God Laughed: Sources of Jewish Humor

Hershey H. Friedman and Linda Weiser Friedman. Transaction, $39.95 (316p) ISBN 978-1-4128-5376-7
In this lighthearted but thoughtful study, professors Friedman and Friedman step outside the bounds of their own academic disciplines to trace the origins and evolution of Jewish humor from religious texts. Citing numerous sources including the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and the Midrash, the authors do a thorough and convincing job of identifying the presence of humor, especially the distinctive elements of self-deprecation and irony, in the Torah. Instances in which God invites argument from humans—including Abraham's defense of the lives of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah—are presented as logical precursors to jokes at the deity's expense, as they make clear the notion that candid conversations are not viewed as heretical. Lay readers will appreciate the leavening of what could have been a dry recital with multiple examples of contemporary jokes, and examples from TV shows including Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Those who aren't put off by the banalities presented in the opening sections ("Jews tend to see the world through the prism of Jewishness," or, "Jews appreciate humor,") will be rewarded with this fun read. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/24/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
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