Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Humor (or for our British readers Humour)

I have received comments on the fact that I like to inject humor into my blog posts.  As with any subject that I cover, there is always a hidden meaning – no joke.  We are told in the Talmud that humor is an excellent way to teach.  I have noticed all my life that the best speakers, best school teachers, the best teaching video and audio subjects are all enhanced by humor.  When I became observant I saw this trend continue in Torah learning.  The Rabbis who seem to be the most popular were those who used humor or, in this case, Jewmor.  I was an instructor for three years in an Army service school.   Not that military subjects aren't the most fascinating topic to discuss ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (the international symbol for boredom) but I kept a list of 62 jokes on hand to get through my day.  Speaking of boredom, the other day I tried to day-dream, but I just couldn't concentrate.

You may wonder why I chose today to talk about humor.  Glad you asked.  Today is my birthday and it is part of a three day celebration for me.  Yesterday was my birthday.  Wait am I a little confused?  Yes, but let me explain.  I have two birthdays a year.  Since I follow both the lunar and the solar calendar and I was born on Rosh Chodesh Sivan (yesterday) which was 23 May (today) hence the celebration continues.  Having two birthdays each year means that today I am celebrating my 136th birthday.  Here is my birthday cake:

This reminds me of an incident that happened recently at our synagogue.  It's a hot story (that is what reminded of it).  It was Shabbos and we wanted to give a particular guest an aliyah.

The Rabbi asked:  What is your name?
Guest:  Sarah bas Moshe
Rabbi:  No, what is your name?
Guest:  Sarah bas Moshe
Rabbi:  I don't understand.
Guest:  You see, we have had a lot of trouble in the family so we have put everything into my wife's name.

That, by the way, is absolutely not a true story.   

Humor has been found to have medical advantages.  Studies have shown that humor can actually spark the immune system.  You don't want to overdo it since nobody wants to really die laughing.  Expressions like "this guy kills me" should be saved for other occasions.

So where in the Talmud is this suggestion of humor as a way of teaching (I knew he was going to sneak in something from scriptures).  Judah the Prince, who went under the title Rebbe would lighten the atmosphere by starting a class with a joke (Shabbos 30b).  I was just thinking since it is a popular title to call the Rabbi in a Hebrew school or Yeshivah "Rebbe," does that mean, since I teach on the internet, I am a "Webbe?"  That should be very impressive on my résumé.  Let me resume (what a difference an accent makes).

Although we should serve Hashem with joy and that includes having a happy life, we are also warned in the Talmud (Pesachim 117a) about light-headedness, frivolity.  If our life is only for fun and not serving Hashem, we are missing an opportunity to excel and to help others.  Jews should not be practical jokers where embarrassment of even harm can come to someone.  The humor that I am talking about should serve a purpose such as helping to keep one's interest in teaching the word of Hashem.  Even to entertain children to make Yiddishkeit more enjoyable is a mitzvah.

There is a story of people using humor and getting the World to Come (Olam Haba)(Taanis 22a).  There were individuals who made people happy acting as clowns and were actually rewarded for their efforts.  I have mentioned numerous times that Hashem wants us to help each other.  If humor is the method available to help – to do something good for someone else – Hashem looks favorably upon those with the proper intensions.  Hashem also wants us to enjoy life.  Not just all the celebrations but our everyday routine.  As an example, if you are not studying Torah with joy, you are doing it incorrectly.  Shabbos and all our holidays are so enjoyable and so good for bring family members together that, once again, we thank Hashem for all He gives us.  Know that even the mitzvot are tools of happiness if done correctly.  You know the scenario for all Jewish holidays:  They tried to kill us; we won; let's eat.  That summarizes that.

You may ask: didn't you say this was part of a three day celebration (actually a four day celebration, the fourth day in early June)?  Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary, 3 Sivan.  My wife and I have been married 84 years (we celebrate both days on this occasion, also).  I was thinking this is a combination simcha and celebration.  Would that make it a simchabration (there goes the spell-check again)?

Funny thing, I have run out of time, in more ways than one.  I just wanted you to know that humor was another gift from Hashem to help us in our rectification in life.  It is not only just an effective teaching tool, it does make life much more enjoyable and I thank Hashem for a sense of humor.  I do want you to know that I also have a sense of serious (whatever that means).  I consider myself more of a sit-down comic – it's hard to type while standing.

You will notice that this post avoided politics which is not too humorous a subject in this day and age.  You know the definition of politics.  Let's break it down.  "Poly" means many and "tics" are blood-sucking creatures.  Isn't it amazing what you can learn on the web?

Have a happy day!!!!! 


  1. Very nice... *;-)

  2. A very happy birthday to you!
    David, OK, USA

  3. " does that mean, since I teach on the internet, I am a "Webbe?"

    Sounds right to me.

    Daffy Duck

  4. I enjoyed this post so much. Happy Birthday and Anniversary to my other half.

  5. We are both not only fellow bloggers but also Rosh Chodesh babies. I was born on Rosh Chodesh Iyar (1 Iyar), the head of the month that corresponds to Shevet Yissaschar, and you were born on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the head of the month that corresponds to Shevet Zevulun. These were the two brothers/sons of Yaakov who had a Torah-work relationship - Yissaschar learned Torah all day and Zevulun supported him.

    1. I know this well since my son, who I supported for many years while he was studying Torah full time, was born in Iyar. We had the Yisachar Zevulun arrangement.

  6. Shabbos 30b: Rabbah (the Amora), not Rebbi.

    1. You are correct that it was Rabbah that used humor. Rav Judah is in that amud and I remembered the story of the Rav who used humor. I do Daf Hayomi everyday. Yesterday, I asked my Magid Shiur who it was and he told me Rebbi. I will check these facts myself in the future. Thank you for the correction.