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Do Jews LOL?

Wednesday, 10 January, 2018 - 2:05 pm

Humor has played an important role in Jewish life. Books have been written on this topic. The association between humor and Jewish life has often been connected with the capacity to contend with the difficulties of exile. I would like to share two passages from the Talmud that give us an additional, perhaps more uplifting role for humor.

Rabbi Beroka (a Talmudic sage) often had encounters with Elijah the Prophet in the marketplace of Bei Lefet. Two brothers came to the marketplace. Elijah said to Rabbi Beroka: These two also have a share in the World-to-Come. Rabbi Beroka went over to the men and said to them: What is your occupation? They said to him: We are jesters, and we cheer up the depressed. (Taanit, 22a)

Before Rabba began teaching halacha to the Sages, he would say something humorous and the Sages would be cheered. Ultimately, he sat in trepidation and began teaching the halacha. (Shabbat, 30b)

What we see from these passages is that not only did humor play a role in Jewish life, but the role of humor is also sanctioned by G-d in the Torah. The jesters in the first passage are described as “men of the world to come” and the opening joke in the second passage enables the sages to focus on the lesson. In each case the humor facilitates a stronger devotion to serving Hashem. A person who is suffused with sadness will find it hard to experience the expansiveness of spirit necessary to truly have a relationship with Hashem. So the jesters brought cheer, thereby allowing their “clients” to rejuvenate their spiritual journeys. Similarly, the endorphins released by laughter at the humorous remark of the teacher, make the students that much more capable of absorbing the serious teachings subsequently being transmitted.

This is something that Tanya (Ch. 7) describes as harnessing a neutral activity to become a vehicle for holiness, thus itself becoming holy.

It is also in this spirit that we bring you Café Chabad – The Chosen Comedian. Robert Cait is a funny dude. He has wide acclaim in the world of comedy and voice over. His creds speak for themselves. But he has come to use his humor to also inspire. Originally from Toronto, Robert has been living in Los Angeles for many years. It was there that he met my uncle, Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon OBM, and their neshamas connected on a deep level. As his Yiddishkeit blossomed Robert broke into a new market – the Jewish circuit. He has performed at Synagogues, JCCs and Chabad Houses all over the English speaking world.

He will be here in New Orleans tomorrow night, Thursday, January 11 performing at Chabad Uptown at 7 PM. We look forward to seeing you there. More info: or

Happy LOL and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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