Reuven Malter, an Orthodox Jew who narrates his seminary experiences as he prepares for ordination, or smicha. Reuven faces opposition to his use of his father’s methods of textual criticism, especially from Rav Jacob Kalman, who is teaching Reuven the Talmud. Along with his seminary studies, Reuven struggles to help Michael Gordon. Reuven risks his chances of obtaining smicha to help Michael, whose father is under the ban of excommunication by the strict Orthodox Jewish community. Because of his bold stand of accepting his father’s methods of studying the Talmud, Reuven is given smicha with the provision that he can never teach the Torah in the rabbinical school of the yeshiva, where candidates study for their ordination or smicha. Reuven is allowed, however, to teach Torah in the newly formed graduate department of rabbinic studies at Hirsch University, the very department in which his father was refused an opportunity to teach.
Michael Gordon, the fourteen-year-old son of Abraham and Ruth Gordon. Michael develops serious mental problems that resist the standard methods of counseling therapy. After being subjected to Danny Saunders’ experimental silence therapy, Michael eventually begins to talk and reveals the root of his mental illness, his hatred of his parents for their controversial writings about Judaism.
Danny Saunders, a brilliant Hasidic Jew who is studying to become a psychologist while still observing Jewish law. His greatest challenge is to help Michael Gordon overcome his strong resistance to therapy. Danny employs a treatment of silence as a last effort to help Michael overcome his mental problems and thus avoid being confined to a mental institution....
(The entire section is 736 words.)