Sam Lehman-Wilzig
Prof. Sam: Academic Pundit

Some Purim Levity

It’s a longstanding Jewish tradition to offer Purim jokes and/or other types of humorous fare on this joyous holiday. Despite the tragedies that Israel has suffered these past few months (or perhaps because of them) some levity is called for, if only to show that Jewish traditions are not easily pushed aside – especially when the head of Hamas (Sinwar) is a contemporary stand-in for Haman. In that spirit, here are a few examples of two types: Purim jokes and Purim “Klotz Kashes” (i.e., silly Jewish law questions asked of Rabbis, who respond in like style).

A woman goes to the post office in the U.S. to buy stamps for her Purim mishloakh manot (food gift) greeting cards, in lieu of actual foodstuffs for friends and family far away. She asks the clerk: “May I please have 50 Purim stamps?”
“What denomination?” the clerk replies.
The woman responds: “Oy vey. My God, has it come to this? Okay, give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative and 32 Reform!”

It’s not widely known, but ancient Persia was the origin of Eastern mysticism, and it’s thought that Mordecai was the person responsible for bringing these beliefs into the Jewish mainstream. After Mordecai learned of the plot against King Ahasuerus and fingered the would-be assassins, he became very afraid for the safety of Queen Esther, so he began praying for her, fasting five days a week, going barefoot, and wearing a sackcloth. When he did eat, he only ate grains and certain vegetables. Since Shushan was located in the foothills of the mountains, the ground was fairly rocky – so Mordecai developed an impressive set of calluses on his feet. His constant fasting soon made him quite frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. So Mordecai had become (hold tight!) …a super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Dear Esteemed Rabbi: Ever since McDonald’s came to Israel, I have this craving for a real cheeseburger. As an observant Jew, what can I do about it?
Dear Glutton: The Torah says: “You should not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” It does not say: “You shouldn’t boil a cow in its own milk!” So according to Jewish Law, you can make yourself a real cheeseburger this way:
Go to a kosher slaughterhouse and have them remove the cow’s milk right after it’s been slaughtered. According to the Halakha, like everything else in a slaughtered animal, that milk is considered now to be “meat” (besari). Then all you have to do is to make cheese from that milk, and then slop that “meaty” cheese on real kosher beef – and voila, a kosher cheeseburger!
By the way, if you have any of that milk left over, you can finish off your meat meal with a milkshake!! However, I do suggest that you not leave any of this milk for the next day because you might accidentally drink it with your regular cheese sandwich – and then you would be transgressing the kosher laws (kashrut) in a very unusual fashion. Hearty appetite!

Dear Rebbe: I am a happily married man with a growing family, who believes in teaching my children the ways of the Lord by my setting a good personal example. Especially important is “Honor your father and your mother.” But my problem is that I have seven parents! Two biological parents, a surrogate mother, my two adopted parents who later divorced and each remarried, giving me two stepparents as well! So which of them am I supposed to honor? After all, the Torah says: “Honor one’s father and mother” – not “Honor one’s fathers and mothers.”
Dear Parentally Overwhelmed: That’s a question? You have it better than most, because you can perform the mitzvah more often than others. Honor them all. The Torah principle of “thou shalt not add to these commandments” (bal tosif) doesn’t apply to you in this case because it’s all those parents who went overboard here, not you.
However, if you feel that all this honoring will leave you confused (not to mention your darling children; by the way, how many grandparents do they now have?), then I suggest something a bit more radical: a plague on all their houses. Just honor your father-in-law and mother-in-law – that would be an original way to observe the commandment!

Dear Senor Rabbi: I am a God-fearing Jew living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My problem is the annual Carnivale festival – I cannot go to work during that week without seeing all those undressed ladies in downtown Rio. I need to keep my job, but the Carnivale is terrible for my evil inclination (yeitzer hara), which isn’t that strong to begin with. What do I do?
Dear Senor Modesty: Have you tried Zoom? Sometimes the halakha requires using the latest technology to keep abreast of things (or in this case – not keeping abreast of matters). Another alternative is to take your annual vacation during that week – Mea She’arim in Jerusalem would be an excellent alternative for a person like you. Or perhaps a cruise to Antarctica; that should cool you off.
Happy Purim to all!

About the Author
Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig (PhD in Government, 1976; Harvard U) presently serves as Academic Head of the Communications Department at the Peres Academic Center (Rehovot). Previously, he taught at Bar-Ilan University (1977-2017), serving as: Head of the Journalism Division (1991-1996); Political Studies Department Chairman (2004-2007); and School of Communication Chairman (2014-2016). He was also Chair of the Israel Political Science Association (1997-1999). He has published five books and 69 scholarly articles on Israeli Politics; New Media & Journalism; Political Communication; the Jewish Political Tradition; the Information Society. His new book (in Hebrew, with Tali Friedman): RELIGIOUS ZIONISTS RABBIS' FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Between Halakha, Israeli Law, and Communications in Israel's Democracy (Niv Publishing, 2024). For more information about Prof. Lehman-Wilzig's publications (academic and popular), see: