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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bris Humor

Here is a quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's "Jewish Wisdom," p. 141 (William Morrow, 1994)

“My friend Rabbi Jack Riemer of Miami likewise expresses great exasperation at the obscene jokes that frequently are told by people attending a circumcision. Turning the sacred ceremony through which a male Jewish baby enters the covenant into a source for ribald humor demonstrates how obscenity can desecrate the sense of the sacred. For if entering the covenant is turned into a source of jokes, then the covenant itself eventually will be treated as a joke.”

The sentiment is so true. (I only disagree in that I believe the boy enters the covenant when he emerges from his Jewish mother, as does a baby girl who will never be circumcised, when she emerges from her Jewish mother. The boy bears the mark of the covenant, the sign of the bris (אות ברית) at his circumcision.)

The covenant is critical to the definition of the Jewish people. If we disregard or make light of it, it will become meaningless.

At just about every bris at least one person will approach me to see if I've "ever heard this one." One of my colleagues likes to say, "I have respect for that joke, because it's older than you and me combined."

It is a rare occasion when someone tells a joke related to bris that I have not heard.

It is even more rare if the joke I am told is appropriate and worthy of being repeated.

Let us save our inappropriate humor for a night on the town, and minimally preserve our dignity when we have the chance to show the utmost respect for our tradition and heritage.

Why not?

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