Page 237 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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is the robber, they beat him mercilessly. His
tallit
and
kippah
fall o ff and they realize that it is the statue of Jesus they were
beating. The Christians then try to blame the incident on the
Jews of the town, but it turns out that the sacristan of the church
(a parallel to the Shamash) had committed the robbery and had
placed the
kippah
and
tallit,
stolen from the tavern-keeper, on
the statue to make people believe that a Jew was guilty. The
sacristan was beaten viciously, and the Christians then went to
the bar to enjoy themselves. Jews also came to the bar to thank
God for their rescue. From this time on the
tallit
and
kippah
remained firm on the head of the Shamash.
The story satirizes the ignorance and brutality of the Christian
community. It also, however, presents, ironically, a picture of
Jesus dressed as a Jew and depicts how he is given the standard
Christian treatment for Jews.17
Earlier, in 1923, Agnon published a tale entitled
Macaglei
Tsedek
(Paths of Righteousness)18 in which the figure of Jesus
appears. The story is of a poor man whose ancestors were wine
merchants while he made vinegar. This change alludes to the
Hebrew phrase, used in the story,
hornets ben yayyin,
“vinegar,
the son of wine,” that is, a son who is inferior to his father.
The old man was a pathetic caricature of traditional piety. He
lived in poverty, loneliness and desperation, and his only hope
was to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. To this end he would divide
his earnings into two halves, an allusion to the custom of Hillel.
The one half supported him while the second half he naively
deposited in a public charity box placed at the crossroads be­
tween the hands of a statue of Jesus, imagining that this was
the safest place for his money. When the time came to make
the trip to Eretz Yisrael, he went to the public charity box and
with a stone tried to break it open and take what he believed
was his own money. A group of priests happened along and
the old man was beaten and jailed.
During his trial he looked up, and seeing the image of Jesus,
he cried out in his heart, “You are smiling at me (in mockery).”
17. Collected Works o f Agnon,
Elu va-Etu
(Jerusalem-Tel Aviv: 1967), 375 -378 ;
Arnold Band,
Nostalgia and Nightmare, A Study in the Fiction of S.Y. Agnon
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: 1968) 104. Band notes that two other stories
have the Jesus motif: “The Lady and the Peddler” (1943) and “The First
Kiss” (1963).
18. Collected Works,
Elu va-Elu,
383 -388 ; Band,
op. cit.,
104-105.
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229