Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Chosen

What a discussion and in a respectful yet animated way, from 16 women. My mercy - who would have thought it possible. I apologize if I didn't acknowledge or make a place for your thoughts. Madelon has appointed herself as my spotter so we can make sure everyone gets a chance to speak who wishes to. It was a wonderful session and the credit goes to you all who have read the book, come prepared to talk about it, and then display interest with the others' opinions. And welcome to Barb and Rhonda and welcome back to Carolyn, ex-snowbird. Thanks for joining us and for participating in the discussion, even as newbies, well, not Carolyn, I mean not a newbie.

The discussion. Where to begin? First of all, we seemed to have been in universal agreement that we loved this book. I asked whose book it was and the answer was - it belonged to the four of them. Luci voiced early her disgust at the Reb's removed, silent treatment of Danny. Cheryl spoke of how she had seen that but came to appreciate the sacrifice that the Reb made because Danny was so smart but did not have soul, so necessary to be a tzaddik. Kareen mentioned that Danny could read a book at the age of four but laughed at the characters' misfortunes. She said she as a teacher had seen how impatient really smart kids could be with students of normal development.

We also acknowledged that Danny would have gone on to be the tzaddik, but his father knew his son's heart, even if he didn't talk to him, and began the free-Danny stage by letting him enroll at Hirsh Seminary and University. Many of us were of a mind with Luci, that the Reb was a hard father, but she and all of us began to appreciate through the discussion that he was also a compassionate man. So much of the Reb was brilliantly exposed through David Malter in his discussions with Reuven. I think we agree that David Malter was our favorite character. And then how about the Reb's conversations with his son through Reuven?! This was a coming of age story, at the most simple level - a story of love and developing relationships, but the interplay between the fathers and sons made it coming-of-age story on steroids.

Something we might want to think about for the future is the sharing of favorite selections:

Linda chose the last page, when David Malter asked Danny, "When you have a son of your own, you will raise him silence?" "Yes," he answered. "If I can't find another way." How strong the parent's role is and how likely it will be replicated. Will it?

Cheryl shared this selection: "We are as easily degraded as any other people. That is what happened to Polish Jewry. By the eighteenth century, it had become a degraded people. Jewish scholarship was dead. In its place came empty discussions about matters that had no practical connection with the desperate needs of the masses of Jews. Pilpul, these discussions are called - empty." How so contemporary.

I chose (because I can remember) this selection from David Malter: "I only wanted to tell you that I am doing things I consider very important now. If I could not do these things, my life would have no value. Merely to live, merely to exist - what sense is there to it? A fly also lives."

Leslie recalled the trapped fly in the spinder's web, released to be a fly. She saw it as a parallel to Danny's entrapment in the tzaddik role and then being freed. We also talked about the title - The Chosen. The response was overwhelming that it was the perfect title, starting with the Jews as the Chosen People, to Danny's path to tzaddik to Reuven's life as a Rabbi.

We were so lucky to have been joined this month by Barb, whose roots are New York and Jewish. She filled in so many gaps for us that I'm am not competent to supply here. She was like having a living commentary - thanks Barb, for being so game. I know I've said this before, but this was the best book group ever.