The Books of Stewart and Colbert?
Are the chairs of Stewart and Colbert modeled on the seat of prophecy that begins with Moses? Were the Hebrew prophets stand up guys? Why does the mimicry and sarcasm of the modern comedic prophet make more sense of the raw news than the straight reporting of the networks?
What is a Rabbi to make of all of this? I confess I watch the comedic version of the news and skip the straight reporting. Because of this I suggest one of my most radical innovations; a stand up comedy routine rather than the traditional Bar/t Mitzvah speech. I am not sure all the prophets were comedians, (think of Mr. Doom and Gloom Jeremiah) , but I am sure a sense of humor is required for adulthood. If you cannot tell a joke you are not Jewish and have no right of passage.
A Muse-ing on Amus(e)ing
Whatever makes you think is a-muse-ing. A Rabbi is a master reader who teaches others how to read and question. One never leaves spiritual adolescence if they do not master the art of questioning. The prophets favor the rhetorical question, can you blame them? They had all the answers, which are relevant when one knows the questions:
Were Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel real?
Are fictional characters real?
What about Noah and his Ark?
Is Abraham a historical character?
What color were his eyes?
Why are all biblical characters sketched, not painted?
What were they thinking?
Was Abraham really going to sacrifice his son?
Was this all just a bad joke?
Does this make Woody Allen a prophet?
Is the moral not to sacrifice our children?
Why do the overly serious seem ever ready to sacrifice?
To war? To an ideal? To any idol?
Since the prophet gets the final word in Judaism what do we the people learn from inspiration and humor?
Does the Adam and Eve story take a ribbing?
If you bring me a piece of Noah’s Ark
Do I need to prove it is not?
In the comedy version of Genesis 22
Isaac is strapped into an electric chair
and the bass voice booms once again that all life is tragedy,
so why prolong the agony?
Will you finally get the message?
When the prophet puts his mouth upon our mouth, his eyes upon our eyes, and his hands upon our hands, will we be reborn like the son of the Shunammite?
Will we all be Jonah’s then, resurrected from the belly of Leviathan?
For me prophecy is the art of comic, and cosmic, sympathy. Stewart and Colbert amuse because they acknowledge everyone’s persistent failures and inability to live up to their ideals. We are all pathetic creatures, and we hear the voice of God when we are capable of feeling the suffering of others. Rabbi Heschel teaches that this phenomenon , sympathy, is the key to the psychological understanding of the prophets.
For many the prophets claim to divine inspiration is the real joke.
I honor, as inspired, any comic that makes me think or laugh.
A smile can be an act of faith, and a comedian a prophet.