Knock, knock, who’s there?

By Cantor Linda R. Semi

With each of my grandchildren, there is a definite time in their development when the “Knock Knock” joke becomes the rage. We spend endless hours repeating the same jokes or trying to come up with new ones. Visits to the library garner entire books devoted to this style of humor. So my curiosity was awakened when, in reviewing a compendium of Jewish thoughts and ideas, I saw an article entitled “Knock, Knock, Who’s There.” The article had some interesting insights, some of which I will share with you here.We know that it is basic courtesy to knock on a closed door and wait to be admitted by those inside. The sages discussed this simple matter of etiquette and concluded that is has far greater ramifications than just being polite.

Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai observed: “…the Holy One, blessed be He, hates…the man who enters his (own) house suddenly…” Entering someone’s home without knocking or announcing one’s presence, is considered ill-mannered in almost all societies, but few people consider it necessary to do so in their own homes. And yet, we learn that entering unannounced is considered loathsome to God, even in one’s own home!

The commentators suggest that two different verses from the Torah provide examples of how God Himself upholds this level of proper behavior. “God called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting” (Leviticus 1:1). Before speaking to Moses in the Tent of Meeting, which, it should be noted was not even a private home, God called out to Moses first.

In the previous example, at least, God was approaching Moses in the middle of the camp of the Israelites. But even in the closest thing to God’s own home, the Garden of Eden, God “stood at the gate of the garden, and called to Adam [Gen. 3:9]: ‘And the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?'”

Knocking is far more than just being polite. Knocking, or announcing one’s presence prevents embarrassing situations, and allows others time to compose themselves and thus be prepared to properly greet the person entering.

Soon, we will enjoy the festivities surrounding Purim. For sure, it is a day marked with laughter, fun, good food, and a whimsical air so distinctly different – with the possible exception of Chanukah – from our other holidays. The heroine of the story, Esther, knew that anyone who came into the king’s presence without being summoned could be put to death. Even though she was his wife, Esther faced that same penalty. Still, Esther had the courage to “knock on the King’s door” and plead for her people. We are told she fasted for three days before going to the king. Obviously, she had the right approach, for which we are all thankful.

In the world of the Knock Knock jokes, the exchange between Esther and the King might have gone something like this:

“Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Esther who?

Esther any way you can help save my people?”

And that, my friends, I THINK is an original!! Have a frailich Purim. Enjoy the hamentaschen, the mishloach manot, and the many zany jokes and fun the day brings your way!

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