In splansky

By Rabbi Yael Splansky.

I’m sure they are right when they say our humor is a survival mechanism.  You can endure a lot when you are able to laugh – at yourself, at your enemy, at your own pain, even at the God who is the Source of it all. 

Jewish humor is so irreverent, that sometimes even God is the butt of the joke.

 Whenever four rabbis are engaged in heated debate, it always seemed to land three against one. Finally, the odd rabbi out appealed to a Higher Authority.

“God!” he cried. “I know I’m right! Please, I beseech You.  Send a sign to prove it to them!”

Suddenly, from a clear day, it began to snow. “See?”  The Rabbi turned to his colleagues.  “See? A sign!”

“No,” said one of the others. “A little snow in winter is unusual?”

So again, the first Rabbi said, “Please, God, a bigger sign!”

Just then huge icicles brought a tree crashing to the ground. “Now is that not a sign?!”

“A sign of nature!” they insisted, again making it three to one.

Just as the Rabbi was about to beg an even bigger sign, the sky blackened and a booming voice intoned: “HEEEEEEEE’S RIIIIIIIGHT!”

The Rabbi, hands on hips, said, “Well?!”

The others shrugged, “Big deal. So now it’s two to three.”

Sometimes (on occasion) we Jews disagree.  What might be unique to Jewish humor is in how we can laugh with God, and sometimes even go so far as to make God the “victim” of the joke.  Reverance and irreverence wrapped into one.  We are a remarkable people!

Chag Purim Sameach!  If you have a good Jewish joke to share, please leave it below.


This joke is modeled after the well-known Talmudic debate over the “oven of Achnai.”  (Baba Metzia 59a)  In that original version of the painful, but true-ish story, Rabbi Yehoshua points his finger toward heaven and declares, “Torah is not in heaven!”  In one swoop he rules God “out of order.”  Rabbi Yehoshua emerges as the fearless hero who will even throw God out of the room, so to speak, in order to fully embrace Torah, which is God-given.  He quotes Torah back to God, saying, “You, Yourself wrote that we must incline toward the majority.”  (Exodus 23:2) 

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Showing 4 comments
  • Bram Aaron

    Reminds me of the old one that says when you put two Jews in a room you get three opinions…

  • Rabbi Yael Splansky

    Love it, Joanne. I can imagine that when the circumstance calls for it, you can jump straight to the punchline: “So maybe it isn’t.”
    Thanks for getting into the Purim spirit!
    Chag Purim Sameach to you and your terrific family.
    Rabbi Splansky

  • Joanne Bargman

    Rabbi Bernstein was old and wise, and known to ask profound questions about the nature of God and the Universe. One day he posed this question to his students: “Why is the world like a bagel?”
    The students went away, consulted the scriptures, the internet, the experts, but after days of research could not come up with an answer.
    The bravest of the students approached Rabbi Bernstein and said “Rabbi, we don’t have an answer! We don’t know why the world is like a bagel.”
    Rabbi Bernstein shrugged, and said “So maybe it isn’t.”

    • Paul Kay

      Sorry I delayed reading these comments. Now we know the real answer to the Mad Hatter’s riddle that has puzzled commentators since Lewis Carroll wrote, “why is a raven like a writing desk?” Viz, “so maybe it isn’t”! Brilliant. (So maybe Lewis Carroll was a secret relative of Rabbi Bernstein?)

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