The Guest, the narrator of the story, a forty-year-old writer. He returns to the town of his birth, after the destruction of his home in Israel, in an effort to put together the fragmented pieces of his life and his religious faith. He finds the town ruined by continuous pogroms that have caused many to flee and by extreme poverty among those who remained. He undertakes the responsibility of heading the Beit Midrash (the house of study) and finds in that self-imposed duty a reconnection with the Almighty and joy in life. He is both generous and stingy, gregarious and solitary, responsible and lazy. At the end of the novel, he prepares to reunite with his wife and children and return to Israel.
Daniel Bach, a skeptic whose personal misfortunes have destroyed his faith that the Almighty is concerned with the suffering of his people. While he served in the army, his family moved from place to place seeking sustenance, and although he returned from the war uninjured, he soon lost one leg trying to board a moving train. In spite of the opposition of their religious beliefs, he and the Guest become close friends.
Reb Hayim (hah-YEEM), who in his youth as the scholarly son of a great rabbi attains renown as a wise man. He becomes proud and vain, ignoring his four daughters and treating his wife as a maidservant. After serving in the army and spending many years in a prisoners’ camp, he returns to his hometown a transformed person. Utterly humble and self-effacing, he performs the menial tasks of the Beit Midrash and gives his wages to the widow of Hanoch, whose fatherless children he teaches the Torah. At his death, he is called a saint.
Yeruham Freeman, a day...
(The entire section is 755 words.)