Friday, October 9, 2009


I'm doing my final preparation for a class I’m teaching next week on Jewish humor*. While looking for a quote which I partially remembered from a book which I haven't looked at in years, I came across a little bonus**.

* favorite joke so far: a Jewish man is talking to a Jewish friend.  He start tell a joke: “one day Cohen and Levine were going…” His friend stops him. “Why are your jokes always about Jews?  Tell a joke about some other people for change.” “OK - one day, Soo Lung Mu and Mao Tsu Nu were going to Soo Lung Mu’s nephew’s Bar Mitzvah…”

** man, I hate to sound like a Luddite, but as e-books and such get more popular, how many fewer happy accidents like this will we all have?

Throughout Rabbinic literature, we have a number of deathbed quotes.  The great Rabbis of old had a chance to offer one last piece of wisdom to their students.  One last chance to summarize their lives of teaching, in a single principle.

When Rabbi Eliezer was about to die, all his students came and sat before him.  They said to him, “Rabbi – teach us only one thing.”

He replied, “My children, what can I teach you?  Every one of you go and be very careful of the dignity of others.”

Derech Eretz Rabbah, 3)

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