Finally, Reb Saunders asks Danny if there were any additional mistakes. When Danny shakes his head, Reb Saunders quietly chastises him for not listening carefully and turns to Reuven, asking the same question. Reuven, terrified and astonished that he is being asked to correct a great tzaddik, tentatively points out a mistake in Reb Saunders’s gematriya. Reb Saunders and Danny, along with the entire crowd, are delighted at Reuven’s intelligence.
After the evening service, Reb Saunders praises Reuven and approves of his friendship with Danny. Danny walks Reuven part of the way home, and the boys happily discover that they both plan to study at the same Jewish college following high school.
Reuven returns home and finds that his father has been worried about him because he has been out so late. Reuven apologizes and tells his father about his experience at Reb Saunders’s shul, noting that he thought Reb Saunders’s quiz was cruel. David Malter replies that it is important to display knowledge in public, but that he finds Reb Saunders’s intentional mistakes distasteful. Mr. Malter then says he is proud of his son. He reminds Reuven not to read until his eye heals, and then they go to sleep.
Chapter 7 is a crucial turning point in The Chosen, marking Reuven’s entry into Danny Saunders’s world. Potok begins the chapter by focusing upon Reuven’s Shabbat experience with his own father, allowing us to contrast David Malter’s religious worship with Reb Saunders’s. At first, this contrast seems stark and obvious. Reb Saunders is distant towards Danny, while David Malter is open and intimate with Reuven. Reb Saunders speaks furiously and almost demagogically about religion, while earlier in the chapter, we see David Malter praying silently and fervently. Reb Saunders preaches that the world is contaminated and implies that devout believers must remove themselves from all earthly concerns. In contrast, at the Malter’s apartment, the litany of pictures and maps on the wall imply a commitment to and respect for earthly concerns.
However, upon closer inspection, there are many similarities between the two fathers. Both are devoutly committed to religion, and both share a deep, profound knowledge of Jewish law. Reuven is careful to point out that the Talmudic discussion between Danny and Reb Saunders isn’t about showing off or impressing others with their brilliant arguments. Instead, Reuven says, “they seemed more interested in. . .straightforward knowledge.” That David Malter supports Reb Saunder’s public quizzes goes against our expectations and drives home the similarities between Reuven and Danny’s fathers. David Malter’s reaction to Reuven’s story reminds us that Danny and Reuven’s situations are not as different as they appear.
Several events in Chapter 7 enhance our understanding of other aspects of the novel. During Reb Saunder’s quiz, Reuven sees Danny’s face curl into the same vicious grin that Reuven saw at the softball game. Reuven is frightened, because he knows Danny makes this expression when he has the urge to kill someone. Danny’s grimace recalls the anger and competitiveness of the softball game and connects his violent behavior at the game with his resentment toward his father. Another important revelation occurs when Reb Saunders mentions that the gematriya for chai, a significant Hebrew word meaning “life,” is eighteen. We realize that The Chosen is divided into eighteen chapters in allusion to the numerical value of this important Hebrew word. Also, when Danny mentions that Reb Saunders became tzaddik because Reb Saunders’s older brother abandoned the lineage, we see that Danny’s own desire to abandon his traditional duty in order to study psychology is not new to his family. Danny’s situation parallels the situation his uncle’s a generation before.