Summary: Chapter 14
For the remainder of their first year at college, Danny and Reuven have no contact with each other, and Reuven is furious at Reb Saunders. Meanwhile, Danny’s father has intensified his anti-Zionist activity, and tensions increase between the opposing factions at the college. Reuven’s pain at losing Danny’s friendship leads him to do poorly on his exams. The summer provides little respite: July and August are marked by horrible violent events in Palestine, then David Malter is forced to cut short the annual vacation in Peekskill to deal with pressing Zionist matters. When the new semester begins in September, Reuven decides that he wants nothing more to do with Danny Saunders, but his resolve is challenged by the fact that he now shares Rav Gershenson’s Talmud class with Danny.
Rav Gershenson is a gentle, wise old scholar. His Talmud class is rigorous, and, of course, Danny is his star pupil. Danny and Gershenson frequently have lengthy discussions in class that remind Reuven of the Talmud sessions he and Danny used to have with Reb Saunders. Reuven feels comfortable with the material, and when he is called on in early October, Gershenson is pleased with his response. But for some reason, Gershenson refuses to call on him again. By the middle of October, Reuven is the only student who has not been called more than once and he is perplexed.
In November, the United Nations votes in favor of the Partition Plan to establish a Jewish state, and Reb Saunders accelerates his anti-Zionist activities. His supporters plaster anti-Zionist leaflets all over Hirsch College, and fistfights nearly break out among the students. Reuven almost screams at the anti-Zionist protestors, but stays silent. As the first semester ends, Reuven receives straight A’s—even in Rav Gershenson’s class—and Reuven’s father continues to work tirelessly in support of the UN decision. During Reuven’s winter break, his father collapses at a Jewish National Fund meeting, suffering a second heart attack. In school, Danny brushes up against Reuven in a gesture of sympathy, but remains unable to speak to him.
David Malter is hospitalized for over a month, and Reuven lives at home alone, feeling incredibly lonely. He deals with the newfound silence in his apartment by diving ferociously into his Talmudic studies. Although Gershenson has not called on him for several months, he becomes convinced that he will be called upon for one particularly difficult passage that none of the students can understand, so he prepares an especially intense analysis.
As Reuven expected, Rav Gershenson finally calls on him to clarify the difficult passage, and Reuven finds himself dominating the class for several days. Although he has figured out how to apply his father’s critical methods to resolve the text’s internal contradictions, he refrains from employing these controversial methods in front of the class because he thinks that Rav Gershenson would not approve. Instead, he gives an extraordinarily thorough interpretation using traditional methods like the ones Reb Saunders would use with Danny.
After class, Rav Gershenson detains Reuven and asks him how his father might have resolved the passage’s contradictions. Reuven explains how his father would have reconstructed the text to make sense of it. Rav Gershenson is clearly impressed and praises both Reuven and his father. He says that he is not personally opposed to these controversial techniques but tells Reuven that he must never use them in his class. Afterward, Reuven looks for Rav Gershenson’s name in the school library’s card catalog, but does not find it. He realizes that Gershenson cannot publish, because if he expressed his belief in controversial Talmud scholarship, he would not be allowed to teach at the conservative college. Reuven realizes that his father’s controversial writings are the reason he is not teaching at Hirsch, even though he is a brilliant scholar.