The Day the Rabbi Resigned

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the course of his twenty-five years as Rabbi of the Barnard’s Crossing Temple, David Small has survived a number of crises of a personal and professional nature. Time and again, he has stood at the brink of disaster, only to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. But the years have taken their toll, and David Small is of a mind to pursue other occupational challenges.

Thus, as the Temple Board of Directors contemplate a gift to mark the rabbi’s silver anniversary, the recipient of the honor is updating his resume. Meanwhile, individuals and events are coming together in such a manner as to lead to murder. Victor Joyce, as lubricious and ambitious an academician as could be imagined, initiates a campaign to obtain tenure at Windermere Christian College. A key ingredient in Professor Joyce’s scheme is Cyrus Merton, wealthy realtor and prominent member of the Windermere Board of Trustees.

Merton not only has considerable influence within the academic community but also has an unmarried niece who stands to inherit his considerable fortune. Unfortunately for Joyce, marital discord derails his scheme almost immediately. Before he can elaborate an alternative, he dies in a manner that bespeaks murder—murder which, in the natural course of events, involves Rabbi Small.

It is part of Kemelman’s charm that he develops multiple story lines and carefully weaves them together in an often unexpected denouement. In this respect, THE DAY THE RABBI RESIGNED is no exception. Still, it must be noted that the reader will feel that the announced protagonist, Rabbi Small is noticeable for his position in the wings, the supporting narratives occupy center stage to an excessive degree.