Tag: Purim

Pre-Purim Poem 2011 / 5771

Following the precedent set last year, my sermon for the Shabbat before Purim was delivered in rhyming couplets. I’m also pleased to report this one was equally well received

It’s Purim again and you know what that means.
It’s time to revisit our Purim routines.

Gifts to the poor and baskets of fruit
Reading megillah as we holler and hoot

And the meal of course which should make you rethink
Just how much of whiskey and wine you should drink

But when we celebrate this particular season
We often ignore or forget its main reason

For unlike hagim when we reenact miracles
On Purim we mostly promote the satirical

We’re laugh, we sing, and we put on a spiel
One day to have fun – so what’s the big deal?

God saved us again, this time through means hidden
And where does it say letting loose is forbidden?

Now I don’t mean to stop anyone from enjoying
And I’m sorry in advance if I’m being annoying

But I’d like to remind everyone in this shul
We have deeper meanings as a general rule

There’s of course nothing wrong with our celebration
I’d just like to include a small contemplation

Yes we were saved from a terrible danger
From a drunk king and Haman – the whole plot’s arranger

We all know by now how the story begins
But consider the question – just when did we win?

With all of our parties we hardly give thought
To the end of the story and the war that was fought

Haman’s great plan was to have the Jews killed
And so he affected how the king willed

Ahashverosh decreed that throughout all his lands
The Jews could be killed just by his command

Esther and Mordechai worked out their own plot
To ensure Haman’s plan would come out for naught

It involved Achashverosh getting drunk one more time
Which it seems is as easy for this Rabbi to rhyme.

It is a long story and so I’ll condense
This “great help” from the king just allowed self-defense

The whole of the empire – still free to attack
The only change now is that Jews could fight back

Now as miracles go and what God can do
This seems kind of lame – to me if not you

At least by Hannukah we fought with poor odds
That we can say that we won with assistance from God

In the story of Purim there is nary a mention
Of even a hint of divine intervention

The groups of the Jews seemed to fight on their own
And any assistance was at best unknown

For Achashverosh too did not intervene
And the outcome of battle could not be forseen

And yet they took arms to fight for their lives
And because of their courage, our people survives

But there’s an important description our Megillah makes clear
That our deadly opponents were overtaken by fear

At the climax of Haman’s elaborate scheme
נָפַל פַּחְדָּם עַל כָּל הָעַמִּים

So why were they frightened – what need to be scared
Of a people for whom the king barely cared?

An answer I’d offer lies within all mankind
That it is towards freedom that we are all inclined

And when banded together to fight for what’s right
Few forces can stop us, no matter their might

The greatest response to a powerful bully
Is to stand up as one and oppose him quite fully

As we’ve seen recently, sitting here quite complacent
Middle East revolutions – some only still nascent

The price that it takes to create a free nation
Cannot be adjusted to any inflation

But people will tell you that despite lives that were lost
That sometimes the battles are worth every cost

To be perfectly clear and avoid all confusion
I am not advocating for armed revolution

But to remind everyone that in times of distress
We cannot remain silent while being oppressed

There are all sorts of reasons and tired excuses
For ignoring one’s pain and recurring abuses.

It’s too big, too hard, our opponents too massive
There’s no need to act, I’ll just sit and be passive

On Purim at least – for one day, or two
We put those aside for what we had to do

When we join together, united as one
There is no evil we cannot overcome

Unique to Purim, for all lessons learned
Is that sometimes our comfort and cheer must be earned

Having faith in God is all well and good
As long as our own role is as well understood

For the Jews in the Megillah, Purim meant to them
קִיְּמוּ וקבל וְקִבְּלוּ הַיְּהוּדִים עֲלֵיהֶם

They reaccepted the Torah with total free choice
And only after committing, were they free to rejoice

So recall as we dine on meal that’s most hearty
That sometimes we must fight for our own right to party

What’s in a Name?

Happy Shushan Purim to All!
All is well in YUTOPIA, some quick updates:

  • In a nice case of v’nahafoch hu, I recovered the previously lost comments
  • Moving back to the heights soonish, likely spawning many interesting happenings.
  • Had se’udah at future apartment with a bunch of YCT folk.
  • Digital camera came in today
  • Withheld a Purim posting because in the process of writing it, I realized I lost my sense of humor. Note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I have standards to uphold.
  • Sunday I will be officiating my first wedding. More on this at some point.

As some of you may or may not know one of my first cousins is Deena Grant, married to Chaim Davis with whom I attended Gush so many years ago. Anyway, last week Deena gave birth to a really cute baby boy. At the bris this morning, the baby was named Akiva Eliezer, which as Chaim explained is partially after the baby’s 10th generation ancestor (on the father’s side), R. Akiva Eiger.
Sounds nice, but I’m personally schepping the irony. As Chaim noted, R. Eiger was known for his staunch opposition to all things haskalah. Deena, on the other hand, is a PhD student in Bible at NYU (hamaskil hameivin yavin).
No word yet on seismic activity in Bratislava, but I’ll keep you posted.

You’ve Got….Marriage!

Just got an e-mail from SawYouAtSinai shilling for www.purimbaskets.com:

    This Purim, send your Basherte [sic] a beautiful Purim basket from PurimBaskets.com Choose from an assorted array of elegant Purim baskets at affordable prices. Picture the joy when he or she receives this basket from PurimBaskets.com. You can also take this opportunity to show your appreciation to your matchmaker (shadchan). These Purim baskets will surely make them keep you in their minds. Shipping to USA, Canada, Israel and England.

Ramo in O.C. 695 says that men should not give single women mishloach manot because it would create a safek kiddushin. Perhaps SYAS is more progressive (or agressive) than we thought in solving the shidduch crisis?

YUTOPIA’s Guide To Purim Shticks

Apologies to the Loyal Readers for the lack of Purim shticks this year. I have too much real work to do at the end of the quarter, so it’s just not gonna happen.1 But I do feel the need to write about another dangerous practice of Purim: The Shticks. Each year, some people overdo it and wind up sick, hospitalized, or worse. The problems are exacerbated by a society which forces people to be clever – whether or not they actually have a sense of humor.
If you’re going to do some Purim shticks, don’t go in without preparation. I’ve been involved in more shticks than I care to admit, and I’ve found that “being funny” is easier said than done. Some people simply aren’t funny, and others might be funny but have no idea how to make a good shtick or just try too hard. So allow me help with some rules to make this Purim safe, enjoyable, and hopefully lynching free.

Rule 1: Know The Types of Humor

Humor is an art. It’s more than just throwing out one-liners or insults. I recommend reading A Netizen’s Guide to Humor for some general pointers. Intelligent satire is better than the one-liner insult. Insulting one-liners aren’t funny unless you’re a professional like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. You’re not. Use some creativity.
Satire is generally the best way to go for Purim shticks. Here are a few suggestions:
If you’re too lazy to come up with something from scratch, just take something popular and redo it. Songs, gemaras, ads, articles, or whatever. What you do will normally depend on your forum. Some shticks need to be performed, others are better in print. If you’re doing a magazine, be sure to mix up the styles.
The original piece should be serious, thus increasing the comedic impact. If you try to modify a comedy piece, you run the risk of extreme lameness. The only way you could pull it off, is if your version is better than the original. Try to pick something that would be familiar to your audience. The Hamevaser song, although funny, was lost on most people. In YU people either read Hamevaser, or they heard Dennis Leary. Few people knew both.
Any idiot can fool around with Photoshop, but few posess the twisted talent of Ephraim Shapiro.2 If you don’t have the ability of Shapiro, use minimal image editing, and put more effort into the caption. Take this for example. Initially, they just imposed “YU Registrar’s Office” on the guy’s butt. I’m sure you will agree, the end result was much funnier.
Reuven summed up the problem with puns nicely: the better the pun, the worse it is. They can be useful for a change of style to to give the joke another level of humor. Just remember to use them sparingly. And never make a shtick completely out of puns. You will get beat up.
Trust me.
Remember that details are important. A poor choice of words can turn a funny shtick into a tasteless one. A good idea with poor execution just isn’t funny. Even worse, you’ve wasted a good idea. Finally, don’t make a joke if it’s too obvious. If there is a joke that just has to be made, find a clever way of doing so.

Rule 2: Know Your Audience

You have to know your crowd. What will they think is funny, what jokes won’t they get, and what will they think is offensive? Since you never know who is going to come across your shtick, try keep it tame or nuanced. Remember that “funny” can be measured quantitatively by how many people think it’s funny, and qualitatively by how funny it is. Ideally, you’d like to maximize both, but realistically this is just about impossible. If you can, layer the shtick with multiple meanings so it will work on a peshat and derash level.
If you’re writing a journal of some sort, remember that you don’t have to have each article be funny to everyone. Actually, it would probably be better to direct some shticks to certain types of people, provided the range of your readership is covered.

Rule 3: Avoid Redundancies

If it’s been done before, don’t do it again. Fortunately Hamevaser hasn’t had a Purim issue in years because they had this problem. Essentially, most of the issue was written by one person. While he was funny, the jokes got stale after the fifth year. You’d have to go way way back to the Beis Grinky days to see some good original humor.

Rule 4: Know Your Limits

It’s really important to know when you’re not being funny or your just forcing it. If your idea is lame, then drop it and move on. If you have a good idea and need help with details, get some help. Personally, I’ve done my best shticks while collaborating with people like Ben and Avraham. Friends can tighten up details, and make sure it’s funny to other people besides yourself.

Rule 5: Safek Shtick Lehumra

If you’re unsure if it’s funny or offensive, use discretion. There is no shortage of lame, unfunny, and insulting shticks out there, and we don’t need another one. If you need filler, go for the surreal. Some people might think it’s lame, others will be too drunk to notice. Odds are someone will be offended by any given shtick. You don’t have to be overly sensitive, but avoid gratuitous attacks.
Again, if you’re not sure how it will be received (or worse, you are sure), better to leave it out.

Rule 6: There is NOOOOOO Rule 7

Don’t take yourself too seriously – this post included.
If you have your own suggestions or warnings, add them to the comments.
I’m about to become even more reclusive3 as I go on a non-stop writing binge until Spring Break. Expect blogging to be slow for the next two weeks or so unless something comes up.
Purim Sameach

1. Or at least not in time for Purim. I might post some of them later, but we’ll see.
2. Although, I must give props to Ben for this one.
3. Yes, that’s possible.

Drinking On Purim

הָקִיצוּ שִׁכּוֹרִים וּבְכוּ וְהֵילִלוּ כָּל שֹׁתֵי יָיִן עַל עָסִיס כִּי נִכְרַת מִפִּיכֶם:

Awake, ye drunkards, and weep, and wail, all ye drinkers of wine,
because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth
” (Joel 1:5)

Before I get to the shticks this year, I want to write about the dangerous practice of drinking on Purim. Each year, some people overdo it and wind up sick, hospitalized, or worse. The problems are exacerbated by Rabbis who encourage and sometimes force students to drink regardless if the students have the alcohol tolerance or are of the legal drinking age.

On the other hand, the Talmud seemingly requires excessive drinking; in which case, even 13 year olds would be obligated. Lets begin with the relevant passage from Megillah 7b:

אמר רבא: מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

This is loosely translated as “Rava said: a man is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed Haman” and “blessed Mordechai.” This of course, requires an immense degree of intoxication. Some major halakhic works simply cite this dictum without qualification (Rif 3b, Shulhan Aruch Orach Hayim 795:2). Consequently many take this statement at face value, and therefore drink and encourage others to get inebriated, under the assumption that they are fulfilling a rabbinic commandment.

I’ve found several sources on the web which deal with this issue in one way or another, but I’ve found most of them to be lacking in real analysis. What I will show here is that while this statement might be obligatory, it does not require the degree of drinking which is commonly practiced.

(For readability, I will be sacrificing some precision in translations).