Facing Reality

Ki Tetzei By :  Alex Sinclair Director of Programs in Israel Education, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jewish Education Posted On Sep 1, 2017 / 5777 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective | Israel

And so another school year begins. After a summer of camp, travel, or relaxation, reality bites. Schedule. Classes. Papers. Reality.

Ki Tetzei contains many moments which deal with cold, hard reality. You like that woman you took captive in war? Sorry, mate, you have to face reality, with rules and regulations (Deut. 21:10–14). Think that the son of your preferred wife can inherit, even though he’s not the first-born? No sirree: you have to deal with legal reality (21:15-17). Think that you can build that fancy house without worrying about safety regulations? Nope: make sure you put a parapet on that roof first (22:8).

Modern Israel too struggles between wishes, ideals, fantasies about what we’d love the state’s situation to be . . . and cold hard reality. Unlike the Torah, one of its primary mechanisms for addressing that reality is comedy. Israeli humor is notoriously and sometimes viciously political (it makes Stephen Colbert look like Benny Hill), and it tackles all of Israel’s sacred cows without mercy.

The short and hilarious clip above is an example from Israel’s flagship comedy Eretz Nehederet. It’s a brilliant poke at both the one-state solution advocated by some on the right, and at the rather shallow demographic arguments against it from the left. Once you’ve finished laughing at the clip, it’s worth thinking about what it might be trying to teach us about reality, and the way we deal with it.