Monday, July 18, 2011

Tractate Reds; a Talmudic parody of Russian Communism from 1923.

Here's the first page of מסכת אדמונים מן תלמוד בולשבי. This parody Talmud was signed by Avshalom bar Daroma, which is a pen name of Abraham Solomon Melamed (who wrote another Talmud parody about twenty years earlier). It was published in Tel Aviv in 1923. The Massekhet is 24 dafim, encompassing 5 perakim. Naturally it would be humorous if it wasn't so horrifying; the parody is dedicated to a certain person who, we are told, was killed by the Communists in 1920. This individual requested that he be hung first so as not to witness the executions of his companions. On that same page is a quotation from Megillah 25a: אמר רב נחמן כל ליצנותא אסירא בר מליצנותא דעבודת כוכבים דשריא.

The 'Mishnah' begins 'All are Red. There is no difference between Red and White, apart for the name alone. Rabbi Yarkan says the Yerokin (Greens) are included. 'Rashi' says that the Gemara will explain who the Yerokim are. On 3a, for example, we see that 'the Whites call 'Zhid!' loudly, while the Reds say it quietly.' i.e., they are both antisemitic.

In the 'Gemara' (3b) Rabbi Yarkon 'darshens' Lev. 13:49 ('If the plague be greenish or reddish') to prove that in regards to plagues both Green and Red are the same. By 'Green' he means the, armed peasants.

The first part of the last 'Mishnah' (daf 23b) says 'Three things were decreed by the followers of the Reds for Israel: That they should not teach faith and religion to their children, until they are 18 years old. It is prohibited to teach Hebrew with Tanach, and any school which teaches Torah must be closed, and the teachers and parents arrested and tried. And it is prohibited for a father to go with his child to the synagogue until he is eighteen years old. An incident occurred in Strodov (?), someone circumcised his Communist daughter's son, and the case was brought before the followers of the Reds. They arrested and tried the grandfather and imprisoned him.' The second part continues, 'Even though it is prohibited to teach children Torah, but it is permitted to teach politics . . .' Then the 'Gemara' asks, 'What is politics? To teach them to distinguish between the Bourgeois and the Communist . . . '

If anyone is interested in the entire thing, you can read it here; it doesn't appear on Google Books.

And to those who asked, I am going to resume a full schedule of posting soon. Thanks.


  1. This makes the second Talmudic parody I've seen (the hilarious Simpson's Talmud was the first.) Are you aware of any others?
    -- Phil

  2. Phil, there have been quite a few, from the 14th century's Massekhet Purim to 1909's Talmud Yankee to 1929's Massekhet Prohibishon to 20(??)'s Massekhet Yechi Hamelech Chabad Meshichist parody. See Israel Davidson's Parody in Jewish Literature for other examples, including another one by the same author of the Talmud parody of this post.

  3. There are a few cheap copies of Davidson on Abebooks. It is a gem of a book, and helps foster the notion that parody is an important form of discourse, and not just a way for Wierd Al to make a living.

  4. A Hockey parody on Gemarah, it's actually so funny!

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