Esor Ben-Sorek

Once I Was But Now I’m Not

I am sitting up uncomfortably on a swivel chair.  Looking up at the wall staring at me I count 19 framed certificates, among them two doctorates.. an Litt.D. (Doctor of Literature) and a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy). I have always wondered about the philosophy. Indeed. I am not and never have been a philosopher. I cannot think of anything quite as dull as being a philosopher. I quite prefer being a theologian with an Almighty God who restores my soul to rebirth every day.

At my age (90 going on 91 if God lets me make it) I try to think of what to do prior to my departure from this earthly planet and I ask my three children if they would want to take the framed certificates & diplomas. Their response is very silent silence !!! But I suggest to them that at least they could remove the diplomas and keep the frames which are in very good condition. Their response is still silent.

It makes me aware that once I was but now I’m not.   It hurts !!!

The 19 certificates and diplomas bring back to my life healthier and much happier years and it is painful to think that now I am a sort of a nothing when once I was a distinguished and renowned someone. I look at the 2,000 books standing on dusty shelves from wall to wall and I smile when my 90 year old eyes fall upon two copies of my book that was published in 1965 and revised in 1967, POEMS AND POETS OF ISRAEL: SELECTED MASTERPIECES.

I still look at the book and I delight at the comments written by scholars who reviewed the first 1965 edition: Chancellor of the Board of Higher Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Chairman of the Department of Religion and Philosophy of Troy State College in Alabama.

In 1967 my students at Boston University were able to purchase the revised edition at the Boston University Bookstore.

In 1967 a Professor of  Historical Theology at Boston University, and a Professor Emeritus of Religion at Curry College, two professors in Tel-Aviv University and a chairperson in the Department of Literature at Haifa University added delightful remarks which remain warm in my  90 year old heart.

By a neglected error the Jewish Publication Society of America permitted use of their copyright for the selected poems of Yehudah Halevi and Moses Ibn-Ezra, and Dr.  Raphael Patai of the Herzl Press for permission to quote from “Some Aspects of Modern Hebrew Poetry” by Hillel Bavli and “Israeli Poetry in Peace and War” by Gabriel Preil.

Somewhere along the poetic way I fumbled and my publisher, Boston University Press, was notified by M. Avidom, Director-General of ACUM Ltd., Societe D’Auteurs, Compositeurs Et Editeurs  De Musique En Israel (TelAviv) that I had not been given permission to publish my book.

Mr. Avidom was most gracious and generous in permitting me to reprint the works of all Israeli authors and poets who were represented in my anthology to be in their “English translations ONLY”.

Five years ago, a  former student of mine (who now has a Ph.D. and teaches literature, using my book as a recommended textbook) contacted me to wish me a happy 85th birthday and he remembered the happiness when my revised 1967 edition made its way to the  Boston University bookshelves. (It takes a Ph.D. to remember and now to use my book in classrooms which he teaches.)

It brings back happy memories to an old man whose memories often disappear or else found wanting. It is somewhat annoying. (annoying is quite a mild word.)

A vulgar F word is more appropriate !!!)  But happily it is not in my vocabulary. It was not at age 19 and not now at age 90. My younger daughter chooses it on the very rare occasions when she is displeased with me.

Did I say “very rare occasions”, forgive me.  I lied !!!

Yes…. Once I Was and Now I’m Not.

On a large wall hang signed personal photos to me from famous scholars and government and  religious leaders.. Among them are:

Yitzchak Hertzog,  Menachem Begin,  Shimon Peres,  Zalman Shazar,  Richard Nixon, Donald Trump,  His Majesty the King of Denmark, and Richard Cardinal Cushing of the Roman Catholic Church,

My personal contacts with them are delightful memories. I cannot determine if the photo of Donald Trump should be hanging or whether it should be the photo or the live person. Only Americans courts can decide.

The photos of world known men bring me happiness. At one point in my life I was invited to deliver benedictions to the government at the podium of the  U.S.House of Representatives in the American Congress and my remarks were published in the Congressional Record.

Ah yes ! The memories remain. But…. once I was and now I’m not.

Since my sainted wife died, our beloved and devoted daughter has taken charge of my health and all needs. God bless her. One of the differences between us is that I can say “once I was and now I’m not”. She can say “once I was happier and now I have to define the word “happy”.

Yet at age 90 and praying for perhaps one more year to rejoice with my beloved children and grandchildren I may be a bit selfish…. all because once I was and now I’m not .  Oy vay !!!

But Almighty God protects us and our beloved Israeli Canaan dog Atara Carmit keeps us both sane.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.