This classic old joke is due for an update

This classic old joke is due for an update

It’s 2024, and one of the oldest, most famous Jewish jokes is due for an update.

I am referring to this one: How do you summarize all the Jewish holidays in one sentence? “They tried to kill us; they failed; let’s eat!’

So here is the updated 2024 version: they are still trying to kill us, they are going to fail, let’s eat!

I wish this was a joke. Before October 7 and its aftermath, so many of us wanted to believe that antisemitism was something that belonged in the history books. We wanted to believe that in a world that has become so sensitive to the plights of marginalized groups, in a society that seemed to be intolerant of microaggressions, antisemitism is going to be gone forever.

Now we now know better. We know that Jew hatred was lurking underneath the surface, waiting for the right moment to rear its ugly head.

With this newfound insight, it’s time to update that old classic Jewish joke. Instead of using past tense (“they tried to kill us”), let’s use present and future tense. They are still trying to kill us. Once again, they will fail.

And what about the “let’s eat” part? Oh, don’t touch that! No one will stop the Jews from eating!

Seriously, though, no one will stop us from celebrating. We will be prouder than ever to celebrate our Jewish holiday and Jewish identity. Am Yisrael Chai!

The story of Purim is such a classic example of “they tried to kill us.” And contrary to other Jew-haters before him who tried to pretend that they hated the Jews for specific reasons, Haman was quite clear that he hated us because we are Jews, and what he wanted was a complete genocide of Jews everywhere.

Of course, it’s easy to hate Haman for coming up with his evil plan, but he had a co-accomplice: King Achashverosh, who didn’t need too much convincing to let Haman fulfill his wicked dreams.

The Talmud compares Haman and Achashverosh to the following parable:

“Two individuals, one had a mound in the middle of his field and the other had a ditch… The owner of the ditch said: Who will give me this mound? I am willing to pay for it. The owner of the mound said: Who will give me this ditch? I am willing to pay.

“One day, they met one another. The owner of the ditch said to the owner of the mound: Sell me your mound. And the mound’s owner replied: Take it for free!”

The rebbe points out that this parable talks about two types of antisemitism. One is overt and easy to identify, such as Haman’s. The other one is covert; it shows up in indifference to Jewish suffering.

Achashverosh was of the latter kind. As the metaphoric owner of the mound, he wasn’t actively trying to get rid of the Jews — but he was more than happy when someone else offered to do the job.

But don’t let this story sour your mood, because we all know the happy ending. Every year on Purim, we celebrate G-d’s miracles by saving us from hatred and indifference alike.

This Purim, while the shadow of antisemitism continues to loom in various forms, we can remind ourselves of the wisdom of that old joke. The Purim story reminds us how even when the situation seemed dire, G-d had turned everything around.

So, in addition to all the wonderful mitzvot of the day (reading the Megillah, sending Mishloach Manot — gifts of food — to others, and giving charity to the poor), let’s increase our celebration. Let’s toast a Lechaim for all of our brothers and sisters in Israel and everywhere; let’s reaffirm our strong faith and belief that the Jewish people will continue to flourish. Amen.

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack and an editorial member of He looks forward to your thoughts and comments at

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