One of my earliest non-work electronic pastimes was sharing jokes by email. 20 years ago, I sent some Rosh Hashanah jokes to a bunch of friends. Then came Yom Kippur humor. After Simchat Torah, I sent out some jokes related to Creation, which was in the weekly Torah portion. Then came jokes for Noah, the next week’s reading. Then I wondered, could I possibly find jokes for every single Torah portion? And I realized I’d have to a little description/commentary so it would be clear why those jokes were chosen for that portion. So that’s how Torah Portion Humor was born, and I’m keeping it going for its 21st (!!!) year because of the positive feedback you send me, for which I thank you.
Rosh Hashanah starts Sunday night and for non-Reform Jews, it’s a two-day holiday. It’s more solemn than happy, as reflected in its names: Yom HaDin (the Day of Judgement), Yom T’ruah (the day of blowing the shofar), and Yom HaZikaron (Day of Remembrance). These core themes are amplified in 10 biblical verses each, for Malchuyot (Kingship), Zichronot (remembrance), and Shofarot (obvious) in the Musaf service.
There is very little about Rosh Hashanah in the Torah, little other than its being the first day of the seventh month (first month in the later calendar), no work is to be done then, we are supposed to blow the shofar, and there are sacrifices to offer. Over time, it grew in importance as signaling the beginning of the Ten Days of Penitence leading to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The themes of judgement, beginning of the year, and birthday of the world came into use long after the Torah was written down, first appearing in early rabbinic writings such as the Mishnah, which was finalized about 1800 years ago. Tashlich, a symbolic casting away of sins (in the form of bread crumbs 0r eco-friendlier small stones) into a stream on Rosh Hashanah, is first mentioned in the 15th century.
Of course, there’s food. I grew up with apples and honey, round challah bread (preferably with raisins), soup with rather chewy kreplach, and honey cake. Honey was an ancient custom, as was a calf’s head (later, fish heads then gefilte fish); pomegranates joined them the Middle Ages.
I have not forgotten the Torah and haftarah readings.
First day Rosh Hashanah (Monday) 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 (Hannah and birth of Samuel).
Second day Rosh Hashanah (Tuesday) Torah readings: Genesis 22:1-24 and Numbers 29:1-6 (same sacrifices). Haftarah: Jeremiah 31:2-20 (includes the verses about Rachel weeping for her children).
The readings from Genesis for the two days are really one continuous text, encompassing the foretelling of Isaac’s birth, his birth (and Sarah’s reaction to finally having a child at 90) and weaning, the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael, and, finally, the binding and near-sacrifice of Isaac, known as the akedah (binding). More about those narratives in the comping weeks.
Notice that these readings are not about the creation of the world, or the Ten Commandments, or anything big and grand. They are about families and how the individuals in those families relate to each other, with God occasionally acting as director or referee. They are about mothers and children, about three women who waited a long time to become mothers and one who found herself driven into the wilderness with her son and survived.
This Rosh Hashanah, in the midst of the solemnity of the Day of Judgement, I feel hopeful. All is not right with our world, not by a long shot, but I think there may actually be a light at the end of the tunnel – small, maybe distant, but there. And no, it’s not from an oncoming train!
L’shanah tovah um’tukah tikatevu – May you be written for a good and sweet year.
New Customs For Rosh Hashanah [first sent out for Rosh Hashanah 5760, then again for 5770, now for 5780!]
by the Editors of JCN (excerpted. IGP)
* Anyone guilty of talking during services must apologize to the entire congregation
* Celebrate an interactive Sukkot with lulavand@rog
* Close up the Roach Motel in honor of Roach Hashanah
* Get a jazz band to back up the shofar blowing
* Have the annual article on the High Holidays in the local paper written by someone who knows what Judaism is all about
* Instead of auctioning aliyahs, auction prayer breaks for snoozing
* Keep the kids in Junior Congregation ALL DAY
* Make Rosh Hashana a national USA holiday so we can have another 3-day weekend and shut up those who call USA a Christian country
* Pour honey over your Mac [or Apple IPod? for 5770 IGP]
* Pray for humor
* Prove your fidelity to family values by celebrating RUSH Hashanah
* Require ALL Jews to observe both days of Rosh Hashanah so boss won’t ask – Why do you take two days off, while Shapiro only takes one
* Sprinkle bread crumbs in the water so the fish will be able to follow you home
* Ten minute time limit on how long the Cantor can spend on one paragraph during Musaf
* Twenty minute time limit on the Rabbi’s sermons
Quotes for Rosh Hashanah Musaf
Malchuyot (Kingship) https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/king As for our great King, when we venture into His presence, let us have a purpose there. Let us beware of playing at praying; it is insolence toward God. Charles Spurgeon
Zichronot (Remembrance) https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/remembrance I’ve given my life to the principle and the ideal of memory, and remembrance. Elie Wiesel
Shofarot (sounding the shofar) (Excerpted from a remarkable story about the author’s father- see https://mjhnyc.org/a-shofar-in-auschwitz/) He was approached by an emaciated prisoner, who handed him an object wrapped in a rag. “Take it,” the prisoner told him. “I’m too sick to survive. Maybe you will make it. Take the shofar. Show them that we had a shofar in Auschwitz.”… On Rosh Hashanah 1945, while on the boat to Mandate-era Palestine, he blew the shofar for a group of young survivors—many, like him, from Auschwitz—in view of the Carmel mountain range. They were about to reach the Promised Land. Professor Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz
Rosh Hashanah Haiku
Round raisin challah
Rests under embroidered cloth,
Calm and expectant.
Apple and honey,
Round, sweet foods entice and soothe.
The new year awaits.
Ancient prayers and new,
Seedlings of inspiration
Take root in our souls.
Stands on the bimah. White robes,
A new beginning.
[I wrote those in 1998 and post them here every couple of years. IGP]
Jokes about Babies
1. What do you call a group of baby soldiers?
3. Do you know what a baby computer calls his old man?
12. Random person to a parent holding two babies: “Hey! Are those twins?”
Parent: “Triplets, actually. I just leave the ugly one at home.”
17. How did the baby know she was ready to be born?
She was running out of womb.
18. When at night do parents change the most diapers?
In the wee wee hours.