The Chosen by Chaim Potok is a wonderful book about coming of age and growth. It shows how you mature as you get older and the important things you understand about life. This book is also about Jewish history, tradition, and customs, some of which are in conflict with each other. It’s important to understand this because this is what leads the book on, the skeleton of the story. This concept is what leads to the main messages of the book and it’s also vital to understand what happened to different types of religions in the past. I loved this book because it was well written but it had amazing symbolism that went deeper and beyond the surface. The characters in this story were well - developed and represented so many important symbols that we can learn from. If you chose to read this book, I hope this discussion guide is helpful!
- Why does Reuven attribute so much significance to the baseball game?
- What do you think Davey Cantor represents in the book, as he keeps repeating “you’ll see?”
- Why does Reuven describe Danny Saunders in so much detail?
- Why does Reuven feel that his whole life has led him to this ball game and his future life will depend on its outcome?
- What is the meaning behind Danny’s strange grin?
- When the doctor asks Reuven, “can you see the light?” Reuven answers, “it’s a little blurred.” Based on the theme of vision, what might this symbolize?
- Why do you think Billy and Mr. Savo are on either side of Reuven in the hospital? What do you think they represent in the story?
- Why does Reuven introduce himself as Robert to Billy and Mr. Savo?
- How do you think Reuven’s injury affects his father’s health?
- When Reuven talks about the concept of blindness, what might the author be trying to convey?
- Why do you think the author brings the radio into the story?
- Why does Danny return after Reuven dismissed him at first from the hospital?
- Why did Danny want to kill Reuven in the ball game? What does Reuven represent?
- When Danny recites the Talmud, why do you think it is described as “cold and mechanical?”
- Why did Danny have to convince his father to play in that baseball game?
- Consider the quote, “words distort what a person really feels in his heart.” What do you think of this?
- What do you think “talking in silence” means to Danny?
- What can you infer about Danny’s feelings about his religion based on his body language?
- What do you think “crazy world, cockeyed” (pg. 57) means? Why might it be important?
- Explain what Reuven’s father means when he says “ ‘No one knows he is fortunate until he becomes unfortunate. That is the way the world is.’” (pg. 73)
- What do you think of the quote “people are not always what they seem to be?” (pg. 74) Is it true? How does that relate to Reuven’s father wanting Reuven to make Danny his friend?
- How does Danny’s analogy of ants to people relate to the mission of obeying God?
- Why did Reuven’s father not tell Reuven that he had been meeting Danny in the library? Why is Reuven’s father suggesting books for Danny to read?
- Thinking back to theme of vision, why is it so important that Reuven’s eyesight will recover? Contrast that to what happened to Mr. Savo. How does this also relate to things being out of focus, and objects being crystal clear?
- What does Reuven mean when he says “there was newness everywhere?” Why do you think there is such a change in perspective leading back to the theme of this book?
- How does the author use the power of description to emphasize this theme?
- Describe Reuven’s transformation from his time in the hospital.
- Why does Reuven’s father answer Reuven’s questions about Danny by going back a long time in history?
- What does the “silly baseball game” (pg. 110) mean to Reuven now? Does he really think it was silly?
- Why does Danny need a friend so badly? Why should that friend be Reuven?
- What do you think Reuven’s father was thinking at the very end of the chapter when he doesn’t finish his sentence?
- As Reuven falls asleep, he’s thinking about the color blue and eyes. What is the significance of comparing blue sky and blue eyes?
- Why does Reb Saunders want to meet Reuven?
- Explain why a community would follow Reb Saunders from Russia to New York.
- Why do you think Danny’s neighborhood is in such a disarray?
- How does Reuven feel as he enters the shul with Danny?
- Why does Reb Saunders ask Reuven if he’s good at mathematics, and say “we will see?”
- What is Reuven’s reaction to how Reb Saunders tests Danny? How about when Reb Saunders tests him? What is the relationship between the gematriya and the structure of the book itself?
- Why does Reuven’s father say “it is a pity” that Reb Saunders lives in his own world, and so will Danny?
- What is the meaning of the change of emotions in Reb Saunders speech?
- Why is Reuven considered a hero when he returned to school?
- What is important about the way Danny reads? How is it reflective of his perspective?
- Why do you think Danny is so interested in psychology?
- Based on what Reuven’s father says at the very bottom of page 169, why did Reb Saunders really want to meet Reuven?
- Why do you think Danny feels uncomfortable discussing with Reuven the silence between him and his father? Why does Reb Saunders raise Danny in silence?
- How does Reuven feel about the Talmud battle?
- Why does Reb Saunders ask Danny to go make tea? What is the significance of his discussion with Reuven?
- Why does Reuven get so much enjoyment out of taking his final exams?
- How does Reuven feel when he finds out Billy’s surgery is not successful? Why does he care so much? How do you know he feels that way?
- Why do you think Reuven describes the incident with the spider and the fly in so much detail? What do you think they represent?
- Contrast Danny and Reuven’s reactions to reading material that is too difficult.
- Why does Danny take a deep breath during the Talmud discussion in this chapter?
- What do you think Danny learns about himself while studying Freud?
- After the end of the summer, Reuven calls Danny. How does Danny feel about his summer break?
- What might be the significance of how Danny is blinking when Reuven sees him again? How might this relate back to the theme of vision?
- How does Danny’s appearance reflect what he is reading of Freud? Why is it important that he never gets a chance to talk to Reuven about it?
- Why do you think the author included so many tragedies in this chapter? Are their relationships between them?
- What does Reuven’s father mean when he says “we cannot wait for God?” (pg. 191) How does this differ from what Reb Saunders thinks?
- What is the importance of Roosevelt’s death to the American people?
- Why do you think Reb Saunders starts silently weeping at the dinner table?
- Why can’t Danny stop reading Freud, even though it upsets him so much? What about Freud is so upsetting?
- Why is Reuven’s father so concerned about the future of Europe? What is he hoping for?
- What is the meaning of Reb Saunders’ explosion toward Reuven? How does Reuven feel about it?
- Why is Danny’s brother’s health so important? How does it relate to the family dynasty?
- What is happening with Danny’s eyes in this chapter?
- How does Danny describe his feelings about his father? Are they consistent?
- Why is Danny so disappointed in experimental psychology in college? What was he hoping for? What does Reuven do to try to help Danny through his frustration in college?
- How did Reuven find his introduction to college? What did he like or dislike about it?
- What do you think Reuven’s father means when he says, “a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something?” (pg. 217) How does that relate to the theme of the book? What is he trying to teach Reuven?
- How does Reuven’s decision to become a rabbi compare with Danny’s professional choices?
- How does the debate over Zionism impact every aspect of Reuven’s life?
- Why does Reb Saunders force separation between Reuven and Danny? Do you think this is a good decision? What was the cause of his anger?
- How does Danny seem physically at the start of this chapter? What does that symbolize?
- Consider the silence between Danny and Reuven. What does this reflect? What can Reuven learn from this?
- Why does Reuven get frustrated with Rav Gershenson?
- What is the huge event that happens on pg. 241? Why is it bittersweet?
- Why do you think Rav Gershenson waited for the most challenging discussion to call on Reuven? Why does Rav Gershenson warn Reuven never to use his logical methods in class?
- What is it that Reuven realizes about why his father was not teaching at this college?
- Why does Reuven accept the silence between him and Danny?
- How does Reuven feel about his father not being able to travel to Israel?
- Why do you think Danny sits down with Reuven at the end of the chapter and breaks the silence between them?
- What do you think is symbolized by Danny’s eyes now being bright and blue?
- What do you think Reuven’s father means when he says “what a price to pay for a soul?” (pg. 262)
- Why does Reuven dislike Reb Saunders more when he leaves than when he had entered? Do you think Reb Saunders was very happy to see Reuven? Why might that be important?
- What does the silence teach Danny about himself and the world around him?
- Why was Danny in a panic when his brother was taken to the hospital?
- Contrast Levi’s physical health with what Reuven sees in his eyes.
- Why does Reuven’s father insist that Danny plan exactly how he will tell his father about being a psychologist?
- Reuven’s father gets upset at Reuven at the end of the chapter. Why? What has Reuven not learned and why is it so important?
- Contrast Reuven’s description of Danny’s street now with the first time he saw it. What does this represent?
- What is Reuven hearing on page 279?
- Why does Reb Saunders tell Reuven that he is now a man?
- What is the purpose behind how Reb Saunders talks to Danny through Reuven? As Reb Saunders talks to Danny through Reuven, he reveals why he has raised him in silence. What is this reason?
- Why did Reb Saunders worry about how brilliant Danny was? What else did he worry about in how he raised Danny?
- What does Danny realize about his father during this discussion? What do you think Reb Saunders realizes about himself?
- What do you think are the primary messages in this book?
- Why do you think this book is called The Chosen?
Yeshiva - An Orthodox Jewish School
Apikorsim - A Jewish skeptic or apostate
Hasidism - A Jewish religious group that arose in the 18th century in Eastern Europe and spread quickly
Rabbi - A person appointed as a Jewish religious leader
Talmud - The central text of the Judaic faith and law.
Tzaddik - A very righteous person, especially a Hasidic spiritual leader
Shul - A synagogue
Blatt - A section of Talmud, consisting both sides of the page
Shiur - A Talmudic study session, usually led by a rabbi.
Harangue - A lengthy and aggressive speech
Luminous - Full of or shedding light; bright or shining, especially in the dark
Prosper - Succeed in material terms; be financially successful
Subterfuge - Deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal
Vaguely - In a way that is uncertain, indefinite, or unclear; roughly
Induction - The process or action of bringing about or giving rise to something
Incoherent - Expressed in an incomprehensible or confusing way; unclear.
Tenacity - The quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence.