Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Niddah, Perek Aleph

“You must start from the time you see blood.”
Said Hillel: “That date is a dud.”
With a regular check
(Quite a pain in the neck)
You can measure. Or my name is mud.

This mikvah is no longer full
But when was it kosher until?
And that pot that you dunked
Better if it had sunk?
Said both Hillel and Shammai: “That’s bull!”

In an alley a lizard was found
There should not be such creatures around!
Shall we say it’s the same
As the blood in a dame
But it’s natural that such blood abounds!

Shammai says “Retroactive? No need
To forsake procreation.” Indeed.
And to Hillel he said
“Israel’s daughters, once wed
Should be often—quite often—with seed.”

Just before and just after the sex
The couple performs body checks.
It is never in vain
There could yet be a stain
Says one rabbi. Ketina objects.

When dressed in a cloak one could touch
A lizard, a snake, or some such.
We know that for sure
This would make you impure
But what of the cloak that you clutch?

Rabban Gamliel’s servant would break
After each loaf of Truma she baked
To check for a stain
Such an act would detain
Her. But she understood what’s at stake.

Rabban Gamliel’s servant would steal
A few moments each time she would seal
A bottle of wine
To check if ‘twas time.
This made winemaking quite an ordeal!

Eliezer is right. But decide
Not as he does, and don’t take his side.
And why not? He’s a groupie
Of Shammai, who’s loopy.
Rule like him just after he’s died.

There are three kinds of virgins: A lass
Who has never had sex. (This will pass.)
And a land that’s untilled
And a sycamore still
Not permitted to eat from, alas.

An old woman starts from the time
That she sees blood. She’s not in her prime.
What constitutes old?
If her friends are so bold
As to “Wow, she is old” freely chime.

If you menstruate each time you jump,
That is many a big bloody thump
We can know in advance
We can tell you: Don’t prance
It is better to sit on your rump.

Rabbi Meir says if you don’t bleed
On a regular basis, we need
To divorce you forthwith
Says Hanina: A myth!
Though it’s bad for her husband indeed.

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Hullin, Prakim 2-3


Rabbi Yohanan was interrogated:
Just how were the birdies created?
On land or on sea?
In between them, said he
Citing verses his students debated.

A menstruant woman was raped
She was dunked when she made her escape
May she sleep with her spouse
May she eat in his house
Teruma; or must we say: Hold that grape!

Shchita is done with one slice
It’s done quickly, and must be precise
Don’t drop the knife
Ere the animal’s life
Has been taken. That will not suffice.

You slaughter a beast and the blood
Lands on pumpkins of Teruma – oh crud!
Can the pumpkins now be
Made impure? Woe is me
Hence aim not for the plants but the mud.

If an animal’s soon gonna die
And you shecht it; or maybe you try.
You must check it was still
Live and well ere you spilled
Its blood. Do its limbs jerk, all awry?

If you inherit a slave — one or two
But you don’t want slaves, what should you do?
Can you then de-accession
Them from your possession
Say: Dad gave me slaves, but I’m through!

Never shecht into the sea
If you’re on a boat, then hopefully
You can shecht off the side
Of the boat as you ride
Let the blood drip down slow, steadily.

אלו טרפות

These are the Treyfot: The brain
Has been punctured within the membrane
Or the skeleton broke
Or the windpipe got poked
Or the wolf trampled, leaving it slain.

If an animal’s hechshered by you
Can you eat it? It seems wrong to do.
For you might be tempted
To have it exempted
From treyfness although it’s not true.

Rabbi Elazar always refused
Any gifts he was sent. And he’d choose
Not to go to a feast
When invited. At least
He’d explain: It’s my life I would lose!

Rabbi Zeyra said: I will not take
Any presents. But if my friends bake
And invite me to eat
Their delectable treats
I’ll accept. It’s for my honor’s sake.

Roman soldiers came into the town
So two rabbis ran, fleeing the crown.
And while fleeing they taught
Rabbi Zeyra: One ought
Check the place where the liver is bound.

Natan HaBavli related:
This poor woman I met – she seemed fated
To lose every son
When Brit Milah was done
So I said: Make your next bris belated.

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masekhet Hullin (Perek 1)

הכל שוחטין
(Perek Aleph)

All are permitted to shecht
(So long as they’re part of the sect)
Unless they’re the kind
Who are deaf-mute or blind
Or so short that they can’t reach the neck.

Elijah was fed by the crows
Or so the Tanakh’s story goes
But were those crows birds?
What to make of that word?
They were two men named “crow,” we suppose.

There are people who act more like beasts
Do we let them bring sacrifice feasts?
Even people who choose
Sin cannot be refused
By the Temple’s officiates, priests.

Rabban Gamliel said: Don’t condone
Those Samaritans. Don’t eat their bones.
All they shecht is forbidden
For though it’s kept hidden,
They worship a dove carved in stone.

Jewish women should not grind their wheat
With impure commonfolk who might cheat.
Lest the commoner say,
Yum, so tasty today—
You should sample my flour – come eat!

If your mother in law can’t be trusted
Then your quantities must be adjusted:
That is, tithes you must take
From whatever she bakes.
She is sly, and won’t ever get busted.

Pinchas ben Yair, one fine day,
To redeem captives set on his way.
He said: Stream, you must split!
But the stream had a fit.
Til he threatened, and made it obey.

Pinchnas then came to an inn
With his donkey, a beast loath to sin.
They fed oats to the ass
Who refused the repast
“Were your oats tithed?” asked Pinchas, chagrined.

Rabi kept most unorthodox pets:
He had white mules (as bad as it gets)
Pinchas knew they kicked hard
Hence he wanted them barred
When invited, he sent his regrets.

A woman crawled under the seat
Of Hanina to sweep by his feet
To get dust for dark arts
Said Hanina: Too smart
Is our God. All your charms He’ll defeat.

A scholar of Torah must learn
These three subjects, each one in its turn:
How to slaughter, and write,
And to circumcise; quite
A whole lot for a sage to discern.

If you chance on a beast that’s been shechted,
Though it looks kosher once you’ve inspected,
You did not watch the slaughter
When blood flowed like water
So don’t eat — the butcher’s suspected.

If you throw a sharp knife towards a wall
And it chances to shecht while mid-fall.
Although not intended
A beast’s life is ended
But not by correct protocol.

Does a little kid act with intention
Can he act with full grown-up attention
If he carves out a fruit
To make storage for dirt
Do we render “Tamey” his invention?

Goyim abroad don’t know much—
Though idolatrous objects they clutch
It’s more just a fad
For the son acts like dad
Avodah Zara? Well, just a touch.

You can shecht in the night or if blind
(Though the right spot might be hard to find.)
You can shecht on a ship,
On a roof (but don’t trip)
Just make sure you have presence of mind.

Abraham took up the knife
(Unbeknownst to poor Sarah, his wife)
Must the knife be detached
When the deed is dispatched
Zealous Abe almost took Yitzchak’s life!

In the desert the Jews had no rules
They could slaughter whatever they’d choose
When they entered the Land
Matters got out of hand
God said: Do shechita right please, you fools!

Bar Hinana said: I can’t trust
This young butcher. I’ll make him go bust.
But the guy must be able
To put food on his table
Please say what I did was unjust!

Mugremet is not a good cut
If you shecht that way, you’re in a rut.
Know the right place to slice
For you can’t do it twice
Aim for windpipe, and not for the gut.

In five years’ time you learn your trade
After five years you work without aid
If you didn’t quite master
Don’t try working faster
It’s time to give up, I’m afraid.

At age 80, Hanina could stand
On one foot, put on shoes with his hand
He was spry for his age
‘Cause his mom at one stage
Used to bathe him in oil. How grand!

If yom tov’s on Friday, you asked,
Is havdala said once chag has passed.
To teach: “Now it’s Shabbat
Can you cook? You cannot”–
No havdala. Instead, shofar blast!

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Zevachim, chapters 1-2

Perek Aleph: כל הזבחים שנזבחו שלא לשמן

An off’ring must be sacrificed
For that off’ring. You must be precise.
You can’t bring a cow
And think about how
It’s a Pesach lamb. That won’t suffice.

Stan, you happen to be walking by
In a market, and hear someone cry
“It’s a Get for Joanne
And for her husband Stan.”
Though the name’s right, it doesn’t apply.

An oven for food that you bake
Is infested! Inside there’s a snake!
If the oven is split
Can you salvage the bit
In the non-snake part? Redo the cake.

Israel sins often, we owe
Sacrifices each moment. Oh no!
Fear not – we are spared
By a Torah that cared
That we not give up all our cash flow.

Time for minchah! Then you realize
You forgot to do Musaf. Devise
A solution. Well, first
You do mincha. Reverse
Them you don’t. Musaf always applies.

If you set aside your Korban beast
Then go crazy ere you see the priest.
Sanity then comes back
Do we cut you some slack
And let you bring that set-aside feast?

Said Tarfon: By my sons I swear
There is something these two acts don’t share:
Sprinkling and collecting
I’m not recollecting.
Akiva got it. Tarfon fell off his chair.

It’s the priest who puts blood on his fingers
(Can’t be done by Levitical singers)
The priest does it himself
He can’t count on an elf
Or a monkey. (Or ape-priest dead ringer.)

A priest was once sprinkling blood
When his finger came off with a thud.
Is such mulilation
A clear desecration?
Oh yes! And this Kohen’s a dud.

Perek Bet: כל הבחים שקבלו דמן

Sacrificial blood can’t be received
By a non-priest. He can’t be relieved
By one impure, or sitting,
Without clothes – unfitting
Are these. So is one who’s bereaved.

“The clothes make the man,” that’s the vest
And the breastplate, and all of the rest
Of the priestly attire
All needed to fire
A sacrifice. Don’t underdress!

On festivals, Rav always stunk
Of alcohol. He got quite drunk
And so he refrained
From all preaching, til drained
Of the wine, and til out of that funk.

There are those who say blindness impinges
On whether a man must wear fringes
Tzitzit must be seen
But a blind man has been
Seen by others, on whom this one hinges.

Huna bar Natan professed
He was once with the Persian king, dressed
In his vestments. He felt
As the king fixed his belt.
“Kingdom of priests,” the Persian king blessed.

Can a priest wear a band-aid or gauze
On his finger? This question gives pause.
Some say we suppose
He can’t wear extra clothes.
Others say: There are no band-aid laws!

In the morning, one priest would clear ash
All the other priests woke to the clash
Of the wheels that went clink
As he lowered the sink
To the well, where it made a big splash.

A priest who’s a lefty was screwed
Temple work with left hand was eschewed.
No matter how deft-
Ly you sprinkle with left
It is sinister blood, we conclude.

If you’ve wounded the ear of a cow
(Do not worry, it’s dead – can’t say ow.)
Ere its blood is collected
The act is affected,
For mixing of blood’s not allowed.

When you slaughter a sheep, you can’t say
“I will eat his meat some other day.”
Or “I’ll eat this outside”
If you do so, we chide
You: That’s Pigul, go throw it away.

If you vow sacrifices, then wait
To bring them til some later date.
Your wife will not die
As she would if you cry,
“I can’t pay you!” Then you’ll lose your mate.

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.)

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Shevuot (chapters 1 and 2)

שבועות שתים :Chapter One

The Torah lists laws one and two
But a person who knows what to do
Keeps four. It’s the case
With oaths made to save face:
Bad, good, claiming you didn’t, did too.

You’re accountable for what you know;
Every school teaches that you can’t go
In the Temple when not
In a pure state. Forgot?
Bring a sacrifice as quid pro quo.

Not each blemish is equally white
Skin discolored is more or less bright
We will tell if you show:
It’s like plaster, wool, snow
Or like egg gook that gleams in the light.

(8a, with Rashi)
A woman who gives birth must bring
A sin offering. That’s a strange thing.
We assume that she swore
“Ouch! I won’t any more
Have these kids!” She atones for that zing.

Reish Lakish says the Rosh Chodesh goat
Is for sins of which just God takes note.
It’s Himself He impugns
For He lessened the moon
Cry the sages: That’s not what He wrote!

Ketoret leftovers can’t be
Disposed of indiscriminately.
We use them to pay
Artisans, so they stay
In the Temple to work dutifully.

A red heifer may not be fated
For worship, although designated.
You might find one that’s redder
Or one that looks better
(Of wives, too, this also was stated.)

Rabi lists sins for which people must
Do pre-Yom Kippur Teshuva or bust:
Keeping foreskins intact,
Casting God off your back,
Quoting Torah in tones of disgust.

ידיעות הטומאה: Chapter Two

The Temple courtyard renovation
Requires full participation
By prophet and king
And sanhedrin – and sing-
Ing by Israel, who join in elation.

If you’re impure, you shouldn’t go in
To the Mikdash, for that is a sin.
And likewise they state
You should not penetrate
Your dear wife when she’s bleeding within.

A Babylonian, who lives far away
Comes to Israel at last one fine day
He gets lost when impure
In the Mikdash, immured–
Is he blamed for not keeping away?

Yehoshua ben Levi would say
Torah verses, at close of the day
And then fall asleep
So that Torah would keep
Him from harm. But that’s not quite okay.

If you’re caught in the Mikdash, you must
Get out of there quickly or bust
Take the shortest way out
Don’t go running about
But with women, stay put, lest you lust.

If your wife becomes Nidah while you
Are inside her, what are you to do?
Dig your fingernails deep
In the floorboards, and keep
Them there‘til you are past it. Say “phew!”

When Havdalah with wine cup is said,
You’ll have sons with your wife in your bed.
But sleep with your spouse
When in Nidah – your house
Will be full of sons, but they’ll drop dead.

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Sanhedrin Perek Bet and Perek Gimel

כהן גדול
Perek Bet

A high priest must walk on bare feet
On Yom Kippur. The floor’s not concrete.
He does not want to freeze
So he says, if you please,
Don’t make leap years, for that means less heat!

Through the market no woman should stride
With her son just a few steps behind.
For it happened once – oy!
That they kidnapped the boy,
Such a ransom they made her provide!

Three mitzvot was Israel assigned
When it entered the land: First to find
Someone to be the king
And next: Amalek fling
To his death. Build the Temple, God’s shrine.

God gave Torah in Moses’ time
We inherit this Torah, sublime.
But we must also write
Each our own, black on white,
Hence before you, dear readers, this rhyme.

If a husband divorces his first
Wife, his whole world goes dark. It’s the worst.
And he feels such a void
Like the Temple destroyed
Into tears does the altar then burst.

Elasha spent all of his earnings
On a haircut for viewers discerning.
He served as high priest
And he said—now at least
Everywhere I go, heads will be turning.

זה בורר
Perek Gimel

Jerusalem’s wise men would say:
We won’t eat at a meal any day
Unless first we are told
Who will be there. We scold:
Share who’s coming, or we’ll stay away.

Reish Lakish was a scholar well-suited
For Torah. He often disputed
With others, and taught
What his teachings had wrought
‘Twas like grinding two mountains uprooted.

A witness must not have this vice:
He can’t lend at a very high price
Sell sabbatical fruit
Bet on pigeons for loot
Or spend all day long playing with dice.

A butcher once sold something treif
From then on, all his meat was unsafe.
He regretted his wrong
And grew hair and nails long
But he never restored people’s faith.

Thirteen years, Rabbi Zeyra collected
City taxes, a job he perfected.
When the clerk would decide
To come, Zeyra’d say: Hide!
And pay only for those still detected.

A friend and a foe can’t report
To attest for or ‘gainst you in court.
What’s a friend? One who chanced
At your wedding to dance.
Foe? Of hate-and-won’t-talk-to-you sort.

A man said: “My father’s bequest
Was some coins. But he laid them to rest
And I didn’t know where.
‘Til I dreamed: They are there!
But they’re tithings.” May he those coins wrest?

A judge cannot walk out of court
And disclose any sort of report.
Like: I stood by your side!
Or: The others all lied!
This is how a tale-bearer comports.

A poor little boy was once tried
In the court of Rav Nachman. He cried
When the court made him pay
And he wept all that day
‘Til some folks heard and rushed to his side.

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Sanhedrin Perek Aleph: דיני ממונות בשלושה

We judge certain matters in courts
Of three: Damages, beatings and torts
And the calf we behead
When we find a man dead;
“And seducers!” So Meir reports.

Do we follow the Torah as read
And ignore what is written instead?
Extra vav, extra yud
Does it matter? It should
Not (assuming we hold by what’s said).

Rabi said, “So your nephew went down
Into Bavel. A new guy in town.
Will he teach? He will teach!
Will he judge? And he’ll preach!
But not blemishes, nope,” Rabi frowned.

In a cemet’ry walked Rabbi Chiya,
Saw a man there and gasped: “Mamma Mia!
Priests can’t stand near the dead!”
Said the man: “My dad wed
A divorcee.” (No more first aliyah!)

A man steals some tall sheaves of wheat.
And then bakes it as challah to eat.
If he takes out some dough
Does he bless it although
It was stolen? Would priests want that treat?

Was Moses’ brother possessed
For the calf was built at his behest!
He saw Chur lying dead
On the ground, and he said
“I am next!” and in fear acquiesced.

I remember a time we adored
One another. The tip of a sword,
Wide enough for our bed.
Now estranged, there’s instead
A vast space where we rest in discord.

A judge in a court would be wise
To imagine a sword ‘tween his thighs
At his feet, hell gapes wide–
If he takes the wrong side
He’ll be plunged to his dreadful demise.

Rav’s landlord said, “Judge me in court.”
“But I know you,” was Rav’s quick retort.
“Rav Kahana will do it
Perhaps you will rue it–
I can’t guarantee his support.”

If a woman is learned in Torah
(Of such women attests our Amora.)
Must a warning be given?
Or is she forgiven
If unwarned? A box of Pandora!

Rabi, while teaching, once smelled
Garlic. Whereupon thus he expelled:
“He who ate it, walk out!”
Shmuel HaKattan, no doubt
Blameless, left the room as if compelled.

Vegetables can’t be imported
To Israel, some rabbis reported.
We’re loathe to despoil
Our land with their soil.
“So what?!” other rabbis then snorted.

Abahu, not yet an old geezer,
Went often to visit the Caesar.
There was always a dame
Who would sing out his name
We surmise his appearance did please her!

Can a lion or wolf be your pet?
How domesticated can they get?
If they kill off a guy
We don’t kill them? We try
Them in court? Says Akiva: “You bet!”

King David woke not by alarm
But by harp. (For those beeps can disarm!)
It was played by the wind
Which at midnight blew in
Playing music. It worked like a charm!

“Moses is going to die
We’ll be led by young Josh, former spy!”
So Eldad and Mei-
Dad were famous for say-
Ing. “Come quail!” they would then prophecy.

There are things that a town must provide
So a Torah sage there can reside:
Court and bathroom and shul;
Doctor, scribe, butcher, school.
Also fruit, for it makes you bright-eyed.

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Bava Batra Perek Bet: לא יחפור

A person may not dig a pit
Near his neighbor’s – don’t get close to it.
Or a cave or a trench
Or a thing that makes stench
Keep it far, lest your friend have a fit.

Must the damager stay far away
If he fails, is it he who must pay?
Or is he who’s alarmed
By how much he is harmed
Is it he who has not been okay?

Can you pee on your neighbor’s own wall?
Can your neighbor respond with a brawl?
If it’s only your pee
Go ahead. But stand three
Tfachim off if you’re pouring for all.

A window’s made smaller in size
When a thing on the windowsill lies.
What’s impure, like the dead,
Through blocked windows won’t spread
Blocked with non-Jews or chickens in ties.

If your friend’s storehouse rests right on top
Of the place where you open a shop
Don’t do baking or dying
Your friend will be crying
“The smoke and the stench! Have him shot!”

“I can’t sleep ‘cause your baby’s so loud
And your hammering hurts, I avow!
And I’m losing my mind
From that millstone you grind”–
Is his neighbor’s behavior allowed?

Yehoshua ben Gamla made schools
So that kids would be students, not fools.
From age six or age seven
They study, thank heaven
With schools in each town, and strict rules.

When scholars are jealous they learn
Better. Jealousy’s not to be spurned.
If a teacher knows more
Then it’s he we want for
Our kids’ teacher. So give him his turn.

A storekeeper may not give out
Roasted nuts to kids running about.
For he’s surely predicted
Those kids get addicted
Then parents must buy more, no doubt.

Ezra ruled: All those peddlers, they may
Wander hawking their wares in the day
Selling jewels to the city
So girls will look pretty
We want our girls pretty, he’d say.

Rav Dimi bought dates from abroad
To sell them. His plan, though, was flawed.
For Rava, discerning
He lacked in his learning
Said: Dimi, your sales are outlawed.

A dovecote may not be built near
Any town. It’s the doves that we fear.
They might up, fly the coop
And above our fields swoop
Eating seeds from the plowed earth. Keep clear!

A barrel of wine floats at sea
Near a town with a majority
Of Jews. We assume
It is kosher. There’s room
For doubt. Shmuel cries: I disagree!

There are four winds that blow every day
But the north wind is crucial, they say.
It blows calmly. The west,
Common more than the rest
That’s where God is. We face there to pray.

A tree full of fruit may not be
Cut down, axed, in its prime suddenly.
Said Hanina: My son
Lost his life, Came undone
When he chopped down a blooming fig tree.

A tree overhangs in a space
That is public. A most public place.
We trim off one side
So a camel can ride
Past without getting whacked in the face.

Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Bava Batra Perek Aleph: השותפין

Two neighbors would like to divide
Up their backyard, or so they decide.
They both build the wall
So that if it should fall
They can split up the stones on each side.

A man is forbidden to stand
In the field, on his friend’s fertile land
And to gaze and his grain.
Such a man must abstain–
Keep your eyes on your own, we command.

A shul cannot be taken down
‘Til a new one is built on that ground.
Brought Rav Ashi his bed
Into shul, for he said:
They’ll rebuild it if I stick around!

Herod said: “That’s the babe I desire!”
Then he killed off her fam’ly entire.
She went up to the top
Of the roof, and went plop
“Honey,” cried he, “It’s you I’ll admire.”

Though saved, Bava Ben Buta was blind
Herod said, “A worse king can you find?”
“Do not curse the king,”
Bava said. A good thing!
Herod then had a (phew!) change of mind.

“Our wall fell! And we both paid our share!”
Said his neighbor: “But you were not there!
It is my wall alone
And I’ll take every stone.”
We rule No! They must split, as is fair.

“Hey, my windows are blocked by your wall.”
Said one man to his neighbor. Tough call.
For what are we to do?
Do we safeguard his view?
Must the neighbor go rebuild it all?

They built a gatehouse for the bourgeoisie
And Elijah stopped visiting me!
That’s what gate guards are for–
Yes, they keep out the poor.
(Did Elijah then sleep in a tree?)

“I’m a wall and my breasts are like towers”
This refers to rabbinical powers.
Rabbis are not affected
By robbers. Protected
Are all in their midst. No one cowers.

“Feed me, Rabi,” poor Ben Amram said.
“Is there Torah inside of your head?”
Amram said to him, “No,
But pretend I’m a crow.”
Good thing Rabi agreed to share bread!

A caravan of camels and asses
From city to city it passes
It comes to a town
Where idolaters abound
Do the riders get stoning and lashes?

Shmuel bar Sheylat would teach.
Every day. No vacations, no beach!
Until he said, “I’ll take
Just a short garden break
From my students.” He thought of them each.

Rav Achad’voy’s mother said, “Shoot
Rav Sheshet has made my son mute!”
Just one thing she could do–
She said, “Look at these two
Breasts that nursed you too, Sheshet, you newt!”

If God loves the poor, why’s their fate
Miserable? Why no food on their plate?
Because charity’s swell!
We would all go to hell
If we had not the chance to donate.

What is a person to do
To have sons – not just one, but a few?
Scatter coins to the poor
Lead his wife to adore
What he does when the time’s come to screw.

“I’ve seen the whole world upside down!”
Yehoshua’s son said. “On the ground
Were the people of status.
While those with afflatus
Like sages, on high could be found.”

Binyamin the Tzadik was in charge
Of collected tzdakah. Someone barged
In. “Please feed me,” she begged.
“I can’t.” Then he reneged
And he gave his own cash, sums quite large.

Munbaz gave lots of cash to the poor
Said his family, “Munbaz! What for?
Your ancestors stored
Up a great cash reward
Don’t now waste it, Munbaz, we implore!”

A shortcut that many folks take
Can’t be cut off for one person’s sake.
You’ll incur neighbors’ wrath
If you block off that path
Do you think we can swim through the lake?

From the Temple’s destruction and ages
Beyond, prophecy went to the sages.
Did the prophets retire
Were sages inspired?
And did this all happen in stages?

(12b) For MA
Bat Rav Chisda on her father’s knees-
Said her Dad: You want which one of these?
Bat Rav Chisda was loath
To choose, so she said “Both”–
“I’ll go last,” Rava said, “If you please.”

A person half-slave and half-free
Says, “I serve both my master and me.”
But he hasn’t a mate
So he can’t procreate
Thus says Shammai, “It simply can’t be!”

Dad left us two slaves: One can make
Woven tapestries. One can serve cake.
I’ll take the weaver
I ask you to leave her
Will you keep the one who can bake?

Tanach is a novel conception
Three books are they at their inception–
May they be attached
Say, with glue, may we patch–
Says Yehudah: No! I take exception!

Broken tablets were stored in the ark
Moses shattered them, not on a lark.
Yea, although they went crack
Still we put them in back.
“Yasher Koach,” God warmly remarked.

Who wrote the Bible? We wonder.
Some say Moses. That must be a blunder.
How could Moses have penned
“Moses here met his end”
Could he write once already down under?

Was Job a real man or a fiction?
It’s a legend! We say with conviction.
But we’re given the name
Of the town where he came
From. Is that not a sure contradiction?

Penina by God was created
To make Hannah that much more frustrated
So that Hannah would pray
In her drunkenly way–
When Tzaddikim pray, God is elated!

Perfume-makers and tanners, we think,
Are both needed. But tanners – they stink!
Surely we all consent
Better makers of scent
Than the leathery hide on that mink.

Miriam’s moment of bliss:
When she fell to her death with a kiss
She remained ever-fresh
For no worms ate her flesh
‘Twas the fortune of Moses’ big sis.