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Passover Funny Business

Haggadah parodies continue

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Eli Valley’s “The Four Sons.”(Eli Valley/Forward)

Yesterday, in Tablet Magazine, Eddy Portnoy traced the history of Jews using the familiar, rigid structure of the Haggadah as a vehicle for parody. While Portnoy’s focus was on the Yiddish press of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, there are still Jews and there is still Passover and, therefore, there is still satire that borrows from the Passover book. Here are three examples that caught my eye in the past 24 hours. If anyone has seen more, do leave ‘em in the comments.

• What really gets asked during the Four Questions. [The New Yorker]

• Ten Jewish car writers on the ten automotive plagues. [VF]

• Eli Valley on what the Four Sons ask today. [Forward]

Paschal Lampoon [Tablet Magazine]

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1) If other Arab and Muslim countries care so much about Palestine, why don’t they share some of their comically vast oil wealth with them? I mean, they build mile-long palaces and really tall buildings and buy up a lot of expensive European real estate.

2) If other Arab and Muslim countries care so much about Palestinians, why don’t they grant them citizenship instead of preventing them from gainful employment and decent housing? Couldn’t they at least stop shooting them when they protest, King Hussein?

3) Given the 57 Islamic countries in the world, and the 23 Arab countries in the Middle East, not to say the 360 million Arabs, and the billion Muslims, why begrudge us 13 million Jews a tiny little strip of desert without those vast oil resources? I mean, Dead Sea Skin Rejuvenator? This is an economic staple?

4) Given that every gas station in the world is like a drug pusher in a schoolyard, feeding our oil addiction while we fork over our dollars, what’s with the continual need to worry to worry about the Arabs? They’re doing really, really well for themselves.

Dan Klein says:

@fw those are some weird Seder questions.

I was, in my obviously inadequate way, responding to the parodies linked to above, which struck me as demeaning, and depressingly so.

The cartoon is either mocking the left wing mindset, in which case I’m simply agreeing with it, or else celebrating it, in which case I’m offering a not terribly amusing critique. Honestly, I’m not really sure what the point of view is. Likewise The New Yorker piece. Billy Joel–is the writer a fan, or is the whole thing just an I’m-so-clever, jaundiced way of looking at Jewish culture as a quaint cultural anachronism with no redeeming value for the ‘Pavement is a really great band’ set? It does seem the latter, doesn’t it?

Anyway, typed in great haste, so take it or leave it.

@fw – The cartoon is by Eli Valley, who is pretty far left. It’s definitely a celebration of the left wing mindset, and not a particularly amusing or original one at that.

Thanks, RZS. I agree with your take. You know, Dan, the weird thing is that a lot of Jews somehow think they are honoring the precepts of justice by taking one of the very few days of the year dedicated to our own rituals and history, and giving it over, even if in a satiric way, to worrying about Arabs. I’d love to see just one example of the reverse–an Arab chastising fellow Arabs during Ramadan, say, for their shabby treatment of Jews. In print or cartoon. Until proven wrong, I’ll say that they seem to have a lot more self-respect than we do.

There is nothing noble, or courageous, about denigrating your own culture and heritage. It’s not brave to mock your own family, however ridiculous they may be, for the sake of a few cheap laughs from peers with a supercilious contempt for tradition. It’s just craven, really.

If you really want funny, try the New York Times article on Vittorio Arrigoni, which says his death was incongruous because he was ‘peaceful activist for justice.’

The photo shows him with arms around Ismail Haniya, leader of Hamas, in affectionate semi-embrace.

Haniya, leaving aside the Jews for a moment, is responsible for the imprisonment, murder and torture of countless PALESTINIANS.

So how in god’s name is his murder, by confederates of men whom Haniya has imprisoned, tortured and murdered ‘incongruous’?

He is buddy buddy with killers, and associates of the killers’ victims have taken out their own rough justice on him.

It may be an outrageous wrong, but it is neither surprising nor ‘incongruous.’

Pretend that Hamas is benign, and you get embroiled in their own domestic cycle of violence. Simple as that.

What has happened to The New York Times that this isn’t obvious to them?

ruby says:

fw – now THAT’S a good question for the seder! I guess another is why is it not obvious to more Jews? But really, pesah is not the time to score pc political points (pc right or pc left) – so perhaps we should just leave the questions as they are and try to understand why our sages saw them as so important – rather than simply change everything to our own conveniences and tastes. With such an approach, one might actually learn something rather than simply reaffirm comfortable and well-worn opinions. A challenge, but possible. Hag sameach to all.

You have a generous, philosophical spirit, ruby.

Ruby asks rhetorically, “Perhaps we should just leave the questions as they are and try to understand why our sages saw them as so important?”

I agree, but I also think it’s important to consider those traditional questions in light of contemporary Jewry and the world. Doing so doesn’t necessitate PC showmanship; to the contrary, the seder is a time for honest airing and soul-wrestling.

fw writes: “You know, Dan, the weird thing is that a lot of Jews somehow think they are honoring the precepts of justice by taking one of the very few days of the year dedicated to our own rituals and history, and giving it over, even if in a satiric way, to worrying about Arabs.”

If you don’t care to consider the plight of other populations and peoples, be they Ethiopians, Guatemalans, or displaced Japanese, on other days of the year, it does seem slightly disingenuous to make a fuss at the seder table. But, fw, it seems to me that worrying about even those you believe are your enemies is a vital part of the seder. If it weren’t, why are we instructed to mourn the Egyptians?

Evelinsche says:

It would have been enough for me if you reread the title (Passover Funny Business). The Sacramento Bee reported an all-chocolate seder held for children last weekend that featured chocolate-covered matzot, chocolate eggs, bitter chocolate, green M and M’s for karpas, and Twix for the lamb shank. The kids sat through the relevant blessings and activities with steeply mounting enthusiasm from their sugar highs and everyone was happy. I think they should have replaced the Twix with chocolate bunny parts, more closely related to the lamb shank, and seasonal, or the chocolate-covered twigs of orange peel instead of M and M’s. But hey, the kids paid close attention. How much better this was than the annual mock-seder-and-food-fight that got my kid out of the rest of Sunday School every year when he came home and told me Jewish children should think about those who have nothing to eat instead of launching matzoh frisbees. He also worried about the kids allergic to chocolate. The issues you all have raised are important but don’t address the article.

The Marx Brothers as the four sons in The Great Jewish Book of Humor is worth a look.

Isn’t diversity wonderful? At my house everyone has to name his/her own plague of the year which tonight will surely be taxes for everyone but the kids. If you read the article above carefully AND you have to leave the seder table to get to the post office/computer on time, it will be enough for me. Hag sameach.

Karen says:

To fw: Couldn’t agree more with your four questions. You speak the truth.


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Passover Funny Business

Haggadah parodies continue

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