Albert Gans' father is in the hospital dying of something the doctors cannot identify. Depressed, Albert is entering the subway when a retarded woman hands him a card reading "Heal the Sick. Save the Dying. Make a Silver Crown." It gives a rabbi's name and address. Albert had just been speaking to a friend who encouraged him to try a faith healer saying, "Different people know different things; nobody knows everything. You can't tell about the human body."

So, Albert goes to the Rabbi's house. The aging man tells him that he will make Albert's father a crown made of pure silver, covered with blessings and his son's love that will heal him completely. For $401 he can have a medium crown, for $986 a large one that will work more quickly. Albert is skeptical and asks rational questions that the Rabbi answers with a combination of mysticism and salesmanship. Finally, Albert agrees and gives the Rabbi his money. Immediately afterwards, he feels duped and threatens the Rabbi, calling him a thief.

The Rabbi tries to soothe him, asking him not to spoil the miracle and to think of the father who loves him. Albert bursts out, "He hates me, the son of a bitch, I hope he croaks." He then rushes out. An hour later, Albert's father dies.


Malamud never makes clear whether the Rabbi is a hoodlum or actually works miracles. There is evidence pointing both ways. For example, when Albert returns in anger to the Rabbi's house, the Rabbi and his daughter are wearing new clothes. Albert assumes they have used his money to buy them. On the other hand, Albert's father dies immediately after Albert curses him and spoils the miracle. Certainly, it is clear that the rational/scientific approach taken by the doctors and Albert cannot cure, or even diagnose the father's illness.

Editor's Note (with a thank you to correspondent, Joe Geller): The idea for "The Silver Crown" was derived from a New York Times newspaper article. The article, with Malamud's notes, is on-line at the Library of Congress:

Primary Source

The Stories of Bernard Malamud


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York