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How old is the tradition of Purim Torah? The Wikipedia article linked from our PT policy notes a disputed claim of Purim Torah in the talmud (Hulin 139b), with some saying that while the talmud contains humor it doesn't contain the kind of satire that characterizes modern Purim Torah.

I am not asking about Purimspiels (dramatic presentations), though that might be related. What is the oldest case we know of Purim Torah that mimics teaching (written or oral)?

  • Very interesting question. I am thinking that it might be related to when the first Purim parade occurred. Costumes and a party atmosphere leads to humor. – JJLL Feb 20 '15 at 0:05
  • A great question i think that is connected to your question is: how does the prohibition of Gilui Panim BaTorah factor into Purim Torah – Shoel U'Meishiv Feb 20 '15 at 8:30
  • Feels like we need a Purim Torah NOT In Jest tag for questions like this ;) – Joel K Mar 15 at 6:56
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The printed editions of Machzor Vitry contain a lengthy piyyut for ma'ariv of Purim, which starts with the words Leil shikurim hu zeh halailah ("Tonight is a night of drunkenness").

While some seem to have taken this piyyut at face value, it certainly appears to be a parody (or "Purim Torah") of the piyyut recited on the night of Pesach (leil shimurim).

In terms of provenance and dating, it is attributed to a R. Menachem b. Aharon. While it is not clear exactly when he lived, this article by Eliezer Brodt quotes Israel Davidson as dating him to between 1140 and 1244.

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Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (13th-14th century) authored such a work entitled Masseket Purim, a parody for the Feast of Purim. (I think; see here, 137ff., for a brief description of the work)

I believe Immanuel the Roman (13th-14th century) authored a work of this genre as well entitled Makhberet Imanuel

  • I write hesitatingly because I havent examined these texts myself so I cannot attest to the exact style. All I know about them is from references to these works as rabbinic purim related parodies. – mevaqesh Feb 20 '15 at 4:24
  • @DoubleAA I didn't have a chance to look through it yet. Is that the medieval rationalist tract Alilot Devarim? – mevaqesh Aug 5 '16 at 16:11
  • That is the title and time period. I can't confirm the philosophy. – Double AA Aug 5 '16 at 16:14
  • @DoubleAA If it is what I suspect it is, then it is a powerful anti-superstitious tract that lambasts the anti-Maimonideans. It is satire in the same sense that A Modest Proposal is; it is perhaps written in a particular less than serious literary mode, but is nevertheless a serious work. Not sure it qualifies as Purim Torah. Thanks again for the link. – mevaqesh Aug 5 '16 at 16:26

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