July 05, 2005

Well, That Was Different

I'd just finished getting dressed after a nice hot bath when there was a knock at the door. Odd. You wouldn't think people would be out soliciting on the Fourth, would you?

I looked out the peephole and saw a smiling, sweating, elderly gentleman, wearing a yarmulke and some sort of black, robe-like garment over a round white collar. Over this ensemble hung a Star of David, handsomely crafted in silver and turquoise.

It's true you can't be too careful with strangers, I thought to myself, but this fellow doesn't look like he'd give me any trouble. Poor man must be dying of thirst out in this heat under all that clothing. I'd better at least let him in and get him a glass of water.

"Top o' the evening t'ye, lassie!" he fairly roared when I opened the door. "And a fine Fourth O' July to you and yours as well."

"Come in," I urged, "you look like you're halfway to heat stroke."

"Hotter than the devil's own hindquarters it is, aye," he agreed as he bumbled through the doorway. He lowered his voice as though to share a secret with me, and asked with a wink, "Ye wouldna be against sharin' a wee nip with a poor old man like meself, now, would ye, dearie?"

"I've only got a few fingers of peach-flavored vodka in the freezer," I apologized. "I have a bottle of cabernet, too, but I'm afraid I can't get you a glass of that as I seem to have misplaced my corkscrew. Would you care for a vodka tonic, er--"

"Begorrah!" he shouted. "What in Hades have I done wi' me manners? 'Tis that I was so anxious to escape the heat, you see, that I've clean forgot to give ye my card," he continued, presenting me with a sweat-dampened business card that read:

Congregation Beth El Fatima
"Ye Are the Light of the World"
xxxs S. Church Street
Las Cruces, NM 88xxx
Tel. (xxx) xxx-xxxx

"Blessed Rabbi . . . ." I murmured, confused.

"Aye, lassie. Be a good child and fix us a drink, now, and we'll chat a spell."

I tucked the card absentmindedly in my back pocket as I entered the kitchen, exiting shortly afterwards with two vodka tonics and presenting him with the weaker of the two (I thought I had smelled whiskey on his breath when he greeted me. That's all I need, I'd thought, a drunk Rabbi in my living room).

After taking a sip--more accurately, a gulp--he sighed approvingly. "She's no Bushmill's," he noted a bit sadly, "but she'll do, aye, she'll do. A humble Rabbi like meself can't be complaining, now, can he?"

"That's a beautiful Star of David," I complimented him, still a little thrown by his mixed-up attire, but wishing to be polite.

"Indeed it is!" he cried, beaming. "Indeed it is. A fine work of art, crafted entirely by artisans of the Jicarilla Apache Nation." His pronunciation of Jicarilla was flawless. "Still mostly a heathen lot, you understand, but we're making great strides there. Aye, great strides."

"Is yours a reform congregation, then, Fa--er, Rabbi?" I asked.

"Reform congregation!" he bellowed, slamming down his glass with such force it made me wince. "Reform! Miss, I'd no more have aught to do wi' Reform Judaism than I'd have to do wi' the bloody Papists!"

"Rabbi O'Shaughnessy," I scolded him, "I'll have you know that I was confirmed in the Catholic Church two years ago." Boy, was I starting to be glad I'd slipped an extra half-ounce into my vodka tonic.

"Oh, there, lassie, I meant no offense," he said soothingly. "Tis only that I prefer a bit more orthodoxy in religion than the Reform branch can offer. That," he added with a reflective sip of his drink, "that, and I'm bloody tired of being addressed as 'Father' where'er I go."

"Well, the robes--" I began, only to be silenced by another outburst.

"Aye, the robes!" he thundered. "Canna God's children see past the outward appearance? Has He not warned us of the folly of concerning ourself wi' such matters? Does Matthew 6:28 not ask, 'And why take ye thought for rainment?' Is not the lesson then--"

"Fa--Rabbi," I interjected desperately, "Matthew's a book in the New Testament."

"And are ye presuming to explain the Torah to me, then, miss? Thought you'd show up an old Rabbi, did you? Och, you're a spitfire, ye are, an' prone to pride as well. That's one o' yer seven deadlies, ye know." He shook his head and made a "tsk-tsk" noise at me.

"But the Torah and the New Testament are two different things, Father--"

"RABBI!" he shouted, enraged and enpurpled. I was starting to think it had been unwise of me to put any vodka in his drink.

"Rabbi," I corrected myself, not wanting to upset him further. "I mean, if you look to the Torah and to the New Testament for guidance, aren't you sort of . . . I mean . . . aren't you . . . ."

"Don't say it," he warned.


"I've had it up to me eyeballs wi' being called Christian," he practically spat. "Me, one of the goyim! Why, 'tis to laugh, 'tis. No, the Temple Beth El Fatima is as Jewish as they come--an' a fair bit more Jewish than some synagogues I could mention, were I of a mind to engage in idle gossip, which I am not," he concluded with another belt of his drink (though I thought I heard him mumble "Temple Emanu-El" under his breath just before he swallowed it).

"But to the purpose of me visit, now," he said more gently. "I've come today, Miss, to offer you the chance for everlasting life and salvation in the kingdom of Heaven."

"Oh, you're sweet, Rabbi," I said, smiling, "but I've already changed religions once, you know. I think I'm about at the limit. I don't quite trust people who hop from one to the next, do you? They always seem a little flaky to me."

I'll be damned if I could figure out why, but the Rabbi's expression of shock at my (I thought) innocuous response was unmistakeable.

"Lassie!" he whispered, staring bug-eyed at me. "Lassie, are ye tellin' me . . . can ye be tellin' me, then, that ye've ne'er heard the Good News?"

"The--the Good--the what?" Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't have had any of that vodka either.

"Is it that yer no better than a plain heathen, miss? Do ye not know--'An' God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son'--"

"Now look here," I interrupted, getting cross. "Believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God is Christian. What are you trying to pull here? Christian. It means 'follower of Christ.' As in, not a Jew. You can wear all the Stars of David you like, Rabbi, just as I could observe hijab and call myself a Muslim, but as long as I'm believing in the divinity of Christ--"

"There, there now, don't be so literal-minded, lassie," he urged me. "Ye'll get nowhere bein' like that. Besides," he added, "ye haven't attended rabbinical school, now, have ye?"

"No, but--"

"And yet you'll presume to debate theology with a graduate of Lebanon Baptist Seminary!" he crowed. "Well, then! That's settled. Ye're clearly out of yer league here, miss." He shook his glass at me. "Now ye wouldn't be havin' a bit more o' that vodka handy, would ye?"

"I'm afraid I don't, Rabbi," I said coldly, moving to the door. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like you to go. I'll keep your card handy, of course, but I've got errands to run and you can't stay."

"Sure, sure," he agreed, rising. "Can I put you down for a donation before I take me leave?"

"What?--No!" I spluttered at him, before my curiosity overcame me and I asked, "A donation for what?"

He winked at me and answered, "For remodeling o' the sacristy, lassie. She's been needin' repairs for a spell now, but the rains this last spring--"

"You," I scowled at him, "are either insane, or a scam artist. Temple Beth El Fatima! Honestly!"

"Peace be with you," he smiled, making the sign of the Cross as I shut the door against him.

Posted by Ilyka at July 5, 2005 02:45 AM in i don't know you tell me | TrackBack

Woah, is that a true story? Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction. An evangelical Jew that believes in Jesus...either one confused character, or just a dude lookin' for a few bucks.

Probably the latter, but at least he's entertaining about it.

Posted by: francisthegreat at July 5, 2005 08:54 AM

Woah, is that a true story?

Francis, my son, Francis . . . is it that yer blond then, Francis?

Posted by: the blessed rabbi o'shaughnessy at July 5, 2005 12:34 PM

You absolutely kick ass. You had me at "BLESSED RABBI O'SHAUGHNESSY."

Posted by: Hubris at July 5, 2005 05:22 PM

Very nice. It shows the personality of ... (fill in your idiot of the week here) perfectly.

Posted by: Sabba Hillel at July 5, 2005 07:53 PM