Tag Archives: Judaism

Polish Joke: Six cars, six shirts

TEXT: “Przy plaży spacerowało i rozmawiało dwóch Żydów:

– Jeśli kiedykolwiek miałeś sześć pałaców, czy dasz mi jeden?

– Oczywiście!

– A jeśli kiedykolwiek miałeś sześć samochodów, czy dasz mi jeden?

– Oczywiście!

– A jeśli kiedykolwiek miałeś sześć koszulek, czy dasz mi jedną?

– Nie ma mowy!

– Dlaczego nie?

– Bo mam sześć koszulek!”

INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Male, 82, Polish, Jewish

CONTEXT: This polish man told me this joke. He translated it to English for me after I heard him saying in Polish to his also Polish friend. He explained that he learned the joke from his parents. The joke is about the stereotype that Jewish people are cheap or thrifty but he said that the beauty of the joke is that it seems the other man is not cheap until the scenario becomes real. Also he explained that when he was growing up in Poland in the 1940s really nobody had six cars, now the joke has changed in its absurdity because it is more common to have more cars, especially in the industrialized booming economy of the States. The joke was told anytime you wanted to make a joke and were among Jewish people that would not take offense. Or when they were all around sharing jokes about judaism as a family to get a laugh out of each other. 

ORIGINAL SCRIPT: “ Przy plaży spacerowało i rozmawiało dwóch Żydów:

– Jeśli kiedykolwiek miałeś sześć pałaców, czy dasz mi jeden?

– Oczywiście!

– A jeśli kiedykolwiek miałeś sześć samochodów, czy dasz mi jeden?

– Oczywiście!

– A jeśli kiedykolwiek miałeś sześć koszulek, czy dasz mi jedną?

– Nie ma mowy!

– Dlaczego nie?

– Bo mam sześć koszulek!”

TRANSLATION: “Two Jew men were walking and chatting by the beach:

– If you ever had six palaces, will you give me one?

– Of course!

– And if you ever had six cars, will you give me one?

– Of course!

– And if you ever had six shirts, will you give me one?

– No way!

– Why not?

– Because I do have six shirts!”

THOUGHTS: I think I am accustomed to not enjoy jokes that are at another person’s expense but this one seems to be really for people that are of this religion and have an understanding of the stereotype and are able to be comedic about it.

Dreydl

“So, dreydl. It’s like this Jewish game that you play for the holiday of Hanukkah. And you spin a little top and it lands on one of four things, uh, which is either the letters gimmel, nun, shin, or hey. Uh, on a gimmel you take all of the money that’s in the pot, on a hey you get half of it, on a shin you put some of yours in, and on a nun you get nothing. And you take turns until someone gets all the money. It’s usually played with fake money called gelt, it’s chocolate and it kinda tastes bad, but like that’s the game. The letters…I don’t know what the Hebrew is, but it translates to a great miracle happened there, and there means Jerusalem.”

Note: The letters are:

נ – nun

ג – gimmel

ה – hey

ש – shin.

The Hebrew phrase is נס גדול היה שם, which is pronounced as “Nes gadol hahah sham.” It means what he said it means. 

The Golem of Prague

“Okay, so there was some Rabbi in Prague in like, fucking not this time but like the 1600s or some shit probably? Uh, and you know people in eastern Europe weren’t super fond of Jews all the time right, so he was like “I gotta protect my people,” so he built this giant like clay dude and he speaks the name of God in it’s mouth, and you know, ‘cause that’s how…that’s how robots work. And so the Golem came to life and he just kind of like helped out all the Jews in Prague doing like basic tasks and chores. Uh, until like…there’s different versions of the story, but I think one of the versions is he just straight up murdered a child, so the rabbi was like “Oh we gotta get rid of this dude” and so now he doesn’t exist anymore.”

Note: There are many versions of this myth. In the one I grew up hearing, the golem had the Hebrew word for truth inscribed on it’s forehead and was made to go to sleep by changing the word to the Hebrew word for death. Universally though, the golem went on a murderous rampage and was permanently put down and laid to rest in the attic of a temple, which you can still visit today. I do think this story says a lot about the behavior of the Jewish people through history — we have to help ourselves, but not at the cost of doing harm. 

The Chuppah

Context: My informant is a 37 year-old Jewish woman who recently moved to Los Angeles from Toronto. She was preparing for her upcoming wedding when she began to discuss what Jewish traditions she planned on incorporating in her ceremony. In the piece, she is identified as J.T. and I am identified as D.S.

 

Background: The Chuppah is essentially a canopy in which the bride and groom and their family members stand under in a Jewish wedding ceremony. The tradition can be traced back to biblical weddings in Jewish culture, and is deeply rooted in its’ history and religious customs.

 

Main Piece:

DS: “You mentioned your fiancé is Christian, are you still going to have a traditional Jewish wedding?”

JT: “Definitely. My family is fairly religious, and he’s in the process of converting right now, so his family is open to keeping it more traditional too.”

DS: “What are some of the traditions you’re going to include?”

JT: “Well, pretty much everything. A Rabbi is speaking at our ceremony, we’ll be reciting the seven prayers and the blessing over the wine, the chuppah, and of course breaking the glass at the end of the ceremony.”

DS: “Do you mind elaborating on the importance of the chuppah a bit?”

JT: “Sure! The chuppah is pretty much a canopy, and it represents the home that the bride and groom will build together. Couples usually decorate it beautifully for their weddings. I’m planning on having mine strung with vines and white roses. It’s supposed to stand with all four sides wide open, to represent a home with open doors that’s welcoming and loving. Hospitality is something that’s highly regarded in Jewish culture, as I’m sure you know.”

 

Analysis: Since I come from a reform Jewish family, I’m aware of most traditions, but I don’t have much background knowledge on the meaning behind them, so it was interesting to hear the symbolism behind this tradition in particular. Having attended quite a few Jewish weddings, the Chuppah is always the staple of the ceremony, and is always decorated beautifully.

 

Annotation: For more on Jewish wedding customs and the history behind the Chuppah, reference to:

Goldman, A. L. (2000). 3. Weddings. In Being Jewish: The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today (pp. 69-86). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

How Purim, A Jewish Holiday, Came to Be: The Story of Esther

The following is a conversation with AJ that describes her interpretation and knowledge of the Story of Esther; the story behind the Jewish holiday of Purim.

 

AJ: So basically, the second in command to the King, named Haman, made a decree that everyone needed to bow down to him, but this one guy named Mordecai didn’t want to bow down to him because you’re really not allowed to bow down to anyone that’s not God. So, Haman then hated all the Jews. So, he made a decree for a lottery, which picked a day that would essentially be “the purge” for killing Jews; you’d have the whole day to kill Jews and you wouldn’t get in trouble. So, the day he chose “the purge” for was on the 13th of Adar, which falls tomorrow (March 20th), I think, and it was called Purim.

So, while this is happening, the King was having a three-day festival party, and he told his wife to come so he could show her off or whatever. But she didn’t come and just had her own party with the girls, and it was so disrespectful to the King that he got rid of her. So, then he held a beauty pageant for a new wife, and he recruited every girl from the city. So basically, Mordecai, from earlier, had a niece named Esther, and they were trying to hide her, but the King’s men found her. When she went to the beauty pageant, the King liked her the most and she was the most beautiful, so she became Queen. Mordecai then told Esther that this [happening] was a sign that she needed to use her position as Queen to try and convince the King that he shouldn’t kill the Jews with the purge system that Haman created. And then basically Esther was really scared because you can’t approach the King, even if you’re the Queen, without him calling [upon] you or using his power on you. So that’s why the Jews fasted for three days, to make sure nothing would happen to her when she went to the King. They fasted because it was custom that you were supposed to fast if you really wanted something to happen […]; fasting helps give you luck. So, she went to the King and asked for a tea party to talk about Haman. So, Esther had the party twice, but couldn’t find her words until the third time when she told the King that Haman was trying to kill her people, the Jews. The King then was like, “What, oh my gosh!” […] there are more details, but anyway, the King sentences Haman and all his sons and they were hung, but only after Haman carried Mordecai on a horse to get his full embarrassment before his death. The lottery decree was able to be reversed because of the King’s power and then the Jew’s were saved because of Esther.

 

EK:  So, then what do you, and other Jews, do to celebrate for Purim?

 

AJ: Um, okay, so we fast for a day, which is tomorrow (March 20th), the same as the 13th of Adar, and then we read this story at night before we have a big feast. Also, it’s a custom to give each other food baskets to friends and family during this time.

 

EK: Interesting, so what does this story mean to you, as someone who is Jewish?

 

AJ: Basically, I know it because through being Jewish and it’s just a story that’s identifiable to all Jewish people because everyone in the religion celebrates the holiday, so it just brings us all together and we get food baskets in the process, haha.

 

My Interpretation:

It is very clear that the Jewish religion places a lot of emphasis on the stories of their religion and the sacredness of their celebrations. These origins seem to date back thousands of years, as well as the worship during the sacred holiday. During Purim, I watched AJ strictly abide by the rules of fasting throughout the day; obviously this is a holiday that Jews take very seriously. As this story is a part of their culture and religion, it seems that many Jews know it by heart. When AJ was sharing the story, she did not have to think twice about many of the details, like it was common practice for her to recite.