Off the Pulpit

Laughter and Love

In years of interviewing Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, a few patterns have recurred. One of the questions I ask is — if your best friend were sitting here, what would she or he say about you? And by far the most common single answer, surprisingly, is, “I’m funny.”

Now we have to assume that not every 13 year old is a budding Seinfeld. But the deeper implication of that answer is that laughter is often the glue that binds people together, and shows them they share a sensibility. It is a genuine indication of friendship when people laugh about the same things.

The poet W.H. Auden once said, “Among those whom I like or admire I can find no common quality; but among those I love, I can — all of them make me laugh.”

The Jewish people have developed a talent for humor over centuries of coping with a wide variety of experiences. It is not only a release of pressure, but it also has bound communities together. When we laugh, anger dissipates and joy increases. From childhood onward, we treasure those who make us laugh.