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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)

Moses Lump’s Religion

From “The Baths of Lucca,” in “Travel Pictures”

YES, it is undeniably true that in culture I have made strides like a giant. I really hardly know what to do, or with whom to associate, when I return to Hamburg. But as far as religion is concerned, I do know what I shall do. For the present I can find satisfaction at the new Israelite temple—I mean the pure Mosaic service, where they have orthographic German hymns, and moving sermons, and a few of the other emotionalities necessary to every religion. As true as I live, I ask for no better religion, and it deserves every one’s support. When I return to Hamburg I shall go there every Saturday. There are, unfortunately, people who have given this new Israelite service a bad name, and have asserted that it would—saving your presence—give rise to a schism. But you may take my word for it, it is a good, cleanly religion, perhaps rather too advanced for the common man, who gets on very well with the old-fashioned Jewish faith. For the common man must enjoy some form of stupidity to make him happy. An old Jew with an unkempt beard and a tattered coat, who cannot speak correct German, is probably happier in his soul than I with all my culture.

In Hamburg, for instance, there lives in the Bakers’ Broad Walk a man named Moses Lump. This man runs about the whole week, in wind and weather, with his pack on his back, to earn a few Thaler. But when he comes home on Friday night he finds the seven lights burning, and the table covered with a fair white cloth; he puts away his pack and his cares; sits down at the table with his crooked wife and crookeder daughter; eats fish cooked in tasteful white garlic sauce; sings the splendid songs of King David, rejoicing in his heart over the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt; rejoicing, too, that all villains who wished them ill—Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Antiochus, Titus—are dead, while he, Moses Lump, is still alive, and eating fish with his wife and child. And I tell you, the fish is delicious, and the man is happy. He needs not to worry over culture. Right cheerfully he sits here in his religion and his green coat, like Diogenes in his tub, and looks complacently at the seven candles, which he does not even snuff himself. I tell you, should the lights burn low, and the Gentile women not be at hand to snuff them, and Rothschild the Great should enter with all his agents, brokers, cashiers, and head clerks, and were to say, “Moses Lump, ask a favor, and whatever you desire is yours”—I am convinced that Moses Lump would say, “Snuff those candles for me!” Then Rothschild the Great would marvel deeply, and say, “If I were not Rothschild, I should wish to be Moses Lump!”