22nd of Elul

22nd of Elul: Wednesday, September 21st

A Jewish telegram: Start worrying.  Message to follow.

A Jewish man calls his mother and asks how she is.  “Not so well,” she answers, “I haven’t eaten in three weeks.”

“My goodness, Ma, what happened?”

“Nothing, I just didn’t want to have food in my mouth if you called.”

Perhaps the paradigmatic emblem of the Jewish people in American culture is our sense of humor.  From Lenny Bruce and Jackie Mason to Jerry Seinfeld and Myq Kaplan, Jews and comedy have been synonymous for decades. Some comedians even get credited with being Jewish when they are not! (Sorry folks, Robin Williams is Episcopalian.)

There is humor in the Bible (2 Kings 19:35: “…and when they woke up in the morning they were all dead”), in the Talmud (Megillah 7b: One rabbi invites another to a Purim feast and kills him in a drunken stupor.  He prays for a miracle that his friend will be revived, and he is.  Next year he invites his friend back for another Purim feast, and he responds, “No thank you, a miracle may not happen every time!”), and all over other forms of Jewish discourse.

It is a wonder that a people who have encountered so much adversity throughout history have developed such a recognizable sense of humor.  On the other hand, it is perhaps because of this that we have survived.  In the words of William Novak and Moshe Waldoks, “Like the Jewish people, Jewish humor is optimistic in the long run….” It keeps us going throughout the centuries and helps us be sure that the coming year will be filled with laughter.


These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).


Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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