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High Holiday Humour

Larry David (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS photo)

High holiday humour? Is this some kind of joke? Actually, yes.

Rosh Hashanah ushers in the most solemn period of the Jewish calendar that culminates ten days later on Yom Kippur. This is a serious time for introspection and “cheshbon nefesh,” a spiritual accounting. But Jews being Jews, there’s also time for a smile or two. Here are some things to ponder between your introspecting. Or to keep you rolling in the shul aisles.

Humility is an essential quality for the repentant Jew, particularly on the Days of Awe. And that leads us to the story of the rabbi who stops in the middle of the High Holiday service, prostrates himself and cries out, “O God. Before You, I am nothing!” The chazzan is so moved hat he immediately follows suit, crying, “O God. Before you, I am nothing!” In the ensuing silence, a member of the congregation jumps from his seat, prostrates himself in the aisle and cries, “O God! Before You, I am nothing!” Seeing this, the chazzan nudges the rabbi and whispers, “So look who thinks he’s nothing?”

How to dip your apple in honey

Any time is a good time for Jewish guilt. But it takes on a certain significance at this time of year as we learn from this story

A Jewish parent in Florida calls his son in New York. The father says, “I hate to tell you, but your mother and I are divorcing. That’s it!! I want to live out the rest of my years in peace.” The father hangs up, and the son immediately calls his sister and tells her the news. The sister says, “I’ll handle this.” She calls Florida and pleads with her father, “Don’t do ANYTHING until we get there! We will be there Friday.” The father says, “All right, all right already.” When the father hangs up the phone he hollers to his wife, “Okay, they’re coming for the High Holidays!’’


As all good Jews know, Rosh Hashanah is the time to ask for and be granted forgiveness. Well it seems that Stephen Colbert knows that too. Back when he was hosting the Colbert Report, if you had managed to wrong him and wanted forgiveness, all you had to do was dial 1-888-OOPS-JEW. You would then hear this message: “Shalom, and welcome to Stephen Colbert’s Atonement Hotline. At the tone, please be a mensch, and unburden your soul by stating how you’ve wronged me – Stephen Colbert. Your call will not be returned but selected apologies will be played on the air. You should be so lucky.”

 Opening A Garage Door “The Jewish Way”

On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Jews go to a nearby stream or body of water to perform the ritual of Tashlich. Prayers are recited and sins are symbolically tossed into the depths. Some people even shake out the hems of their clothing while others toss breadcrumbs into the waters. With that in mind, here is a tongue-in-cheek (and pun-laden) look at the foods of Tashlich.

“Taking a few crumbs on Rosh Hashanah to throw into the water for the Tashlich ceremony from whatever old bread is in the house lacks subtlety, nuance and religious sensitivity. Instead, this coming Rosh Hashanah, consider these options:

  • For immodest dressing, Tarts
  • For substance abuse, Stoned Wheat
  • For being holier than thou, Bagels
  • For unfairly upbraiding another, Challah
  • And for wearing tasteless hats, Tam Tams.”

If there is one piece of attire that gets a great deal of use at this time of year, it surely is the tallit. It is told that when Rosh Hashanah was over, Abie wanted to have his tallit cleaned in time for Yom Kippur. After asking for recommendations, he decided to take it to Moishe the bargain dry cleaner who will do it for only $4.00. So Abie goes over to Moishe’s and finds that the ownership has changed. He asks the new owner, Mr. Jones, if he’ll match the old prices. Mr. Jones assures him that he will. Three days later, Abie goes to get his tallit and is given a bill for $24.00. “I thought you’d meet Moishe’s prices?”

“I did,” said Mr Jones, “$4.00 for the tallit, and $20.00 to get all the knots out of the fringes!”


And finally, in order to maximize the mirth and to keep you from saying, “I heard it already!”, I present to you three classic High Holiday punch lines. To read the jokes in their entirety, simply visit the websites.

(1) “Please,” says the synagogue president with tears in his eyes, “Shoot me first!”

(2) The gabbai came running over and said “NOT ON YOU, on the TORAH, on the TORAH!!”

(3) “Shush,” the parrot says. “Think of the odds we’ll get on Yom Kippur.”

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