Maimonides. Hmmm… There’s one of those names that no matter how many times you read it you’re going to mispronounce it until someone corrects you.
The first of Maimonides’ 13 Principals of Faith is to know that there is a Creator. If I could append this I would add: know that this Creator has a sense of humor. With this appendage, like all the others I have, I feel complete and can sleep peacefully at nights (personal requisite 18 hours).
I propose that humor is an integral component of every Jew. It is embedded in our spiritual and physical DNA. Quite simply, humor is our best self-defense mechanism and coping-skill of choice.
The foundation for this is found in (A) the Talmud (Ta’anis 22a), and (B) on the lips of every Bubby the world over.
HUMOR – It’s Not Just for Gentiles Anymore.
(A) Jewish Oral Law (not to be confused with laws governing Jewish dentists) suggests that comedians have a very “special” place waiting for them in the World to Come. You’re thinking: I hope it’s that very, very special (nasty) place they’re sent to for all their bad, very bad jokes (editor’s emphasis).
If we are to believe the words of Elijah the Prophet, dually remembered for his great appreciation of a good punch line (providing it was delivered correctly), then comedians earn heavenly reward because they use their humor to cheer people up.
To me that’s huge…or even bigger.
(B) The second peg that I hang this ‘theoretical hat’ on is an old Jewish saying. F.Y.I. there’s an old Jewish saying for everything. This old Jewish saying dates back to the era of “Let there be light” and goes something like this: “People make their plans, and God laughs”.
I was reflecting on the many promises I’ve made to myself just to prove this point. My biggest? Never moving to the suburbs with a wife and kids. That’s not to say that I would ever leave them behind (we only have 1 car), but you get the idea.
As much as we think we’re in charge, we never have the final say. I doubt the implication here is that God is sadistic or appreciates a good slip on a banana. That flies against logic. However…
I know that I have been a huge resource for this type of slap-stick-fall-down-kick-in-the-head entertainment for some time now and, quite frankly I am getting tired of it (not to complain). I am specifically referring to those incidents that hurt the most but you end up walking away stronger kind. Actually, it’s more like walking away from the Hindenburg.
What’s So Funny? God Only Knows.
The late Shakespearean thespian Sir Donald Wolf (not a Jew, but an actor who loved playing the part of Shylock) said it best: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
More so, I might add, if your audience is Orthodox.
Don’t get me wrong. Religious Jews love to laugh. But there’s a fine line (I’m told) between funny and offensive (as I’m constantly being reminded at Shul). I can often find myself straining to make a joke consistent with Jewish rules of modesty and subject matter. Here’s the thing – after several rewrites, the humor is usually lost and I find it difficult to express myself… much like an over-worked wet-nurse.
I bet I’ll get in trouble for saying that too.
The creative frustration can best be compared to a pair of Siamese twins playing Twister. Well, that may not be the best analogy, but it’s sure close.
The Eyes of the World are Watching the Jews.
Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration and better reflects my Jewish genetic predisposition to paranoia. Nevertheless, the way one conducts themselves is equally as important as what they learn. You must apply to your actions to your learning. Here’s a perfect illustration that needs no introduction –roll the clip Merv:
While waiting to pay for my groceries, I casually made an off-the-cuff remark to someone whose shirt read “Make Yourself at Home and Hit Someone”. Despite her size, I was faster through the ‘Super Express’ (7 items or less), while she chose the ‘Semi-Express’ (12 items or less) and a cashier with palsy.
In retrospect, I suppose that I should have kept my mouth shut, but I’m inclined to learn things the hard way. This realization hit me harder than most people want to. From that moment on, I have kept my witticisms clean and well out of the hearing range of much larger people, regardless of their gender.