Thursday, February 29, 2024

In This Moment: Tragedy and Comedy


In This Moment

Tragedy and Comedy


Today's very sad news out of Gaza highlights both the tragedy of war and the elusiveness of factual information in the heat of the battle. The IDF acknowledges that Israeli gunfire caused 10 of the dozens of reported casualties in the northern Gaza crowd crush. According to Times of Israel, the IDF states that it did not fire at the crowd rushing the main aid convoy. It acknowledged that troops opened fire on several Gazans who moved toward soldiers and a tank at an IDF checkpoint, endangering soldiers, after they had rushed the last truck in the convoy further south.

But what causes death in a deadly stampede can't be so surgically determined. It may never be known, who by fire, who by stampede and who by AK-47. The only thing known for sure is that it is tragic. The whole war is tragic. October 7 was most tragic of all, and is at the root of all this pain. Of course we can go back decades - even centuries - looking for other root causes - a worthwhile exercise - but Hamas's brutal, reckless attack has brought unthinkable pain onto Israelis and Gazans alike. And today, in addition to what happened in Gaza, two Israelis, a rabbi and a teen hitchhiker, were killed in a terror attack on the West Bank at a gas station near the settlement of Eli. That is also tragic.

So where can we go from here?

Dahlia Scheindlin, the highly respected public opinion researcher, political advisor and columnist sums up the current state affairs in Friday's Ha'aretz:

...So today, every human being - even politicians - can add two new reasons to end the war. Today, the number of Gazans killed reached 30,000. And Palestinians in northern Gaza fought over aid trucks – some were looters, others were probably starving, or maybe the looters were starving. A stampede ensued, killing some; IDF forces, in a related or discrete event nearby, felt threatened and killed others. As of this writing, at least 112 Palestinians are dead, over 700 wounded. Social media can battle out which side killed how many, but I know the truth: the war killed all of them.

It has to stop.


The thin line between tragedy and comedy is one we Jews are used to traversing. The latest example can be seen in this clip in English from Eretz Nehederet, which lampoons Hollywood and the hypocrisy of many in Tinseltown's spotlight - including many Jews. Enjoy the skit (and read a backgrounder here). It will provide some momentary relief - it makes its points brilliantly, and hilariously.


Jewish Joke Night

This Friday night we bring back, for one final time, a time-honored TBE tradition, The month of Adar, which includes Purim, is considered our most joyous month. This year we need happy months more than ever, and lo and behold, there's an extra Adar. It's a Jewish leap year. In the past, I often designated one Friday night in Adar as "Jewish Joke Night." And that's this week.

Humor has always helped us through our toughest times, and we've rarely faced greater challenges than now. So bring your favorite Jewish jokes and share them at services this Friday night - the night of Shabbat Across America.

So what exactly makes a joke Jewish? It's a matter of taste, but when you hear it, you know it.

The ground rules: Your joke has to be clean and not misogynistic, anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic... in other words, bring in your SECOND favorite Jewish joke.

Below is are examples of classic Jewish jokes, properly redacted to be in step with the times:

Here's one, Henny Youngman style:

My wife divorced me for religious reasons. 

S/he/they worshiped money and I didn't have any!

And here's an old classic, properly redacted...

A rabbi, priest and a minister step into a bar.





..." said the rabbi!

How about this all-timer!

Two Jews are walking through a neighborhood one evening when they notice they are being followed by a pair of hoodlums OF NO PARTICULAR RACIAL OR ETHNIC BACKGROUND.

"David," say his friend, "we better get out of here. There are two of them, and we're alone!"

And another, this one redaction-free:

Schwartz, an elderly (LOOKING) man, is resting peacefully on the porch of his small hotel outside Boca (NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH BOCA) when he sees a cloud of dust up the road. He walks out to see who could be approaching: It is a Southern farmer with a wagon (CALLED "SOUTHERN" BECAUSE HE LIVES IN THE SOUTH).

"Good afternoon," says Schwartz.

"Afternoon," says the farmer.

"Where you headed?" asks Schwartz.


"What do you have in the wagon?"


"Manure, eh? What do you do with it?"

"I spread it over the fruit."

"Well," says Bernstein, "you should come over here for lunch someday. We use sour cream."


I'll try to come up with some better ones for the service. Meanwhile, bring your own faves!

To tide us over, here are some of my favorite Jewish jokes from "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

Simultaneous Leap Years:

What's Happening Today Won't Happen Again For Another 28 Years!

Click to read my Substack piece about today's unusual confluence of Jewish and secular leap years. It won't happen again until 2052. And while you are there, don't forget to subscribe, so you can continue to receive my "In This Moment" emails.

Recommended Reading

  • See below a podcast featuring Haviv Rettig Gur of Times of Israel, speaking of the hot button issue of conscription of Haredim into the IDF. It is a more complicated topic than one might think. On Monday, the High Court of Justice determined that the state has until March 24 to explain why its June 2023 resolution -- which instructed the IDF not to draft ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students for nine months -- is legal. Will Israel's haredi society begin to shoulder the national defense burden? And what does the IDF need to do to create the proper conditions for increased religious conscription? And if the community is not willing to take up arms, what are other alternatives that it could take on to serve the nation?

Tomorrow's Front Pages

If Friday's front pages haven't been uploaded yet,

try clicking the same link later this evening.


The Jerusalem Post

Yediot Achronot

May March come in like a lion...of Judah!

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