(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

At the beginning of “A Whole Loaf,” the narrator’s suggestive comment, “I had made no preparations on Sabbath eve, so I had nothing to eat on the Sabbath,” explains why he leaves his home in search of a meal. Other reasons for going out are the hellish heat at home and his sense of loneliness, for his wife and children are still abroad and he has to see to his own needs.

The protagonist thus joins other strollers at the end of the Sabbath day, partaking of the cool Jerusalem air. Soon he is distracted from his search for a restaurant by the great sage Dr. Yekutiel Ne’eman, sitting by his window. Expecting a word of wisdom, he hears Dr. Ne’eman rebuking him for not doing something to reunite the family back in Jerusalem.

The narrator then tells of Dr. Ne’eman’s book, which has raised heated debate concerning its authenticity but which the sage claims to be a record of the words of Lord. Some believe that the book is authentic, whereas others hold that it is merely Dr. Ne’eman’s own writings, attributed by him to an unknown and never-seen Lord. One undisputed effect of the book, observes the narrator, has been that people have bettered themselves by it, whereas others devote themselves heart and soul to keeping every word in it. Praising the book, the hero is surprised and grieved when Dr. Ne’eman leaves the window. Returning soon, however, he gives the hero a packet of letters to be posted. Accepting the task, the hero promises to mail the letters as asked.

When the Sabbath is over, the hero heads for the post office to mail the letters, all the while debating whether he should not go and eat first. He finally resolves first to fulfill his obligation to Dr. Ne’eman and finds himself standing before the post office. Just as he is about to enter, he is distracted by the strange sight of a carriage driven by his acquaintance from abroad, Mr. Gressler, making its way down the sidewalk. The pedestrians, far from being upset, appear to enjoy the danger of being nearly run over by the carriage.

Recalling the close, pleasure-filled friendship he has had with Mr. Gressler abroad and in Jerusalem, the narrator remembers how his friend was instrumental in amusing him and teaching him a knowledge to counter all other kinds of wisdom. Their close relationship was halted for a while when, still abroad, Mr....

(The entire section is 967 words.)