Reuven Malter, a young Orthodox Jew who narrates his experiences during his high school and college days in Williamsburg and Brooklyn, among the Orthodox and Hasidic communities. Reuven’s greatest challenge lies in coming to terms with the Hasidic Jews who consider his father’s methods of textual criticism of the Talmud to be suspect. They also reject his father’s quest to establish a new Zionist nation in Palestine. Reuven often is tempted to hate the Hasidic Jews for their intolerance toward his father, but Reuven’s father continually counsels him to be loving and tolerant even toward those who are not so in return. Reuven and Danny Saunders meet first at a baseball game, during which Danny deliberately tries to hit the ball directly at Reuven’s head while Reuven is pitching. the resulting injury nearly blinds Reuven in one eye but leads to a friendship between these two that enables them both to see and learn things they could not understand on their own. Through this friendship, Reuven helps Danny confront his religious community and come to accept his special gifts for helping others through psychology.
Danny Saunders, a brilliant young Hasidic Jew who is expected to take his father’s place as the leader of their sect of Russian Hasidic Jews. His photographic memory enables him to be a quick learner, but his quest for knowledge outside his own religious community leads him eventually to pursue a career in psychology instead of the priesthood. His mind functions like a fine machine, but he struggles to learn how to identify with people’s feelings. He keeps the Jewish laws of his sect with great care and honors his father’s excommunication of the...
(The entire section is 713 words.)