restricted access Agendath Netaim: Promised Land or Waste Land
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Agendath Netaim:
Promised Land or Waste Land

One of the great set pieces in Ulysses is J. J. O'Molloy's rendering of John F. Taylor's speech on the Irish language with its allusion to Moses leading his people to the Promised Land.1 Joyce uses it as one of die examples of windy rhetoric in the Aeolus chapter and then has Stephen deflate it with his starkly realistic response: "A Pisgah Sight of Palestine or the Parable of the Plums." J. J. O'Molloy recites Taylor's words:

But, ladies and gentlemen, had the youthful Moses listened to and accepted that view of life, had he bowed his head and bowed his will and bowed his spirit before that arrogant admonition he would never have brought the chosen people out of their house of bondage nor followed the pillar of the cloud by day.


The speech is appropriate to the chapter that has as its art rhetoric, but, because it is about Moses leading his people to the Promised Land, it is also a correlative theme to the story of Odysseus who, despite many trials and delays, returns to his promised land of Ithaca. Professor MacHugh makes the analogy to the Odyssey when he says, "That is fine, isn't it? It has the prophetic vision. Fuit Ilium! The sack of windy Troy" (144).

The allusion to Moses is also an analogue to Leopold Bloom, who is often seen as an example of the Wandering Jew, constantly on the move, restless, and uncertain of his acceptance (Tracy 524). Bloom's wanderings are limited to the city of Dublin on 16 June 1904, yet Joyce has made this day a parallel to both Odysseus and Moses through an elaborate set of correspondences.

The correspondence with the Odyssey has been well documented, but little has been said of Bloom's analogy to Moses, which is so prominent in J. J. O'Molloy's recitation. Joyce did not attempt to match individual events in the lives of the two men, but he did emphasize the wandering in the wilderness and the search for the Promised Land.

Bloom has his own promised land, Agendath Netaim, the model farm at Kinnereth on the lake shore of Tiberius. He first reads the cut sheet describing it in Dlugacz's butcher shop as he waits for his breakfast kidney, and he retains it throughout the day, only to burn it before he goes to sleep that night. It is mentioned directly thirteen separate times in the novel, and it is alluded to a number of other times. It is similar to the motifs of the Elijah pamphlet and the Gold Cup Race, which Throwaway wins, but Agendath Netaim is mentioned more often than either of them. Not only is it featured prominently in the novel, [End Page 228] but the thematic significance attached to it makes it one of the important symbolic motifs of Ulysses.

Agendath Netaim has not gone unnoticed by other critics, but their emphasis has been primarily either an attempt to locate Joyce's source for the farm by tracing the Berlin address at Bleibtreustrasse 34 (Parish 237-241 and Bell 251-258) or an attempt to show that the confused spelling of Agendath for Agudath is a linking together of Stephen's "agenbite of inwit" with Leopold's thought process (Bulhof 326-332). Little attention has been given to the way Joyce uses the motif in the novel to parallel Moses and to show Bloom's attempt to reach his own promised land.

The association of Leopold Bloom with Moses is made specific in the novel in a number of places. As Bloom reads the leaflet in Dlugacz's, he thinks of another Moses, Moses Montefiore, who had encouraged the colonization of Palestine (59). In the Circe episode when he is asked to perform a miracle, he contracts his face so that he resembles Moses of Egypt, Moses Maimonides, and Moses Mendelssohn (495). Shortly after he transforms himself into Moses, we are given Bloom's genealogy in a parody of the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew. Whereas Jesus' ancestry is traced back to Abraham, Bloom's...