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In an interview presented in Edward Abramson’s book Chaim Potok, Potok
says that a “teacher should be somebody like Reuven Malter’s father.
In many ways he exemplifies the Jewish adventure.” David Malter
represents the ideal American Jewish father. He combines religious
rigor with scientific inquiry and a love of knowledge, all of which
he tempers with his overwhelming love and respect for his son. Throughout
the book, David Malter displays a profound tolerance of and respect
for a variety of traditions. His open-minded spiritual and intellectual
rigor represents the balanced perspective that both boys want to
achieve. He is an individual who understands the importance of relationships
and reciprocity, and he values and accepts the dual perspectives
of tradition and secularism.
David Malter’s perfection makes him the novel’s most one-dimensional,
static character, but his character does evolve in one crucial way.
After he learns about the Holocaust, we see him change from a gentle,
mellow father into an impassioned Zionist activist. David Malter
states his motivations for his ceaseless Zionist activity clearly
in Chapter 13, when he explains to Reuven
that a “man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically
given to life.” This statement reflects David Malter’s growing feeling
that it is not enough to wait passively for biblical prophesy, as
Reb Saunders does. Rather, David Malter feels it is up to mankind
to actively give meaning to the world and make sense of the horrible
suffering of the Holocaust. As Sternlicht explains, the only way
for David Malter to make sense of the Holocaust is for the Holocaust
to incite the Jewish people’s return to the ancient land of Israel.
Unlike Reb Saunders, David Malter believes that religion should
impact politics, and that it is important for Jews to actively engage
the outside world.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Chosen!