I was in Ireland to receive a minor prize at an Irish international poetry festival held on June 16th – the date of the peregrinations of James Joyce's protagonist in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom. As I am Jewish and Bloom is portrayed in terms of his Jewish sensibilities, I felt that I was following in his footsteps; albeit, in a more limited and symbolic way. (My poem elaborated on this theme.) I couldn't help wondering what Bloom would make of the fact that the poem would also be read in a Gaelic translation made by an Irish translator. I like to think it would please him because it might symbolize the joining of the Jewish and the Irish, something he seemed to hope for.
The Festival's Bloom's Day reading took place in a small Irish town on a Saturday. Since the town lacked a synagogue, I planned to recite the morning prayers alone before walking to the site of the festival reading. I would be a minyan of one for my private prayer session. (Jewish practice requires a ten man presence — the minyan — for a public prayer session; private prayer is permitted.)
However, as I was about to begin my praying, I suddenly saw standing in front of me a little man about a foot tall wearing a green top hat, green jacket, and green breeches connected to white knee socks of the type that hassids wear. The greenery was covered by a prayer shawl that Jews wear at Sabbath morning prayers. It was a miniature version of the prayer shawl covering my own shoulders.
He removed his top hat, bowed, revealing a skullcap — green as Erin's fields, green as Bloom's tie — and introduced himself: "Shawn Greenberg, cohen." (A cohen is a descendant of the priesthood that served in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the first category of Jew that reads from the Torah as part of the service.)
I did not introduce myself in turn. "A leprechaun," is all I could manage to gasp.
He bowed again.
"I didn't know there were Jewish leprechauns," I stammered.
"Now you know," he said in an Irish brogue underlain with a Yiddish component.
I had brought a prayer book with me to Ireland. Shawn did not have one. "You are welcome to read the prayers and Torah portions with me," I held out the prayer book in his direction.
"Thank you, Lamhfhada.
"'Long arm' in Gaelic — an Irish mythic warrior. Thanks," he added. "I can recite the prayers and Torah portions by heart. A Torah is too heavy to bring for a foot tall Yid."
"How do you manage on Simchat Torah?" (The Jewish holiday on which the Torah is carried.)
"We use magic — Jewish magic. But I wasn't sure you were worth it on this occasion."
"You have an Irish tongue in you."
"The Irish tell me it's a Jewish tongue. Then again, some think the Irish descended from a Lost Tribe of Israel."
"Bloom would be pleased by that," I told him. "He contended that the Irish were a people open to all creeds and did not need their over emphasis on nationality. On the other hand, Brendan Behan observed that 'other people have a nationality. The Irish and Jews have a psychosis.' However, Anthony Burgess said that according to Freud, the Irish were the only race which could not profit from psychoanalysis."
"Clearly, you are a literary man."
"I try," I replied, not sure whether he was being serious or ironic.
"Ah, yes, Bloom's Day. Joyce had chutzpah. Not only in writing Ulysses, anybody who could write Finnegans Wake had chutzpah."
"Yes, a challenging work."
"If you want to succeed in reading the whole thing, start in the middle and work your way out," he suggested.
"I guess it's as good a method as any. Well, perhaps we should begin our prayers. I have to be at a poetry reading later."
"Yes, a poet. In the tradition of King David — minus the harp. And a poet that receives a monetary award from the festival. You have it easier than the Irish bards of old. They would carry a pot called 'the pot of avarice' with them when they schnorred and if a potential contributor refused to contribute, they would recite mocking and humiliating verse in his honor. You can try it on schnorrers sometime. I thought, if I had to do so, I could consult him as he had a sharp tongue. "Not on Shabat," he corrected. In addition to their other talents, leprechauns can apparently read minds. He preceded to repeat the opening words of the Sabbath service.
I joined him.
stories, poetry and humor have been widely published. His humorous literary novel, The Novel, Kunzman, the Novel! is available as an e-book and in print from Lulu.com. and other distributors. Writers and readers with a deep interest in literature will especially enjoy the novel. Lefkowitz’s humorous fantasy and science fiction collection, Laughing into the Fourth dimension is available from Amazon books.
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