Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Tale of the Great Apikoris of Brooklyn

NOTE: The comments in italics have been extracted from the Yad Korakh commentary to the traditional Sefer Bubeh Maises, as compiled by Rabbi Danni Gazlani. The complete Yad Korakh commentary can be found in the Fartscroll edition of the Sefer Bubeh Maises, published by the Masorti (NOT) Heritiage Foundation.

There was once an apikoris who lived in a small community in the eastern United States. He was indeed a zealous apikorus who did his best to explore the full limits of apikorsus, but in his small town, he felt limited and constrained by the narrow views of his provincial neighbors. Finally, he wrote to the Great Apikorus of Brooklyn, asking if he could study at the master's feet. The great Apikoris quickly sent back an e-mail inviting the acolyte to visit for Shabbos.

The tradition is clear that the Sefer Bubeh Maises was written in the late 1700's in Lithuania by the Vilna Gaon. However, many G-dless modern scholars claim that this story is of more recent origins, pointing out that the story contains a number of anachronisms for something written in 1790. However, these apparent anachronisms simply serve to strengthen the case for authorship by the Vilna Gaon, as it's clear that this story is a divine revelation, and, of course H-sh-m can reveal the future. Alternatively, it should be pointed out that in 1790, there were Jews who lived in New York, and who knows? Maybe there was a great Apikoris of Brooklyn at the time.

The young apikorus arrived in New York on a busy Friday afternoon. As he rode up the escalator from his train, he say the Great Apikoris, a man who wore a black suit, Fedora, with tzitzis dangling from beneath his coat, and with a full beard. A black velvet yarmulke was visible beneath the fedora.

"Quickly," aid the Great Apikoris, "It's almost Shabbos, and we have much to do!"

Whith that, he grabbed his younf visitor and hurried him on to the Subway, where the rode to Brooklyn. In the heart of Crown Heights, the young apikorus found himself immersed in a mikveh, and then whisked off to the Apartment of the Great Apikorus, where he changed into Shabbos clothes. He then accompanied the Great Apikoris to a very Orthodox black-hatter frum chassidische yeshivishe shul where they davened ma'ariv in the traditional manner. Then they returned home, where the Wife of the Great Apikoris had prepared a delicious traditional Shabbos dinner, and the Great Apikoris said kiddush in the traditional manner and expounded on the Torah between each course. Needless to ay, the young visitor was very puzzled at all of this.

The next day was more of the same, with a return to the frum shul, where the Great Apikoris gave the Davar Torah, a very learned and traditional interpretation of the weekly Torah Portion. Then back to the Apartment for some traditional choulent and a much needed Shabbos nap. After that, the Great Apikoris took his visitor to a Gemora study group, then they davenned mincha, has shalosh se'udos, and finally ma'ariv and havdalah. At this point, the young visitor finally had time to speak to the master:

"O Great Apikoris, what's going on here? Back home, I do all I can to strengthen my committment to apikorsus. I eat treif every chance I get. Pork, lobster, shrimp, and cheeseburgers don't have a chance at my table. On Shabbos I make it a point to do yard work, go to the mall, or check out the college football game, that is, if I'm not at the office catching up on work. I make sure that my wife and daughters wear the most revealing clothing they can without getting arrested. When I do discuss the Torah, I make sure to expound on the teachings of the great Wellhausen, or at least Mordechai Kaplan. But you, look at this! You keep kosher, heck it's glatt, Mehadrin kosher! You keep Shabbos! Your wife not only wears a wig, she wears a snood on top of the wig, and a hat on top of the snood! You discuss Torah like you were some kind of right-wing yeshiva bocher! What kind of apikoris are you, anyway?!"

The Apikoris looked at the young man and replied, "Hey, I'm an apikoris, not a goy."

There are some versions of this tale in which the punch line reads "Hey, I'm an apikoris, not an ignoramus ("am Ha-aretz"). Obviously, such a variant is not authentic, as an apikoris, by definition, is not an ignoramus.


Blogger Mis-nagid said...

"Obviously, such a variant is not authentic, as an[d] apikoris, by definition, is not an ignoramus."


9:00 PM  
Anonymous Masorti said...

I do not mean to be churlish, but this maise is old...
At least one well known version is included in the venerable sefer, "The Big Book of Jewish Humor".

3:34 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...


Does the version in "The Big Book of Jewish Humor" cite the source for the story?

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Masorti said...

No, the authors of the sefer seem to assume that they are like Rambam, and do not need to cite their sources. However, based on year of research, I would guess that the joke goes back to the early 20th century.

In any case, the story is on page 224. Now go and read. :-)

11:46 AM  

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