I’d Like to Hear the Explanation

Cidu Bill on Aug 27th 2008

shema.jpg

That’s a mezuzah, which Jewish families place next to their doorways (sometimes next to the doorways of each room inside the house or apartment, as well). There’s a scroll inside the mezuzah, on which is written the Shema, an important Jewish prayer.

The comic is portraying it very accurately, right down to the angle at which the mezuzah is supposed to be positioned.

Knowing all this, however, doesn’t explain the actual joke (though the concept itself is pretty funny, if a bit obscure to many of the non-Chosen).

Filed in Bill Bickel, CIDU, Judaism, cats, comic strips, comics, humor, mezuzahs, mice | 27 responses so far

27 Responses to “I’d Like to Hear the Explanation”

  1. Naomi Aug 27th 2008 at 02:14 pm 1

    Well, I took it as just a bit of absurdity, and I found it reasonably funny. If there’s supposed to be more to it, it beats me! (BTW, I am Jewish, so I recognized the mezzuzah right away.) Now, if the mouse hole had the “passover” mark from Exodus in the bible - telling the cat to go away and not eat these mice - that might be even funnier, but only to a very small segment of the audience.

  2. jayjaybear Aug 27th 2008 at 02:21 pm 2

    Maybe it’s a MOUSE-uzah? Or maybe Mo(u)ses lives there?

  3. Cidu Bill Aug 27th 2008 at 02:25 pm 3

    Naomi, I would guess that more non-Jes would recognize the “passover” mark than mezuzzahs, simply because Exodus is taught in Christian Sunday schools.

    But this is only a guess and, having grown up in an area of New York where people generally knew about one another’s cultures, my impression is very likely skewed.

  4. Nicole Aug 27th 2008 at 02:31 pm 4

    Maybe this is a reference to Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. Art created a graphic novel showing his fathers story of trying to survive the nazis in poland. In it the Jews are mice and the nazis are cats.

  5. Ted Aug 27th 2008 at 03:52 pm 5

    If it’s a Jewish cat, wouldn’t he be prohibited from eating the mouse? At least this site says so.

    http://www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm

    Nothing better to do today :)

  6. Rob Aug 27th 2008 at 04:30 pm 6

    I think nicole is probably right. I don’t know that I see the humor in it, but my immediate impression was it was connected to the graphic novel “Maus”.

  7. Cidu Bill Aug 27th 2008 at 04:36 pm 7

    Mouse is Jewish, Ted. Doesn’t mean the cat is.

  8. Pinny Aug 27th 2008 at 05:06 pm 8

    A mezuzah, while a commandment like any other, is supposed to remind us of God and his protection. As a matter of fact, there is usually a Hebrew letter “Shin” on the outside of the mezuzah (as in the comic above) which stands for one of God’s names whose letters are also an acronym for “God is the Guardian of (our) doors”. As such, a mezuzah is very often though of as protective.

    I would therefore suggest that the mouse placed the mezuzah by his door in the hope that it will protect him from the cat entering his mouse hole.

    Oh ,and Harry Bliss seems to have a connection to Maus author, Art Spiegelman:
    http://lambiek.net/artists/b/bliss_harry.htm

  9. Pinny Aug 27th 2008 at 05:15 pm 9

    BTW, I see mezuzahs all the time; I have never seen a Passover mark. (I’m not even certain as to what it is. Do you mean the blood placed on the doorposts and lintel before the Exodus from Egypt? If yes, that was a one-time deal.) The former is (to me) instantly recognizable; the latter — not so much, if at all.

  10. Shuni Aug 27th 2008 at 06:48 pm 10

    Why is the mouse hole so BIG though?

  11. S.P. Charles Aug 27th 2008 at 07:13 pm 11

    Shuni, you do realize that real mouse holes don’t actually look like this at all, right? :)

  12. Mark in Boston Aug 27th 2008 at 07:42 pm 12

    Well, there’s Jewish humor for export (the Marx Brothers, Mad Magazine, Woody Allen etc.) and there’s Jewish humor for internal use. Here’s a joke I found in a book. Every Jewish person I tell it to thinks it’s hilariously funny. Every non-Jewish person I tell it to doesn’t get it.

    An old man asked his grandson, “What’s green, hangs on the wall and whistles?”

    “I don’t know, Grandfather,” said the grandson. “What’s green, hangs on the wall and whistles?”

    “A red herring!” said the grandfather.

    “That’s not green.”

    “So you paint it green!”

    “It doesn’t hang on the wall.”

    “Since when is there some sort of law that you can’t hang a red herring on the wall?”

    “But it doesn’t whistle.”

    Long pause.

    “Nu,” said the grandfather, “so it doesn’t whistle.”

    (The joke is from the book “So It Doesn’t Whistle” by Robert Paul Smith.)

  13. Mark in Boston Aug 27th 2008 at 07:44 pm 13

    Your center tag is still open.

    So I closed it, or tried to.

  14. Cidu Bill Aug 27th 2008 at 08:28 pm 14

    Oddly enough, Mark, I had closed the center tag, but somehow WordPress ignored that. SO I just deleted the original center tag.

    Imperfect software. What’s the world coming to?

  15. DocBob Aug 27th 2008 at 08:36 pm 15

    Mark

    As an ex-Catholic who lived in a Jewish neighborhood (the local Rabbi lived down the street from me) I got the humor right away. BTW I am from Randolph but live in Tulsa OK now.

    Cidu Bill,

    Actually quite a few Christians might get it, at least the children. Our Vacation Bible School this year was ‘Jerusalem Marketplace’ which was put together by one of the big publishers. In it we learned about many of the Hebrew symbols and in fact, our children made a crude mezzuzah which my daughter brought home and put on the doorway to her room and my son put it in the doorway to my office area (where they play on the computers).

  16. brien Aug 28th 2008 at 02:52 am 16

    I’m guessing Mitzvah Mouse lives in there.

  17. Oy vey Aug 28th 2008 at 08:04 am 17

    I don’t think Bliss generally cares how universal his jokes are, he just does what he thinks is funny. I don’t know if that comes from being a New Yorker cartoonist or vice-versa, but I give him props for that.

  18. Morris Keesan Aug 28th 2008 at 08:51 am 18

    Do people really put mezuzahs NEXT TO their doorways like this? Every mezuzah I’ve ever seen is IN the doorway, so that as you’re passing through, you can put your hand up to the side and touch it.

  19. Trish Aug 28th 2008 at 09:00 am 19

    I would have guessed the majority of Gentiles and others would immediately recognize this Jewish symbol - maybe not its name and purpose but would at a minimum recognize it as a Jewish door embellishment. All the commentators so far sound like they recognized it. Now I’m curious just how recognized a mezuzah is!

    As to the joke I think we just have a Jewish mouse household which I thought was pretty funny and a little clever. A subcontext referencing Maus gives it a bit of profundity but I suspect that level is in the eye of the beholder.

  20. Nicole Aug 28th 2008 at 09:10 am 20

    Perhaps it is a Jewish mousehold

    Trish — your are right about seeing a reference to Maus — it probably is in the eye of the beholder

  21. Cidu Bill Aug 28th 2008 at 10:58 am 21

    Morris is correct: Bliss cheated on the placement of the mezuzah, presumably in order to make it show up more clearly in the drawing:

    mezuzzah1.jpgmezuzzah2.jpg

  22. Jon88 Aug 28th 2008 at 12:44 pm 22

    Seriously? 21 comments and not one “Mousekowitz” joke?

  23. brien Aug 28th 2008 at 01:37 pm 23

  24. Naomi Aug 28th 2008 at 01:47 pm 24

    Pinny - yes, that is what I was referring to as a “passover mark” - the blood on the lintel of Jewish houses during the plagues of Egypt, to tell the Angel of Death to “pass over” those houses (explanation included for other people since you knew what I meant.) But you’re right in that it wouldn’t be very recognizable without some kind of label.
    Brien, who is Mitzvah Mouse? Any connection to Dangermouse?

  25. brien Aug 28th 2008 at 10:42 pm 25

    Heh, I thought I was making up “Mitzvah Mouse” as a pun on “Mickey Mouse”, but a quick Google search shows a few characters with that name.

  26. The Ploughman Aug 29th 2008 at 05:12 pm 26

    Mark in Boston’s post is a CIDU (C = Comment) for me… and I really wish I did. It amuses me without even fully understanding it.

  27. Cidu Bill Aug 29th 2008 at 07:28 pm 27

    Ploughman, M in B’s comment referred to the fact that all the responses were showing up here centered. I’ve since fixed the problem.

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