jewish state. Leaves you with a warm feeling and lots to think about. "The Talmud says that a person My brother Matt suggested this book, and I'm very glad that I read it. (And glad that he was there to fill me in a little more on the history it brings up.) It is very well written, and enjoyable as well as educational. It helped me better understand the Jewish faith and branches of Judaism, the horror of WWII, what is unique about American Jews, and some of the conflict over the Israel as a Jewish state. Leaves you with a warm feeling and lots to think about. "The Talmud says that a person should do two things for himself. One is to acquire a teacher...[the other is to] choose a friend...two people who are true friends are like two bodies with one soul."
...more
5

Jan 05, 2017

The story of an extraordinary friendship between two boys raised by parents with opposing views about how best to practise the Jewish faith. One boy is a genius whose father will go to extreme lengths to preserve his faith in God. I still shake my head at his actions but the power of this story is that it is not only unforgettable but it opens the curtain on Hasidic culture and contrasts it with the more modern but still devout Jew. A fascinating story, a page-turning friendship, and a rite of The story of an extraordinary friendship between two boys raised by parents with opposing views about how best to practise the Jewish faith. One boy is a genius whose father will go to extreme lengths to preserve his faith in God. I still shake my head at his actions but the power of this story is that it is not only unforgettable but it opens the curtain on Hasidic culture and contrasts it with the more modern but still devout Jew. A fascinating story, a page-turning friendship, and a rite of passage with the boys becoming men on two very different paths by the end. ...more
5

Jul 16, 2008

Well, I just finished this book last night and I must say I was deeply moved by the whole experience. I remembered there was a reason I liked it so much back in high school. I love the relationship between the two main characters, Danny and Reuven. They've reminded me that there are definite friendships that I cherish highly, and that true friends are hard to come by. But when they do, you know in your heart that you will never leave them for the rest of your life. I guess after reading this, Well, I just finished this book last night and I must say I was deeply moved by the whole experience. I remembered there was a reason I liked it so much back in high school. I love the relationship between the two main characters, Danny and Reuven. They've reminded me that there are definite friendships that I cherish highly, and that true friends are hard to come by. But when they do, you know in your heart that you will never leave them for the rest of your life. I guess after reading this, it's made me sit back and just realize that I do cherish and love my friends and that without them, I wouldn't be able to get through this life.

I really like the parts of the book where it focuses on the relationship between the two boys and their respective fathers. You can tell each father loves his son immensely, but in different ways. I also like re-learning all the things about the Jewish community, at least as much as Chaim Potok talks about. Not being Jewish, I've found a lot of the history that I didn't know about and the Jewish customs so very intriguing. I've definitely been enlightened by this book, which I consider a good thing. Mr. Potok's writing is very direct as well as descriptive, and he has such a great way of writing. And there were one or two chapters that I was so moved by his writing, that I did indeed become a little teary-eyed.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you want to reaffirm what true friendship means to you. ...more
3

Apr 14, 2017

There are a lot of Jewish people in Brooklyn. One of them is my wife, but most of them aren't. There are a bunch of Modern Orthodox Jews, and the US's largest population of Hasidic Jews, based famously in Williamsburg. They're both conservative; one major difference is that Hasidic Jews are anti-Israel, for complicated and dumb reasons. The Chosen is about a friendship between a Modern Orthodox Jew, Reuven Malter, and a Hasidic Jew named Danny Saunders. I only heard about Chaim Potok and this There are a lot of Jewish people in Brooklyn. One of them is my wife, but most of them aren't. There are a bunch of Modern Orthodox Jews, and the US's largest population of Hasidic Jews, based famously in Williamsburg. They're both conservative; one major difference is that Hasidic Jews are anti-Israel, for complicated and dumb reasons. The Chosen is about a friendship between a Modern Orthodox Jew, Reuven Malter, and a Hasidic Jew named Danny Saunders. I only heard about Chaim Potok and this book recently, which surprised my wife; for her, The Chosen was a core high school text.

There's a lot of attention to analysis of the Talmud, a dizzying body of arcane arguments about religious details. Some bookish men from both traditions dedicate their lives to learning about this stuff, which seems like a shame; here are these perfectly good readers who are not reading Middlemarch. If you want to know more about all that, you'll love this book. I found it interesting, mostly.

The boys are footsoldiers in a larger debate / battle between opposing schools of Jewish belief,, deployed in a way by their fathers, who never meet face to face but are extremely aware of each other. They respect each other, but disagree vehemently. Danny's father, in a story so crazy it must be true, hasn't spoken to him since he was an infant; they discuss Talmud together but otherwise don't communicate at all. He's trying to teach him compassion. I suggested to my wife that we try this with our kid, and she was like "Good luck keeping your mouth shut for more than thirty seconds," which is a decent point.

It's a glimpse into a foreign and exotic world, even though it's like two neighborhoods away from me, and it's all interesting but it feels a little "young adult" to me. The story is written in simple language, and the message is overstated to make sure you don't miss anything. I don't think it's particularly great literature. ...more
3

Mar 28, 2013

Today I discussed this all-male book with a small group of all-male max security prisoners. They liked it, fascinated by the details of Jewish life and customs, and were eager to talk about the dynamics between fathers and sons. We had a great conversation about why the first fifth of the book is taken with a description of a baseball game. This is one of the few books I know, and certainly the most popular, that makes Talmud study sexy. One prisoner hoped that the Hasidic Danny and the Modern Today I discussed this all-male book with a small group of all-male max security prisoners. They liked it, fascinated by the details of Jewish life and customs, and were eager to talk about the dynamics between fathers and sons. We had a great conversation about why the first fifth of the book is taken with a description of a baseball game. This is one of the few books I know, and certainly the most popular, that makes Talmud study sexy. One prisoner hoped that the Hasidic Danny and the Modern Orthodox Reuven would battle it out over Talmud. Did this book do for Talmud study what the Leon Uris’s Exodus did for Zionism? Re-reading the Chosen, I was struck by the emphasis placed on Zionism as Reuven’s father works feverishly—literally, every character is sick or sickly in this book—for a Jewish State back when that was something you could root for with little qualification. One reader stumped me at the end of our session: Why does the Talmud say that silence is more valuable than words? ...more
4

Aug 23, 2010

This should be required reading for college courses in Gay Studies/Gay Literature. It is small wonder that Potok's inspiration for writing came from reading Brideshead Revisted. Reuven's narration, particularly the ways he describes Danny, is a virtual textbook case of repressed desire. This repression is consistent with one of the novel's themes: silence.

Having read this book, originally, many years ago, I did not pick up on Reuven's infatuation in the same way I've since come to recognize. In This should be required reading for college courses in Gay Studies/Gay Literature. It is small wonder that Potok's inspiration for writing came from reading Brideshead Revisted. Reuven's narration, particularly the ways he describes Danny, is a virtual textbook case of repressed desire. This repression is consistent with one of the novel's themes: silence.

Having read this book, originally, many years ago, I did not pick up on Reuven's infatuation in the same way I've since come to recognize. In that regard, rereading The Chosen as an adult is much like rereading The Picture of Dorian Gray as an adult--with more experience, each becomes a very different novel. ...more
5

Jul 22, 2008

This book holds up so well to multiple re-readings. It's a story of friendship, of family love, of the relationships between fathers and sons, set against the background of Hasidic Judaism. This time, I'm unconvinced that raising a child in silence, as Danny's father does, will result in a compassionate child, but I am moved by Danny's struggle to be both himself and what his father and his father's followers need him to be. Reuven, the narrator, serves both as a channel for what the reader (who This book holds up so well to multiple re-readings. It's a story of friendship, of family love, of the relationships between fathers and sons, set against the background of Hasidic Judaism. This time, I'm unconvinced that raising a child in silence, as Danny's father does, will result in a compassionate child, but I am moved by Danny's struggle to be both himself and what his father and his father's followers need him to be. Reuven, the narrator, serves both as a channel for what the reader (who can't be presumed to know anything about Orthodox Jews) needs to learn and as a support for the brilliant Danny, without being diminished by his best friend's brilliance. In fact, Reuven's complementary abilities keep Danny from being unbelievable in his intellectual flawlessness; Danny acknowledges that he and Reuven think differently, and one of my favorite scenes is a class in which Reuven takes four days to explicate a difficult passage of the Talmud while Danny silently cheers him on. It's a brilliant book, emotionally challenging, and one I will no doubt come back to again. ...more
4

Apr 01, 2016

I was charmed by Reuven and Danny, and their ability to bridge differences to nurture their loyal friendship. That and how the author creates a strong sense of time and the orthodox Jewish culture and lifestyle in the mid 1900's engaged me.

Some parts of the book were harder for me to enjoy. I slogged through many of religious details and history and the lectures and debates.

I loved Reuven's relationship with his father. Danny's with his was hard to fathom and heartbreaking.

The non-religious I was charmed by Reuven and Danny, and their ability to bridge differences to nurture their loyal friendship. That and how the author creates a strong sense of time and the orthodox Jewish culture and lifestyle in the mid 1900's engaged me.

Some parts of the book were harder for me to enjoy. I slogged through many of religious details and history and the lectures and debates.

I loved Reuven's relationship with his father. Danny's with his was hard to fathom and heartbreaking.

The non-religious history, especially the country's response to Roosevelt's death, the discovery of the horror of the concentration camps, and the resulting Zionist movement moved me and kept my interest.

...more
4

Oct 18, 2007

I love how Chaim Potok is able to create a story about so many different things. There are dozens of topics within his books to discuss, enjoy and ponder, but he manages to twist and turn his story, so at its end, you get the Rubik's cube sides all neatly back to the same color.

Like My Name Is Asher Lev, which I loved, Potok writes about a Jewish boy torn between his own genius and his orthodox father's expectations. Danny Saunders, a genius boy with a photographic memory, is destined to take I love how Chaim Potok is able to create a story about so many different things. There are dozens of topics within his books to discuss, enjoy and ponder, but he manages to twist and turn his story, so at its end, you get the Rubik's cube sides all neatly back to the same color.

Like My Name Is Asher Lev, which I loved, Potok writes about a Jewish boy torn between his own genius and his orthodox father's expectations. Danny Saunders, a genius boy with a photographic memory, is destined to take his father's place as the community tzaddik, or spiritual leader of Hasidic Jews. To teach his son compassion, he parents him with silence, like his father did before him, and the only time father and son talk is when they discuss the Talmud, a Jewish book consisting of different rabbi's discussions of Jewish laws and ethics.

But, the father-son relationship is only one side of the thematically complicated but narratively simple story. There is much food for thought about friendship ("You think it is easy to be a friend? If you are truly his friend, you will learn otherwise") which Danny's father, Reb Saunders, tells the narrator of the story, Reuven Malter, and certainly proves to be true. There is a fantastic development about the Zionist movement, and the opposition within the Jewish community against Israel to be created after the second World War. There is an interesting, albeit outdated, flirtation with psychology and Freudism. And much, much more...especially if someone could simply live inside my head and answer back whenever I had a "and what do you think about this?" moment.

I find that one of Potok's greatest achievements is his ability to narrowly write a story that happens in a close, sheltered environment about a specific religious belief, and have it easily apply to many different beliefs and situations. I found myself thinking to myself most of today about how this story, about a community of ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews, has a lot in common with my current community. This place, where I live, has the broadest spectrum of believers/non-believers, practicing/non-practicing, ultra conservative/ultra liberal members of my own religion. The characters in the story are living and functioning in an almost self-contained environment. Their schools are Jewish. Their sports teams are Jewish. Their stores, hospitals, friends and neighborhoods are Jewish. The conflict is not "us vs. them" but "old us vs. new or changing us" and "holier us vs. secular us". They don't see the world around them.

Ding, ding, ding!!!

Like poor Reb Saunders had to discover by isolating his son from his best friend, and what David Saunders knew, but didn't have the courage to proclaim, good exists in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. It exists down the street, where perhaps the homes aren't matching brown stucco craftsman style. It exists at the other school. It exists in literature and areas of study and even at the church with the different shaped spire. There is goodness everywhere.

This belief of mine is fundamentally different from Reb Saunders, who explained that each person is born with a tiny spark of goodness which is enveloped in a shell of ugly and evil. It is the responsibility of the parent, the church, the community to protect that spark, encourage it, feed it so that it can grow and expand to eventually fill the shell and push out the evil.

While there is certainly plenty of evil surrounding us all, I think it only gets more bold and has more room to grow when we huddle around our goodness. It, goodness, is bigger than we allow it to be. We need to link goodness to goodness and charge down the street, all ablaze together.

Kind of a tangent, but I love books that make me go off down one. I can't say this book is a favorite, because it didn't make me feel the way a book needs to, but I'm certainly glad I've read it and happily encourage anyone who hasn't to do so. ...more
4

Dec 30, 2016

4.5 stars

I started a collection of Chaim Potok novels with the intent that he would not disappoint me in my quest in immersing myself in a great work of literature while also becoming much more informed about Judaism. By no means did Potok disappoint. I felt that The Chosen, being an earlier work of his, would be a great starting point and a great starting point it was. I felt that what I read was a great and important story about a time, place, and circumstance that I am now much more aware 4.5 stars

I started a collection of Chaim Potok novels with the intent that he would not disappoint me in my quest in immersing myself in a great work of literature while also becoming much more informed about Judaism. By no means did Potok disappoint. I felt that The Chosen, being an earlier work of his, would be a great starting point and a great starting point it was. I felt that what I read was a great and important story about a time, place, and circumstance that I am now much more aware through the point of view of a perspective that is not my own.

While the paperback version I read did not have a summary on the back, the plot is not too difficult to understand. The story is told through the eyes of Reuven Malter, an Orthodox Jew that lives with his father and has a maid, Manya, that tends to them during the day. Reuven's father, David, is a respected teacher and Zionist. Reuven, who dreams of being a mathematician, tells his story with a sense of logic and in many ways we could relate to his "matter of fact" disposition. The main story in this text is Reuven's relationship with a Hasidic Jewish student from another school by the name of Danny Saunders, whose father, Reb Saunders, is a respected figure in his community. During a baseball game where Danny and Reuven's teams are competing, a ball that Danny hits slams right into Reuven's eye and it requires medical attention. While they relationship starts as what seems to be a bitter rivalry, it quickly turns into Danny and Reuven's relationship and how two people from different backgrounds and different ways at approaching life find common ground and an ability to benefit from one another. This novel also explores how each sees themselves as Jewish men, while also as men that are looking to pursue what they wish, regarding of their religion. For Reuven, it is mathematics, while for Danny, it is psychology.

I learned a lot about Judaism, especially Hasidic Judaism, in this text at hand. Chaim Potok does a great job informing readers about this religion through the eyes of Reuven and his experiences and also through the teachings of David Malter and Reb Saunders. At the same time, Potok makes this an entertaining work and one that possesses a realistic tone and sense of humor. There was also that sense that just about everything was explained, which resolved any issues that may have developed. If there was any criticism, I would say that came from its tendency to be a bit stand-offish and how the displaying of information may create a dense atmosphere for the reader, but only to the point where it took a half-star from the final score. I feel that the reason for Reb's silence toward his son, Danny (Reb only spoke to his son while they were studying), says a lot about the tone of how this story was told and how these lives were lived.

Being an ordained rabbi, Chaim Potok did a remarkable job telling this story and gave me a greater understanding about Hasidic Judaism and the explanations to what seemed like complexities through Reb Saunders' very own stories.

You can find my video review from Literary Gladiators here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA3r7... ...more
5

May 01, 2014

Re-reading in July 2015:




Review from first reading in May 2014:
What an interesting education I received from this book! I learned so much about the nuances of the Jewish faith and the challenges they faced during and after World War II. I never knew of the Jewish resistance to the Israel state. I also found myself greatly engaged and intrigued by the origins of Hassidic Judaism.

In addition to being extremely fascinating and highly educational, this book caused great reflection for my own life. Re-reading in July 2015:




Review from first reading in May 2014:
What an interesting education I received from this book! I learned so much about the nuances of the Jewish faith and the challenges they faced during and after World War II. I never knew of the Jewish resistance to the Israel state. I also found myself greatly engaged and intrigued by the origins of Hassidic Judaism.

In addition to being extremely fascinating and highly educational, this book caused great reflection for my own life. While we grow to love Ruven and Danny and their fathers and get lost in their stories, this book also allows the reader to consider carefully how these life lessons can be applied to our own lives.

A true classic. A very well-written, highly didactic and compellingly self reflective text. ...more
5

Jul 01, 2007

(...as immature boys won't be able to understand/appreciate a close and beautiful bond between two heterosexual boys)

I loved this book. I read the Asher Lev books in high school and loved them, but this was great in a whole different way. Explicit (although not too 'in your face') theme of seeing and not seeing, a view of Jewish life and culture in America during and post WWII, and beautiful/touching portrayal of many different types of relationships (with family, friends, and strangers).


The (...as immature boys won't be able to understand/appreciate a close and beautiful bond between two heterosexual boys)

I loved this book. I read the Asher Lev books in high school and loved them, but this was great in a whole different way. Explicit (although not too 'in your face') theme of seeing and not seeing, a view of Jewish life and culture in America during and post WWII, and beautiful/touching portrayal of many different types of relationships (with family, friends, and strangers).


The book, in addition to being well written, gave a great history of the Jewish issues and polarization after WWII, with the fight to create a Jewish state. Fascinating way to get a glimpse of American Jewish history in the guise of fiction. Also fun to learn some new Yiddish words. :) ...more
4

Jun 06, 2008

Think you got a great education? Follow these teenage boys as they learn about one another, their faith and their relationship with their fathers. The rigorous studying that they do is foreign to today's youth. A classic in so many ways.
4

Jul 05, 2011

Chaim Potok is a master at creating characters that you genuinely care about, and then putting them in positions where the one thing that they feel they must do is the one thing that will hurt them the most, and often, the one thing that will separate them forever from their families and heritage.

I read My Name is Asher Lev first, and I think I'm still only gradually getting over that book. The Chosen is almost as good, and probably should have gotten five stars, but Asher Lev made me walk Chaim Potok is a master at creating characters that you genuinely care about, and then putting them in positions where the one thing that they feel they must do is the one thing that will hurt them the most, and often, the one thing that will separate them forever from their families and heritage.

I read My Name is Asher Lev first, and I think I'm still only gradually getting over that book. The Chosen is almost as good, and probably should have gotten five stars, but Asher Lev made me walk around for days feeling like someone had rearranged my brain, and while I really enjoyed The Chosen, it didn't have as profound an effect on me - hence the four stars.

There are no easy answers in these books, and all the tension is sharply and devastatingly created to put characters on the knife's edge. Both books hurt, in a way, because you wish there was a way in which everything could work out perfectly, and yet, the unflinching view of what is and is not possible, given society, religion, culture, and family dynamics, makes that impossible. ...more

Best Books from your Favorite Authors & Publishers

compare-icon compare-icon
Thousands of books

Take your time and choose the perfect book.

review-icon review-icon
Read Reviews

Read ratings and reviews to make sure you are on the right path.

vendor-icon vendor-icon
Multiple Stores

Check price from multiple stores for a better shopping experience.

gift-icon

Enjoy Result