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Character Traits in The Chosen Essay


Chosen Essay

How does one raise a child? Some answers may value love and affection over any other aspect, while others may assess rules and obedience as the most important factor. However, neglect and distance from a child is generally agreed upon as one of the worst ways to teach a child. Nevertheless, in the Chosen, a novel by Chaim Potok, Reb Saunders attempts to raise his child in such away. Saunderss style of parenting and his general aura of iciness cause him to be quickly labeled as a cruel and heartless rabbi. Potok then surprises his audience when he denounces Saunderss pitiless personality and shows how he is actually a kind person. The author gradually builds up toward this reality by using examples of Reb Saunderss kindness, thoughtfulness, and wisdom.

Potok first foreshadows Mr. Saunderss compassion with conversations that take place between Reuven and Saunders. The rabbi refuses to talk to his son because he believes in the ancient way tzzadiks raised their offspring. Nevertheless, throughout the book, he finds contacts his son by speaking to Reuven. For example, he speaks to Reuven alone about his sons secrets visits to the library knowing that Danny will find out. He understands that Danny wants attention from him and gives it to him in a roundabout manner. Danny, it seems, understands his fathers ways and respects him even more. This is evident when he explains his fathers past to Reuven. He tells Reuven that his fathers first family was killed before him and that he was left to die. Danny then goes on to describe his fathers journey and states his father convinced his village to move from Europe to America because of the amount of anti-Semitism. He shows himself to be a man who is deeply sympathetic to the plight of his people and a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the safety of his people. Though he is burdened with the task of leading a community, Reb Saunders still has time to worry about his younger sons sickness. He does not force Levi through the same training as Danny because he fears that Levi will not be able to handle it. He shows his kindness by being gentle with his sick son even though Levi turns out to be the one to take over the tzzadik post. In the same way Reb Saunderss compassion is proved throughout the book, so too is his thoughtfulness.

One of the main traits of a tzzadik is thoughtfulness and this can be shown in the Rebs decision to allow Danny to continue visiting the library. In the novel, Mr. Malter compares Danny to Solomon, a young Jew whose brilliant mind causes him to abandon his religion in search of other knowledge. Like Solomon, Danny is gifted with extreme intelligence and is very curious about topics other then religion. This is forbidden to Danny because Hassidism forsakes secular knowledge and promotes Jewish texts as the only knowledge needed. Conversely, Mr. Malters points out Reb Saunderss son does not live in Poland. America is free (Potok 110). Danny is not constricted by the conservative views of Poland and is instead, in a society were worldly learning is approved and encouraged. He visits the library in secret and reads books about various topics, especially psychology. Danny is under the impression that his father would force him to stop reading, but to everyones surprise, the rabbi allows him to continue. Reb Saunders realizes forcing Danny to stop reading would cause him to spite Hasidism and his son might abandon Judaism altogether. The Hasidic leader also demonstrates his consideration when he encourages the friendship between Danny and Reuven to foster. He understands that his son is very lonely and knows that Reuven is a boy who will comprehend Dannys problems. Finally, he cleverly makes a mistake in his speech and allows Reuven to call it out. Saunders makes a mistake in gematriya, knowing that Danny would not be able to figure it out. He makes the error to assure his Hasidic followers that Reuven is not an apikorism, and it is beneficial for Danny to befriend Reuven. Reb Saunderss thoughtfulness allows Danny to develop his own interests and befriend Reuven, but his wisdom allows Danny to keep his interests as well as keep his friendship.

Wisdom is a trait that few posses, but Reb Saunders is man who has gained it and applies it to major conflicts in the Chosen. As the issue of a Jewish state forms, Zionists such as Mr. Malter and anti-Zionist like Mr. Saunders oppose each other with a fierce passion. As a result of David Malters speeches in defense of the formation of Israel, Saunders furiously excommunicates the Malter family and forbids Danny to speak with Reuven. After Israel is formed, the rabbi can see no point in continuing to argue the topic and sensibly allows his son to talk to Reuven again. Next, Saunders shows how is seemingly cruel method of raising a child was, in fact, a wise decision. In Europe, a tzzadik was expected to bring up his children in silence and teach them as his father had taught him. When Reb Saunders traveled to America, he brought those same customs with him and believed in them. He raised Danny in the same manner and only speaks to him during Talmud sessions. However, through Reuven, he also explains himself to his son as well. As Reuven and Danny are about to graduate from college, he calls Reuven and Danny to his study, and for the first time, he explains his way of parenting to Reuven. He was afraid that his son would end up like his brother and turn his back on his heritage. As a result, he subscribed to the ancient tzzadik philosophy of raising children. Robert Brault summed up this philosophy, saying, As parents, we guide by our unspoken example. It is only when we're talking to them that our kids aren't listening. ( The tzzadik explains that in order to hear and understand a person, the listener must be quiet. To achieve his goal, he practices this with Danny until Danny comprehends how to listen to a persons needs. Mr. Saunders then proclaims his intentions of letting Danny pursue his dreams and says his son will be a tzzadik for the world (287). He knows forcing someone to do a job they despise will only end in bad outcomes. Rather, he knows the importance of following ones dreams and lets Danny become a physiologist. As Reb Saunders finally talks to his son and apologizes to him, Potok finally lets the reader determine that the rabbis nature is one of an ideal tzzadik.

The Chosen shows how misperception can mean the difference between labeling a person as good or bad. Reb Saunders is portrayed as a callous and harsh man with almost no sense of emotions. In reality, his way of silence is a method of teaching Danny to hear the worlds suffering. He feared his son would forsake his faith and strived to do all that was possible to change him. However, he allowed Danny to continue reading because he understood that forcing Danny to stop visiting the library would cause him to lose his favorite hobby and the causes the reader to think about his assessment of the rabbi. Saunders past also serves as a way for the reader to understand his nature. Finally, Chaim Potok reveals the reason behind the silence, and the reader recognizes the true personality of Saunders. Reb Saunders, though strict, ultimately portrays himself as a kind, thoughtful, and wise man.

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