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Jewish Haiku For You

Yesterday a friend forwarded me an email she had received from her Catholic mother, who had originally received the email from her friend, who is "an older Jewish woman," I'm told. Apparently, the "older Jewish woman" thought that the older Catholic … Read More

By / May 16, 2007

Yesterday a friend forwarded me an email she had received from her Catholic mother, who had originally received the email from her friend, who is "an older Jewish woman," I'm told.

Apparently, the "older Jewish woman" thought that the older Catholic woman would enjoy some Jewish haiku. Hmmm . . .

So, naturally, this email was passed on to me, though I don't recall advertising my love of haiku recently — one of those things I try to keep secret.

The email begins: "As great fans of haiku, I thought you might enjoy. . ." 

Really? Are there really people out there who are great fans of haiku?

Haiku is a poetic form and a type of poetry from the Japanese culture. Haiku combines form, content, and language in a meaningful, yet compact form.

But it turns out . . .

While most Jewish haiku are humorous, the first part of the Shema, one of Judaism's most important prayers, also follows the syllable pattern and the scansion of the haiku:

She-ma Yis-ra-el, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu, A-do-nai E-chad.

So here are some of the haiku (yes, apparently "haiku" is plural) that I received in my email inbox. Some are funny, but there a couple that I just don't get, and that I spent too much time re-reading, waiting for some kind of epiphany. And then, there are one or two that feel borderline anti-Semitic, though I'm probably being too sensitive.

Lacking fins or tail the gefilte fish swims with great difficulty. ***** Beyond Valium, peace is knowing one's child is an internist.      ***** On Passover we opened door for Elijah. Now our cat is gone.                     *****

Her lips near my ear, Aunt Sadie whispers the name of her friend's disease. ***** Today I am a man. Tomorrow I will return to the seventh grade. ***** Jews on safari — map, compass, elephant gun, hard sucking candies.         ***** Seven-foot Jews in the NBA slam-dunking! My alarm clock rings. ***** Is one Nobel Prize so much to ask from a child after all I've done?

I don't understand the one about Jews on safari, in particular. I don't get the hard sucking candies. I asked six other people if they understand the whole hard sucking candies thing. Negative.

But if after reading this you are really into haiku, and you want to know how to haiku, you can go here. It's interesting, though, that Jewish haiku seems to be all the rage. Why not Italian haiku? Or Catholic haiku? And I would be down with a little bit of African American haiku. Cool . . .

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