Fri 14 Mar 2014
The pattern of Jewish holidays goes like this. We first say (or watch others saying) a prayer. Then we tell or read a story about how other very very very bad people tried to discriminate, kill, destroy us the very very very good people. Then we say ‘Oh vey!’ And then we eat. Unless we feast.
Purim is no exception. It is actually an especially cruel holiday. Since the moment our kids are born we need to buy each year costumes, they must be different each year, they never pass from brother to brother or from sister to sister (neither other combinations), and this lasts until the teenager says – ‘I am a grown-up, I do not need that stupid costume for Purim this year’.
Even more cruel is the name of the traditional cakes we eat on Purim – it is actually ‘Haman’s ears’ – so we eat each year the ears of the bad bad bad guy who tried to inflict suffering on us thousands of years ago. At least they taste better than the ‘matzah’ we will eat one month from now.
So what is left to confront all this cruelty? Humor, of course – the famous Jewish humor, the self-laughing and the smiles mixed with tears that allowed us to survive everything, from Pharaohs to the Jewish holidays. This is why my Purim article this year is dedicated to the Jewish humor, and specifically Jewish humor in movies.
There are plenty of examples. Here are a few. You are welcome to write me and add more.
Jews talk with God. In every prayer, in some curses (yes, we also have some and if not we borrow from non-Jewish neighbors) and in the day-to-day lives. Here is one of the more famous such dialogs the one called ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, the musical inspired by the – maybe – greatest Jewish humorist of all times – Scholem Aleichem.
Woody Allen could not be absent from such a review. Here he is followed by some Jewish Robot Tailors
Non-Jew actors make for some of the best rabbis. As a proof here is the dance of Rabbi Jacob in Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob with my preferred French comedian of all times – Louis de Funes
Neither could Seinfeld be absent. Here he is fighting the Jewish food curse, and preparing for the unique Jewish singles night.
Is humor permissible in treating such serious themes as the Holocaust? Why not? Most of us now Roberto Begnini’s ‘La Vitta e Bella’ but before it there was Radu Mihaileanu’s ‘Train de vie’. Here is an unforgettable scene describing the encounter between the Jews and the Roma, the two minorities targeted by extermination by the Nazis. Great music too!
Last but not least – here is a scene good chances you all know. Is this Jewish Humor? No doubt for me. There is nothing more Jewish but laughing in face of adversity, of tragedy.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!
Hag Purim Sameah! A Happy Purim!