By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
As of this writing, it has about 170,000 hits on YouTube. It was uploaded in February of 2013 and it has already spawned a sequel. Out of 1000 people who watched it and rated it, it has an eleven percent disapproval rating. None of the comments are pareve – either the listener is bowled over or deeply offended and characterizes it as a grave Chillul Hashem.
What is the Aveirah song? What is it’s appeal? What has been the reaction to it? And what do Torah sources have to say about the matter?
The Aveirah song is either a satire or parody that pokes fun at, well – something. The disclaimer at the end of the video claims that it pokes fun at those who perform sins. Its detractors claim that while this is what the producers claim that this is what it does, in reality it just parodies contemporary Orthodox culture, and has no redeeming spiritual benefit whatsoever. Some even believe that it makes light of Aveiros – sins by equating serious violations with relatively harmless things, and is thus an attack on the Torah.
As a background, the parody was produced by a very worthy Yeshiva in Israel that works with American high school graduates and not only gets them into learning, but catapults these young men into some very serious Torah growth. Many of their graduates go on to the most prestigious Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel. The singer pronounces the lyrics with a Chasidic accent, and they are set to a modern rap tune. To get a feel for it, some of the lyrics are below.
I eat a gid hanasheh every bite,
I put on my left shoe before my right,
You think I don’t do aveiros? Don’t even wonder,
I never make a brucheh when I hear the thunder,
My wife wears a sheitel, not a tichel,
I eat the herring without the kichel,
I drink every night ad delo yudeh,
I never sing zemiros at the shabbos sudeh,
I hang around with a goyishe oilem,
I never do bikur cholim,
Yeah I hang out with goyim vus iz nisht gemalet,
I don’t put on my paper, beis samech daled.
I go to shul and I’m just chillin,
I only put on one pair of tefillin,
I never cry when I go to levayos,
I eat the matzah, less than a kezayis,
I don’t even care about chulev stam,
I don’t even like be’er mayim chayim,
I go to the games with Derek Jeter,
I always get married during sefira,
I do aveiros, oid ve’oid,
I never go on trips on chol hamo’ed,
I never daven tefillah be’tzibur,
I listen to the tapes, from Justin Bieber.
I always say lashon hara,
All my friends do avodah zara,
I’m such a tzioni, I sing Hatikva,
I don’t even pay when I use the mikva,
I changed my name to Sam, from Shmuel,
I don’t even like Eretz Yisrooel,
I don’t ask for a shidduch when I go to Amukah,
I give more than a choimesh to tzedukeh,
I use the Internet for the news,
I do birkas kohanim with my shoes.
I do shnayim mikra without the targum,
When I see an Amaleiki I would never harg him,
I’m the biggest ba’al aveiros in the velt,
I never give my kids any chanuka gelt,
My esrog is always full of black dots,
I always make a brucheh when I wash urchatz,
I eat in the sukkah on Sh’mini Atzeres,
I toivel in the mikvah holding a sheretz,
By Haman’s name I always cheer,
By shulem zuchers I only drink root beer,
By the Purim shpiel I never laugh,
For afikomen I use the smaller half,
I only drink gimmel koises,
I eat tons of marror without charoises,
I hope you like and I hope you enjoy,
This song about a yid who thinks he’s a goy.
Some teachers of Torah have, as one can imagine, blown a gut. Others have taken a more nuanced view. And yet others have embraced it.
Chazal and the Torah take a very negative and dim view of what is known by the term “Laitzanus.” We find that Korach is identified with Laitzanus (see Rashi 16:19). Dovid HaMelech in the very first psalm states that praised is the person who has not sat in the company of Leitzanim. It undermines intelligent thought, according to Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei 14:6 (see Ibn Ezra there). Clearly, it is a source of much evil.
Yet, perhaps it may be suggested that the word “Laitzanus” has numerous connotations in the Hebrew, but not necessarily the same ones in another language. Perhaps the pejorative shades of meaning of the word are limited to scoffing and mockery, but there may be another subtle meaning that might not be so negative. Is it conceivable that satire, when not used mockingly – may not necessarily carry with it the darker implications of the word?
Let’s look at some other Chazal’s and commentaries.
Perhaps the first satirical remark we find in the Torah are the sarcastic words that the nation of Israel made toward Moshe Rabbeinu when faced with the anxiety of impending doom. They said (Shmos 14:11), “Are there no graves in Egypt that you brought us here to die?”
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (Otzros Rav Hirsch p. 322) zt”l discusses this verse and come to the conclusion that it is this very thought that the Torah is teaching us that there are times of stress when a sense of humor is necessary in order to deal with the tension and stress. He describes humor as a unique facet of Shaivet Yaakov, a byproduct of their bright intellect. He also highlights the idea that we do not find that Klal Yisroel were taken to task for this expression of sarcasm – “Are there no graves in Egypt..”
One can argue with Rav Hirsch and say that the Avos Drav Nosson (chapter nine) states clearly that it was wrong! Rav Hirsch would have responded that there, it is the content that Chazal disapprove of, but not the sarcastic form itself. In other words, Chazal had no problem with the form – just the content.
The Gemorah in Psachim (117a) relates that humor, in proper measure, is a good thing as it brightens the soul and endows a person with agility and memory. The Tiferes Yisroel comments on this, citing the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 92:1), “There is no person without Yisurin – troubles.” Jest and joking allows a person to forget his troubles.
The Gemorah in Shabbos (30b) relates that Rabbah would begin each lecture with humor, and the gathered Rabbis would laugh. Ultimately, he would become serious and teach effectively.
The production itself references a Gemorah in Megillah (25b) which states that all forms of leitzanus [read parody] are forbidden except for those that attack Avodah Zarah. The Meforshim explain that the exception extends to Kfirah and useless and banalities of the world around us.
The greatest of our Rabbis used parody and wit in everyday conversation. A Maskil once approached the Holy Malbim and asked him a question designed to place Rabbis in a bad light. The Maskil said that it is known that when a dog approaches, it is safest to remain seated. It is also know that when a Rabbi approaches one must stand. “Rabbi,” he asked, “What should a person do when he is approached both by a Rabbi and a dog?”
The Malbim responded, “An excellent question. We know that the Talmud teaches us that when an answer is not clear we apply the dictum, “Pok chazee mai amah d’bar – Go out and see how the nation conducts itself..” So, let us do just that – you and I will go out and see what the nation does when we both approach..”
So what is the conclusion? Everything that Hashem has placed in this world has a time and place. Things can be used beneficially, and they can also cause extensive harm. Each individual must take this into account for himself or herself. If one sees that excess humor takes one away from learning and spiritual growth – then that person should take the extra effort to learn a spiritually uplifting Sefer or attend such a shiur. The humor should generally not take the form of scoffing and excessive mockery. On the other hand, life can sometimes get too serious and a break is uplifting. Unfortunately, some people do not understand that. This is not to say that one may mock Torah, heaven forbid.
The Midrash in Koheles Rabbah 3:4:4 asks how could it be that Shlomo HaMelech in discussing a period of mourning explains that there is a time to rejoice? The Midrash answers that after a period of mourning one must attend joyous occasions and embrace life once again.
During the period of Chanukah, there is a special obligation to rejoice (See Mishna Brurah 529:19) – even to one who is engaged in acts of self-denial in order to do Teshuvah. It is cited in the sefer Ohr Yisroel (compiled by Rav Yitzchok Blazer zt”l a leading student of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter zt”l) that on Chanukah one even refrains from any form of sad news whatsoever because of the need for Simcha and to fulfill this special obligation.
Final thoughts? If one feels that it mocks Torah, one should not listen to it. This author feels that while the “Aveiros” are all grouped together, this was not the authorial intent. The author’s intent was to parody Jewish society and not Chas v’Shalom Torah. If one’s yiras shamayim will be affected negatively by it, then of course one should avoid it.
May everyone have a freilechin and spiritually growing Chanukah!