Aired Feb. 4, 2012 on Dave’s Gone By.
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Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of February 5th, 2012.
Well, on Tuesday, Mr. Groundhog poked his tuchas outside the ground and declared that we’re stuck with six more weeks of winter. A gloomy prediction, especially since three days later, Colorado got its first snowstorm in a month and a half.
So in order to brighten your damp and precipitative week, I thought I would share some jokes with you – jokes of a Jewish nature.
The first concerns Sadie, an old Jewish woman, working for fifty years in the garment district in New York.
One evening she’s coming home from work, she’s on the subway, and a tall, rather strange-looking man in a long raincoat comes over and stands in front of her.
Suddenly, he opens his coat and flashes her, showing her everything God gave him.
Sadie looks, and looks, and looks, and finally she sighs and says, “You call this a lining?”
Now, what do we learn from this joke? We learn two things, both of them contradictory – which is par for the course with virtually everything Talmudic. First, we learn that concentrating, and focusing on what you know best can sometimes protect you from harm. Sadie zoning in on the raincoat instead of the man’s puckel might have spared her embarrassment or shock or even rape. And so, when we are at work and trying to finish a task, if we apply ourselves to that – instead of getting caught up in office politics and gossip and bad advice – we are more likely to complete the job in front of us.
On the other hand, the joke also tells us there is something sad about Sadie. Here’s an old woman, so beaten down by life and work that she doesn’t even notice a naked man poking his peter at her punim. We must not get so wrapped up in our daily burdens, or, for that matter, our hobbies and addictions, that we become oblivious to the wangs in front of our eyes.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. To quote Walt Whitman, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” I just wish I could contain my urine better but, that’s my problem. On to another joke – this one about an old man.
He’s in the hospice, he’s dying, and his 60-year-old wife is by his bedside.
“Rivka,” he says. “Tell me the truth. In our forty years of marriage, were you ever unfaithful?”
Rivka remains silent.
“Rivka? Did you hear me? I asked if you’ve ever been with another man?”
“Chaim,” she says, “I don’t understand the question.”
“Don’t understand the – ? Just tell me. I won’t be mad. I’m dying. I would just like to know. During our marriage, did you ever shtup another man?”
Again, Rivka says nothing.
“Rivkie, Rivkie, what’s the problem?”
His wife looks at him and says, “I’m worried. What if I tell you, and you don’t die?”
This is a charming little joke about sex and death, two things that obsess most Jews and gave Woody Allen a career. Perhaps we learn from this joke that we all have to answer for our actions at one point or another. If not today, maybe in a month. If not in a year, maybe in our final days. Maybe in olam haba. So it’s a caution that whenever we embark on doing something that maybe we shouldn’t – maybe we shouldn’t.
Okay, last joke, perfect for the season. Little Yussi is a Russian immigrant, and he’s sitting in grammar school and trying to keep up in English.
The teacher says, “Class: it’s vocabulary time. Can anyone here use the word `cultivate’ in a sentence?”
Nobody raises a hand.
Again, the teacher says, “Come, somebody must know this word. Cultivate. Use it in a sentence. Anyone?”
After another minute, Yussi raises his hand.
“Great, Yussi. What’s your sentence?”
Yussi says, “Vell, in the vinter, ven it’s snowing and you’re vaiting for the school bus, you should go indoors because it’s too cul-ti-vate.”
I didn’t say it was a good joke, I just said it was a joke. One could even say it’s a kosher spin on that old line about the weather in Mexico: chili today and hot tamale. Also, it’s a reminder that puns, although specific to a language and dialect, are universal in their power to trick us and make us go, “ohhhhyy, I hate puns.” And if we can all be brought a little closer together through our hatred and disgust, wouldn’t that make the world a better place?
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches.
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