Summary: Chapter 7
“We are commanded to study His Torah! We are commanded to sit in the light of the Presence! It is for this that we were created!”See Important Quotations Explained
Reuven and his father wake up early on Shabbat morning and walk to synagogue together. They return home, eat lunch, and then Reuven falls asleep thinking about the colors of Billy’s and Danny’s eyes.
Three hours later, Reuven wakes to find Danny standing over him. Danny suggests they walk over to his shul so that Reuven can meet Reb Saunders. As they walk, the boys tell each other about their families. Reuven explains he has no siblings because his mother died shortly after he was born. Danny says he has a younger sister and a younger brother. The boys then discover that they were born only two days apart. Danny also explains that his father is a great man who saved the members of his community from persecution by bringing them to America after World War I, a journey made in the face of great adversity. He also explains that Reb Saunders’ older brother vanished, so Reb Saunders inherited his father’s position. Danny notes that because his father is a tzaddik, considered a bridge between his followers and God, his congregation will follow him anywhere.
At Danny’s father’s shul, Reuven and Danny meet a crowd of black-caftaned Hasids who part like the Red Sea when Danny approaches. As the boys enter the brownstone, Danny explains that the shul is on the bottom floor and his family lives on the top two stories.
The synagogue soon fills with Hasidim who have come for the afternoon service. Two men approach Danny and ask him to resolve an argument over a passage of Talmud, which Danny interprets masterfully. Danny’s father comes downstairs, and the room is suddenly quiet. Danny introduces his friend to his father, and Reb Saunders remarks that he is interested in getting to know the son of David Malter.
Following the afternoon service, the men sit down at the table for a ritual Shabbat meal led by Reb Saunders. He concludes the meal with an impassioned talk, using Talmudic quotes from several great rabbis to argue that Jews are obligated to serve God’s will by studying Torah. It is through the study of Torah, Reb Saunders says, that God listens to mankind. Reb Saunders also uses gematriya—numerological manipulations of Hebrew words and phrases—to prove his point.
Following his talk, Reb Saunders asks Danny if he noticed any mistakes or inconsistencies in his argument. Danny replies that his father misattributed one quote. Reb Saunders then asks Danny several detailed follow-up questions, and the two launch into an extended discussion of Talmudic precepts. The assembled crowd of Hasidim is obviously pleased by Danny’s quick and sharp answers. Reuven realizes that the whole speech was one great quiz—Reb Saunders made deliberate errors to see if his son would notice and correct him.
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