Biblical Humor

Charles David Isbell cisbell at
Fri Feb 23 19:21:14 EST 2001

I'm not certain I see the humor in the question from Job, but the NAB note
is hilarious.  This phrase is picked up by the rabbis and inserted into a
separate blessing among the Shabbat morning blessings.  There the blessing
is made to God, and the question framed in Job is answered.  "Barukh 'atta,
.... who gave the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and
night."  Now the chicken is quite a stupid bird, and it seems odd that a
rooster would be singled out for its intelligence.  But old farm boys like
myself know what the rabbis must surely have known too, that the rooster
does not crow WHEN it becomes light, but actually just a few moments BEFORE
the light dawns for each new day.  This is what is celebrated in the
B'RaKha, and the fact that such a  dumb bird has received such a gift from
God is deemed worthy of praise.  That is, the ability of such a dumb animal
to know even slightly ahead of time that a new day was about to dawn was
perceived by the rabbis to be a true miracle, deserving of its own special
Incidentally, I have a paper coming out on this and other "earthy" phrases
in the Siddur.  It is scheduled to be in Volume XIII of the Klutznick
symposium on Jewish spirituality held last Fall at Creighton.  Leonard
Greenspoon will be the editor.
Shabbat Shalom,
Charles David Isbell

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