According to (Harap 1987), humor was used as a mechanism for coping with hard situations in Israel by the Jews. Among the areas that humor was applied is sexuality, where Jews were made to divert their thoughts from depressions and were made to laugh or smile, as laughter is believed to be the most efficient medicine. Various writers joked on sexuality, among them Rabbi Shmuel, Oxford University’s director, who wrote a book entitled Kosher Sex.
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Sexuality in Jewish humor
One of the jokes made by Rabbi on the topic of Jewish sex and marriage is that Monica Lewinsky makes us understand the woman’s stereotype as a predator of sex. Ancient texts advise men on how they should be careful with female seductresses, as they are capable of stealing their pure behavior as well as innocence. Rabbi then goes on to argue that in the modern world, everyone would take such a stereotype as a joke and laugh at it since men are believed to be sexual predators while women divert from sexuality.
The Jewish community, as well as everybody else, derived their humor from jokes, and there was one that was said to involve some Jewish ladies. One of them told her friends she had a confession to make; that is, she was a kleptomaniac. However, she told them that they should not worry since she had not and would never steal from them since they had remained her friends for quite a long time. Another lady confessed that she was a nymphomaniac, then went ahead to assure her friends that they should not worry since she had not gotten involved with their husbands. She said that her friend’s husbands’ had not and would never interest her. The next one confessed that she was a lesbian though they should not get worried since she would not dare hit on them as they were her friends and more so not her type. The last of those Jewish ladies made her confession that she was a Yenta with a number of calls that she had to make on her phone. These Jewish ladies beat around the topic of sexuality, where they came up with humorous jokes that would cheer them up. (Amos, 1988)
According to (Diller 1974), a fellow who was not religious wondered whether it is a sin to engage in sex on Sabbath. The fellow said that he was not sure whether sex was classified as work, and so he sought advice from a priest who told him that it was working and therefore no one should practice it on Sundays. Not satisfied with the answer and thinking that a priest knew nothing about sex, he sought advice on the same question from a minister who was already married but was given a similar answer. This fellow didn’t believe that sex was regarded as work and wasn’t meant for Sabbath, which made him proceed to a Rabbi. The Rabbi took his time to think about the gentleman’s question and told him that sex could never be regarded as work. This made the fellow doubt him since others had argued that it worked. However, the Rabbi convinced him by telling him that if sex would be work, then his very wife would employ a maid to replace her. In this case, the fellow who is asking questions is taken to be one who wants to follow the law up to a point and therefore not work on the holy day of Sabbath. This joke on the Jew’s way of life is very ironic since the fellow is also described as unreligious but wants to keep Sabbath holy, and together with the answer given to him by Rabbi, it becomes so humorous.
Another gentleman boarded a plane, took a sit and on looking up, saw a very pretty lady boarding the same airplane. He became so nervous when he realized that the beautiful lady was coming to sit next to him. He anxiously started a conversation where he enquired of her destination, which she said was the Nymphomaniac’s annual convention. The gentleman became very excited to be talking to a very pretty lady who was traveling to attend a nymphomaniac’s meeting. He then tried to appear cool and asked her about the role she would take during the convection, where she flipped back her beautiful long hair, looked straight into the gentleman’s eyes, and said that she would debunk sexuality’s popular myths. At this point, he swallowed very hard as he went on to enquire more about those myths where the pretty lady explained that one was on how men of African –American origin were very endowed and that this trait was even better portrayed in native men of American Indian origin. She then went on to explain the next myth where she said that Frenchmen are rated to be the most wonderful lovers and especially those whose decent was Jewish and that they romanced best. The man had become very engaged in the conversation where he told the lady how interesting that was waiting for the next myth to be explained, but she suddenly blushed and felt embarrassed. She said that she was finding it awkward conversing with a gentleman who she barely knew his name where he shook the lady’s hand, mentioning that he was Tonto Goldstein. This joke represents a lady who supports and believes in myths that adore Jewish men so much regarding their sexuality. The pretty lady became very eager to explain it to a gentleman who found her to be like an angel from heaven without her knowledge and engages in a deep conversation without realizing that she did not even know his name!. (Harap, 1987)
A Jewish boy was distraught because he had stayed for quite a long time without having sex or a date and was worried that something might go wrong. He thought of seeing a sex–therapist for medical advice, but his doctor referred him to a particular Chinese who he went to visit. He entered the room where he was to be examined, and Dr.Chang requested him to take his clothes off, which he did. He was then told to crawl across the room, which he did; the doctor nodded and told him that he was suffering from Zachary’s disease. The boy did not understand what kind of disease that was and asked Dr.Chang, who told him that it was when his face looked like his ass. This boy was some kind of a bachelor who wanted to know whether his sexuality would be affected if he stayed away from sexual acts, but the Chinese doctor could not help him but make him crawl from one end to the other without clothes. The Chinese doctor must have taken his question to be a stupid one, and so he made a stupid conclusion by giving it a fake name which meant that he looked like his ass. This must have made that bachelor boy quite embarrassed and upset with the doctor.
Abe visited a chemist to get some contraceptives and was asked by an attendant the kind of contraceptives he wanted. Abe was given several choices of contraceptives available in that chemist, which were a Catholic pack, Jewish pack, and protestant pack. He got really confused and enquired about their difference which. He was told that a catholic pack contained six where each was supposed to be used every day except on Sunday. Protestant pack contained eight where he was to use one on a daily basis except on Sunday when he would use two. Lastly, a Jewish pack had twelve, and when he asked why it had twelve, the attendant started to count months of the year from January all the way to December, leaving him to interpret the rest. Abe just laughed since he thought it was ironic to have contraceptives related to Catholics, Jews, and Protestants. The number in the packs together with respective days of use did not really have any relation with sexuality or contraceptives. (Telushkin, 1998)
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Another joke is when a priest was invited for dinner by a fellow priest who was much older than him. As they were having dinner, the visiting priest noticed that the housekeeper was very beautiful and wondered about the kind of relationship between that priest and his housekeeper. The host priest explained that nothing more was between them even before he was asked for an explanation. A week after that dinner was when the housekeeper complained that she had not found her silver ladle since the other priest’s visit. She wondered whether the other priest would have it, but she was promised that he would be asked through a letter. In the letter, he told the young priest that he was not accusing him of picking the ladle but at the same time was not defending him not to have picked it though it was evident that it went missing during his visit. After a few days, he replied, saying that he was not accusing him of sleeping with his housekeeper and was not defending him either, but it was evident that he would have come across the ladle if only he slept in his bed.
(Diller, 1974), concluded that, humor is the message with incongruity that has the ability to make someone laugh. Jewish humor had a variety of jokes that are humorous and make people divert from their stressful day to day activities. Among them are jokes on sexuality which are related with the condition that is characterized by sex and also concerned with sexual activity in human beings. Therefore, various jokes have different kinds of humor if the subject of sex is twisted to give it funny side.
Harap L. (1987): The Jewish Presence in Twentieth-Century American Drama, Poetry and Humor: Greenwood Press.
Amos D. (1988): Jewish Folklore: JSTOR.
Diller L. (1974): The Year’s Work in American Humor Studies: American Humor Studies Association.
Telushkin J. (1998): What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews: Haper Paperbacks.