Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red by Harry Kemelman

I highly recommend this book.

     I forget how much I like this series until I run into a random Harry Kemelman book somewhere and add it to the "to read"shelf....and eventually pick it up and rediscover the quiet, intelligent, balanced, rational and dedicated Rabbi David Small. 

     In this book, Rabbi Small, teacher and guide to the Jews in the small town of Barnard's Crossing, is hired to teach a course in Jewish studies at Windemere Christian College. He believes he knows what he's getting into, but he is unprepared for the modern college student...and for the murder that takes place among the small college population.

     This is an intelligent series. Kemelman's main character, David Small is a Rabbi, which means that one of his main purposes in life is to seek education just for the sake of learning. When we see the world through Rabbi Small's eyes, we get to take a thoughtful and rational view of all things. Rabbi Small, trained in the art of Talmudic argument, has the gift of eminently logical thinking. He states and restates all aspects of whatever problem he is considering and, in his hands, confusing situations suddenly gain clarity. This is what makes him so good at illuminating the solutions to the mysteries that he encounters. 

    Kemelman has a really wonderful way, too, of describing the Jewish community and the temple, and of explaining the Jewish religion and view of the world--all without losing the interest of the reader. I feel like I learn a ton every time I read one of his books. And I'm in awe of his ability to show the small-mindedness that a church community can get caught up in without disrespecting Jews or the Jewish religion in general. So he provides what we imagine is a realistic picture of a Jewish community while preserving the integrity of the Jewish religion. Very cool.

   Also, since this book was published in 1974, it's a little time capsule--filled with Women's Lib, civil rights, civil unrest, the disrespect of the modern college student and the like. So much fun! I really liked it and I think I'll make a better effort at collecting some more Rabbi David Small books. 

Sex: Yeah--it was 1974, (aside: did you know that the early seventies are included in the sociological delineation of the world-changing decade of the 60s? They call it the "long 60s", since the effects of that decade lasted beyond the years from 1960-1970). Anyway, it was 1974, so free love was still in vogue and we get affairs here and there. No descriptions, though and no titillating situations at all. In addition, these sexual situations are not glamorized at all. I do appreciate that. 
Bad language: nope

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