Reuven Malter lives in Brooklyn, he’s in love, and he’s studying to be a rabbi. He also keeps challenging the strict interpretations of his teachers, and if he keeps it up, his dream of becoming a rabbi may die. One day, worried about a disturbed, unhappy boy named Michael, Reuven takes him... read more
This conflict becomes a personal issue for Reuven because his Talmud teacher for his final school year is one of these, a zealously religious, rigid and angry rabbi by the name of Jacob Kalman. Reuven's father is a well-known teacher and author who writes books on modern methods of studying... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
This conflict becomes a personal issue for Reuven because his Talmud teacher for his final school year is one of these, a zealously religious, rigid and angry rabbi by the name of Jacob Kalman. Reuven's father is a well-known teacher and author who writes books on modern methods of studying the Talmud, and Reuven finds himself caught in the middle as his teacher tries to force him to choose between his father's way and Rav Kalman.
The conflict deepens through Reuven's relationship with Michael Gordon, the deeply troubled adolescent son of Abraham Gordon, a well-known author who has been excommunicated for his books which question the very foundations of Judaism. The lives of the three families, the Malters, the Saunders and the Gordons, become intertwined when Abraham Gordon seeks out Danny Saunders to treat his mentally ill son.
A bond develops between Reuven and Michael on the ground of the parallel in their lives: being caught in the middle of their modernist fathers' battles with the defenders of the Jewish faith. Danny also has to deal with the conflict between the traditional and the modern when he falls in love with Michael's cousin Rachel, a decidedly modern young Jewish woman.
He is also faced with the formidable task of treating Michael, who resists therapy and who faces imminent institutionalization because of his violent behavior. The two friends, Reuven and Danny, help each other through their struggles, and the story is brought to a shattering climax as together they help Michael to face the source of his distress.
Through his struggle, Reuven finds his own identity by taking from each world, the traditional and the modern, what has meaning for him and by asserting with love and respect his right to take his place among his people as a teacher.
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