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A Rabbi Walks Into A Bar

There are lots of jokes that begin, "A rabbi walks into a bar." Sometimes the punch line comes immediately: "And he said ‘Ouch.’" But more often, in the jokes, he’s with a clergy member from another religion. "A rabbi and … Read More

By / February 14, 2009

There are lots of jokes that begin, "A rabbi walks into a bar." Sometimes the punch line comes immediately: "And he said ‘Ouch.’" But more often, in the jokes, he’s with a clergy member from another religion. "A rabbi and a priest walk into a bar." It is unlikely that a rabbi and a priest would really go to a bar together. It is also unlikely that a rabbi, particularly a Chasidic rabbi, would go to a bar at all.

Except I guess sometimes one does.

I work in a bar. Last night, I had finished my shift and was sitting at the bar drinking a beer, talking with my friend Nina, another bartender whose shift had ended. The door opened and we turned to look at it. (When you work in a bar, even when you’re not working, your head will turn every time you hear the door open. It’s a Pavlovian response.)

In walked a man with white hair, a full beard, and payos. He wore a black kipa, a long black trench coat.

"It’s a rabbi," I said.

"Uh-huh," said Nina, who is not Jewish and didn’t think a rabbi in a bar was so odd. I mean, we have unusual people in our bar all the time. Earlier in the evening, a man wearing an "I am Hamas" armband had been drinking scotch and scribbling in a notebook.

"I mean, he looks like a rabbi," I said. "He could just be a religious guy, though. I don’t know."

Nina remained unimpressed.

The rabbi approached me and introduced himself as Ephraim. I told him, in Hebrew, that it was nice to meet him. My Hebrew doesn’t extend too far beyond that. So then I asked him, in English, what he was doing.

"I am here to meet nice Jewish girls," he said, and he leaned in to give me a big wet kiss on the cheek.

Nina and the bartender who was still working looked disgusted. I wiped my cheek with the heel of my hand. Ephraim asked me if I was drinking wine.

"No," I said, lifting my glass to inspect it (it really didn’t look like wine). "It’s beer."

Ephraim sat next to Nina and told the bartender to give him what I was drinking. She did. Then Ephraim lunged toward Nina, hoping she would be as accepting of a wet kiss as I had been.

"Diana," Nina said, "I’m going to kill you." She thought I had encouraged him. I suppose I had.

"I was curious!" I said. "A rabbi in a bar!"

Anyway, after we ignored him for a few minutes, he left, his beer mostly untouched. This isn’t a great story. It’s not funny, like some stories are that begin the way this one does. And it’s not even really a story because it has no arc, no point, no clear ending. I just thought I should finish my week of guest-posting by telling you that sometimes, a rabbi walks into a bar.

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