God’s Punchlines

If God is a comedian as maintained

by those who think his punch lines rather sick,

then maybe there is something to be gained

by laughing when he does his Godly shtick.


Clap hands, and shout to God in loud applause,

as once the chief of Korahites advised,

Psalm 47, for perhaps His laws,

from Hammurabi partly plagiarized,


are like the jokes that sober judges make

when by opposing parties they are bored;

thanks to laughter judges stay awake,

but give no lighter sentence as reward.


At people who don’t laugh, God gets upset,

and sometimes, in His anger, will destroy them:

treat all His punch lines as a bayonet,

and try to giggle though you don’t enjoy them.


The Babylonian Talmud states in Avodah Zarah 3b:

והקב”ה יושב ומשחק שנאמר יושב בשמים ישחק וגו’ א”ר יצחק אין לו להקב”ה שחוק אלא אותו היום בלבד

And the Holy One, Blessed be He, sits and makes sport, i.e., laughs or rejoices, as it is stated: “He that sits in heaven makes sport, the Lord has them in derision” (Psalms 2:4). Rabbi Yitzḥak says: There is no making sport for the Holy One, Blessed be He, but on that day alone.

איני והא אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שתים עשרה שעות הוי היום שלש הראשונות הקב”ה יושב ועוסק בתורה שניות יושב ודן את כל העולם כולו כיון שרואה שנתחייב עולם כלייה עומד מכסא הדין ויושב על כסא רחמים

The Gemara asks: Is that so? Is there no making sport for the Holy One, Blessed be He? But doesn’t Rav Yehuda say that Rav says: There are twelve hours in the day. During the first three, the Holy One, Blessed be He, sits and engages in Torah study. During the second three hours, He sits and judges the entire world. Once He sees that the world has rendered itself liable to destruction, He arises from the throne of judgment and sits on the throne of mercy, and the world is not destroyed.

שלישיות יושב וזן את כל העולם כולו מקרני ראמים עד ביצי כנים רביעיות יושב ומשחק עם לויתן שנאמר (תהלים קד, כו) לויתן זה יצרת לשחק בו אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק עם בריותיו משחק ועל בריותיו אינו משחק אלא אותו היום בלבד

During the third set of three hours, the Holy One, Blessed be He, sits and sustains the entire world, from the horns of wild oxen to the eggs of lice. During the fourth three hours, He sits and makes sport with the leviathan, as it is stated: “There is leviathan, whom You have formed to sport with” (Psalms 104:26). Evidently, God makes sport every day, not only on that one day. Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak says in explanation: He makes sport with His creations, just as He sports with the leviathan; He does not make sport of His creations but on that day alone.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at