Chaim Potok's The Chosen

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Chaim Potok's The Chosen

In the book The Chosen, by Chaim Potok, Reuven Malter is shaped by everyone around him. During this interaction his character becomes more developed and engaging. Through the interactions, it becomes apparent that Reuven’s father is always teaching his child how to improve himself. The conversations between Reuven and his father help prepare Reuven develop the mentality and the personal qualities, such as wisdom, compassion, and tolerance, necessary to become a rabbi.

In all of their conversations, Mr. Malter seeks to pass his moral wisdom onto Reuven. At the beginning of the novel, after Reuven refuses to listen to Danny’s apology, his father visits him at the hospital to discuss his ignorance: “‘You did a foolish thing, Reuven,’ he told me [Reuven] sternly. ‘You remember what the Talmud says. If a person comes to apologize for having hurt you, you must listen and forgive him’” (96). Reuven’s father teaches him about applying the Talmud to his daily life and about becoming a better person. After Reuven and Danny begin to become friends, Reuven begins to look at the baseball game in retrospective. He tells his father he is shocked how such a strong friendship can emerge from such a meaningless occurrence. His father replies, “‘Reuven, as you grow older you will discover that the most important things that will happen to you will often come as a result of silly things, as you call them‘ordinary things’ is a better expression. That is the way the world is’” (110). Mr. Malter shares his wisdom of Jewish morals and way of life with Reuven so he may pass his knowledge on to his children, or perhaps his future followers. Mr. Malter tries to pass more wisdom to Reuven as the ...

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...if you [Reuven] become a rabbi’” (219). Here, Mr. Malter prepares Reuven for his difficult task ahead because whether Reuven is a rabbi or a professor, he will have to teach many and share his wisdom. Mr. Malter cunningly reveals many of the challenges that lie ahead in Reuven’s future.

In The Chosen, Reuven is very easily influenced by the people around him as he goes through his adolescence. It is a time of learning and self-realization for him, and at this time, he turns to his father for guidance and wisdom. His father shows him the ways of understanding and compassion. He also prepares him for what lies ahead, whether his son chooses to be a rabbi or not. Through his father’s teachings, Reuven develops the personal traits essential for becoming a rabbi.

Works Cited

Potok, Chaim. The Chosen. New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1967.
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