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A Rabbi Walks Into a Bar…

September 8, 2007 | 8:00 pm

Speaking of the High Holy Days, did you hear the one about Morrie and Estie, who decide to skip services and go on a safari? They end up getting lost in the dark jungles of Africa.

"Don't worry," Morrie soothes his terrified wife. "We have nothing to worry about -- I didn't pay our pledge to the yeshiva this year."

"So?" she wails, in fear.

"They'll find us!" he says.

Or how about the one where the man comes to the rabbi on Yom Kippur afternoon and tells him he's dying for a drink?

"Today is Yom Kippur, and you want to drink?" the rabbi says.

"Please, just a small drink. I can't take it anymore!"

The rabbi is moved by the man's suffering, so he gives him a glass of water.

"Thank you, thank you," the man says. "I promise, I'll never eat schmaltz herring on Yom Kippur morning ever again!"

Ba-dump-bump. Maybe you've heard some of these jokes before, but probably not compiled together and interspersed throughout the Torah's weekly portions.

Joe Bobker's "Torah with a Twist of Humor" (Devora Publishing, 2004) could be a boon to every rabbi or congregant who needs to spice up their sermons, studies and divrei Torah -- words of Torah often centered around the parsha, the weekly portion.

Rabbis of the Talmud advised to begin every d'var Torah with a joke, Bobker says. "Why? It is wise, no matter what you are doing, to enjoy what you are doing, and laughter is relaxing, a unifying force for the audience, and, according to Tehillim, God's presence doesn't dwell in a place where there is no joy," Bobker writes. "Laughter is a serious business."

It is for Bobker, an Angeleno now living in Jerusalem. He tells the tale of each portion and intersperses a dozen or so jokes into every Torah portion beginning with Genesis: "The elderly rabbi walks up to a young lady in a miniskirt, greets her politely, and hands her a fruit.

'What's this for?'

'Well, Eve didn't know she was naked either, until she ate a fruit.'"

And continuing through "Zos Habracha," the final Torah portion:

"As the elderly rabbi walks by, a young Salvation Army worker asks, 'Sir, won't you give a coin to the Lord? The rabbi stops and asks the boy how old he is. 'Nineteen, rabbi.'

'Well, I'm past 75. I'll be seeing Him before you, so I'll hand it to Him myself.'"

With the High Holy Days approaching, rabbis busy writing their sermons should always keep their audience in mind.

"My d'var Torah at the dinner last night was a smash hit," bragged the notoriously egocentric young rabbi, "I had the audience glued in their seats."

"Wonderful, wonderful," rejoined the older rav. "Clever of you to think of it."

-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor

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