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

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela