Friday, March 10, 2017

Purim Torah 5777: Jewsplaining

For whoever still comes by to read my very occasional posts, here's my contribution to Toronto Purim Torah 5777: The Torah's 618th mitzvah, Jewsplaining:

In Bamidbar 20:8, G-d instructs Moshe, “And you shall speak to the stone,” from which Rabbi Abba bar Eban derived a commandment to lecture the United Nations on behalf of G-d. (Eduyot 3:7) Rabbi Abba’s protégés expanded the mitzvah to include lecturing all ignorant people, and Rabba Caroline Glick expanded it further to include talking to actual rocks. (Shabbat, Perek Rabbi Elazar d’Milah) Sefer HaChinuch lists this as the Torah’s 618th mitzvah: Jewsplaining. Israelis prefer to call it Hasbara, meaning “condescension”.

Within this daily mitzvah, every Jew is obligated to seek out a hostile listener and explain the Middle East to him/her/it for at least eighteen minutes, without convincing him/her/it. Children may also be obligated, because Jewsplaining requires neither intelligence nor maturity, only a willingness to loudly repeat one-sided tropes like “Jordan is the actual Palestinian state” and “Israel invented oxygen, go boycott oxygen” until the other side draws a weapon or walks away.

One does not recite a blessing before Jewsplaining. Per Rashba (1:18), we do not recite a blessing for a mitzvah which depends on another party for its fulfillment; one example is tzedakah, since the intended recipient might decline. Regarding Jewsplaining, the mitzvah is fulfilled only if the listener remains deaf like a stone, and so one’s success depends on the listener being stubborn. Therefore, there is no blessing. [Note, though, that some authorities rule that the Jewsplainer fulfills her obligation so long as she thinks convincing the listener is impossible. Even if the listener changes his mind, it may be assumed that he was already uncertain, and the speaker’s role was only indirect grama.]

I would have written more, such as regarding the Karaites over at the New Israel Fund and their interpretation of this mitzvah, but there was no room in our publication...


  1. I still come to read your posts!

    If one shouts at the TV, computer screen or newspaper, does one fulfil the mitzvah? I suppose the question is whether "rock" means literally a rock or any big dumb object, such as a politician.

  2. Thanks for coming 'round, Daniel. And I think politicians do count.

  3. I'm still here too.