Q: Noah's ark was built in three stories, and the top stories had a window to let light in. But how did they get light to the bottom two stories?
A: They used floodlights.
You'll find these and other such riddles on Rabbi Amy R. Scheinerman's home page, at http://ezra.mts.jhu.edu/ ~rabbiars/humor/riddles.html.
OK, Purim is just a few weeks away and to get in the mood, it's time for my annual look at Jewish humor on the Internet. But first, a disclaimer. I try to recommend sites that entertain, but on the Internet you never really know what you're going to come across. So be warned.
The online Jewish Magazine includes a hefty supply of jokes in every issue, at www.jewishmag.com. A sample:
"Harry was a good and pious man who was greeted by God himself after he passed away. God asked him if he was hungry and they shared a can of tuna. Meanwhile, Harry noticed that way down in the other place, people were feasting on caviar, champagne, lamb, truffles and brandy. After this happened a couple of times Harry asked why all he gets is tuna. 'To be honest, Harry.' God said, 'for two people, it doesn't pay to cook.'" That story is at www.jewishmag.com/25mag/ humor/humor.htm.
One of the best experts in why Jews have embraced humor is Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of "Jewish Humor: What the Best Jokes Say About the Jews," reviewed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, at www.sun-sentinel.com/freetime/daily/detail/0,1136,6500000000081667,00.html. In his book Rabbi Telushkin tells this joke:
"A group of retirees meets in a Tel Aviv coffeehouse to discuss the world's many problems. One of them shocks his friends by announcing: 'I'm an optimist.' Another asks: 'Then why do you look so worried?' Answer: 'You think it's easy to be an optimist.'"
Telushkin explains: "Jews hold a hope against hope, a realization that life is filled with responsibility, and that we should laugh…Jews are optimists with worried faces."
Judaism has valued humor for centuries. Telushkin relates a talmudic story about Elijah visiting a marketplace. A rabbi, recognizing the prophet, asks who is destined for the life to come. Sure enough, Elijah points out two jesters. "There's a holy power to humor," Telushkin says. "It's healing. It can keep us from becoming fanatics. It makes us recognize imperfections. And when something bad happens, humor keeps us from feeling that the bad is the only reality."
With so many incredible Jewish comedians out there, whom would you start with if you wanted to honor them? How about Alan King and Carl Reiner? The National Foundation for Jewish Culture presented its first award to actor, comedian, boxer, Catskills tummler Alan King. And its second award went to Carl Reiner, award-winning writer, director, performer and half of the "2,000 Year Old Man" duo.
At the Web site — www.15minutesmagazine.com/archives/Issue%2008/national_foundation.htm — you can read the story about the award presentation. Then listen to generous excerpts of the classic skits with Reiner as Mel Brooks shares his millennial memories at www.haruth.com/JhumorListenG.html: "I have over 42,000 children. And not one comes to visit me."
After that, take in a charming interview with Reiner at Virtual Jerusalem radio, www.vjradio.com/ luminary.htm, where he reminisces about his Jewish roots, his early years and his years in show biz.
Speaking of Reiner, William Swislow argues that despite its cast, Reiner's "Dick Van Dyke Show" was one of the most Jewish sitcoms TV had seen until Seinfeld. The article is at www.interestingideas.com/ii/rob.htm.
If you crave more Jewish humor, try the Mishmash Jewish Humor Collection, at http://members.tripod.com/~jewishjokes, and visit what is probably the best (and best-named) site around — Harry Leichter's Large Collection of Clean Jewish Humor, at www.haruth.com/jhumorlink.htm.
Do you have a joke to share or would you like to get a regular supply in your mail box? Subscribe to an e-mail list, such as www.jhumor.com/newsletter.php3, and the jokes will be delivered to you on a regular basis. Or you can take you chance on a random joke from jHumor.com at www.jhumor.com/ rand.php3. Every time you click on that link, a different joke will be appear. The jokes that I looked at seemed OK, but remember, you never know what will turn up on your screen.