So tonight/tomorrow is Purim, a minor but very fun Jewish holiday characterized by costumes, merriment and kind of wacky humor. It's based on Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther), the last book of the Jewish Bible to be canonized. Megillat Esther tells the (not historically accurate) story of how the Jews of Persia were saved from genocide by a crypto-Jew who became their queen. Traditional activities for Purim include dressing up in costumes, giving gifts of food to friends and neighbors, giving money to the poor, and getting drunk and making a fool of yourself.
On the making a fool of oneself front, I was asked to participate this year in the Latke/Hamentaschen debate. This is an event that combines silliness and pseudo-erudition. Purim is sometimes called the Jewish Mardi Gras (okay, maybe I'm the only one who calls it that) and it's a holiday that includes assorted raucous merry making activities. Jewish professors at the University of Chicago staged an event in 1947 where for Purim they did a mock-academic debate about the relative merits of latkes (potato pancakes - traditional Hanukah food) and hamentaschen (cookies that are the traditional Purim food). Different scholars from different disciplines gave talks that satirized their own fields while pleading a case for one or the other. It spread from there, and my shul started doing it last year.
So the organizer of this year's debate asked me to join in. I said yes, because I was flattered, I guess. I figured it meant they think I'm smart and funny. They wanted me to do mine on talmudic studies. I am soooo not a talmud scholar. I didn't think I could pull it off, and asked if I could do archaeology or history. The organizer said they have archaeology covered and some history but if I could do an historical thing from the talmudic period or straight talmud satire or some combo that would work. So I agreed and then could not
think of anything to talk about. The event was last night and as of Tuesday I still didn't even have an idea about what to write my speech about. And then I got an email saying that everyone is wearing academic robes, so clearly I was the only one without a PhD, making it worse.
Anyway, I woke up Wednesday morning with an idea for a talk. It's a story about two of the amoraim - the sages who wrote the Talmud - that on the one hand seemed good material for such a presentation but on the other hand is so bizarre as to almost defy parody. It's also very slashy.
I wrote it up and presented it last night and got lots of laughter. It's probably not as funny in writing, but if anyone is interested, it's behind the cut (with a few stage directions, even).( Read more...Collapse )
The whole evening was so fun! The other "scholars" gave hilarious send ups of lectures in a variety of disciplines. Everyone seemed to have a great time - I know I did.
If anyone has questions or would like references on the lives of Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish and their very intimate relationship, just ask.