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Laughter in the sky

‘He who sitteth in the heavens shall laugh’, says the Bible. And He who sits in the heavens passed that laughter down to mankind at Mt. Sinai, along with the plates of the Covenant- via the Jews, who would become the stewards of both. The Sense of Humor was as seeds planted between the holy lines, and would sprout sometime later among the escaping slaves chased from one idolatrous nation to another. It would prove to be one of their most potent of secret weapons. After their escape from slavery in Egypt their home was in the unwelcoming desert, and any house would be only a temporary one, and a fiddler was always on the roof playing his wayfarer’s tragi-comic song. This desert escape would prove to be a preparation for many later escapes worldwide throughout their long and painful history. Any home would be only for a time, and the Jew came to know that he was but a comet, brightening the sky for a spell, but only passing through. The suffering servant of God was far too bright for his enemies, but also far too small to defeat his far outnumbering oppressors, so he invariably outlived them with a smile, defeating them with wit, the gift from God.  The Jew would say after each survival, ‘They tried to destroy us, they failed, let’s eat.’

Abraham, the father of all Israel, was given a miracle child in his and his wife Sarah’s very old age, and was told that the child’s name was to be Yitzhok (Isaac), which means, He will laugh. God made that promise.

The Fiddler on the Roof idea later became a movie in which Tuvya, speaking to the sky, says as they are about to suffer another pogram in Russia, ‘I know you have chosen us, but maybe you could choose someone else for a while?’ Tuvya made the world smile.

And the very King of the suffering servants smiled while saying to the Jewish fishermen who had professionally dragged their net through the Kinneret waters all night long and caught nothing, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed, but cast thy net on theright side of the boat’. This angling advice was followed and the saintly fishers hauled up a hundred fifty-three big ones at one fell swoop. Later, after the crucifixion, that same King approached two fellow Jewish travelers in Jerusalem and asked, ‘So what’s going on?’ To such a question they replied, ‘Are you the only guy in town who doesn’t know?’ ‘Tell me’, said the King, and played them all along the way to Emmaus. This quintessential, archetypal ironic Jewish standup humor that had fallen from the sky and been carried down the slope of Sinai would later be carried further forth by such notable chosen Jews as Groucho with his cigar, and George Burns with his. Of course there were Al Jolson, George Jessel, Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Bert Lahr, Danny Kaye, Red Buttons, Buddy Hackett, Carl Reiner, Phil Silvers, Mel Brooks, Jackie Mason, Gene Wilder, Sid Caesar, Jack Benny, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, and Seinfeld too. These among others who made the world laugh.

The laughing gas of Humor has kept the balloon of the Jewish People aloft above the tragic fray of anti-Semitism and a world devouring itself, and them, for ages. It has been no less than a weapon of survival. That Suffering Servant who beat death on a Roman cross also said, ‘The first shall be last, and the last shall be first’.  Perhaps that may be interpreted as the old adage, ‘He who laughs last, laughs best’.  Perhaps the Jew will get the last laugh.

Elhanan ben-Avraham

Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.

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