chaim potok the chosen

J-BOM February: Getting Started with The Chosen

chaim potok the chosen
Though it’s been years since I read Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, the theme I remember it most for is freedom, specifically freedom of the mind. Reuven’s father already has been practicing intellectual freedom and his Modern Orthodox stance on Judaism looks frighteningly like abandonment of the faith to some people. Danny is a person trapped by circumstances in a world with no intellectual freedom and he steals it whenever he can. But Potok doesn’t paint the world in two colors only. Reuben desires to be a rabbi though he could be a mathematician. Faith is not the enemy in Potok’s universe. To me, from my memory of reading it long ago, the book positions faith and freedom in a movable balance.

Well, it’s the Jewish Book of the Month (J-BOM) selection for February 2017 here on Messianic Jewish Musings. And I’ve heard from twenty or so people who say they will be reading it with me. It’s not too late to join the revolution.

Ways to Participate in J-BOM

Try and read the first four chapters between now and February 10. They constitute “Book One” according to Potok’s division. The longer “Book Two” will take us at least two weeks to read and comment on.

Post a short thought about your reading in the comments. You can read Chapter 1 and comment or any portion of chapters 1-4. Just don’t give any spoilers beyond chapter 4 in this post, please.

What can you say in your comments? Talk about the impression the story is making on you. Ask a question about the Jewish or historical elements that lie behind the story. Say something about plot, themes, motifs, characters. Feel free to just give a short review of the story and why you’re going to want to convince your friends to read the book.


  1. Does it matter if I use the kindle edition 59th Anniversary edition?
    Print Length: 301 pages
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 50 Anv edition (February 23, 2016)
    Publication Date: February 23, 2016

  2. Guys…it will take a miracle to find the book here.
    Unless I try our old library…if no one has deemed it fit to be stolen. It is tough living in the third world.
    Access to the real good stuff is a problem.

  3. I enjoyed the book for the first time although I did catch the movie back in the 80’s when it was released.
    I had a hard time “getting into” the story at first as I’m not a big “sports ball” fan of any type. However, the words began to take meaning for me when I understood the players and their sport as a metaphor for the animosity between the sects that presents the faith vs freedom theme. Although “freedom” is represented by the “apikorism” and the protagonist Reuven, the “wallop” Reuven takes in Book One signifies his need for insight/understanding and is a foresight of this future awakening.

  4. The quote by Menninger in the beginning of the book really introduced the theme of the beginning of the story where the two “fish” meet for the first time. One, relatively free and the other struggling on the hook. How fitting that we are also looking at proverbs as we begin this book. ‘ I was a son to my father. Let me hold fast to his words.”

    Thank you for this study.

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