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The Chosen-by Rabbi Chaim Potok

The Chosen-by Rabbi Chaim Potok




In his work, Pokot expresses the existing tension between traditional Judaism and the modernity in America. The title ‘Chosen’ resonates well with the incidences which occur in the story. In a broader way, Pokot balances stand on fusing both modernity and traditional practices. The narration does not indicate author’s tendency of taking side in the religious matters.

The predominant characters in the story are Hasid and Orthodox Jews. Hasid demonstrates staunch religious belief to facilitating loyalty and faithfulness in devolving the spiritual knowledge whereas Orthodox demonstrates rationality in fusing the traditional and the modern ways of live, thus encouraging fullness and comfort in the devolved environment. The author applies parallel views of the characters to demonstrate both similarities and differences in spiritual, social and political grounds.

Major Themes


The story demonstrates conflict between American modernity and the Hasidism traditions. Danny and Reuven’s are imaginative and willing to adopt new modes of life despite being activists of Hasidism. However, they seem are alienated from the development of the story, which is evident during David Malter’s public speech at the Madison Square Garden. Reuven, who participates in ensuring devolvement in secularism, does not attend the meeting.

The enmity in the story is attributed to two philosophies in the Jewish community: David Malter’s understandings of the world and Reb Saunders’s ignorance and isolationist fanaticism. The latter has a stubborn mindset, limiting him from seeing the outside world. Conversely, David Malter is eager to adopt modernity through systematic transformation from the traditional ways of life. It is not a surprise for ever-silent Reb to express his desire of Danny being ‘tzaddik’. His mind is tone by religion and spirituality.

Parallelism and its significant

Pokot applies both complements and contrasts to reveal the fullness of life through constructive fusing of the persistent religion differences. He underlines the importance of relationships in enhancing reflection of our image, thus encouraging both positive and negative responses. For instance, the friendship shared by Reuvan and Danny is parallel. Reuvans trains Danny to be open-minded and patience, whereas Danny coaches Reuvan on methods of studying Talmud.

Similarly, Pokot applies parallelism to contrast between roles taken by individuals. For example, both Reb Saunders and David Malter are highlighted as fathers and religious fanatics but they share different opinions on religious matters. Parallel roles between Rav Gershenson and Malter are evident where the former mentors Reuven in absence of Malter.


Reuven Malter

He denotes the struggle between the traditional customs and the possible modernity in the people’s ways of life. The author uses him as distant observer of the commotion that exists in Danny’s attempts to defend his personal views. Even though the narration revolves Danny as the main character, Reuven is used by the author to highlight how effectiveness of true friendship Moreover, Reuven promotes Danny’s transformation into Hasidism. His concern on the tribulation of his society mounts to pity and empathy. He consoles adamant individuals on the importance of maintaining their culture. Still, his relation with Danny suggests on the importance of unison and loyalty in reviving haunted hope.

Danny Saunders

Danny is the instrument of conflict in the story. Chapter one starts with the description of Danny’s confusion on the side to submit to, either his traditional upbringing or the modernity. He tries to convict himself of the weaknesses associated with his traditional customs, grappling into the idea of opposing his father’s wishes. He holds similar characters with Reuvan, who has been used to construct a better future for Danny. Both of them are quick thinkers, good learners and hold similar perceptions on Jewish faith. This makes it essay to exchange views, widening their perspectives. They inherit both positive and negative ideas from one another.

Danny is retrospective of the agendas and views articulated in the book ‘Graetz’s History of Jews.’ This generates prior ill views which his father attempted to instill on him. Malicious and destructive claims on Hasidism add misery to his long perceived unity and resolution between the traditional and modern ways of life. After sharing his mind with Reuven, he takes a back fiddle in ideological argument with his father. Later on, he resolves with his father, focused to inherit his position after his tenure of leadership. The society accords the two with appropriate supports to enhance comfortable and fulfilling leadership.

David Malter

He is a one dimensional character with good intellectual and religion rigor. He represents American Jews who are neutrals to both traditional ways of life and Hasidism. His education capacity plays essential role in enabling him to intermarry lifestyles, thus demonstrating respect and love to both conservatists and defectors. Moreover, David Malter has a clear understanding of the contribution of reciprocity and relationships in bringing harmony between the traditional and secular maniacs.

In chapter 13, David Malter argues that, “man must fill his life with meaning, which is not an assurance given to life”. His personality is temporal. For instance, he changes from gentle father to Zionist campaigner. This happens after he discovers the Holocaust. He perceives the effective way of creating meaning to Holocaust by mobilizing Jews to restore their ancestral land, Israel. Comparatively, he does not downplay the importance of religion in encouraging political growth, unlike Reb’s perceptions.

Reb Saunder

He is presented as indecisive and unpredictable character. He possesses cruelty towards his own son, disapproved selfishness in success and achievements of others, and a threat to his detractors. His insincerity is portrayed by refusal to share chat with his son. He is inhuman for expressing his fury towards his son’s friendship with Danny and Reuven. More to this, it is beyond imagination of his attempts to push Danny battle for leadership with his father. If Reb designed his moves well, it would be easy to mobilize Danny to sabotage his father’s plans of creating transformative leadership.

Reuven feels that humiliation of Danny’s father at the hands of his own son would make Reb happy. However, this is a wrong imagination. Surprisingly, the truth unravels in the final chapter where Reb’s silence is intended to make Reuven befriend Danny in bid to sustain him in the leadership. Reb’s willingness to allocate Reuvan an opportunity to express his views regarding his father indicates love and care for his son. He neither expresses embarrassment nor bitterness at his son’s reaction. Rebs is emotional, indicating humanity and empathy towards others.

Notably, Reb is complex since his all-tie mission is evidenced at the final chapter. It appeared obvious that he would be outrageous with Danny’s failure of being Rabii but this does not happen. Actually, his motive was to teach Reuvan to treat others with compassion through understanding the cost paid in their achievements. This is nothing more than being complicated. It is intriguing in his claims that he lacked significant means of expressing his actual feeling towards the Hasidic tradition. In fact, his role indicates the impacts of fanatism, self-centeredness and isolationist behavior.

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