Earlier this week, Joe Black wrote about how he came to write a book of limericks for every Torah portion. His newest book, There Once Was a Man From Canaan: The Five Books of Limerick, is now available. He has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council’s Visiting Scribe series.
Our tradition teaches that each chapter, verse and even letter of the Torah has great power and significance. And yet, from a homiletic and pedagogic perspective, some parashot are easier to digest and teach than others. We recently had a shabbaton at our synagogue for families who had children that were entering into the process of becoming B’nai Mitzvah. At this particular event, each upcoming Bar Mitzvah boy and Bat Mitzvah girl were assigned the Torah portion for their particular Shabbat. Once they received their date and parasha, each family was given an opportunity to glance over the chapters of Torah that would be read at their service. They were then given an assignment to share with the rest of the families and students a few key points of their parasha.
Those who were assigned narratives from Genesis and Exodus had no problem understanding their Torah portions. The student who received parashat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1 – 17:27) for example – where God tells Abram to leave all that he knows and travel to a new land that God would show him – had an easy time explaining their text. Others, however, found it more difficult. The child who received Tazria Metzora (Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33) – which deals with leprosy, skin afflictions and sexual organ malfunctions – had a more restrained level of excitement.
Here’s where a good Torah Limerick can come in handy:
When studying Parshat Metzora
You learn to never ignore… a
Or painful condition
That’s explained in detail in the Torah.
Some portions are simply drier than others. For example, Tzav (Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36) contains myriad details about the Ordination of Aaron and his sons and how the Priests who officiated in the Temple service must dress. Once again – a Torah Limerick to the rescue:
Aaron and sons are ordained
Their job is carefully explained
It’s oily and bloody
Messy and muddy
No wonder their robes get all stained!
There’s no reason that studying Torah can’t be both fun and meaningful. Torah Limericks are one more way to inspire and engage everyone.
Joe Black serves as Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Denver, CO. He also is an author of children’s books and a guitarist/singer-songwriter of original Jewish music. For more information about Rabbi Black, go to www.emanueldenver.org/, www.rabbijoeblack.com or www.the5booksofLimerick.com