web analytics
August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Why Do Rabbis Make Jokes at Serious Times?

It’s even more strange when the jokes come at our holiest times of the year.

Rabbis Make Jokes

Jews are funny. I mean that in two ways. Jews make good jokes and we also do things that are funny sometimes. And by funny things, I mean odd.

My impression is that preachers are pretty serious when they speak from the pulpit. I think that the same could be said for imams. But for some reason, rabbis are always telling jokes.

I resisted it for years. But it’s almost expected that rabbis will tell rabbi jokes from the pulpit. So I have been doing a little bit more humor once in a while and generally the feedback has been positive. I find this incredibly strange.

It’s even more strange when the jokes come at our holiest times of the year.

This year I had 175 people sitting in silence and reverence following a solemn Kol Nidre service. I opened my remarks with a joke. I felt so uncomfortable. But it seemed to me that no one else felt uncomfortable at all. They loved it.

I did the same thing before Neilah. The inspirational talk began with a joke. It worked. People listened. People complimented me. Believe me, I get complaints all the time. No one complained about the jokes.

I don’t get it. I can’t even imagine a Catholic Priest making a joke during their service. I can’t imagine a politician speaking at a serious event and cracking a joke. I’d wager that jokes would not be acceptable in yeshivos either. Most serious yeshivish and chasidish places would not be cool with jokes during a serious drasha.

For some reason in more liberal orthodox shuls and the Conservative and Reform synagogues, jokes are expected. It feels inappropriate to me and I felt a bit hypocritical cracking a couple jokes but it seems to be expected and certainly acceptable. So I conformed and it was successful. But I felt uncomfortable.

I don’t know that I have any particular insight or explanation for this phenomenon. I guess it could be seen as a defense mechanism against the seriousness of the day. Though I am not sure why we need it and others do not. It might be because we don’t take things as seriously as other groups. I hope that’s not the reason. Is it because without humor people would not pay attention? That would be very sad.

Jewish humor developed as a way of coping with oppression. Maybe it’s just so much a part of our collective psyche that we can’t shake it. I don’t have the answer. But I just had to get this off my chest.

Visit Fink or Swim.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

9 Responses to “Why Do Rabbis Make Jokes at Serious Times?”

  1. Angee Sluder says:

    When I attended church, my favorite Pastors were always the ones that worked humor into their services. This world is full of horrors, atrocities, and betrayals. It's easy to be come cynical and disillusioned. When we go to church, we're not only looking to reconnect with G-d, (though that should be the ultimate goal,) we're looking to heal the wounds on our souls that were inflicted by the world. And, as the saying goes: "laughter is the best medicine"!

  2. Any comedian will tell you. I remember an instructor who asked me, ‘Why do you think everything is so damned funny!?’ in a bit of an angry tone. I said, ‘It beats the hell out of crying.’

  3. don't conform if you don't feel it in your gut that it is right it probably isn't

  4. David11 says:

    Ravasaid begin every lecture with a MILSA DEBICHUTA, a joke. I don’t remember the cite, but it exists. BTW Norman Vincent Peale told jokes, so did Bishop Fulton Sheen.

  5. I don't know about any of you all out there, but I welcome…and gravitate towards…and even make up my own jokes …just to keep from crying about the Jewish Condition…!

  6. I don't know about any of you all out there, but I welcome…and gravitate towards…and even make up my own jokes …just to keep from crying about the Jewish Condition…!

  7. Isadore says:

    I don’t agree with jokes during the service. There’s a time and place to draw attention to yourselves. In any case, we are treading on Holy Ground.

  8. Ch Hoffman says:

    Rabbis make stupid jokes at the most inappropriate times because the granting of semicha is not predicated on the recipient having an ounce of common sense whatsoever

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
MK Hanin Zoabi, under the protection of the Israeli flag, speaks against Israel.
Zoabi Sings Palestinian Authority Anthem at Hamas ‘Victory’ Rally
Latest Blogs Stories
The Palestinian Authority backed by EU funds, has sent Bedouin into the E-1 area of Maaleh Adumim to claim it is part of their fictional history.

The new “Begin Plan” is an impending nightmare, it rewards the Bedouins for brazen land-grabbing.

its a deal

There is absolutely nothing for Israel’s security in this American document.

A Jewish wedding.

Is it because of corrupt values and lack of meeting opportunities that we have a shidduch crisis?

Islamic Law

Israel is fighting the war that none of the Western world has the ability or courage to fight.

Finish the job! Sayyem et a missima!סיים את המסימה!

Life after 50? You better believe it! Tips on how to prepare and enjoy life after retirement.

While I am no fan of the two-state solution, I think I have a solution for the Gaza strip. Let me make it perfectly clear that in no way do I believe a Palestinian people, nation or Arab State ever existed in the history of the world and certainly was not occupied by Israel. If […]

Hamas targeted the Erez Crossing when it knew that Gazans and Israeli Arabs would be there, out in the open…

Does it really take Jewish innovation to come up with this idea?

If you don’t know who’s behind The terror in your mind The answer’s not hard to find, Blame the Jews

If feminism is mentioned at all, it is usually to condemn it as an anti Torah ideal.

“…people making jokes about turning this into a shelter rave, taking #bombshelterselfies…”

Marriage is not just about emotional fidelity but about financial fidelity as well.

So you want to blame Israel? First answer these 5 simple questions, and see if you even have a leg to stand on…

Hamas’s online Jihadi supporters and groupies are desperately trying to differentiate between their support for Hamas and supporting ISIS.

We all got degrees. We got married. We had families. We worked. We and were Koveih Itim

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?

Are donations from immoral people acceptable?

Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism.

There is no song that tells the story of freedom like Shir HaShirim.

It is unfair to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world.

Adegbile was not making a moral statement by representing a man convicted of killing a cop.

Women learning Torah is becoming increasingly permissive, but women wearing tefillin is becoming increasingly stringent.

When the “offensive” statements in our Talmud were stated, no one thought they were offensive.

Both communities value using books to study their texts, and digital devices are a less preferable way for younger people to study.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/why-do-rabbis-make-jokes-at-serious-times/2013/09/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: