Parshat Zachor(Deuteronomy 25:17-19)
Making Fun Isn't Funny
Purim is the number one fun day in the Jewish calendar. People dress in costumes, have get-togethers with friends and family full of good music and the best of food and drink. It's a day of great joy and having a great time, thanking God for saving us from extermination. Yet there's one form of joking that has no place on Purim - or any other day. That is, joking in a way that embarrasses someone or hurts his feelings. On Purim - and everyday - a joke is only truly funny if it makes no one feel bad.
In our story, a kid discovers that hurting isn't funny.
JOKE'S ON HIM
Kenny had nearly successfully navigated the icy sidewalk on his way to school when his feet slipped out from under him, sending him sprawling and the stuff he was carrying shooting out in all directions. After picking himself up and gathering his things, he finally made it to the schoolyard. He'd hardly gotten through the gate when the laughing voice of his classmate, Rich, rang out.
"Thanks for the great shot!" the kid said.
"What do you mean?" Kenny asked, rubbing his hip, still sore from the fall.
"I was walking ahead of you and had just turned around to take a video of that monster snowman on the corner, when your slip, stumble and tumble stole the show."
"What show? You mean you filmed me falling?"
"Yup, and in living color."
"Oh, no - how embarrassing! You're not going to show it to anyone, are you?"
Rich nodded his head. "Why not? It's hilarious - especially the little yelp you made when you started to slip."
"No, please ... don't!" Kenny pleaded. "Just erase it, okay?"
"Oh, come on," Rich waved him off. "What's the big deal? Can't you take a joke? It's really funny, and besides - I already passed it on." He pointed to a group of kids holding a camera and laughing wildly.
"You jerk!" Kenny yelled out, running at him. But Rich dodged the smaller boy's charge and skipped playfully toward the guffawing group, Kenny on his heels.
"Hey guys - here's a kid who can't take a joke." He pointed at the red-faced boy. "That video's a riot, right?"
"You bet it is! Insanely funny!" Ron squealed. Rich shot Kenny an 'I told you so' look.
"Yeah," Dave added, "especially the part when you drop your pick inside the guitar and almost burst into tears when you keep shaking it but you can't get it out!" The group of guys cracked up.
Pick?...guitar? Rich thought, nervously. "Hey, what are you talking about?" Rich asked them.
"This video of you trying to sing and play guitar - it's an absolute riot! Talk about less-than-zero talent! But what does that have to do with Kenny?"
Rich felt his face flush hot as he gulped. He was sure he'd erased the time he taped himself practicing during those disastrous music lessons he once took.
"Um, right..." he said, trying not to show how mortified he was. "Show's over now, okay?" He tried to pull the camera away.
"Why?" Ron asked, backing out of his reach. "Mark just ran over to get some more kids to watch the second showing. You really know how to get guys laughing!"
"Too bad!" Rich said, finally managing to wrest the camera out of the kid's hand.
"No talent! ... Can't take a joke! ... No talent! ... Can't take a joke!..."
Rich could hear the kids laughingly taunt as he dashed around the corner of the school building to escape his shame.
He quickly erased that terrible video of himself ... then ... pausing, erased Kenny's tumble, his sister's embarrassing phone conversation and all the other 'funny' things he'd videoed that he now realized were not very funny at all.
Q. How did Rich feel at first about showing people a video of Kenny's fall?
A. He thought it was funny, even though if made Kenny feel embarrassed.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized that things that hurt people's feeling weren't really funny.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Rich learned that day?
A. He'd felt that getting a laugh was more important than how it would make the butt of that laughter feel, but when things turned around and the 'joke' was on him, he realized that humor should not come at the expense of hurting.
Q. Do you think people should be expected to 'take a joke' and not get upset when teased or embarrassed?
A. Sometimes people can truly 'laugh it off' and not care when they're teased. However we should never assume that's the case and should always try to avoid making 'jokes' at another's expense.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think everything that makes us laugh is funny?
A. Laughter, when used the right way is a great thing. But there are times when laughter is cruel and has nothing to do with fun. There are horrible pictures from the Holocaust of cruel people laughing while others are humiliated and tortured. Something is only truly funny when it is also funny to the one it's happening to.
Q. Why do you think people laugh when they see others mess up?
A. Part of it is a nervous reaction of 'I'm glad that's not happening to me.' And part of it is, unfortunately, conditioning people have received from being exposed to irresponsible media and 'entertainment' that has taught us to laugh when we should really care.