Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

The Frozen Rabbi: Week 9, Part 3

In his three-day walkabout, the rabbi gets a taste of American excess

Print Email
Illustration by Paul Rogers


Bernie was beside himself with relief at the rabbi’s homecoming, though the delinquent holy man scarcely acknowledged him, brushing past the open-mouthed boy in his haste to talk with Bernie’s father. It seemed that in his three days of wandering, the old man had seen a lot of life, and returning bug-eyed and bathed in sweat—the fedora battered, the sportcoat soiled, the loud parrot necktie hanging from his throat like a noose—Rabbi Eliezer ben Zephyr had reached a stunning conclusion about the world he’d recently awakened to.

“Shopping bazaars it’s got, and Dodge Barracudos and Gootchie bags made I think from the skin of Leviathan, churches from Yoyzel it’s got big as Herod’s Temple, but it ain’t got a soul.”

All this he communicated breathlessly—less judgmental than plainly impressed—to Mr. Karp, who, relaxing in his postprandial recliner, appeared confused at first as to just who the intruder was. He was doubly disturbed, once he’d recalled the prodigal’s identity, that the old man should have planted himself directly between his chair and the wide-screen television—on which he was viewing his favorite program, a comedy called Nobody Likes Larry about a harassed family man. When his wife, looking up from a novel whose cover featured a woman swooning into the arms of a grenadier, reminded him that this was the fugitive from the deep freeze, Julius Karp snapped that he knew perfectly well who it was. On that note Mrs. Karp popped a Spansule from her heart-shaped pillbox and rose to tiptoe exaggeratedly out of the room. Meanwhile the bedraggled rabbi kept on reporting his reconnoitering of latter-day America, or at least the representative slice of it he’d seen.

“The people, they are such chazzers, all the time gobbling: gobble gobble; they feast on everything that it’s in their sight. They eat till their bellies swell by them like Goliath his hernia, and shop till their houses bulge from the electronic Nike and the Frederick of Hollywood balconette brassiere, but they ain’t satisfied.”

Jerking a lever as if shifting a gear, Mr. Karp brought his Stratalounger to an upright position. He was mightily irked at the way the old freeloader added insult to injury, compounding the crime of his return with an uninvited lecture on ethics. A firm believer in free-market economy, Mr. Karp resented the notion, tired as it was, that there was any higher principle on earth than goods and services. How dare this phantom of the ice box presume to instruct him, Julius Karp, citizen merchant—and in his own borrowed finery yet.

“Riches they got would make a Rothschild blush,” continued the rabbi, who seemed more gleeful than provoked; in fact, he seemed intoxicated, “but they ain’t got what makes them happy.”

“So?” said Mr. Karp, trying to keep a lid on his impatience. He’d heard the same commonplaces from Rabbi Birnbaum in his High Holiday sermons, though Birnbaum had the discretion to qualify his assaults on mammon so as not to offend the comfortable congregation who paid his salary. But from the perspective of his thronelike recliner, in front of which the wizened petitioner stood hat in hand, Mr. Karp (subvocally groaning) felt obligated to hear the old man out. “What exactly are you getting at?”

“I’m proposing,” the rabbi humbly submitted, “to restore to the people their soul.”

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of The Frozen Rabbi. Or, to get each day’s installment of The Frozen Rabbi in your inbox, sign up for the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest, and tell your friends.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

The Frozen Rabbi: Week 9, Part 3

In his three-day walkabout, the rabbi gets a taste of American excess
More on Tablet:

How to Protect the Conversion Process

By Tzipi Sutin — My friend was recorded in a mikveh by a rabbi. Let’s ensure the end of this abuse of power.