Purim, which starts next Wednesday night, is a reminder of the importance of humor in Jewish life — the holiday is traditionally a time of pranks and frivolity. A new book, “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” (HarperOne, $25.99), by James Martin, a Jesuit priest who works as culture editor at “America,” a prominent Catholic magazine, is a reminder that humor plays a part in other religions.
During a recent educational tour in Canada, Noam Bedein, director of the Sderot Media Center, an independent advocacy organization in the Negev, encountered a surprising amount of support for Israel among the members of the First Nations — the country’s indigenous people, like the Native Americans here — he met. As often-displaced groups, they told Bedein, a Sabra, they understood Israelis’ love for their land.
For several weeks each winter, between Chanukah and Purim, the Weissberg Commons area of Yeshiva University’s Belfer Hall becomes an enormous book fair. More than 15,000 people — families and singles, children and seniors, Orthodox and non-Orthodox — browse through tables and shelves crammed with discounted books and DVDs and educational software offered for sale during The Seforim Sale sponsored by the Students of Yeshiva (SOY).