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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The classic of the Purim Torah genre

One of the best recent additions to the ever-growing canon of Purim Torah - far better than my original contribution this year - was written in 2000 by Immanuel Burton. It is a hilarious piece of scholarship.

The author writes:
In each and every year on the twenty-fifth day of December the Nazarine world celebrates Choggoh, which is the festival of the birth [Christmas], and many people who are not Nazarines also celebrate then. And there are many customs which people follow during Choggoh. Even though Choggoh is not a Jewish festival, the author wondered in his heart to work out and to know how the Mishnah would appear were this the case, and so the author therefore gathered the customs and other matters which celebrants of Choggoh are accustomed to in this pamphlet. The student has to realise that this pamphlet is presented in the style of "Purim Torah". However, the author has left it as an exercise to the student to find in the writings of the true Torah the sources of phrases and conjectures found in the pamphlet, and by this the student will be amused on Purim and will merit to study Torah at the same time. Anyone who does not consider a matter of jesting such as this an amusing matter - it is appropriate that he stop immediately.
Here's the first page of his Mishnah Choggoh - the Halachos of Christmas:


A rough translation of the part of the first two lines, with the commentary in parentheses:

The tree (Christmas tree) that is taller than twenty cubits: in the house, it is invalid (because people don't look up higher than twenty cubits and therefore the decoration at the top of the tree isn't visible) but in the marketplace it is permitted (it does not say it is kosher because [the outdoor tree] is not part of the day's obligations, but is only used to publicize [the holiday]. From here on the mishnah will only refer to the house-tree.) If [the tree] is not three hands-breadths high it is invalid (for it lacks importance.) Rabbi Noel allows a bonsai tree (even if it is less than three hands-breadths [high] because this is the way that it grows and it has importance...) but the Sages (there are three Sages) forbid it (for the tree must be able to be decorated and have presents [fitting] underneath.)

It is well worth the download.

UPDATE: For those who don't understand Hebrew, a similar project in English is shown here.
There are many contradictions between the two, which will need to be resolved by someone greater than I.