In an early blogpost (Vol.1 “Pliny’s Reflections”) published a short essay on the subject of humor, as performing as a vital positive and salubrious ingredient in the wide spectrum of human experience. We went so far as to diagnose the vacant and sterile human persona of “humorlessness, “as a life -long disability, contrasting it with a person with a lame leg, but possessing a sense of humor, and thereby, less disabled. We have also referred to the existential role of humor, in the preservation of emotional equilibrium in times of great stress, and even survival in ghettos and Hitler’s death camps.

This essay is a reprise of the earlier theme, but is now offered in the form of an entertaining illustration of the important function of humor as an effective teacher of lifetime lessons.

Our previous blogposts have been, serious observations on philosophical, and moral issues of the day. We resolved that this writing would attempt to make its point [ that humor is an effective life coach] with more entertaining and lighter and material.

In the interest of literary honesty, we attribute the following, instructional anecdotes to the ethnos of the Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants to America. Since we present them in English translation, we note that they are even more humorous, if a serious and respectful attempt were made to read them in an accent, we have previously identified as “yinglish.” {Examples: “mine gott” for my god, “brudder” for brother and “voyce, For worse.]

 Lesson: Know when you’re ahead.

An elderly grandmother brings her darling grandchild to the public beach. The grandma sets the soft blanket at the edge of the water to enable her little Rosalie to enjoy the mud and water. The sun is warm and comfortable, with only a light breeze from the ocean; in other words, a perfect day, Grandma puts on a light bonnet on Rosalie’s head, to prevent sunburn, hands her the little pail and shovel and settles down on the blanket with a container of coffee and a copy of The Jewish Daily Forward, emitting a rare sigh of pleasure.

All of a sudden, without warning, the sky turned dark, a strong wind began to blow, the ocean began to churn with wild waves, and worst of all, little bonneted Rosalie, still holding her pail and shovel, was tragically and abruptly washed out to sea by a huge wave.

The grandmother, jumped to her feet in pure terror, spilling her coffee on the soft blanket and, not only shrieked prayers to God for help for her grandchild, caught up in the raging sea but, as in the ancient Biblical practice, tore at her face in expression of the tragedy.

All of a sudden, the sky turned blue, the torrential winds subsided to a mild breeze, the waters calmed down to a gentle hiss, and, as if in answer to prayer, gently floated little Rosalie back to the edge of the blanket, unharmed and still holding her pail and shovel. Grandma repeatedly cried out “thanks to God, thanks to God. Then she looked down at the bareheaded Rosalie, and shouted to the heavens, angrily and demandingly: “SHE HAD A HAT!”

Second lesson: Live as a good person and leave an honorable memory.

Siegfried Arbisfeld, tough as nails, died at the ripe old age of ninety-nine. His funeral ceremony, due to a recent fire, could not be held at his regular Orthodox Synagogue, but was instead scheduled to take place at a nearby house of worship, a Reform Temple.

Before proceeding further, it has, candidly to be understood that the deceased, Siegfried Arbisfeld, a successful entrepreneur (men’s and boy’s pants) had led a continuous life of contempt for others, including his employees, customers and tradesmen, in accordance with his chosen persona, in his private life (he was too mean to be married) had been selfish, anti-social, completely humorless and just plain, mean-spirited.

The funeral was attended by a great number of people in view of the fact that the deceased had lived a long (disagreeable and unfriendly) life, and for better or worse, interacted with a great many people. The new young, relatively inexperienced, reform rabbi, at the start of the ceremony, looked around the chapel and noted that there were at the very least 70 male attendees.

 He raised his hands for silence and made the following announcement: Good morning. As you know, I was not acquainted with the deceased and it is not my policy to make one of the universally applicable, impersonal, funeral sermon. Since there are so many people in attendance who assumedly knew the late Mr. Arbisfeld, I feel that it would be sincerer and more memorable, if one or more persons would come up to the podium and say a few pleasant words about him, then we can proceed to the traditional prayers for the dead and complete the funeral ceremony. The statement was followed by complete silence. The young reverend again repeated the statement and the request. Still silence. This was repeated once more until the inexperienced, young rabbi lost his composure and loudly declared: Look, this is simple, I did not know the deceased and all of you did. So, he threatened, “If no one comes up and says even one nice thing about the deceased, we will all continue to sit here and not complete the funeral ceremony!

About five minutes of silence ensued, before an elderly, gray haired gentleman, in the back of the room, slowly stood up and set out on an extremely halting amble before he reached the podium. Those close enough to hear, were able to note that, during his slow walk, the elderly man kept scratching his head, muttering the rabbi’s “even von nice ting” (trans. “one nice thing”), repeatedly. When he reached the podium, he slowly and haltingly turned to the large, interested audience, and declared, out loud: “Alright, von nice ting…. His brother vas worse!”

Nothing says it like humor!


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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