To Jest or Not to Jest: How Conflicting Attitudes toward Humor in the Talmud Foreshadowed a Jewish Cultural Divide Today

21 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2019

See all articles by Hershey H. Friedman

Hershey H. Friedman

City University of New York - Department of Business Management

Linda Weiser Friedman

Baruch College, CUNY - Zicklin School of Business; CUNY - The Graduate Center

Date Written: February 20, 2019

Abstract

Is humor an affront to God or a divine gift to humanity? Two Talmudic sages were known as jesters: Bar Kappara and Rabbi Yirmiyah. They both tried to get their teachers - who felt that one should be morose until Messianic times - to laugh. This debate over whether one should serve God with joy or be morose is still going on. The chassidic view, based on the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, is that one should serve God with joy. The misnagdim disagree and feel that one should refrain from levity and excessive joy. This paper examines conflicting attitudes towards humor in the Talmud in terms of a forerunner to some of the Jewish cultural conflicts of today.

Keywords: Talmud, Talmudic Stories, Jesters, Bar Kappara, Rabbi Yirmiyah, Chassidim, Misnagdim, Jewish Humor

JEL Classification: J50, M12, M14, M54

Suggested Citation

Friedman, Hershey H. and Friedman, Linda Weiser, To Jest or Not to Jest: How Conflicting Attitudes toward Humor in the Talmud Foreshadowed a Jewish Cultural Divide Today (February 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3338980 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3338980

Hershey H. Friedman (Contact Author)

City University of New York - Department of Business Management ( email )

Linda Weiser Friedman

Baruch College, CUNY - Zicklin School of Business ( email )

17 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cisnet.baruch.cuny.edu/friedman/

CUNY - The Graduate Center

365 Fifth Avenue
New York,, NY 10016
United States

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