The old rabbi, or: The apikoros

A dorky Jewish limerick

When an apikoros broke Shabbat,
The old rabbi just sighed, "Oy, mein Gott!
If you think it's alright
To switch on the light...
Well... it would seem I forgot the crock-pot!"

A quick explanation

There are many religious restrictions associated with Shabbat (the Sabbath) in traditional Judaism, including not using electricity and not cooking on Shabbat. The phrase “breaking Shabbat” means desecrating Shabbat by breaking any of these many restrictions.

An apikoros is a Jew who informedly rejects the tenets of traditional Jewish faith and probably does not live according to the tradition. An apikoros would have no problem “breaking Shabbat” by flipping a light switch on or cooking on the Sabbath.

A traditional stew called “cholent” is often served on Saturdays. The idea behind this dish is that it must be prepared before Shabbat and put in a crock-pot on low heat to finish cooking overnight on Friday (during Shabbat). By the time Saturday (still Shabbat) rolls around, the cholent is thoroughly cooked – ready to be eaten for Shabbat lunch!

The humor in this limerick is that the old rabbi is not only prohibited from cooking on Shabbat himself – he is also forbidden from benefitting from another Jew’s desecration of the Sabbath. Technically, if the apikoros cooks food on Shabbat, and if the rabbi knows of this, the rabbi cannot eat that food. And, as you may have guessed already, suggesting that another Jewish person desecrate the Sabbath is also religiously verboten.

In this limerick, the old rabbi is knowingly suggesting that the apikoros turn on the crock-pot with the cholent inside, thereby both cooking food and actively making use of an electrical device on the Sabbath. Seems that this old rabbi is a bit of an apikoros himself!


Some say that the word “cholent” may have come from the French “chaud” (hot) and “lent” (slow).

35 thoughts on “The old rabbi, or: The apikoros”

  1. So many creative ways to get around the rules..if only that energy were spent on something productive. Something I’ve thought about all those who chafe at restrictions and try to get around then without being “caught”. (K)

    1. Kerfe, in traditional Judaism there are many creative ways to ‘get around’ the rules, which are actually within the rules…

      This poem is super silly because the rabbi here is explicitly breaking the rules, without attempting to or much pretending to work within the tradition ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Ahahaha!!! Poetry world is amazing. So fun to read this just after leaving a comment on your previous one (in which, I did in passing wonder if you would mind the expression – but pish-toshed that off :)). Well then, poet rabbi… ;)) ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿค“ …this is great. And I love the detailed explanation. ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ’—

  3. Hi David – when I read Rashi there are many words given as coming from the old French. Why would French be so prevalent in the explanations ?

    Psalm 1 The praises of a man: Heb. ืืฉืจื™ les felicements(?) in Old French. The praises of a man, and these are the praises of a man: that he did not follow, because since he did not follow, he did not stand, and since he did not stand, he did not sit. scorners: (Old French, gabors.)

    1. Andrew, every rabbi was, to an extent, a product of his time and location. Rashi spoke French because he was from France.

      The rabbinical commentaries are not only in Hebrew – they often have Aramaic phrases and words (because the rabbis all studied the Babylonian Talmud) and often included words that were specific to their home countries.

      Rashi’s commentaries have are sprinkled throughout with many words from old French.

          1. Or both,Rashi is both. What I referred to was the Translation the old french to Hebrew in the commentary. I’ll go scoop to google translator to see.

          2. Yes, you appear to be right with this one .What he did was ascribe the French word for happiness or faithfulness to the Hebrew. As a simili since I canโ€™t read the Hebrew. “The praises of a man:ย Heb. ืืฉืจื™ les felicements(?) in Old French” from Psalm 1.

          3. Now, part 2: is this statement referring to the complete Book of Psalms.

            “The praises of a man:ย This book was composed with ten expressions of song: 1) with conducting, 2) with melody, 3) with musical accompaniment, 4) with song, 5) with praise, 6) with prayer, 7) with blessing, 8) with thanksgiving, 9) with praises, and 10) with โ€œPraise God.โ€ These correspond to the ten men who composed them: 1) Adam, 2) Malchizedek, 3) Abraham, 4) Moses, 5) David, 6) Solomon, 7) Asaph, and 8-10) the three sons of Korah. Concerning Jeduthun, there is a dispute. Some say that Jeduthun was a man, as is written in Chronicles. Others maintain that Jeduthun mentioned in this Book means nothing else but the ordinances (ื“ืชื•ืช) and laws of the decrees that were passed over him and over Israel.”

      1. Iโ€™ve never considered what those might be before, but now youโ€™ve got me thinking…is Hebrew read from right to left? Is it hard to switch reading and writing directions, a bit like when I have to drive a car in the UK? ๐Ÿ˜‚

        1. yes, Arabic and Hebrew are red from right to left! And… hmn… you know, I’ve never thought about this… I wouldn’t say that reading right-to-left is any more difficult for me than the reverse. My much greater limitation is my vocabulary, which is much smaller in Hebrew than in English (or even in Russian).


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