Rosh Hashanah humor? Is this some kind of joke? Actually, yes.
Rosh Hashanah ushers in the most solemn period of the Jewish calendar that culminates 10 days later on Yom Kippur. This is a serious time of introspection and cheshbon nefesh (a spiritual accounting). But Jews being Jews, there’s also time for a smile or two. Here are some things to ponder between your introspection.
By now, you should have received your High Holy Days ticket renewal form. Well, it seems several forward-thinking congregations are now finding a competitive edge to allow you to specify your seat location. Here are excerpts from one form I came across at www.jcr.co.il/humor/hh06.txt:
“I want a seat located [indicate order of priority]: ___ On the aisle ___ Near the pulpit ___ Where no one on the bimah can see/hear me talking during services ___ Where I can sleep during the rabbi’s sermon [additional charge].”
On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, there is a tradition to eat food whose Hebrew names have dual meanings and are omens of an auspicious year to come. We eat pomegranates so “that our merits increase like (the seeds of) a pomegranate,” apples and honey so “that you renew us for a good and sweet year,” and the head of a fish or sheep so “that we be as the head and not as the tail” — www.mishpacha.org/roshhashana.shtml.
Pomegranates and sheep’s heads are fine, if you like that sort of thing. But here’s one suggestion for an updating of the custom: “Cut a raisin in two equal pieces and place it along with a piece of iceberg lettuce in a stalk of celery. While eating this, you should say, ‘Our Father in Heaven, lettuce half a raisin celery.’ And I hope you get one for the New Year” — www.jr.co.il/humor/hh03.txt.
Humility is an essential quality for the repentant Jew, particularly during the Days of Awe. And that leads us to the story of the rabbi who stops in the middle of the Yom Kippur service, prostrates himself and cries out, “O God. Before You, I am nothing!” The chazzan is so moved that he immediately follows suit, crying, “O God. Before you, I am nothing!” In the ensuing silence, a member of the congregation jumps from his seat, prostrates himself in the aisle and cries, “O God! Before You, I am nothing!” Seeing this, the chazzan nudges the rabbi and whispers, “So look who thinks he’s nothing?” — tinyurl.com/azvnk.
Speaking of humility, here are a couple of jokes for the Jewish computer geek community. There’s the story of the modest but ancient 286 PC that exclaimed, “I am but DOS and ASCII!” — www.home.intekom.com/african_lioness/jewish.html.
And why didn’t the computerized shofar work on Rosh Hashanah? The rabbi didn’t buy enough RAM.
As for technology and the holidays, a big baseball fan comes running to his rabbi before Yom Kippur. “Rabbi, I have a dilemma. The Sox are playing their big game on Yom Kippur. What do I do?” The rabbi replies, “Well, what do you think they invented VCRs for?” And the person replies, “Rabbi, that’s a great idea! But … I didn’t know Yom Kippur services were on cable?!” — tinyurl.com/dc4zn.
As important as Rosh Hashanah is, it doesn’t have quite the same pull as a holiday like Passover where families get together for the seders. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean parents don’t want to spend Rosh Hashanah alone. Check out how a pair of crafty parents got their kids to beat a path to their door for the holidays —
On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Jews will go to a nearby stream or body of water to perform the ritual of tashlich. Prayers are recited and sins are symbolically tossed into the depths. Some people even shake out the hems of their clothing while others toss breadcrumbs into the waters. — www.ou.org/chagim/roshhashannah/tashlich.html. With that in mind, forgive me for bringing back one of my favorite pun-laden sites, a tongue-in-cheek look at the foods of tashlich.
“Taking a few crumbs on Rosh Hashanah to throw into the water for the tashlich ceremony from whatever old bread is in the house lacks subtlety, nuance and religious sensitivity. Instead, this coming Rosh Hashanah, consider these options from www.kolel.org/pages/holidays/RoshHashanah_tashlich.html:
For immodest dressing, tarts. For substance abuse, stoned wheat. For being holier than thou, bagels. For unfairly upbraiding another, challah. And for wearing tasteless hats, Tam Tams.
Shana tova, umetuka.
Mark Mietkiewicz is a Toronto-based Internet producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the Jewish Internet. He can be reached at [email protected].