Lotus Eaters 004
[cf. Gabler 58:10-12, 1922 68: 9 -11]]
Bloom’s walk takes him past a building named “Bethel,” which makes him recall the little Hebrew he knows, and past an undertaker’s, which makes him think of the funeral he will be going to later in the day.
There’s a lot to say about Bloom and his Jewishness, but we can basically say that Bloom isn’t as Jewish as everyone around him thinks… and his Hebrew, like his science, is not that accurate. But as we’re watching Bloom’s thinking from outside, it’s hard to know exactly what’s being said. Bethel means, in Hebrew, “House of God” – from Beth – meaning house of, but also the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and “El,” meaning God. Bloom might be thinking that the “El” part means “house of…” — it’s the sort of confusion he will often make on this day — but we’re really just supposed to see the curious and associative, if not entirely precise, tendency of his mind.
For extra credit, you can note that in the Bible, Bethel is the place where Jacob dreams of his ladder to heaven. It’s not a long walk from here to the chapter’s broader themes about dreaming and other altered states…
Bloom’s thoughts can be hard to follow, especially when they concern things that are unpleasant to him, things he doesn’t want to think about. His mention of Paddy Dignam’s funeral here is a good example. You have to know what he’s talking about in order to know what he’s talking about!