How ironic! I can talk on and on about the word silence! So many songs, so many poems, so many associations!
However, I’ve decided to talk about Chaim Potok’s novel, The Chosen.
It was first published in 1967, but the themes of the story are timeless.
The novel is set in New York at the end of World War II. The main characters are two high school age boys. They are both Jewish, but one is Orthodox and the other is Hasidic. Many conflicts and complications occur, involving the boys’ fathers and their differing stances on Zionism. All the same, Reuven and Danny become friends.
I don’t want to spoil the story. Suffice it to say that it is very well worth reading.
One salient point is that Danny’s father, a Rabbi in the Hasidic tradition, has decided to raise his son in silence. He never talks to his son except in discussions of the Talmud. This enrages and frustrates Reuven, who does not understand. I as a reader did not understand. Eventually, however, Danny somewhat explains to Reuven how silence teaches him:
In chapter 7, the narrator notes “The silence that followed had a strange quality to it: expectation, eagerness, love, awe.”
Later, Danny says:
“You can listen to silence, Reuven. I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own. It talks to me sometimes. I feel myself alive in it. It talks. And I can hear it. “…You have to want to listen to it, and then you can hear it. It has a strange, beautiful texture. It doesn’t always talk. Sometimes – sometimes it cries, and you can hear the pain of the world in it. It hurts to listen to it then. But you have to.”
Igor Lazarev “Silence”
and from Christian Schloe: