Rabbi Burns might have been an actor, had he not been drawn to the calling in which he had lived his life, but as host of his annual Burns Supper, Moishe was able to demonstrate the other - instinctive - side of his personality; the Jewish community in Melrose was small, mainly elderly, like himself and Zelda the Rebbetzin, but while there were occasional difficulties in gathering a minyan for public worship, no such lack existed on the 25th of January and, because it was a secular celebration, a birthday party in honour of Scotland's National Poet, religious affiliation was not a requisite; the Hall belonging to the Episcopal Church in High Cross Avenue was on a permanent booking for this particular evening and tonight the company included not only members of his own Faith, but also his good friends Cristobal and May Dumbiedykes and their extended family, Grigori Rasputin and his new wife Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok and Annie Oakley, Sam Smiles and Jasmine Juniper-Green of the Scottish Secret Service and a number of those who had been lost in time, but returned thanks to the intercession of Little Levy Balquhidder who himself was present with his parents; Roxy Davidova, leader of the Unionist Party at Holyrood, Leslie Howard (who had taken time out from a new movie being filmed in Hollywood about his time in Renaissance Milan with Leonardo da Vinci) and Laszlo Licinic (the Dadaist Poet and painter), Thomas Learmonth (not yet Thomas the Rhymer) and his girlfriend Elizabeth Bennett, the young Neanderthal woman who had adapted so well to modern times, Patience Scott (daughter of Sir Walter and now returned to her old family home of Abbotsford) and Sister Evadne Eglantyne who sat with Lolly and Wullie; the others were well distributed about the company, which included Rusty Nails and Dusty Douglas from The Ship Inn, DI Douglas Brevity and his wife Goldy, from the Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub in Edinburgh, and WPCs Isa Urquhart and Milly Millican of Melrose Cop Shop and there was a buzz of excitement as the entrance of the Haggis was imminent: in introducing everyone - particularly those who were new to Melrose, the 21st Century, and the celebration of Robert Burns, his life, loves and work - the Rabbi had spoken eloquently and rather appositely, about the Universality of the Scottish Poet and how this evening's rituals were being observed on every continent, in most nations of the World and in a hundred different languages, and reminded them of the stirring and magnanimate words of A Man's A Man For A' That:
"And let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that)
That sense and worth o'er a' the earth,
May beat the gree, an' a' that,
For a'that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That man to man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that!"
he said that there was no need for euhemerism when recalling Burns and his life, "we are not elevating him to Sainthood, or placing him among the Super-Heroes," (which got a whoop from Little Levy, who had already discovered those characters on television, despite the best efforts of his parents, Rilla and Rary, to monitor his viewing) "but acknowledging the inspirational talents of an ordinary man who, in his poem To a Mouse characterised the mansuetude of a creature often dismissed as a pest, yet to the Poet, having it's own feelings, fears and rights to life"; and the Toast to Absent Friends given by Maude Lyttleton had many thinking of WPC Gertie Mountcastle who had disappeared into the mists of time with Sir Pantagruel MacFarlane and silent prayers were said for their safe return, but when the Haggis itself was piped in, and the Rabbi addressed it in his namesake's profound, stirring and most exuberant words, and when he finished the final verse:
"Ye pow'rs, wha mak Mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants no skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But if ye wish her grateful prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!"
the Hall erupted in cheers and enthusiastic applause; and later, after songs and dances, after Auntie Crist spoke of the World's debt to Burns and proposed the Toast to The Immortal Memory of the Poet and later, Wild Bill proposed the Toast to the Lassies with the reply from Daphne Dumbiedykes, there were more songs and dancing, while the tables were cleared away and the chairs arranged around the sides; and at length, when there was a lull in the conversation, Rabbi Burns stood and called the assembly's attention, inviting everyone to join in with the traditional ending of such a gathering of friends: "אַלט לאנג זינט!"
"should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought tae mind?
Should Auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o lang syne?"
and a hundred voices belted out the chorus:
"For Auld Lang Syne, my dear,
For Auld Lang Syne,
We'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For Auld Lang Syne!"
then out into a cold, cloudless night, with stars and a sickle moon promising an early frost, but with their kytes belyve bent like drums, the guidmen an' weemin wended their various ways home to bed!