Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Chagigah (Perek 1)

All are obliged to appear
Before He-Who-Instills-In-Us-Fear
Unless you are not
Let me tell you, we’ve got
A long list of exceptions. Come, hear!

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!”

Can a mute learn? Well, it came to pass
Two mutes started attending a class
And when Rabi beseeched
That God heal those he’d teach
They gained speech, and their learning proved vast.

Words of Torah are like cattle goads
That prevent cows from veering off roads
Thus with Torah we stay
On God’s path, and don’t stray,
Bringing life (not death) to our abodes.

How to detect the insane?
Those who wander on dark lonely lanes,
Lie atop graveyard dirt,
Or start ripping a shirt.
Otherwise, you can trust he is sane.

A smelter need not show his face
In the Temple, that most holy place
Nor a man who tans skins
Or who puts trash in bins
They are stinky, thus lack social grace.

Those who cannot ascend to come greet
God, and eat of the sacrifice meat–
Include snobs who would then
Say they won’t condescend
To come stand before God in bare feet.

Rabbi Yochanan happened to see
One who picked unripe dates from a tree
He said, “You’ll have to wait
Before eating that date.”
Said the man, “They’re for later, you see.”

There are sins we commit then forget:
Picking lice near a friend we just met;
Spewing forth lots of spit
Or things likewise unfit
God will punish us ’til we regret.

If you speak in sign language, take care:
Understand what is said, or beware!
A Jew-hating geezer
Who signed before Ceasar
Could not explain; he was not spared.

Rav Kahane hid under the bed
To watch Rav and the one he had wed.
He said, “Rav’s not discreet
You’d think he’s eating meat –”
Rav got angry: “Kahane, you’re dead!”

For three people, God cries: those who yearn
To spend time in yeshiva and learn
And the one in a crowd
Who stands out ’cause he’s proud
And the student who really must earn.

Rabi used to read Eicha and sigh
With the book on his lap, he would cry
He could bear it no more—
The book fell to the floor
He cried, “We who sink low were once high.”

The blind student said, “You’ve come to see
One who cannot see you, that is, me.
Hence the Seer Unseen
(It is God that I mean)
With see you and judge mercifully.

Rav Idi would walk ninety days
To learn one day; and he said, “It pays.”
He who learns once a year
(The text says) is as dear
As the one who learns always. Give praise.

Little Shmuel did not ride the shoulder
Of his father until he was older
He was not to be seen
At the Temple, ’til weaned
“He’s weak” Chana said, “Let him grow bolder.”

What did we get on the mount?
All of Torah? Ten laws? Which amount?
Said Akiva: “The tent
Of Moed was just meant
For review.” (Not by Yishmael’s count.)

These are things that have got no fixed measure:
You may do them as much as gives pleasure
Leaving corners of fields
Bringing God your first yield
Learning Torah – that act we most treasure.\

The sacrifice brought is to function
For God, not for human consumption.
Your table should not
Be filled, when your Rav’s got
One that’s empty – Yes, that’s the assumption.

On the festival day, when we greet
The divine, have a festival treat:
Chicken in every pot
(Not just one, but a lot!)
There is no happiness save with meat.

From where do we know that to wed
Is forbidden? (Eat chicken instead)
As the Torah will say:
Go “delight in the day!”
“In the day” – that is, not in your bed!

“The crooked cannot be made straight”
Said Kohelet the king (how he’d prate!)
Thus an off’ring forgotten
Or one misbegotten
May not be made up or brought late.

A person who learns and reviews
A full hundred times – still he will lose
Out on what he’d have learned
Had he once more returned,
Said Bar Hey Hey. For knowledge accrues.

When studying texts it behooves
He who studies to get in a groove
One who’s learning Torah
Should not switch to Mishnah
Or vice versa. Stay put and don’t move.

There are laws that are truly “out there”
It’s as if they have bloomed in midair.
Vows and fests and Shabbat
And a stolen priest’s pot
Are suspended by something threadbare.

Shmuel took every Tanna to task
Though he did not live then. But a bask-
Et of pumpkins, they say,
Is far worse, if you may
Than a pepper. So do let him bask.

There are laws that are not in the text
Though we cite it as if in pretext:
To avoid, as one ought to,
Your forced woman’s daughter
Please trust us. She’s not fit for sex.