Let My People Laugh

Friday, 19 August, 2022 - 12:31 pm

According to a 1978 Time Magazine article, an estimated 80% of comedians were Jewish. What is it about being Jewish that stimulates the funny bone?

There are many theories. Entire books have been written on the topic. Some see humor as a way of coping with persecution. Others connect it with the wittiness stemming from being steeped in intellectual pursuits. However we understand this phenomenon, there is no doubt that it is both real and deep rooted.

Humor is a gentle way to lighten a tense situation. This is true in the moment, as well as on a broader scale. One writer said, “Oppressed people tend to be witty.” Jews used humor to deal with whichever nation happened to be oppressing them at any given time. Common folk within the Jewish community used humor to deal with a leader’s heavy hand in communal affairs.

In Eastern European Shtetels, a badchan (jester) was often hired at weddings of prominent families in society. He would employ the use of witty verse to poke subtle fun at the important people. This is a practice that continues in some circles until this day.

The Talmud speaks of Elijah the Prophet pointing out people who were given the appellation “men of the world to come.” In explanation he said, that they were folks who used humor to bring joy to the downtrodden.

Jewish mysticism argues that everything one does or experiences, should be oriented toward the service of Hashem. What G-dly purpose could we discover in a good belly laugh? The Talmudic sage Rava, would begin each lecture in the academy with a “milsa d’bedichasa” – a humorous remark. This would cause the Rabbis to laugh and relax, making them more open to absorbing the complexities of the Torah topic upon which Rava was expounding.

Modern science backs this up. “Laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being, in addition to many specific benefits.

So, join us this Monday night for a good laugh, as we are entertained by British Jewish comedian, Ashley Blaker at Chabad (Uptown). It’s a Mitzvah!

For tickets and info:  

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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