A little theological humor...

Rabbi Moishe and the Pope

In the middle ages, the Pope decided that all the Jews had to leave the city of Rome. Naturally, there was a big uproar from the Jewish community. So the Pope made a deal. He would have a theological debate with any person selected by the Jewish community. If their representative won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would have to leave Rome forever.

The Jews realized that they had no choice. They looked around for a learned champion who could defend their faith, but no one was willing to volunteer. No one felt that they could equal the Popes vast knowledge and overwhelming eloquence. Finally, they picked a man to represent them -- an old rabbi named Moishe who had become half-witted and spent his life sweeping the synagogue. Being old and slightly addled, he thought he had less to lose, and he agreed. He asked only for one condition for the debate. Not being an eloquent man like the Pope, and not being eloquent in Latin, he asked that neither side be allowed to talk. The Pope agreed.

The day of the great debate came. Moishe and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute without making a move. Then the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him sadly, shook his head, and raised one finger.

The Pope waved his arms in a circle around his head. Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope pulled out a wafer and a glass of wine. Moishe pulled out an apple. The Pope stood up and said, "I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay."

An hour later, the cardinals eagerly gathered around the Pope to find out what happened. The Pope said, "I've never met a man with such keen spiritual and theological insight. No matter what I said, he had an answer that reminded me how little I know."

"First I held up three fingers to assert that God was to be found through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

"He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that, even though He has manifested Himself in three persons, there is still only one God, and we both know His name. Then I waved my arms around me to show him that the greatness of God was written in the heavens.

"He responded by pointing to the ground, reminding me that God was in the midst of us through the person of the Holy Spirit. I pulled out the sacramental wine and wafer to show him that God's Son absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me that God had been dealing with sin as far back as the Garden of Eden.

"He had an answer for everything! I cannot ask people with such deeply spiritual leadership to leave Rome. They can stay!"

Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe, amazed that this old, almost feeble-minded man had done what all their young, eloquent scholars had insisted was impossible! "What happened," they asked.

"Well," said Moishe, "First he said to me that the Jews had three days to get out of town. I told him that not one of us was leaving. Then he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I let him know that we were staying right here."

"And then?" asked a woman. "I don't know," said Moishe. "He took out his lunch and I took out mine, and it was all over."

13 Jun 1999

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