Tag: modern mishnah

Institutionally antiochus: the Channukah Special 2019

Two of the eight candles failed to turn up to this festival all about the impact of oil on our world, and they were replaced by ice sculptures, but nevertheless the time for Channukah is nearly upon us.

If you’ve forgotten to get topical gifts for your loved ones, fear not, for hereby unveiled is this year’s edition of Gabriel Festive Innovations! Click below (or here) to view:

Now that that’s over with, we can get on with…

Emily Maitlis interviews Antiochus IV

You knew that this parody was just waiting to happen, right?

Emily Maitlis: Antiochus, good evening.

Antiochus: Good evening.

EM: This interview is, of course, totally unprecedented, partly because I won’t be born for another 2,100 years or so, but also because of the nature of the allegations you’re facing.

A: I’m very happy to be here and able to put my case across.

EM: We’ll begin with the most troubling accusation, this claim that you were responsible for defiling the Temple in Jerusalem by filling it with pigs.

A: Not true. Not true.

EM: But you were in Jerusalem at the time, I think?

A: I was in Jerusalem at the time, but only because it was a convenient place to sleep over on my journey from Ipsus to Persepolis. No other reason.

EM: Did you not think twice about spending time in a city where atrocities were taking place?

A: Atrocities? No. It was a simple, straightforward voyage of conquest with a few friends. That’s the sort of thing that people do all the time.

EM: Were you aware that Jerusalem was occupied and being forcibly Hellenised at the time?

A: I didn’t notice that, but what you have to understand is, Jerusalem is a big place. All sorts of things go on there that not everyone sees all the time.

EM: So you’re saying it might have happened?

A: I’m saying I don’t recall it happening.

EM: There have also been claims that you performed involuntary circumcisions of Jewish men. How do you respond to that?

A: Not only is that completely untrue, but I actually can’t perform a circumcision because I’ve had a made-up medical condition that would make that impossible, ever since someone shot an arrow in my direction during the Sixth Syrian War.

EM: That’s an extraordinary defence for you to adopt, because several individuals have come forward quite explicitly to say that they remember you circumcising them. And you would think that’s the sort of thing they would clearly remember?

A: I wasn’t even in Jerusalem at the time they say these incidents took place.

EM: “Incidents”? We’re talking about serious sexual assault.

A: Yes, of course, I was being… erm… polite. Well, I wasn’t in Jerusalem at the time, as I say.

EM: Where were you?

A: I was in a tavern in Seleucia having a flatbread with my daughter Laodice.

EM: You remember what you ordered in a tavern in Seleucia, years later? Is that not a bit odd?

A: Not really. I remember it so clearly because it was just a few days after I defiled the Temple in Jerusalem with pigs and forcibly circumcised those… oh, damn!

Zealots’ protest banned

Some interpretations of the Channukah story portray the Maccabees less as heroes and more as religious extremists who used aggression to intimidate their fellow citizens from modernising their practices and assimilating their customs. In which case…

The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem has permanently banned protests outside a primary school near the Jaffa Gate. A group of Maccabees had been protesting on a regular basis outside the school ever since it decided to start teaching the Greek alphabet alongside Hebrew and to cover some Greek gods as part of their RE classes.

A leader of the protests, identified only by his first name ‘Judah’ and his nickname ‘the Hammer’, was defiant. “This is a serious abuse of our freedom of speech,” he told reporters. “If we want to stand outside a school waving weaponry and abusive signage at small children, what right does a court have to stop us?”

The protesters are fundamentally opposed to schools teaching anything about any culture other than the pupils’ own Jewish background. “Why do kids at that age need to know about Greek ideas like gymnasia and art?” demands Judah. “Just let them enjoy their childhood. Why sully the classroom with such heathen, un-Jewish concepts as sport, mathematics, democracy and tzatziki?”

A spokesperson for the school insisted that the controversial new lessons had been misrepresented. “These classes do not seek to promote a Greek lifestyle,” they said. “We’re simply trying to give our children a good grounding for life in the melting-pot that is modern Jerusalem, and equip them to make their own choices while respecting people from all walks of society.”

Judah the protestor reiterated, “We completely refute any suggestion that our youngsters should be taught to respect people from all walks of society. If anyone should be brainwashing my children, it’s me.” He then issued a call to all Jewish agrarians across the city to gather together their most lethal farming implements, knives, pointed sticks and narwhal tusks, and to stage a violent uprising against their assimilationist neighbours.

A tiny bit of election

I’m really too fed up to do much post-election coverage, but you can read the sermon I gave on Shabbat here, and I do have a small ditty below based on a snippet of the BBC election night programme in which a reporter mentioned that Labour’s Red Wall had “crumbled”. That was just too similar to a James Bond theme song to let slip.


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Oh, and this bit didn’t involve any work for me because it’s a genuine fragment of an ancient Hebrew mansucript recovered from the Islington Genizah. Behold, the Mishnaic tractate on government formation:

That’s it

Chag sameach, and see most of you (ie the world) at Limmud.

Gabrielvotes: an election special

The Brexit Party thinks there are too many Poles, while the rest of us think there are too many polls, as Britain goes to the ballot boxes yet again today. Join Gabrielquotes for a thrilling glance through all the important features of the general election that nobody really wants.

(Also, I’ve done two general election specials before, not to mention local elections and the EU referendum, yet only just thought of the pun “Gabrielvotes”. I’ve still got it.)

What your votes really mean

Everyone with a vested interest in this election has been keen to tell you what your vote really means: how a vote for Party A actually indicates support for Cause B. As a massive favour for you, Gabrielquotes & Co LLP has very kindly consolidated all of this advice into one convenient – if inconsistent – guide:

  • A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Corbyn.
  • A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Johnson.
  • A vote for Labour is a vote for anti-Semitism.
  • Tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable.
  • A vote for the Tories is a vote for selling the NHS.
  • A vote for the SNP is a vote for Remain.
  • A vote for the Greens is a vote for having your journey on the Central line delayed by Extinction Rebellion.
  • A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for a Lib Dem government with Jo Swinson as Prime Minister (This is the silliest one. -Ed.)
  • A vote for Corbyn is a vote for Hamas.
  • A vote for Johnson is a vote for a fake Brexit that keeps us part of the EU’s insidious octopus.
  • Votey Mcvoteface is the name the public chose.
  • A vote for Anneka and Kevin will cost 57p per minute plus your standard network rate.
  • Erm…
  • That’s it.

Promises, promises

The parties have all got into the Christmas spirit by agreeing to release one election promise every day. Just like the contents of an advent calendar, these promises are overpriced, unhealthy and vanishingly unlikely to survive as long as January the 1st.

Labour has pledged to provide free broadband for everyone (providing that the only sites they choose to visit are CorbynAndChill.net, ComeradesReunited.uk.com and Clause4chan.org), while the Tories have pledged to give Nigel Farage a peerage. Both commitments seem faintly corrupt, but at least Labour’s offer is superficially attractive to the voting public.

By dangling the prospect of Lord Farage in front of us, Boris Johnson has actually made a vow that leaves me even less likely to vote for him than I was before. Perhaps he should have submitted this plan to peer review before announcing it? (You’re fired. -Ed.)

Now, we’re being given a new present each day in the run-up to Christmas. If only I could think of an easily-parodiable song to provide a structure through which I can satirise Election 2019. Oh wait… I have it:

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The rules of the election

Everyone knows I have a soft spot for electoral administration. But what very few people know is that there is actually a whole tractate of the Mishnah* dedicated to outlining the halachot and regulations around voting. So please click below (or here tbh) and read the two newly-discovered pages of manuscript that make up all we know of Masechet B’chirah.

*a tractate of the Mishnah wot I wrote this week

Note from Gabriel: this is a parody. It doesn’t mean I don’t have serious concerns about Labour’s institutional anti-Semitism (I do). It doesn’t mean I love Corbyn (I don’t). It doesn’t mean I’m mocking people’s heartfelt fears (I’m not). What it means is that I deprecate Stephen Pollard’s fearmongering, with reporting which, surely deliberately, leaves people more afraid than they need be. I deprecate his attempt to make British Jews forget that we are both British and Jewish, and to manipulate voters into thinking only about themselves and not giving a thought to the impact of our vote on wider society. And I explain all this in more mild and reasoned terms IN THIS SERMON. Please do not send me angry tweets if you don’t get these subtleties. Thanks in advance. (Do you really think the people who send you angry tweets get subtleties? -Ed.) (No. But they’ll be too busy pretending to pack their bags to spend time reading this blog. -GKW)

Another song

I hope this annoys Farage

If a second referendum is becoming a possiblity, so too must a second song (Please, no. -Ed). And it would be remiss of Gabrielquotes Publishing Plc to let slip the opportunity to mark this thrilling moment that, years after the Brexit vote, we’re still in the EU.

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Video footage emerged last month of Boris Johnson promising businesspeople in Northern Ireland that his “fantastic, oven-ready” Brexit deal will leave them with full access to the single market: “There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind. You will have unfettered access.” This sounds like a brilliant idea! If only there were a way to secure similar access for exporters and businesses across the rest of the UK.

This phrase “oven-ready” does deserve some checks and fetters, however. Johnson has repeatedly guaranteed that his deal is “oven-ready”. In one speech he said it was “oven-ready, just pop it in the microwave”. OK, you might say, perhaps he’s using the slightly antiquated term ‘microwave oven’; it goes with his slightly antiquated views on black people and his slightly antiquated Leader of the House of Commons. But then in another speech he said that his deal is “ready to put in the oven, gas mark 4”. It’s a rare microwave that can perform at gas mark 4. But then again it’s a rare Prime Minister who can have gone back to Brussels to negotiate a better deal than his predecessor and ended up with something worse.

What a time to be alive.

An English lesson

Everyone’s favourite flame warriors Sussex Friends of Israel recently did a Facebook post referring to the anti-Semitic actions of “a Gestapo of Corbynites”. They obviously take the view that a collective noun that doesn’t use Holocaust imagery is a collective noun not worth having.

But I decided to take part in their game of venery, and to come up with a series of other, similarly objectionable collective nouns of the sort that might be used by far-right trolls and also the editor of the Daily Mail:

Anyone got any further suggestions? (I’m particularly interested in coming up with a collective noun for ice sculptures.) Leave a comment below!

Go back to your constituencies and prepare for a f**king nightmare

Vote. Vote early, vote often. Try to vote in a way that will protect the vulnerable people in society and not just yourself. Join me in the Election Day Prayer as polls close at 10pm.

And Gabrielquotes & Gabrielquotes Ltd will be back for Channukah. See you then.