The 700-Year History of the Purim Parody

March 20 2019

Since the holiday of Purim, which begins this evening, traditionally has a carnivalesque atmosphere, it has given rise to written and theatrical parodies of traditional Jewish life and scholarship. Michelle Chesner describes some early examples:

Purim is unique for the lively parodies that were and are produced in honor of the holiday, which celebrates the hidden and the unexpected. Masekhet Purim [“Tractate of Purim”] is probably the most famous of these. It was originally written in 14th-century Italy, but it was copied, printed, edited, and added to many times over the centuries. It is written in Aramaic and Hebrew, in the style of the Talmud itself, with additional parodies of the major talmudic commentators, Rashi and Tosafot.  . . .

Another “tractate” that was common for Purim was Masekhet Shikurim (“Tractate of Drunkards”). Because of the injunction that one should drink on Purim until unable to tell the difference between “blessed be Mordecai” (the hero of the book of Esther) and “cursed be Haman” (the villain), drunkenness is a common feature of the various Purim parodies. . . .

An Italian poem uses a different literary genre for its Purim parody. This manuscript’s title translates as “Give honor to the beautiful Purim” and seems to parody the Italian tradition of a “wedding poem,” treating the holiday as if it were a bride. The end of the poem describes itself as a “pretty song to be sung in the evening and the day of Purim.”

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More about: Jewish humor, Purim, Religion & Holidays


Iranian Attacks in the Persian Gulf Require a Firm Response

June 17 2019

In the past few days, Iran has carried out several attacks on oil tankers in the vicinity of Persian Gulf, and attempted to shoot down a U.S. observation drone. These attacks follow other recent acts of sabotage on the oil trade in the region—and that’s not to mention the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s missile strike last week on a Saudi civilian airport that injured 26 people. David Adesnik urges the White House to send a clear message to Tehran:

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More about: Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy