Sabbath, the Day of Delight

By Abraham E. Millgram | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
SABBATH SPICE1

ERNEST RENAN claimed that the Hebrews had no sense of humor. He based his assertion on a study of biblical literature which contains little that is calculated to evoke laughter. Whether this negative evidence is sufficient ground for Renan's conclusion is questionable. Modern Jewish literature, however, both Hebrew and Yiddish, contains ample evidence that the Jew of today is not lacking in a sense of humor. So universal is the appreciation of the comic and the ludicrous among modern Jews that many collections of humorous Jewish anecdotes are current.

A cursory reading of the finest of these collections, the Sefer ha-Bediḥah veha-Ḥdud,2 reveals that one of the significant aspects of Jewish humor is the capacity to laugh even at those things which are generally regarded as holy, to laugh heartily yet not irreverently. The Sabbath, which is one of the holiest institutions in Judaism, has not escaped its share of banter. A number of such humorous anecdotes have been selected from the Sefer ha-Bediḥah veha- ḥidud and translated for this volume. These Sabbath anecdotes along with the "Sabbath Curiosities" will render this book more truly representative of the Jewish concept of holiness without sanctimoniousness.

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