In the book, The Chosen, written by Chaim Potok, the theme of suffering is of great significance. This theme is illustrated throughout the book, with a variety of different events that take place. The theme of suffering is most well explained in the story, when a little blind boy named Billy has an unsuccessful eye surgery, when Danny’s father raises Danny in silence, when hundreds of Jews die in Europe, and when Reuvan’s dad has a heart attack. These four events, although some are more obvious than the others, illustrate suffering in a way, to which almost anyone can relate. Suffering is everywhere and therefore, the theme of suffering in The Chosen, is something worth understanding and interpreting.
Danny’s father raising Danny in silence was on of the biggest issues in the book where the theme of suffering showed up. Danny was a Hasid, who at first, was hated by Reuvan, but then later became friends with him. As Reuvan got to know Danny more, he learned that Danny’s father raised him in silence. Reuvan thought that “ Danny’s father, with his bizarre silence—which Reuvan still couldn’t understand, no matter how often he thought about— was torturing Danny’s soul” (Potok 263). Danny didn’t like the silence at all, even though he still loved his father. It was making him suffer because he wanted to be a psychologist, and break the tradition his father treasured greatly, of becoming a rabbi. There was no way for Danny to communicate to his father because of the awkward silence, which lay between them. He had to suffer by keeping all his wishes to himself, afraid of hurting his father. The anxiety and the fear, which Danny felt when he chose his own ways and followed his own will, was a great deal of suffering. He knew that he would have to tell his father someday that he wanted to be a psychologist instead of a rabbi, and this tortured him. Him refusing to be the next rabbi wouldn’t only hurt him, but also all the Hasid people who were looking up to him and his family. Danny would have to disappoint them all, and this was very hard for him. On top of his father’s bizarre silence, the fact that one day he would have to break his father’s heart made him worry and suffer even more. At the end of the book when Danny’s father, filled with pain and disappointment, finally agreed to let Danny do whatever he wants, Reuvan observed Danny, who was sitting next to his father. He saw that “Danny sat with his right hand over his eyes, his glasses pushed up on his forehead. Danny was crying silently, his shoulders quivering” (Potok 331). Danny had to let out all the pain he was carrying around all these years. He felt sorry when he realized that he just destroyed all his father’s work, of bringing him up in silence, to make him a good rabbi. He realized that his father wanted him to know how it felt to suffer and that was why he brought him up in silence. His father wanted to make out of him, a rabbi, who could take all his peoples’ suffering and carry it on his own shoulders. The silence Danny was raised in seemed cruel and painful, but after all, that was the whole point. The whole point in raising Danny in silence was for him to understand and get used to feeling pain, and look for answers in his own soul.
Feeling pain, and suffering was also illustrated in this story through the unsuccessful eye surgery of a young boy. This little boy, Billy, was someone Reuvan had met when he went to the hospital because of an eye accident. Billy had the bed on the right side of Reuvan in the hospital, and that was how Reuvan got to know him. The little boy was blind in both eyes and was waiting for a surgery, which was supposed to give him his eyesight back. Weeks later after Reuvan left the hospital, he suddenly thought about Billy and remembered that his eye surgery had already taken place, and so he called Billy’s father. Billy’s eye surgery was not successful. This gave Reuvan a huge shock. While he was on the phone still, hearing the bad news, “He felt himself break out into a cold sweat. The hand holding the phone began to tremble and he had to push the phone against his face to keep it steady” (Potok 205) After experiencing how it felt to have no sight for a while in one eye, Reuvan felt the pain which Billy was probably going through right now. When Reuvan had surgery on one eye, he wasn’t supposed to read or do any of those things which he so enjoyed doing. After he heard about Billy’s eyes he realized how much Billy suffered. Reuvan suffered a great deal when he couldn’t read for a few weeks, but Billy had never had the chance to read .Billy had never even seen the world, or his own parents. Billy had always suffered. This is when Reuvan realized how lucky he was that his eye got better. Reuvan shared in Billy’s pain because he knew how it felt like to be blind, although not completely blind. Billy’s unsuccessful eye surgery helped open Reuvan’s eyes and he saw from Billy’s perspective, how it was like to suffer.
When some Jewish people suffered, other Jews took part in their suffering as well. The Chosen took place in the time of war in Europe when so many Jews got killed. Millions of Jews were killed in the War and the rabbis and Jews in America were sharing in their suffering. Danny says this when Reuvan asks him why his dad just randomly cries every now and then, “ ‘ Six million Jews have died…I think he’s thinking of them. He’s suffering for them’” ( Potok 237). Reb Saunders suffers for the Jews by crying for them. After all, it was his job. Because he was a Hasidic rabbi, his job was to carry his peoples’ burden. Six million Jews died, and so many were being persecuted. They were being thrown into concentration camps, and forced to work. The suffering in Europe at this time was just unbearable. Families were torn apart, and people were killed in gas chambers, and put into furnaces. This suffering of the Jewish people was a reason why Reb Saunders wanted Danny to be a Rabbi so bad. Danny could carry all the suffering if he was the rabbi. All the Jewish people were dying out, and now it was the responsibility of the Jews in America to “…replace the treasures they have lost” (Potok 228). They now needed more rabbis and leaders to lead the Jews in replacing what they lost. If the Jews in America didn’t do anything about it, then the Jews would die as a people, and this was a really big reason why it was so important for Danny to become a rabbi. The Jewish people were all dying off, and someone had to do something. This was suffering both for the Jews who were actually in Europe and for the Jews who now had the responsibility to replace all the Jews they lost and keep Jewish tradition alive. This Jewish suffering was a very big issue in The Chosen , that really underlined the theme of suffering in the overall book.
Reuvans father having heart attacks underlined the theme of suffering as well. His dad “…collapsed at a Jewish National Fund meeting and was rushed to the Brooklyn Memorial Hospital by ambulance. He hovered tenuously between life and death for three days”( Potok 287). Earlier in the story, Reuvan’s father had a heart attack, and during the time he was in the hospital, Reuvan stayed at Danny’s, but this time, he and Danny weren’t even aloud to talk to each other because of Reb Saunders. This was a time of suffering for Reuvan because his dad just had his second heart attack and was in a critical situation for three days. He was alone at home for weeks before his dad got better, and he studied Talmud and did his work all by himself, without his dad.
I lived in a nightmare of hallucinatory dread, and if it hadn’t been for Manya constantly reminding me with gentle kindness that I had to eat or I would get sick, I might well have starved.
Now, that’s how bad his situation was. Reuvan was lonely and he was hallucinating, and what could be worse? His dad got better though, but still, he went through a lot with not being able to talk to Danny about it, and staying home all alone all the time. His father’s heart attack was really hard on Reuvan, and he suffered and worked hard on the Talmud without his dad being there to help.
The Chosen was a book which teaches people to love each other and share in each others suffering. The book also gives a good insight into the Hasidic traditions and culture. From reading this book, one can understand how strict and how traditional the Hassid were. They still wore dark clothes and had ear locks, and the son of a rabbi traditionally had to be the next rabbi. Most importantly, it showed how silence can be very painful, and how people are not thankful for what they have until they lose it. It showed how people suffered for each other. Now days not very many people are willing to carry the burdens of others, even if it is the burden of one’s friend. The Chosen hopefully inspires people to help others. The theme of suffering was of great significance in this book, and from reading it, a lot of good thingy can be gained.