The last of the mispallelim were filtering out of shul. Frankel had to ask the Rav one more time about the hechsher at Gastronomic Glatt, Werner was putting away siddurim, and Glauberman was learning. 

Chaim was trying to be ma’avir sedrah, but it was hard to concentrate: the Rav had asked him to hang around for a minute after Maariv so they could speak and Chaim was trying to prepare himself for what he knew was coming. 

Twenty-five years ago, when the thriving shul had hired the talented young rabbi, most of Chaim’s friends had forged relationships and chavrusas with him: Chaim had stood back, refusing to commit. Chaim liked the man, appreciated his drashos and shiurim, but they didn’t have much of a personal connection. The Rav had come and danced along at all of Chaim’s simchos, always speaking warmly, and Chaim had never turned down an appeal for funds, but there had been few real conversations over the years. 

Chaim had the sense that the Rav was as uncomfortable as he was by the time the shul emptied and they sat down in the front corner. 

“Reb Chaim,” the Rav smiled, like a doctor trying to be positive about a diagnosis, “so…” 

Chaim was quiet. 

“I sat with Mendy Colman and his son-in-law, Gelber, for a long time this evening. They filled me in about what’s been happening at work. They are as eager to work this out as you are, I’m sure, and after so many years of friendship, they’re hopeful that this can be done like yedidim as well. Look, Reb Chaim, I know you’ve done this for others over the years. I remember when the Aaronsons broke up, you were the arbitrator, right? So maybe this can be clean, right?” 

Chaim’s head was spinning. When he had looked Dovi Gelber in the eye this morning and said, “Okay, I quit,” it had been more of a statement than a practical announcement. It was his little way of protesting Gelber’s arrogance. It was his frustration at having been pegged as “some guy in insurance or something” by the yeshivah fund-raiser. It was just a stupid thing to say. 

Dovi hadn’t laughed, or even given him the satisfaction of getting angry. His eyes had flashed and he’d nodded slowly. “Okay then. We’ll follow up on that, then.” 

This was Dovi’s follow-up. It was over. For real. 

Chaim considered trying to beg the Rav to get him a reprieve, but it was obvious that Dovi had been waiting for the opportunity and he’d pounced. 

“I spoke to Mendy for a long time about this,” the Rav explained. “He understands that you’ll want to take many of your clients with you, he says he gets that, but we need to write an agreement about what’s appropriate, you know? There are legal things, severance pay and stuff like that. They are comfortable with using an outside accountant — they suggested Naftali Korn — to settle things quickly and easy. I’m just here, I guess, to get the ball rolling.”