Positive Judaism: How Jokes and Wisdom Inspire Better Living

Have you heard the one about the U.S. Open and Yom Kippur? You're about to.

Darren Levine is the founding rabbi of Tamid, The Downtown Synagogue in New York City, which is guided by Positive Judaism. In an open letter earlier this year, Levine defined Positive Judaism as a spiritual life that "expands the mind, deepens personal character, strengthens community, improves the world, and adds joy and optimism to everyday living." Because of pop-culture stereotypes and the Jewish history persecution, people may not instantly think that Judaism and positivity are in sync, but Levine contents that joy and hope have been at the heart of the Jewish mindset for 3,000 years. You can choose to look at history with pessimism and negativity, says Levine, or you can instead find beauty in brokenness and turn it into jokes, positive emotion, and wisdom. "In the 21st century, it is the People that will or will not choose to be Jewish... Historical memory, Israel, the threat of anti-semitism and are not strong enough motivators for Jewish engagement. We need something new and serious and Positive Judaism is one new construct." Here, Levine shares a timely joke for Yom Kippur, and shares a teaching about hope and perspective.

Empathy Is a Byproduct of Humor – But Only When It's Done Well

Scott Aukerman, the co-founder of 'Between Two Ferns', developed humor early on as a way disarm bullies. He knows from experience that, in comedy, your intentions really matter.

As long as you’re funny, it can get you out of almost anything – even getting mugged, as co-founder of Between Two Ferns Scott Aukerman recounts. Unfortunately, not everyone out there is funny, although some people believe they are, and this is usually when you get bully-style humor where every joke is at someone else’s expense. In Aukerman’s view, real humor is about unity – finding the common ground with others – and it’s a gateway to empathy, which creates more genuine interactions. So if you want to navigate the tricky waters of social interactions, get people on your side during a work presentation, or stop a guy from taking your wallet, start with a joke. Scott Aukerman’s podcast is Comedy Bang! Bang!.

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