"The Chosen" by Chaim Potok

Essay by jennabugUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2004

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Jenna Hecker

The Chosen, 2/23/2004

Chaim Potok's "The Chosen" follows the friendship of two pious Jewish boys, and explores the cultural divide between the Hasidic community and modern orthodoxy. The books begins with a baseball game that turns into a holy war as orthodox Jewish boys try to justify their religious practices when faced against a Hasidic team who feel themselves more pious than their adversaries. When Danny, the Hasidic protagonist, hits a ball at Reuven a bit too hard, shattering his glasses and nearly blinding him, the boys develop a friendship that opens their eyes to their individual communities.

Both boys benefit from their father's legacies, but suffer in their shadows. Reb Saunders, Danny's father, provides his son with intellectual stimulation, but not with fatherly interaction and love the Danny craves. Danny does not want to follow is father's footsteps and inherit his synagogue, instead favoring psychological studies.

Reuven encounters problems after his father gives a pro-Zionist speech at the college. The book explores the burden of being chosen. Danny was born into his position as a religious leader, as a result he feels frustrated that he gets to make very few choices of his own in his life. His experience is teenage angst being magnified by the burden of an oppressive, but vibrant Hasidic community that values his knowledge but has become dependant on his father, and as a result, his family for leadership that Danny does not necessarily feel he is able to inherit.

Danny's experience in The Chosen is one that many observant Jews grapple with, although perhaps on a smaller level, throughout their life. Judaism is a vibrant culture based religion, and one often may find themselves feeling set apart from the secular world when they are keeping Sabbath, or observing kashrut...