Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuvah, Ha’azinu (Deut. 32:1-32:52)

Welcome to the 16th year of Torah Portion Humor!  WOOHOO!!!

On the day after Labor Day, on the way to my first fall class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, I experienced a feeling I think I last had in my early teens: genuine, oh-boy! excitement and anticipation at the start of a new school year.  True, these are just non-credit, once-weekly courses, not enrollment for a degree, but I still had that delightfully bubbly feeling I had had all those years ago.  Rosh Hashanah, which begins Wednesday night, is likewise a signal of a fresh, new year, 5775, though I don’t expect to feel as bouncy during services as I did that day after Labor Day.

Upcoming events:

First day Rosh Hashanah (Thursday) Torah readings: Genesis 21:1-34 and Numbers 29:1-6 (the obligatory verses about the obligatory sacrifices).  Haftarah: I Samuel 1:1-2:10.

Second day Rosh Hashanah (Friday) Torah readings: Genesis 22:1-24 and Numbers 29:1-6 (same sacrifices).  Haftarah: Jeremiah 31:2-20.

Shabbat Shuvah (Saturday) Torah reading: Ha’azinu, Deut. 32:1-32:52.  Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10, Joel 2:11-27, Micah 7:18-20 or a variation thereof.

Sunday is Tzom Gedaliah, a minor fast day commemorating the assassination of a Jewish governor of Israel on 3 Tishrei, several years after the Babylonian conquest.  This set back the possibility of Judean autonomy several decades. Since 3 Tishrei is on Shabbat this year, the fast day is postponed to Sunday.

Although Rosh Hashanah celebrates creation of the world, the Torah and haftarah readings concern creation of another sort: motherhood, its intensity heightened by many years of childlessness.  The Torah readings are one continuous text, including the birth of Isaac to Sarah, circumcision as a sign of the covenant with the Lord, the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael, and the blood-chilling near-sacrifice of Isaac known as the Akedah (binding).  The first day’s haftarah involves the birth of Samuel to Hannah, and on the second day, we read Jeremiah’s touching imagery of Rachel, weeping for her children.

It is customary to eat sweet round foods (e.g., apple and honey, round challah) for a good, sweet year.  The very long services include themes of judgment, kingship, remembrance, and blowing the shofar.  Rosh Hashanah is the start of the 10 Days of Awe leading to Yom Kippur.  It is a time of intense introspection and penitence. We pray to be written in the Book of Life for a good year.  Another custom is Tashlich, a ceremony in which we toss bread crumbs into flowing water, symbolically casting away our sins.

Saturday is Shabbat Shuvah (Sabbath of Return), and the haftarah continues the theme of repentance.  The Torah reading is the regular weekly one, Ha’azinu, which is the poem Moses has been told to recite for the people as a condensed version of their history and a future that will include both punishment and return.

I wish you all a good and sweet year, a shanah tovah um’tukah, and a rather early Shabbat shalom too.



Richard Israel’s Crumb List

I sent out the crumb list, with attribution, several years ago.  This is the final word on it from the author himself.  It’s long, but, hey, you can print it out and hide it in your machzor at services…

Dick sent me his latest version, with an introduction, for inclusion here.

My crumb list has yielded a great deal of fun, both from writing it and the suggestions I have gotten from others. It has also been quite aggravating. I had been working on the piece before Rosh Hashanah, off and on for the past several years, during those times I couldn’t stand working on a drashah. I had assumed that I would get it just right after a few more years and would publish it. That all changed when someone leaked it from private emailing, sent it to a friend, and the friend sent it to the world. It then began appearing on every known Jewish net list either without attribution or with inaccurate attribution. I was in danger of losing all connection with the piece, but trying to get it back was like trying to return feathers to a torn cushion in a high wind.

Following the practice of our ancestors who wrote their names into liturgical poems (which I now understand for the first time) I spelled my name into the list (the last 13 entries from “Rearing children…” on). Should have done it a long time ago. Now let people mail it out without attribution and claim it! It appeared in Sh’ma last Purim so at least at a formal level, I have rights to it.

The list was certainly not intended to be an exercise in earnestness, but it was also more than a joke. I hoped that it would be a light spirited way to get people to think about Tashlich. (Yes, even sins can be funny.) I can’t be sure that this was what made the difference, but after I read it at services more people turned up at our local pond than we have ever seen before. I think that is probably a good thing. I am less sure that it was good for the fish.

There was also the goose problem. Signs were posted saying firmly, “Do not feed the Canada geese, they will forget that they are supposed to migrate.”

“But officer, we are not feeding the geese. They are just taking advantage of our sins.” It doesn’t sound very convincing. Luckily, we didn’t get caught.


Tashlich Supplement:

(c) 1997 Richard J Israel

Taking a few crumbs to Tashlich from whatever old bread is in the house lacks subtlety, nuance and religious sensitivity. I would suggest that we can do better. Instead:

For ordinary sins, use – White Bread

For exotic sins – French Bread

For particularly dark sins – Pumpernickel

For complex sins – Multi-grain

For twisted sins – Pretzels

For tasteless sins – Rice Cakes

For sins of indecision – Waffles

For sins committed in haste – Matzah

For sins committed in less than eighteen minutes – Shmurah Matzah

For sins of chutzpah – Fresh Bread

For substance abuse/marijuana – Stoned Wheat

For substance abuse/heavy drugs – Poppy Seed

For arson – Toast

For timidity – Milk Toast

For high-handedness – Napoleons

For being sulky – Sourdough

For silliness – Nut Bread

For not giving full value – Short bread

For jingoism – Yankee Doodles

For telling bad jokes – Corn Bread

For being money-hungry – Enriched Bread or Raw Dough

For telling small lies – Fudge

For war-mongering – Kaiser Rolls

For promiscuity – Hot Buns

For racism – Crackers

For sophisticated racism – Ritz Crackers

For being holier-than-thou – Bagels

For unfairly up-braiding others – Challah

For provocative dressing – Wonton Wrappers

For snobbery – Upper Crusts

For indecent photography – Cheese Cake

For trashing the environment – Dumplings

For the sin of laziness – Any Very Long Loaf

For being hyper-critical – Pan Cakes

For political skullduggery – Bismarcks

For over-eating – Stuffing Bread or Bulkie Rolls

For gambling – Fortune Cookies

For pride – Puff Pastry

For cheating – Bread made with Nutrasweet and Olestra

For being snappish – Ginger Bread

For dropping in without calling beforehand – Popovers

For trying to improve everyone within sight -Angel Food Cake

For being up-tight and irritable – High Fiber or Bran Muffins

For sycophancy – Brownies

For rearing children incompetently – Raisin Bread

For immodest behavior – Tarts

For causing injury or damage to others – Tortes

For hardening our hearts – Jelly doughnuts

For abrasiveness – Grits

For recurring slip ups – Banana Bread

For davening off tune – Flat Bread

For impetuosity – Quick Bread

For silliness – Nut Bread

For risking one’s life unnecessarily – Hero Bread

For auto theft – Caraway

For excessive use of irony – Rye Bread

For larceny (especially of copyright material) – Stollen

etc., etc.

Remember, you don’t have to show your crumbs to anyone.

For those who require a wide selection of crumbs, an attempt will be made to have pre-packaged Tashlich Mix available in three grades (Tashlich Lite, Medium and Industrial Strength) at your local Jewish bookstore.


With thanks to Robbie Fein who suggested the original formula.

Richard J. Israel

This page was posted on this web site in early 1999. Tragically, Dick passed away in the summer of 2000. May his memory be a blessing! You can read remembrances of him on a tribute web site.

© Copyright 1999-2014 by Daniel Bricklin

All Rights Reserved.


Free SHOFAR iPhone App
by barry schwartz Posted: 09-15-2009(Viewed 2056 times)

Wanna hear a shevarim, tekia, shevarim? There’s an app for that!

Nothing like getting into the Days of Awe with a sweet gadget to bring home to the family. Also if you get in a jam and you can’t get your shofar sound out and 500 people are waiting for you, could be a great backup plan.

If you have a Jewish iPhone App – send them to us! For this one you can touch the Shofar sound you want to hear, i.e. Tekiah, Shavarim, Teruah or Tekiah Gedolah and listen to a Baal Tokea go off!

Love it!

tph shofar app



  • Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20 % of all fatal accidents.
  • Do not stay at home because 17 % of all accidents occur in the home. (that’s 37 % already!)
  • Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians. (now that’s 51%)
  • Avoid traveling by air, trains or buses, 16% of accidents involve these forms of transportation. (that’s 67%)
  • Of the remaining 33 percent, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals. Above all else avoid hospitals.

You will be pleased to learn that only 0.01 % of all deaths occur in a synagogue!

…and these are usually related to previous physical disorders.

Therefore, logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is in Synagogue.

Torah Study is even safer! The number of deaths during Torah Study is too small to register!

For safety’s sake, go to Shul as often as possible, and attend Torah Study!

It could save your life!


A novel approach to apples and honey:

Jew Year’s Eve Apples & Honey Punch


1 quart Apple Cider
1 quart Ginger Ale
2 cups Honey Bourbon
1-2 granny smith apples, cut into slices
Honey sticks (optional)


Chill apple cider, ginger ale and bourbon if using.

Pour apple cider, ginger ale and bourbon into large pitcher or punch bowl and add ice and apple slices.

Garnish individual glasses with an apple slice and honey stick if desired.


Poetry Jokes by Allan Wolf (selected)
Thought maybe, maybe not we could use a few laughs.

Joke #2
Question: What is the highest honor among Cowboy poets?
Answer: Poet lariat.

Joke #3
Question: Why didn’t the angry farmer divorce his wife when she traded their prize milking cow for a book of poetry?
Answer: Because he vowed to love her for butter or verse.

Joke #6
Question: What is a metaphor?
Answer: For grazin yer cattle.

Joke #8
Question: How do poets say hello?
Answer: Hey, haven’t we metaphor?

Joke #10
Question: How does a poet sneeze?
Answer: Haiku!!!

Joke #11
Question: Why are poets always so poor?
Answer: Because rhyme doesn’t pay.

Joke #16
Question: Where do poems come from?
Answer: Poe-trees.

Joke #17
Question: Why did the traffic cop give the poet a ticket?
Answer: For driving without a poetic license.

Joke #20
Question: What do you get when you combine Robert Frost and James Bond?
Answer: The Road Not Shaken but Stirred.

Joke #22
Question: What’s a Grecian Urn?
Answer: About twenty thousand drachmas a year after taxes.

Joke #23
Question: Why was John Keats always hounded by creditors?
Answer: Because he Ode so much.

Joke #24
A nurse is giving a young medical intern a tour of the hospital. The intern approaches one bedridden patient and asks, “Why are you here?”  The patient replies, “Wee sleket cowerin, timrous beastie/O, what a panic is in thy breastie.”

The intern moves on to the next bed and asks the same question, “Why are you here?”  The patient answers,”My luv is like a red, red, rose that’s newly sprung in June. ”

The intern moves on to a third bed and asks again, ”Why are you here?” to which the third patient replies, “The best laid plans of mice and men, may often gang awry.”

At this the intern turns to the nurse and asks. “What ward is this anyway?”  And the nurse answers, “It’s the Burns Unit. “

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