The Chosen

AUTHOR: Chaim Potok


Harold's Commentary/Review:

This review centres my own experience more than that of the book’s protagonists.

In the community I grew up in, we more or less believed ourselves to be the chosen people of God: we thought of ourselves as holy: set apart, to be part of a divine covenant. The notion of chosenness is not unique to conservative Christians, of course. In The Chosen, Chaim Potok takes us into a Jewish community framed by a similar self-concept. (Perhaps a community with more of a right to it than my own Christian community ever had, but that’s another matter).

A vibrant set of characters make possible a more complex set of identities than mere “chosenness” will allow. I really related to the character Danny, who wants to study and develop his intellect but feels trapped by tradition. The book also discussed the practice of “pilpul”, a kind of Talmudic rhetoric. It reminded me about how silly it might seem to debate the capacity of a pin head for dancing angels, and yet how animated and poetic the process of debate itself could be.

This gave me an appreciation for the form of religion, aside from its often ridiculous propositions. In spite of this, I had no more enthusiasm to concern myself afterwards with the number of petals I saw on Calvin’s TULIP (each of the traditional five has since blown away in the wind).

Potok’s writing is engaging and painterly.


Find a copy of The Chosen on Amazon.


APR 2013

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This digital bookshelf is, loosely defined, a collection of books that I (Harold Sikkema) have read over the years of my life. I began this list because I wanted to get a sense of my reading over time. I suppose the chronology also gives a picture of my evolving interests and concerns. I cannot claim that this is a complete list; there are lots of things I've read that are not listed here. I will add to my digital bookshelf as time allows. See also: A Compendium of Books, an earlier blog post reflecting on this effort.