Culture

LOLCat, Shakespeare Abridged and Tehillim

This LOLCat Bible touches on something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. If anyone has seen the play The Great Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), then you understand how poking fun at a great work of art can be so educational. But this is also more insidious than simple entertainment: its aim is to make esoteric language accessible to the un-initiated. I think a great swath of American Jewish life could benefit hugely from this comedic approach.
Thus, for the longest time, I’ve wanted to create the Great Works of Judaism (Abridged). The LOLCat Bible is way more thorough than this intends to be. On its face, Judaism (Abridged) would be a series of short one-act skits to be produced by Hebrew school kids. But of course deeper than that, it’s a chance to explore what the meaning of the prayers are, rendered in so direct a way that it can only be funny.
So here goes the Hazti Kaddish (Abridged):

Chazzan: Oh dear God: You are big. Really big. And by big, I mean huge. You just gotta be damn near the biggest, most grandest, most hugest thing out there, and boy don’t we know it. I mean, you made it all, so you gotta be bigger! Right, folks? Amen.
Congregation: He is Big!
Chazzan: God, you are super-big and super-cool and we just think that’s downright awesome and righteous and knarly-rockin’-sweet. We just can’t say it enough. Everybody with me? Amen.

Blasphemy is illusive; I don’t think this counts. After all, we should all pray in both the words of our ancestors and in our own — if one believes the Old Man Upstairs* is for real, then surely street slang works just fine and the Old Man can recognize the sacred in a little humor. I personally won’t be able to say this in shul without chuckling a little after posting this. If kids (or us’n growed-all-ups) had to write out their prayers as they understood them, then maybe (a) they’d learn them more personally and (b) we might get insights with no fear into how the next generation will reinvent our tradition.
*By no means do I imply that the Infinite is male.

8 thoughts on “LOLCat, Shakespeare Abridged and Tehillim

  1. That reminds me of Sedra Scenes and Bible Scenes.
    http://www.amazon.com/Sedra-Scenes-Skits-Every-Portion/dp/0867050071
    http://www.amazon.com/Bible-Scenes-Stan-J-Beiner/dp/0867050225/ref=sr_1_3/104-4664291-8135153?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192686846&sr=1-3
    http://www.amazon.com/Class-Acts-Plays-Jewish-Settings/dp/0867050284/ref=pd_sim_b_shvl_title_3/104-4664291-8135153
    I disliked Bible Scenes as a student, but that was probably because I knew I could do hebrew text studay. My students love it. The Only catch is after each skit, I have to go through it with them and help them sort out the shtick from the torah. Otherwise they will grow up to tell their children that the two spies were detected in Jericho by dropping shekels…

  2. It’s probably worth pointing out that the Reduced Shakespeare Company followed up Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) with The Complete Works of God (abridged), their take on the Bible.

  3. If I start giggling during my next Kaddish Yatom, I think I know who to blame..
    Humor is a great teaching tool, but I’d venture to say that for it to work best, the student first needs a “serious” base of knowledge on which to build. Otherwise it’s no longer an educational parody but just a joke.
    On the other hand, if you’ve ever read Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, the calypsos of Bokonon make a good counter-example to what I’m saying. So perhaps it’s just about finding the right balance.
    http://bernd.wechner.info/Bokononism/

  4. Abridged Shakespeare has already DONE the works of God?? Hell, where do I get tickets?
    rebecca m, do your kids write Bible Scenes themselves? My idea was to have them study the text and create something original to themselves.

  5. we use the book, and then we discuss and then they create their own project, which varies by the class. They have done their own skits, as well as news articles and comics, and we’ll see what else.
    It’s not perfect– I’d rather them be more engaged with the actual text, but with limited time and very limited hebrew, this isn’t bad– they learn something, and it gets them thinking.
    I’d like to have them write their own based on the text later in the year, but that’ll be after we get ahold of a good translation of Tanach (can you tell I work for a very small school with no set building? 🙂 ) and practice finding chapter:verse, etc.

  6. hi, we love this brachah at the Teva Learning Center and were thinking about including it in our upcoming Siddur Companion. would this be ok/who should we say wrote it?

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