Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Avoda Zara: Perek Aleph לפני אידיהם

A Goy’s festival is called “Aid”
And three days before you can’t trade
Borrow, lend, buy or sell
Lest the Goyim feel well–
(Everybody feels well when they’re paid.)

The Holy One someday will place
His Torah out in public space
“All who learned it, come take
Your reward, for My sake.”
All the nations will think it’s a race.

First to come forward is Rome
Who made the whole wide world their home
“We built bathhouses, bridges
O’er perilous ridges.”
Said God: “Did you study my tome?”

‘Twas Persians who stepped forward next
Though Rome’s fate had left them perplexed.
“We built bridges and cities
Waged wars by committee.”
Said God: “No!” And left them quite vexed.

God took Creation and said:
I am holding this over your head
If you study, you’ll gain
If not, chaos will reign
Without Torah, the planet is dead.

Said the nations to God: “Please allot
One commandment. We’ll keep it or rot.”
Sukkah! So they constructed
But then self-destructed
By kicking. “Dear God, it’s too hot!”

Twelve hours make up God’s day
Three he learns, three he judges away
And in spite of misdeed
The whole world still He feeds,
Then Leviathan sits down to play.

“Rav Safra knows all – he’s first rate,”
So Abahu to Romans would prate.
But when put to the test
He was far from the best–
“He’s from Babel, their Torah’s not great.”

God gets angry one minute each day:
When the coxcomb turns white, you should pray
For your foes quick to die
Rabbi Joshua tried
But he slept late, and said, “Not this way.”

There are four types regarded as dead:
One who’s blind with no eyes in his head,
One so poor he is thin
One with leprosy skin,
One with no sons to live in his stead.

Learning Torah should leave you quite broke
You should feel like an ox in a yoke
Like an ass with a load
As you set down the road
(Better metaphors could be invoked.)

Rebbe received once some cash
From a Min at his festival bash.
“I am stuck either way:
If I take it, he’ll pray
But he’ll hate if I throw it away.”

A woman may not remove hair
From her body on Moed. We care
That she ought not feel pain
On chag. Still, don’t refrain
If she’s happier without it there.

When Adam first saw the sun set
He began both to weep and to fret:
“I have sinned, I will rot
And this world’s gone to pot.”
Then the sun rose, averting that threat.

The Romans were fighting the Greeks
And losing, for quite a few weeks.
‘Til they joined with the Jews
Whom God wouldn’t let lose
This then led to a few winning streaks.

Antoninus to Rebbe would sneak
In a tunnel each day of the week.
He would keep Rebbe fed
He would lift him to bed
And plead: “Help, it’s the next world I seek.”

Onkeles converted. This Jew
Was wanted. So Rome sent a crew
Of soldiers to drag
Him to Rome, but they lagged
Because Onkeles converted them too!

There’s a thorn in my foot! Ouch and ow!
There’s an idol here. Am I allowed
To bend down to pick
Out the thorn? Though I’m quick,
You might think to the idol I’ve bowed.

A high priest may not leave this land
That is, Israel. Though we lift the ban
If he’s leaving to head
To a teacher, or wed
Him a wife who lives on foreign sand.

You can buy market slaves from a Goy
Thus to bring them to Torah, with joy—
And also a cow
Though I do not know how
You’d convert cows to good Jewish boys.

This here tractate of Talmud was turned
To by Abraham, who was concerned
With gods. But it took
Him much longer, this book—
He had 400 chapters to learn!

A non-Jew should not be the teacher
Of our boys; for he may play the preacher.
Or bring into class
A big god made of brass
We Jews don’t like these decorative features.

Rabbi Eliezer was taken
As heretic. He was quite shaken:
He said: “What did I do?
I am just a poor Jew!”
Said the Roman: It seems I’m mistaken.

Ulla would come home and kiss
The soft hands of his beautiful sis
And others attest
Not her hands, but her breast–
Tell us sages, was Ulla remiss?

This story is rather obscene
But Rabbi Elazar had been
To every last whore
Then he heard of one more
On his way, though, the wind intervened.

Two sages were walking; they came
To a fork in the road. One said: “Dames!”
The other said worse—
“Idols”—They chose the first
But the harlots retreated in shame.

Chanina ben Teradion had
A daughter who did something bad:
She walked daintily
So the Romans would see
And admire, which troubled her dad.

Chanina ben Teradion was burned
With the Torah scroll he loved to learn.
As the parchment consumed
Still the black letters bloomed
In the world to come his place was earned.

Rabbi Meir, at behest of his wife
Went to save his poor wife sister’s life
She’d been locked up as whore
He got her out the door
But the Romans pursued him in strife.

Theaters and circuses? No!
These are places where Jews may not go!
Still you can’t fall asleep
Though you make not a peep
The whole point is through Torah to grow.

Words of Torah must oft be repeated
And don’t think that you’ve been defeated
If you don’t understand
That is part of the plan
You will get more the more you’ve completed.

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, it’s told
Stood on Temple Mount, there to behold
A beautiful dame,
Not a Jew. He exclaimed:
O my Lord, Your works are manifold!

The Angel of Death is all eyes
Any sick person whom he espies
He will stand by her side
Til the person has cried
Then he spits in her mouth, and she dies.

In Israel, you can’t sell your home
To a non-Jew. Instead let them roam.
This isn’t their place
So we grant them no space
(You’re aghast? Don’t blame me. Check the tome.)

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