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

Understanding the Background of the White House Ruling on Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act

Dec. 13 2019

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order allowing federal officials to extend the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to Jews. (The order, promptly condemned for classifying Jews as a separate nationality, did nothing of the sort.) In 2010, Kenneth Marcus called for precisely such a ruling in the pages of Commentary, citing in particular the Department of Education’s lax response to a series of incidents at the University of California at Irvine, where, among much elase, Jewish property was vandalized and Jewish students were pelted with rocks, called “dirty Jew” and other epithets, and were told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind.”

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, U.S. Politics