Inspired by this question are there any recorded jokes in the works of the Geonim or Rishonim? Please cite sources

  • Does a play on words / pun count? The Ramban is full of clever wordplays. Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 15:50
  • @YeZ as is the gemarah, I would say they don't count though Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 16:03
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    You're asking for examples from a very large and varied body of work. It would be much more tractable to provide and evaluate answers if you edit in more information about what would constitute an ideal answer. Alternatively, are you just looking for a binary "yes"/"no", citing a source? If so, please edit to make that clearer.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 16:25
  • ...well if Rashi had an allergic reaction to something he'd be a rashy Rashi....(moan)...n R David Kimchi starting a revolution would be a radical RaDaK...(more groans)...
    – Gary
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 17:57
  • FWIW - My friend and I created "Masechet Chulent" a while ago. The 2 Rishonim were called "Egel Zahav" and "Parah Adumah"
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


While your question is overly broad, the short answer is "yes" - at least so far as Rishonim are concerned, and only because I don't know of any examples from geonim. (There are numerous examples of humour being employed in the Talmud, but that's beyond the scope of what you asked).

There are two famous examples from Ibn Ezra, who lived from approximately 1089-1164 and who composed a couple of commentaries on the Torah. In Exodus 21:35, he takes issue with the opinion of a Karaite scholar named Ben Zuta, who held that the noun רעהו ("his friend") had שור ("ox") as its referent, and that rather than providing a scenario in which one man's ox gores the ox of another (literally, "the ox of his friend"), Ben Zuta suggested that the injured ox was the friend of the one that gored it. In responding to Ben Zuta, Ibn Ezra gibes that the only friend that oxen have is Ben Zuta himself (ואין לשור ריע רק בן זוטא לבדו).

Similarly, in Genesis 29:17, Ibn Ezra takes issue with a Karaite scholar named Ben Efraim who suggested that the description of Leah's eyes as being "soft" (רכות) was missing an alef, and that it should say "long" (ארוכות). In response, Ibn Ezra suggests that it is Ben Efraim who should be missing the alef and that his name, therefore, be בן פרים ("son of cattle"). That these statements are humorous might seem obvious, but for an explicit assertion to that effect, see Avi Ezer on Genesis 15:11.

Humour, of course, doesn't have to be used for the purpose of mockery. One particularly famous example where it is not used in such a fashion (and depending on whether or not you consider him a Rishon) is in the Rema's response to an assertion made by the Bet Yosef in Yoreh Deah 87:3. There, R' Yosef Karo points out that one should be careful not to mix fish with milk, since the combination is a dangerous one (אין לאכול דגים בחלב מפני הסכנה), and cites Orach Chayim 173 as a support. The problem is, the Tur in OC 173:2 makes this statement as regards fish and meat.

It has long been suggested that the reference to milk in YD 87 is a typo, and an easy one to make when you consider that "meat" and "milk" are often used in connection with one another. The Rema (Darkhei Moshe, ibid.) suggests as much, but does so by way of what surely must be considered a joke! After mentioning that he has never heard of the tradition of avoiding admixtures of fish and milk, and after noting that the passage referenced by the Bet Yosef mentions fish and meat, the Rema concludes that the Bet Yosef appears to have mixed meat and milk (ולכן נראה שנתערב לרב בית יוסף בשר בחלב).

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    I had seen the אין לשור ריע bit before, but the בן פרים one is hilarious! +1, great answer. Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 4:08
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    He also has הכי קרא שמו יצחק כל השומע יצחק לו.
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 22:49
  • The Rema's conclusion that the Bet Yosef "appears to have mixed meat and milk" (ולכן נראה שנתערב לרב בית יוסף בשר בחלב) is the most beautifully humourous "put down" in the context of the comment.
    – Edward B
    Commented May 24 at 9:42

Korei Dorot Chapter 3 records the following story featuring Mahari Abuhav (my translation):

ואמרו על הרב מהר"י אבוהב ז"ל שהיתה עינו אחת סמויה...פעם אחד היה מהלך בדרך בשדה וישב לו הרב על שן סלע אחד, וב' נכבדים ישבו אחד מימין ואחד משמאל, והיה בחור אחד תלמידו עומד לפניהם, והרב ז"ל בדיחא דעתיה והיו מדברים בדברי צחות, ופנה הרב אל התלמיד ואמר ליה אמור אתה, א"ל תן לי רשות שאשב, א"ל שב, ישב על האבן ואמר על אבן אחת שבעה עינים

And they said about Rabbi Mahari Abuhav OB"M that one of his eyes was blinded...one time he was walking on the way in a field and sat on a certain rock outcropping, and two honored [companions] sat on his right and left, and a certain young student of his was standing in front of them. And the Rabbi was feeling humorous and they were telling jokes, and the Rabbi turned to the student and said, "You tell [a joke]". And the student said, "Give me permission to sit." And he said, "Sit!" He sat on the rock and said "Upon one stone are seven eyes!"

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    This story, Which R' Conforte cites to the responsa of the Maharit (II YD 16, reproduced here), is actually about R' Yitzchak Abuav II of Castile, who was blind in one eye and close to the King of Portugal. (For fun, here's a link to a scan of the Maharit's original handwritten responsum).
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 22:33
  • @Fred That would make sense, but R' Conforte explicitly says it is R' Abuhav of the book Menorat HaMaor. (I see now he says it's the same R' Abuhav whose comments are oft cited by R' Yosef Karo in his Beit Yosef. It is thus possible, or even likely, that R' Conforte conflated the two personalities.) Thank you for the citation to Maharit. I had searched unsuccessfully the works of Maharil, to no avail.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 22:57
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    Yes, I think the identification was mistaken. Also, according to the Hebrew Wikipedia page, R' Yosef Karo means to cite R' Yitzchak Abuav of Castile. (For more discussion of this t'shuva of the Maharit, see here, which also considers whether the King of Portugal compared R' Abuav to an eagle, or to an important bridge).
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 23:14

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