And Man Laughed: R’ Menachem Froman’s Torat Ha-Sechok and its Antecedents
The jester is brother to the sage – Arthur Koestler
Jesters do oft prove prophets – William Shakespeare
The relationship between sense and nonsense, between the rational and the irrational, is often understood to be antithetical, with each of the pairings having a major gap between the two opposites. Within many a normative culture, the scholar and the jester would rarely be seen as occupying similar, or even overlapping roles; there would rather be a hierarchical distinction between the two. The former is noted for the insight and truth (s)he brings to the forefront, and the jester for the comedic relief, the escape from reality, the laughs. Many figures are one or the other, either the scholar or the jester, but upon occasion the world is blessed with a figure that combines the two roles, in someone who stands at the crossroads between sense and nonsense, who brings light into the cracks of a nonsensical world. Rav Menachem Froman (1945-2013) was such a figure. Rav Froman was both the chief rabbi of a West Bank settlement, Tekoa, and also a believer that the way to peace was not through politicians but shared religious experience. He was a student of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Ha-Kohen Kook and a founder of the Gush Emunim movement, a settlement movement often identified with Israel’s right wing, but Froman also spoke of Yassir Arafat and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (the founder of Hamas) as close friends. However, Froman’s path was not merely an interesting deviation from the oft-vitriolic world of Israeli geo-politics, but was rather a loaded spiritual world that is beginning to come to light as his ideas are increasingly published.
While there is much the English-speaking world can learn from Rav Froman, I will focus here on one particularly fascinating element of his personality and thought: humor. One book published after his passing is titled The Righteous Will Laugh from This, and the assorted pithy thoughts and anecdotes touch upon topics profound and profane, mentioning Amos Oz and Sartre in the same pages as Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and the Zohar. The creativity of thought is exciting, and one constant throughout the work is a comedic edge, a humorous flair with which Froman delivers weighty ideas. We will first look at some examples of this trend, and will then look at the roots for Froman’s particular style in the influences of Rav Kook and Rabbi Nahman of Breslov.
Rabbi Menachem Froman was born into a nonreligious Israeli family in Kfar Hasidim, and after serving in the Paratroopers Brigade during the Six-Day War, went on to study Jewish thought at the Hebrew University. It was here that he began his teshuva process, and ended up studying under Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Ha-kohen Kook in his Yeshivat Merkaz Ha-Rav. He received rabbinic ordination from Rabbis Shlomo Goren and Avraham Shapiro, eventually becoming the rabbi of Tekoa and a teacher in various yeshivot, including Mekor Hayim, Ha-kotel, Machon Meir, Ateret Kohanim, and Otni’el. He was married to artist and teacher Rabbanit Hadassah Froman, and she continues to teach Zohar and Hasidut, in some ways continuing his mission after his untimely passing in 2013.
In order to understand Rav Froman, it is important first to understand the context within which he taught. The world of Israeli spirituality has exploded in recent years, marked by a fast-growing phenomenon of Hasidut-influenced yeshivot hesder, as well as a weekly publication “Karov Elecha” that serves largely Hasidic Torah to the National Religious (Dati Le’umi) population. This general trend dates back to the very beginning of modern Israel with the personality of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Ha-kohen Kook (1865-1935). As a thought leader and a writer with an oversized presence in the National Religious community, he emphasized a profound spirituality and connection to the land, and drew from much earlier Hasidic and Kabbalistic works. However, while Rav Kook brought a greater emphasis on spirituality into the then-nascent National Religious community more than fifty years ago, in recent years there have been a few core thinkers that have influentially emphasized the necessity for spirituality, namely Rabbis Shagar (1949-2007), Froman, and Steinsaltz (1937-present). Each impacted the opening of new yeshivot within the Hasidic National Religious framework, such as Siah Yitzhak, Kiryat Arba, Tekoa, Otni’el, and Mekor Hayim. While Steinsaltz has received the most attention heretoforth within the U.S. due to his Talmud translation and commentary, Shagar’s works are gaining renown among American readership, many of whom are drawn to his interfacing between Postmodernism and Judaism. Although Froman’s political (or is it religious?) work has been widely publicized by Israeli media, his thought and ideas are gaining traction due to the increased publication of his teachings, such as Hassidim Tzohkim M’Zeh (The Righteous Will Laugh From This), Sokhaki Aretz, (Laugh My Beloved Land): Shalom (Peace), Am (People), Adamah (Land), and the new Ten Li Zeman (Give Me Time). While all three merit serious consideration, we will focus on Hasidim Tzohakim, as it is in this aptly titled work that Froman’s comedic flair is most easily present.
For Rav Froman, humor may be doing something else entirely. Hasidim Tzohakim is broken up into 180 small thoughts and ideas, covering a broad array of themes, including the land of Israel, Zionism, bachelorhood, religious coercion, and spirituality, and many share a counterintuitive comedic edge. This ironic charm can be disarming yet intimately understandable, such as when he writes, “It is said that one must be married to learn Zohar. But how is it possible to marry without learning Zohar?” Elsewhere he writes that “the world of Torah is full of debate…Torah scholars argue about almost everything. How do we know that Chazal had a sense of humor? Because they said that ‘Torah scholars increase peace in the world.” In a fascinating piece, he notes that “To be dati (usually translated as religious) is to be deep….in which case Amos Oz (the famed secular novelist) is dati.” To be clear, this isn’t to say that every single piece in Hasidim is humorous as much as there is a thread of counter-intuition present throughout much of the work. In an extremely telling passage, he writes that:
There are many places that R’ Nahman stops something in the middle, but in one place he stops in the middle of a sentence: “At first all beginnings were from Pesah, and therefore all mitzvot are in memory of the departure from Egypt. But now.” The intention here is that in classic Judaism all mitzvoth are in memory of the departure from Egypt, and now we have reached a new era – the time of jest (tzehok) and freedom. Until now, all of the mitzvot were a serious matter. Passover is pathos; the Torah is pathos-driven, full of seriousness. And now we have reached a new era, a new Torah: Torat Eretz Yisrael, the Torah of the messiah. All the mitzvot are a remembrance to the jest of Purim and not the pathos of Pesah. ‘To be or not to be?’ is a very serious and heavy consideration, but in that very Shakespearean play (sic) it’s also written that “all the world’s a stage,” everything is a play. You hear me say that the most important question in life is to live or not to live? This whole question is jest, it’s jest…it’s a joke…it’s a joke… There is something that is above to live or not to live, even above (the principle) “saving a life pushes off Shabbat;” what is above saving lives? To be in front of God, in front of God, to be before God in this world and in the next, to be before God and to know that all that we do until now was jest. In life, in death, all is jest in front of God.
In this radical piece, Froman associates the “jest of Purim” with “Torat Eretz Yisrael” and the Messianic Torah, which Rav Froman saw as dominant during this era of history. These are marked in the presence of God, or at least in the mindset of life in front of God. The antinomian merges with the counterintuitive in the formation of this radical theology of humor, a theology that places Purim over Pesach and laughter over solemnity.
These ideas may seem distant from many readers on a number of planes: the very notion of a “new Torah” can seem dangerously similar to previous attempts to supersede the Torah, as the eternality of the Torah is a necessary component of the religious Jew’s belief system. Additionally, while there are previous instances of humor in the Jewish literary corpus, Froman’s formulation is astounding in its raising of the theological stakes of humor. Although Froman is not explicit about his sources, I argue that he is utilizing and combining two concepts: an emphasis on theological components of divine jest, developed by Rabbi Nahman of Breslov (1772-1810); and the idea of a new Torah, or at least a new style of Torah, developed by Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook (1965-1935). This text presents a fascinating blend of the respective thoughts, merging the two into a composite whole.
Torat Eretz Yisrael
The notion of a style of Torah-learning distinct to Eretz Yisrael is not a modern invention, as roots of this idea may be evident in the stylistic differences between the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. In addition to the famous dictum that “the air of the land of Israel increases wisdom,” this distinction is made explicit in several places, such as in the midrash’s comment on the verse, “And the gold of the land is good,” that “this teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel, and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Land of Israel.” Later, the Talmud records that R’ Zeira, upon moving to Israel, fasted 100 fasts in order to forget the Babylonian Talmud.” The medieval commentator Rashi (1040-1105) explains that the scholars of Babylon argued more than the scholars of Israel, who seemed to come to conclusions with greater harmony, in line with a different passage in which the scholars of Israel and of Babylon are directly contrasted. The former are characterized as “being gracious to one another in halakha,” whereas the latter “injure each other in halakha.” Strikingly, some Talmudic passages align the Babylonian Talmud with darkness, and the Jerusalem Talmud with light.
Traditional rabbinic commentaries largely relate the aforementioned passages to methodological distinctions between the two schools, as the Babylonian school is redolent with logical casuistry and folio-long debates, and is the usual touchstone when people reference “Talmudic logic”, in contradistinction to the Jerusalem school’s emphasis on clarity and brevity. This clarity is often attributed to the more easily attainable wisdom of the Land of Israel, which thus mitigates the necessity for complex abstract argument. As the Babylonian Talmud was and continues to be significantly more disseminated in traditional Jewish circles, it is interesting that its writers highlighted the beauty of the Jerusalem Talmud. Although the passages seem to portray the latter in a more positive light, perhaps due to a discomfort with the negative portrayal of the primary source of rabbinic learning, some seek to mitigate the hierarchal portrayal.
Enter Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook onto this intellectual backdrop. As the first Ashkenazic chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, this thinker, halakhist, mystic, and poet par excellence often strove to reveal the positive implications in seemingly negative trends, revealing the light in a (seeming) religious darkness. In their defense of the avowedly secular new Judaism of the time, his writings drew criticism from the trenchant hardline religionists. For example, he writes positively about exercise, art, and Theodore Herzl, in each circumstance drawing the ire of some of his coreligionists.
In this vein, Rav Kook put a lot of thought into the transition from exile to Israel as a shift not only in space, but in thought and identity. The notion of Torat Eretz Yisrael gains importance, as it is a lens through which to view the theological impact of this shift on Torah-learning and thought. He argues that the movement to the Land of Israel necessitates a broadened perspective, as the Torat Eretz Yisrael comprises a broadened, whole-picture perspective, in contrast to the particularistic, individualistic Torat Chutz La-aretz. He writes that Torat Eretz Yisrael “worries constantly on behalf of the whole, the whole soul of the entire nation. The details enter the whole, they are elevated in its elevations, crowned in its crowning…” This isn’t simply a shift in “the Torah in its understanding in learning, in the four cubits of halakha, but rather an enlightening of all of life… From the depth of spiritual renewal, which prepares for Torat Eretz Yisrael, the boundaries that separate topic from topic, area to area… lessen.” This whole-oriented perspective encompasses all into a holistic composite, in which everything is realized to be one. He notes that “this broad divine flow…of all areas of the Torah….is available to be understood well only here on holy land…” As part of this realization process, one realizes the inner unification of so many binaries: Aggadah and halakha, the individual and the nation, all particulars in their respective wholes. Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop, a student and companion of Rav Kook, similarly affirms the notion of an old-new Torah for a new age, based off words in the Midrash that states “the Torah one learns in this world will be nothingness (hevel) in front of the Torah of Moshiach.”
Froman studied in the Kookian Yeshivat Merkaz Ha-rav and was a close student of its leader, R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and thus his conception of Torat Eretz Yisrael is significantly influenced by R. A.I. Kook’s. Froman writes that “Torat Eretz Yisrael is an entirely different thing than Torat Chutz La-aretz. In my time the spirit of matters in Yeshivat Merkaz Ha-rav was as such: We are meriting to a great and powerful thing, a brand new Torah that our fathers didn’t merit.” His strong memories of the overwhelming culture of Merkaz Ha-rav are testament to its influence on the then-young Froman. He then writes that the entire idea of Torat Eretz Yisrael is a focus on the strength of the whole instead of the particular. He connects this to halakha, noting that the conversations regarding the deal to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was a question of the greater good versus the pain of an individual man, and Torat Eretz Yisrael in such a scenario looks at the “national factors” in addition to the more traditional halakhot of pikuah nefesh. This isn’t to say that Froman’s view of Torat Eretz Yisrael parallels R. Kook’s identically, as the emphasis of divine jest and Purim-esque merriment seems absent from R. Kook’s formulations. This is made apparent in Froman’s statement that “In truth the world is full of tragedies…internal contradictions. The difference between myself and Rav Kook is that Rav Kook overcomes them through harmonistic methods, and I overcome them through humor.” However, they do share the view of the heightened need for paradigm shifts orienting the Jewish nation towards a broader, whole-focused thinking, than they had in exile.
The notion of the “Jewish sense of humor” receives a lot of attention, and the role of this humor in rabbinic literature makes for an interesting history. The Talmud records that Rabbah would open his lectures with a joke, and Rashi explains that this is “to open [the students’] hearts with happiness.” Tellingly, although Rabbah’s students’ hearts were open with joy upon hearing the joke, they would soon “sit in awe as he started the shiur.” It isn’t always easy to identify what constitutes humor in the Talmud, as some examples of Talmudic humor may be complex wordplays, insults, and bizarre scenarios; all of these are perhaps meant to mock, but they demand a high level of Jewish literacy. In later eras, there were even parody books written to imitate the style of rabbinic literature, such as Yehuda Alharizi’s Takhemoni, the Masekhet Purim, and others. In the Eastern European context, humor outside of rabbinic literature may have been used as a coping mechanism for constant oppression and powerlessness, as comedic appraisal grants a form of intellectual control of situations where the Jews may have had little other control. Freud, in his Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, posits that Jewish humor underscores the Jewish ability to empathize with the tragedy of Jewish community; highlight the moral values of Judaism; engage in honest self-critique; and embrace egalitarian social standards. In any case, humor in rabbinic literature tends to be used as a pedagogical tool to maximize engagement; to mock other movements; or, occasionally, as part of a bantering discussion.
Froman’s humor, while disarming, seems to be theologically laden, as is apparent in his equating of humor with both Torat Eretz Yisrael and Torat Mashiach. In some places, his humor seems lighter and incidental, as in one piece whose entirety is his reciting a joke he appreciates; in other instances Froman’s humor seems to carry a profound message cloaked in comedic quality, such as his declaration that “one can’t just be right wing or left wing, as you need two wings to fly.” This is deeply telling of Froman’s own political views as an important figure in both the settler community as well as Jewish-Muslim dialogue and peace-building. In yet other portions, his humor is biting: he points out that given the degree of argument in the rabbinic world it is clear that Hazal had a sense of humor, for how else could they state that “Torah scholars increase peace in the world?” In any case, Froman’s statement that humor is his method of overcoming internal contradiction, as well as his aligning Torat Ha-sechok with Torat Eretz Yisrael suggest that this isn’t the same type of Jewish humor that we have seen already. While there have been many funny rabbis, there have been few that refer to humor with the sort of theological import of Froman’s “Torah of Humor.” In order to find the roots of this position, we must go back some 200 years to a different countercultural Jewish mystic with a penchant for jest: Rabbi Nahman.
Rabbi Nahman of Breslov (1772-1810) was an early hasidic master and mystic and the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement. Although “Rabbeinu,” as he is referred to, speaks on a number of themes that are relevant to the contemporary reader, his embracing of the so-called “sechok,” which seems to be an embrace of the ridiculous, is most relevant here. Some of these counterintuitive statements are, like Froman’s, a seeming attempt to impart a particular message or piece of wisdom, such as, “The essence of wisdom is to realize how far you are from wisdom.” In others, he shares a biting comedic edge, as in his opinion that “all the sages of Israel are in my estimation like a garlic peel.” As a major component of his writings are his exhortations against depression, in some places he writes that humor is important to lift one towards joy, saying with different formulations that “it is possible to come to joy even (alt. only) through matters of absurdity.” He goes so far as to say that “when a Jewish man rejoices himself through matters of absurdity (mila di-shtuta), he creates a major rectification, which is similar to the rising of the sparks of the Shekhinah from her exile.” This embracing of the ridiculous is certainly important in order to rise to happiness, which is depicted as the rectification of the Shekhinah, but a consideration of the following additional aspects of Rabbi Nahman’s stance broadens our understanding of the role of humor in his teachings.
Much of Rabbi Nahman’s most profound teachings were taught through the medium of fantastical tales; in one, “The Story of the Humble King and the Wise Man,” Rabbi Nahman hints at the theological significance of the ridiculous. In this complex tale, a mythical king wishing to have a portrait of a certain other king, sends a wise man to the latter king’s country in order to report back on the state of values there. The wise man, intent on delving the values of this nation, decides that in order to know the essence of this country he would listen to the country’s jokes, because “when one has to know something, one should know the jokes related to it.” This is the joke he heard:
Among all countries, there is one country which includes all countries…in that country there is one city which includes all cities of the whole country which includes all countries…in that city there is a house that includes all houses of that city which includes all cities…. And there is a man who includes everyone from that house….and there is someone there who performs all the jests and jokes.
Although there is much to be gained from this fascinatingly profound story, the symbolism of the all-encompassing country/city/house/laughter is most relevant to us. Nahman of Cherin, a Breslover hasid suggests that the country in question is the land of Israel, the city Jerusalem, the house the Temple, and “this should be understood without explaining, since one cannot explain so much in such matters.” In Zvi Mark’s stunning analysis of the story, the man who then lives in this “house” would be none other than the Kohen Gadol, the high priest, who finds a form of jest in the Temple. What is this jest? Mark writes that:
In the Temple, people give presents to the sublime Infinite God, atone before Him with a meal offering of fine flour, see in the smell of the incense of His being pleased, and the Levites sing to Him to make His time pass pleasantly. Is there a greater comedy than that?…The divine comedy describes God, the Infinite, as changing His mind because of the bribe of a calf. While this sentiment may seem to be on the border of heresy, Gelman points out that this statement of divine humor need not detract from the gravity nor legitimacy of the Temple nor G-d’s worship. Instead, this serves to remind us of the simultaneous ridiculousness of all attempts of limited human action in the face of an Infinite G-d, as the aforementioned limited humans continue their worship. This demands an embracing of paradox, and is in line with a statement of Rebbi Nahman in which he says that “the main thing is the will and yearning…And in this way to pray, study, and perform the commandments. (And in truth, according to His greatness all of these services are nothing, but everything is “as though,” for it is all just a joke compared to His greatness.)” The paradox of Jewish life, within this perspective, is that it demands us to concurrently worship to the best of our abilities, while recounting that all of our attempts are a joke in the face of the all-present Ein-Sof that is beyond our own human comprehension. 
This is to say that part of the story of Judaism, or perhaps all religion, calls for us to acknowledge the grand absurdity of the presumption that any human activity can change the will of the all-encompassing God, while still behaving and acting as if it could. By God’s command, we must believe that our actions and beliefs matter, while by God’s existence and love we must understand that the notion of human initiative is ultimately laughable. Characterized here by the Kohen Gadol’s laughter at the peak moment of human religious observance of the year, Rabbi Nahman isn’t suggesting that the Kohen Gadol stop his weighty divine service, but rather that it must be held in balance with the realization that everything is nothing and nothing, everything. This laughter inducing paradox comprises the divine jest of our time.
With this intriguing perspective in hand, we can revisit R. Froman’s own so-called “Torat Ha-sechok.” Froman wrote that the Torah of our time is a Torah beyond questions of life-or-death, beyond yetzi’at mitzrayim, and is rather found in the ridiculous absurdities of Purim. These absurdities comprise all of human life in the face of the supernal “before G-d” that surpasses the gravitas of human life. By utilizing the notion of a “new Torah for a new generation” of Rav Kook, and the existential absurdity-embracing perspective of Rabbi Nahman, Froman forges an eminently enjoyable theology of humor. Definitions of this theology aren’t easy, as one gets the sense in reading Chassidim Tzochkim that Froman would laugh at the very notion of a definition of Torat HaSchok, but it does call for a radical appreciation for the immediate intimacy of God. This intimacy calls all human action into comedic contrast, as any activity is nothing in the face of the infinite.
With a smile on his face and a witticism fresh from his tongue, R. Menachem Froman brought down a Torah of laughter and joy to the Jewish people, inundated with a seriousness beyond its years. Rav Froman sought to replace a lachrymose view of Jewish history with a humorous one, with trails of jest and joy instead of tears. Whether in joy or pain, from its truth or falsehoods, one thing is clear: the righteous will most definitely laugh from this.
 Rabbanit Froman appears in many pieces of Rav Froman’s works, and is often referred to as “my master and rebbe, my wife…”
 Much of this imbalance may due to availability of each writers’ thought: Steinsaltz has published more than 25 works, while Shagar’s works have been mostly published after his death in 2007, and are thus less numerous.
 There have also been several smaller publications that have been distributed to smaller audiences, such as Din Ve-cheshbon Al Ha-shiga’on (Law and Thought on Madness), and Kuf Acher Elokim.
 Piskah 169.
 Ibid 144.
 Ibid 28.
 BT Bava Batra 158b.
 Bereishit 2:12.
 Bereishit Rabbah 16:4.
 BT Bava Metzi’a 85a.
 Rashi ad loc.
 BT Sanhedrin 24a.
 See Sanhedrin 24a, which interprets “He has made me dwell in dark places, as those that have long been dead” (Eikhah 3:6) as a reference to the Babylonian Talmud. See also Zohar Hadash Eikhah p. 93, also interpreting a verse in Eikhah; “’And the light’: This is Jerusalem Talmud, which shines with the light of the Torah. After it is nullified, it is like being left in darkness, as it is written “he made me dwell in dark places”, which refers to the Babylonian Talmud.”
 See Rivash to Ketubot 75.
 It is also important to note that Professor David Weiss Halivni argues that much of the lengthy debates in the Babylonian Talmud are comprised of later “Stammaitic” redactions and if removed would reveal the two Talmuds to be much closer in text and style than usually thought.
 R. Naftali Tzvi Berlin, Kadmat Ha’Emek, 1:9, writes that the distinction is similar to “One that wanders in a dark palace with many rooms, who can’t find his way out…One that has a flame in his hand to see his way out doesn’t have to work as hard, but one that doesn’t have a candle can escape only by reflecting on the wisdom of the palace, and by failing many times until he comes finds the exit, and understands the wisdom of the building much better than the first.”
 See Orot, 80:34. In a fascinating account, Agnon tells that of the discussions surrounding the editing process of this piece of Orot, “R. Zvi Yehuda Kook recounted that when he was arranging the book Orot by his father Rav Avraham Isaac Kook of blessed memory, he brought him the entire work for examination before giving it to the printer. Meanwhile he remarked that it might be worthwhile to omit from the book the section on young Jews engaging in gymnastics, insofar as this section would likely be misunderstood by many and enemies would exploit it in their instigation. Rav Kook responded to him: ‘Do you wish to do this because of the fear of Heaven? Rather it is the fear of flesh and blood, and I don’t have this fear.” See Agnon, Sefer, Sofer ve-Sippur (Tel Aviv:1978), p. 352, quoted by Shalom Carmy in “Dialectic, Doubters, and a Self-Erasing Letter: Rav Kook and the Ethics of Belief”.
 For example, Rav Kook said about seeing the National Gallery in London that “When I lived in London, I would visit the National Gallery, and the paintings that I loved the most were those of Rembrandt. In my opinion, Rembrandt was a saint. When I first saw Rembrandt’s paintings, they reminded me of the rabbinic statement about the creation of light. When G-d created the light, it was so strong and luminous that it was possible to see from one end of the world to the other. And G-d feared that the wicked would make use of it. What did he do? He secreted it for the righteous in the world to come. But from time to time, there are great men whom G-d blesses with a vision of the hidden light. I believe Rembrandt was one of them, and the light of his paintings is that light which G-d created on Genesis day.” Interview, Jewish Chronicle, 9 September 1935.
 R. Kook famously eulogized Herzl, and in his remarks drew parallels between those that rebuild the physical structure of the Land of Israel, and Mashiach ben Yosef, drawing the ire of the ultra-Orthodox zealots. See Kook, “The Lamentation in Jerusalem: On the Death of Dr. Theodor Herzl.” Kook himself explained later to his father-in-law that in his opinion, Herzl “spoke pleasantly and politely, but… did reveal the fundamental failure of their…enterprise, namely the fact that they do not place at the top of their…priorities the sanctity of G-d and His Great Name… In my remarks, I offered no homage to Dr. Herzl per se.” Letter to R. Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim, also known as the Aderet, 1904.
 This may be in response to the Zionist value of shelilat ha-golah, negation of the exile, which called for a rebranding of the Jewish nation, from weak, passive, ghetto Jew to strong, vibrant, New Jew. Often forcefully detaching themselves from elements of Jewish history in the process, this evolution, or perhaps conversion, was actualized most clearly in the Hebraization of family names.
 Abraham Isaac Kook, Orot Ha-Torah, 13:3. Similarly, he writes, “In every generation we need to love the Torat Eretz Yisrael, and all the more so in our general, the generation of disintegration and rebirth, the time of darkness and light, of desperation and strength. Due to this we need the antidote of life- specifically from the Torat Eretz Yisrael. We need to show the truth and clarity of this divine land……”
 Ibid 13:4.
 Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop, a student and companion of Rav Kook, similarly affirms the notion of an old-new Torah for a new age, based off words in the Midrash that states “the Torah one learns in this world will be nothingness (hevel) in front of the Torah of Moshiach,” Midrash Kohelet, quoted in R. Yaakov Moshe Charlop, Mei Marom, 6:24. Elsewhere, R. Charlop divulges that R. Yehoshua Leib Diskin, appeared to R. Charlop in a dream and spoke to him about the difference between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi. He then told R. Charlop that this was the primary innovation of R. Kook. See R. Yaakov Moshe Charlop, Hod Harim, Siman 36.
 Hasidim Tzohakim Mi-zeh, 127.
 Ibid 115.
 BT Shabbat 30b and BT Pesahim 117a: “Like Rabbah, before he would open (the lecture) for the scholars he would say a humorous thing, and the scholars would rejoice, and they would then sit in awe and he would start the lecture.”
 Comments on BT Shabbat 30b.
 See “But Is it Funny? Identifying Humor, Satire, and Parody in Rabbinic Literature”, Jews and Humor (Studies in Jewish Civilization 22; ed. Leonard J. Greenspoon; Purdue University Press, 2010). See also Binyamin Engleman, “Humor Mutzhar, Galuy ve-Samuy be-Talmud Bavli” (Hebrew), Badad, vol. VIII (winter 5759).
 Hillel Halkin looks at the influence of medieval Arabic traditions on the self-deprecating theme in Jewish humor in his “Why Jews Laugh at Themselves”, Commentary Magazine, Vol 121, April 2006, No 4, pp. 47–54
 Freud, S. (1960). Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (J. Strachey, Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1905). See also Elliot Oring (1984). The Jokes of Sigmund Freud. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-7910-7.
 Hasidim Tzohakim, Piskah 28.
 Ibid 63.
 Quoted by Raanan Mallek, “On the Influence of Rabbi Menachem Froman.”
 Hasidim Tzohakim, 148.
 Likutei Maharan, 2:83.
 Chayei Moharan, 290.
 See Likutei Maharan 2:48: “The main thing is to be happy constantly, and to rejoice in all that one can, even through matters of absurdity, to make oneself like a madman and to do matters of absurdity and humor and jumping and dancing, in order to come to happiness, which is a major matter” (Italics mine). In Sichot ha-Ran 20, he writes similarly, but with an important deviation: “due to the many pains that a person has, that he carries on his body, soul, and money, therefore most people can’t come to rejoice themselves unless through absurd matters (mila d’shtuta)…”
 Likutei Halachot Nefilat Appayim 4:5.
 Quoted by Zvi Mark, Mysticism and Madness in the Work of R. Nahman of Breslov, 229.
 Sichot ha-Ran 34-35.