Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Cohen - Inside Jokes
Shortly after Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, B”H 2020 started popping up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And, it made me laugh. It’s one of those inside, Jewish jokes – either you get it immediately or it makes no sense to you.
B”H is Hebrew shorthand for baruch hashem, “blessed of god’s name,” or “b’ezret hashem,” “by god’s help.” So, B”H 2020 means, “with god’s help, Biden/Harris 2020” – not that I am officially endorsing that message or the Democratic ticket.
Religiously observant Jews use this acronym on letters and notes to avoid writing out god’s name, and accidently throwing it away or erasing it. My Orthodox cousin says “baruch hashem” whenever she hopes something happens, almost like not saying it would jinx the future. Some folks have suggested Christopher Columbus was Jewish because he wrote something that resembles B”H in Hebrew in the corner of his letters.
Politics aside, B”H 2020 certainly doesn’t reflect my sense of Judaism, but I found it clever. And, there is something comforting about understanding the “inside” joke.
Then, I started thinking about “inside” Jewish jokes. As much as inside jokes make people feel included, they also exclude people. In our very diverse Jewish world, inside jokes can be detrimental. I have spoken to many people - some who grew up Jewish and uninvolved, some who didn’t grow up Jewish but joined the community through marriage or simply choice – who talk about the challenge of learning the subtle cues and inside jokes of Judaism. I understand how not understanding can somebody feel excluded.
So, from your Jewish humanist rabbi, B”H, please let me know if you don’t understand something. If Jewish language or phrases or customs seem to belong to some sort of insider club, please ask about it. Humor is much funnier if everybody gets the joke! (I repeat: This was not a political endorsement.)