Messiah in America: Act V

The same scene. The two Messiahs are preparing for the fight. Menachem’s Messiah is saying prayers. Menachem, Flossie and Jack are gathered around him.

Flossie: (Chews gum.)

Jackie: Do you know the rules, uncle? No hitting below the belt.

Messiah: Is he wearing a belt?

Menachem: I mean, not below the penis.

Messiah: And can you hit the penis itself?

Menachem: Heaven forbid! What are you saying? It’s against the law. American Law is on the side of . . . the . . . penis.

Messiah: Well, if you’ve gotta hit above the penis, you’ve gotta. (Groans.) Only God help me, I should have the strength.

Jack: Get a hold of yourself, uncle. Get angry. Don’t forget—the other guy’s trying to take away your livelihood.

Messiah: What a rotten life!  Live-li-hood. (Looks for something under his shirt at his neck.)

Flossie: What are you looking for?

Messiah: It’s an amulet that my mother—peace be upon her—gave me so that she could watch over me throughout my life. (Pulls out an amulet.)

Flossie: (Quietly.) What good’s an amulet? It’s about as much good as giving  aspirin to a dead man. I have a better amulet for you. Here. (Takes a horseshoe from under her shawl.)

Messiah: What’s this?

Flossie: Shhhh. . . It’s a horseshoe. Americans believe a horseshoe is lucky.  Ask Charlie Chaplin, he’ll tell you.

Messiah: Aha. I understand. That’s why they have horseshoes over their doors. Aha. So that’s it. I always wondered about that.

Flossie: Yes. (Pause.) Take it, Mr. Messiah. A horseshoe is a good luck charm for winning a fight.

Messiah: (Takes the horseshoe, goes to put it in his pocket.)

Flossie: No, not in your pocket; put it here (She puts it in his glove.)

Messiah: May it be so. I hope at least it’s a good charm, dear God (Groans.) What a miserable live-li-hood!

Flossie: It will bring good fortune, Mr. Messiah. Never fear.

(During this time, the other Messiah has been preparing for the fight. The four reporters are standing around the platform where the fight will take place with their photographic equipment. Zip and the referee are saying something to the young Messiah. Old Messiah in tales kotn kisses his prayer book. Puts it away. Prepares himself. Prays. The young Messiah performs gymnastic exercises.)

Jackie: (To the old Messiah.) Get angry, uncle.

Old Messiah: Do I have to be angry, Jack? Why? What good will it do me?

Jack: Like you always say, you gotta do what you gotta do. Without anger, you’ll never win. You won’t have a chance.

Old Messiah: So, it means I’ve gotta be angry? Well, what you’ve gotta do, you’ve gotta do. (Sighs.) What a rotten life! ! (Different.) Why should I be angry with him? Has he done something to me, Jackie?

Jack: Of course he’s done something. He’s going after your bread, your livelihood, uncle.

Old Messiah: What a miserable life. My livelihood. Such a. . . Such a. . . I’ll show him.

Jack: (Slaps him on the back.) ’Attaboy! That’s the way. Bravo!

Zip: (to Young Messiah) You understand, the loser doesn’t just lose money. He also loses his career as Messiah. Remember that. That little Jew trying to take away your bread; he’s out to ruin you. And who is he? A greenie Jew, a bumpkin, an ignoramus, a little Galitsianer.

Young Messiah: (Smiles.) It’s alright, Mr. Zip! Don’t upset yourself. Please. We’ll tear him apart in the first round. You can rely on me. It’s alright. We’ll squash him like a ripe apple. God help me, It’s a pity about his wife and kids. But whose fault is it? A ruptured Jew like that, trying to—

Zip: Don’t be so sure of yourself. You never know. I’ve seen these little Jews. To look at them, I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for them, but when push comes to shove, they have the strength of iron. Don’t mess around with these little Galitsianer Jews. They’re not men, they’re bandits.

Charlie: You’d be better off being angry with him. Without anger  you can’t do anything. Do as I say.

Zip: Hatred is a great strength in itself. Why do you think the Jewish race has outlived all its enemies and given them, so to speak, a historical knockout? Because they viewed them with hatred. Hatred is the greatest strength. Hatred and anger.

Young Messiah: (Angrier at being lectured than against his opponent.) Enough of that. Enough of that. Stop giving me advice. You’re making me nervous. God-Damn-Jesus-Christ-Donnerwetter-Two-Times-Over!

(The bell sounds onstage.)

Jackie: Ladies and gentlemen! I don’t have to tell you that today’s prize-fight is, so to say, that is, historic. In America, we’ve already had fights between Jews and Negroes, between Irishmen and Germans, between Russians and Frenchmen, between Americans and Chinese. But a fight between Messiahs is completely new. As never seen before. A thing such as the American intelligentsia has never before witnessed. The fight will take place in nine rounds. Mr. Messiah number zero weighs in naked at 145 pounds. (Indicates the old Messiah.) Messiah number double zero (Indicates the young Messiah.) weighs precisely three pounds more. Both are middleweights. The winning Messiah will come out of this one of the greatest figures in boxing history. His head will be crowned with the laurels of glory. (Pause.) Today’s fight was arranged by the distinguished impresarios Mr. Zipkin (Zipkin bows.) and Mr. Menachem-Josef (Bows.) Both are well-known showmen and businessmen. Only through the cooperation of two such geniuses (Indicates Zip and Menachem-Josef. The two hold hands and bow.) and by combining the capital of two such famous financiers has it been possible to bring to the American intelligentsia an evening of such high-quality entertainment. Today’s prize-fight will open with a prayer by the Reverend Doctor Rabbi Stefan Schwartz of Temple Loy-Lonu-Eil!

Rabbi: (Mumbles a prayer)

Old Messiah: Borkhu-borkhshmoy, omeyn.

Young Messiah: Amen.

(The fight begins.)


Let him have it!

Hit him in the eye!

Get him in the rib.

Tear his guts out.

Murder him.

Kill him.

Kill the old Messiah.

Kill the young Messiah.

Kill em.

Kill em.

(The old Messiah wins very quickly. A great hoorah. They raise him up in the air.)

Old Messiah: (Realizes what a dirty thing he’s done.) Oh ! I beat him bloody. (Can’t look.)

Jack: It’s nothing, uncle, it’s nothing. It’s what you’ve gotta do; this is America.

Flossie: (Goes to the old Messiah to kiss him. He won’t let her.)

Old Messiah: Do I have to kiss girls, Jackie?

Jack: You have to, uncle, you have to.

Old Messiah: Well, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. (Lets her kiss him. It gives him a belly ache.)

Jack: Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you the man who deserves all the credit for today’s spectacle. That is, not he alone, but also Mr. Zipkin. (Zip bows.) Both deserve our greatest appreciation because they spared neither money nor effort to arrange the greatest fight of all times and of all lands. A fight which must bring honor to American citizens in general and especially to us Israelites whose history goes back to Jerusalem, to Zion, to the shores of Lebanon, to the Jordan River and to the Wailing Wall. And now, ladies and gentlemen, none other than Mr. Menachem-Josef himself will speak to you, in person.

(Signals with his hands for him to come up. Nothing happens. Makes a sign to the musicians they should play the American National Anthem and that everyone should stand)

Menachem-Josef: Ladies and gentleman. Well, it made a racket. The fight between the two Messiahs. The True Messiah (Gestures to the old Messiah.) and the False Messiah (Gestures to the young Messiah, who is lying on the floor bleeding from open wounds.) has ended honourably. The laurels go to him, the victor who has poured glory on our nation as much as on his own head. (Places the wreath on his head.) Today’s prize-fight has shown once again that even in a fight between men, physical strength does not play as great a role as wisdom. Our Messiah fought with wisdom. (Messiah holds the glove with the horseshoe and rubs it.) That’s why he has emerged victorious. The other one (Gestures.) fought without wisdom, without understanding, and so, he has come to disgraceful defeat. But it serves him right. He should never have, he ought never to have permitted himself, to enter into combat with such a holy man, such a divine man, who redeems all, whether for cold hard cash or on credit, that is, on the installment plan. (Pause.) Today’s victory establishes our one-and-only Messiah on par with the greatest people in the land—like Jack Dempsey, Willard, Fitzsimmons, Kid McCoy, President Coolidge, and I believe, that for the American nation, whether Jewish or Christian, there can be no greater

honor than to be redeemed by a Messiah who is in addition to being a Messiah, a gentleman and a fighter, a Messiah who lives an upstanding family life and puts money in the bank so he won’t be a burden to his children in his old age. I thank you. (Remembers.) Yes, the young Messiah is dead, Long live the new Messiah! Hooray! (Pause.) What else was I going to say? Yes, let us all stand and sing our National Anthem.

(The audience stands. They sing Hatikvah to the tune of Yankee Doodle.)


The complete book Messiah in America, fully annotated, is available from Amazon.

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