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"Two Jews, three opinions."—A saying
Describe Jews Love to Argue here.
What am I, your slave? You do it!
Um, okay... For whatever reason, Jews and arguing go together like Passover and matzah.
You call that a simile?
Hey, I'm trying. Give me a break. This probably has to do with the layout of the Talmud, which contains a whole lot of back-and-forth arguments, arguments about what other people are arguing about, and often not even a resolution to the arguments (Or an argument if there is an argument or not...).
Oho, so you're the big gemarakup now?
I don't even know what that means. Anyway, this is a joke more common among Jews themselves than among gentiles. Such conversations are generally (in fiction) liberally peppered with Yiddish as a Second Language.
I'm trying not to spend too much time on this. Give me some slack.
So you don't think our culture is worth your time?
That's not what I meant. I just have other things to do.
So you just come here to bang a kettle? A--
Dammit, what the hell is your problem? I get just a few lousy minutes out of my busy day to make this, and that's not good enough for you?
Oh, you call yourself busy, just sitting around watching--
Shut up! You don't know what I have to go through every day to...
And what would you know from comparisons, anyway?
- In American Splendor, Harvey Pekar notes that old Jewish women will argue over ANYTHING at the checkout counter of a grocery store.
- One strip in Torpedo has the titular contract killer out of town for a few days, so his assistant decides to take a few contracts himself, thinking it can't be that hard. However, it turns out two Jewish shopkeepers had mutually asked that he kill the other, so he spends some time going back and forth between the two shops as they increase the price. Finally he snaps and drags them both out in the middle of the street so they can settle the argument without involving him. Several hours later, they come to an understanding by beating the crap out of the poor guy.
- A scene in The Hebrew Hammer where the Jewish Justice League talks about the best man for the job.
- Woody Allen's kvetching in Annie Hall inevitably turned into some kind of argument.
- In You Don't Mess With the Zohan, Israeli Jews love to argue... with Palestinians. It's really quite civil and all in good fun, though.
- God On Trial is a movie about a group of Jewish prisoners at a concentration camp, arguing whether or not God is to blame for their predicament. Arguing is all that happens in the movie.
- In Life of Brian, the Judean resistance groups against the Romans can't agree on anything, and spend more time fighting each other than fighting the Romans. It's an accidental example, since it's a parody of the tendency of left-wing militant groups to fragment and factionalize, but it still counts.
- A deliberate, Exaggerated example would be the marketplace scenes. From peddlers who insisted in haggling (even if you give them what the want) to people who liked to find logical holes in every sermon.
- In High Anxiety, Mel Brooks and Madeline Kahn need to get past customs, despite Mel's character being a suspected murderer! How do they do this? By posing as a constantly bickering Jewish couple that the airport staff are relieved to finally get rid of.
- In Discworld Dwarfs are often compared to real life Jews (this was not the author's original intention but he seems to be running with it.) One of the main reasons? They argue a lot, especially about their faith. As Cheery Littlebottom says in The Fifth Elephant:
"Dwarfs are very argumentative. Of course, many wouldn't agree."
- In The Chosen Danny Saunders and his father entertain the congregation by arguing Rabbinical lore in front of them. Tragically, that is the only time they can communicate which is the point of the plot.
- The short story "Pushing the Envelope" by Desmond Warzel begins and ends with a Jewish Mother arguing with her son: first, that she wants him to move out of her house; then, after he does, that she never sees him anymore.
- Seen in many a Philip Roth novel, particularly Portnoys Complaint
- Earth: The Book features a lot of quick zingers referencing Jews arguing and complaining. In the "Future Asked Questions" of the religion section, the aliens comment that the chapter seemed to spend a disproportionate time on Jews, sparking an extremely passive-aggressive (and stereotypically Jewish) argument with the book's editors.
- The Daily Show commonly features this trope due to the influence of Jon Stewart.
- While doing a story on a Palestine kid's show explaining why they need to destroy Israel, the show fired back with a fake Israeli equivalent, "Dr. Bagelman's Hour of Hate", which quickly devolved into the hosts quarreling. Stewart quipped, "I shouldn't laugh, but that's actually just an audio recording from my Bar Mitzvah."
- Stewart uses this joke in his stand up, including why it proves there isn't a Jewish conspiracy to control the banks. They couldn't get the meeting started without an argument.
- The show once sent correspondent Wyatt Cenac to a Jewish rest home in Florida to talk about the 2008 election. Eventually, the group interviews degenerated into such a morass of argument (over the issue of what to order for dessert) that Cenac was left sitting on the sidelines, genuinely stunned.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show about this trope. Larry David and a predominantly Jewish cast argue about the slightest trivialities, then argue about the fact that they're arguing.
- The Big Bang Theory Wolowitz and his mother.
- Grandma's House is made of this, too.
- Kenny vs. Spenny seems to count. Both of the guys are of Jewish heritage, though neither are observant.
- Seinfeld features a great deal of very Jewy arguments over the trivialities of day-to-day life. Many people are surprised to learn that only Jerry is actually supposed to be Jewish on the show, though George is based on Larry David, and Elaine is played by a Jew.
- Lampshaded in Frasier. After Frasier's jewish girlfriend gets into a heated argument with her overbearing mother and both of them manage to swiftly get over their problems and come out of it much happier than before, he and Martin try to do the same thing to resolve some of their issues, only to hurt each other's feelings so badly they make each other cry, prompting Martin to wail "We should never have tried this! We're not jewish!"
Religion and Mythology
- This is what the Midrash and the Talmud are, Rabbis arguing. And in the Torah, Jews argue with God. Abraham frickin' haggles with God over the amount of righteous men needed to save Sodom and Gomorrah.
- The name "Israel" which God originally gave Jacob (Genesis 32:28) means "He wrestles with God". While the story of Jacob struggling with the Angel is usually thought of in a purely literal sense, the more figurative meaning--that Israel's people (i.e. the Jews) are always "wrestling" (arguing) with God--is every bit as valid. Due to the complexities of the Hebrew language, the exact nature of how they wrestle is unclear. It could actually be a mental 'struggle' in Jacob's own mind.
- Possibly. But there are several varying translation for 'isra', from 'rule' to 'straight'. They are the "Israelites," so wrestling with God is part of their name too.
- Moses also argues with God when he wants to destroy the People of Israel and make Moses into the (first of the) new People of Israel. Moses argues with God and wins the argument.
- This trope even unwittingly appears in Muslim tradition, where, during Muhammad's Night Journey, it is Moses who convinces Muhammad to haggle with God on the number of required prayers for Muslims when God commands Muslims to pray fifty times a day; Moses, probably seeing the difficulty with which Jews were having in following all 613 mitzvot, advises Muhammad to ask God to lighten the load. Muhammad goes up to God's throne and comes back to Moses several times, each time asking (more or less) "What do you think, Mo?", and Moses replying (more or less) "Still too much, Mu," eventually bringing it down from fifty to five. Moses encouraged him to get it down to three, but Muhammad said, essentially, "that's a bit much". (This all occurred in the Meccan period, when the small Muslim community knew little of the Jews except that they were fellow monotheists, hence the qualifier "unwittingly.")
- It also ends up in Christian tradition: a good part of the gospels is about Jesus arguing with Pharisees. A good part of the epistles is about Paul arguing with other Jewish converts(over whether gentile converts have to keep Torah).
- There's a book titled, Arguing with God: A Jewish Tradition. Abraham was just the start.
- There's also a story of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, a prominent (and extremely conservative) Roman era rabbi, trying to convince the Sanhedrin that he was in the right about a particular kind of oven being impervious to Levitical uncleanness. Even when overruled, he managed to call on various signs from the natural world (trees, a stream, the beams of the Sanhedrin building) to show he was in the right. Each time, the Sanhedrin dismissed the sign as the sign-bearer stepping outside of its jurisdiction. Finally, Eliezer beseeched God himself to step in...which he did, identifying Eliezer as correct about the oven being tamei-proof. Cue the Sanhedrin head rebuking God for this, even quoting Deuteronomy to the effect that the demands of the law put jurisdiction only among the rabbis; "it is not in the heavens". Let that sink in; the rabbis dismissed God for overstepping his legal bounds. Best part? Immediately afterwards, at the throne of Heaven, God was laughing with delight, saying "My children have defeated me, my children have defeated me!".
- Another story from the Talmud highlights the degree of affection involved in the process. Rabbi Yohanan's study partner, Resh Lakish, dies, and the other rabbis find him someone new to work with. But where Resh Lakish would argue every point Yohanan made, no matter how obviously correct, the new guy was willing to say "you're right". This did not help Yohanan's mood. According to the Talmud, Yohanan replies that Resh Lakish would pick apart everything Yohanan said, and in answering the rebuttals the discussion would move forward. But this new guy - hah! "But you [the new partner] say 'we learned a teaching that supports you.' Of course I know that I am right!" And on that thought, he goes out to shed some Manly Tears for his old argument partner..
- A joke may also illustrate the point: Four Rabbis were arguing a point of doctrine, three were siding against the one and finally told him that if he disagreed so strongly to ask God. As the dissenting Rabbi raised his hands to the heavens and began to speak, the sun burned through the heavy clouds and wreathed him in golden radiance, an unearthly chorus began to sing, and a voice like thunder echoed from the heavens "HE IS RIGHT"
The three Rabbis looked at the heavenly endorsed fourth and concluded simply "Its still three to two against you".
- Susie Essman once speculated that if she and her mother were hiding from the Nazis like Anne Frank was, holed up in an attic without being able to make any noise at all, ever, her mother would get them all killed by bitching about a dish not being properly washed.
- Borscht Belt comedy is full of argument-centered humor. All references to the comic's spouse will be about how they constantly fight and don't get along.
- "Four Jews In A Room Bitching" is the title of the opening number of March Of The Falsettos.
- Salome has five Jews arguing with each other about the nature of God.
- Mushnik does this frequently in Little Shop of Horrors.
- In Everyday Heroes, father and son are both lawyers, reviewing a difficult case.
- Invoked in a side-comic of And Shine Heaven Now to illustrate the difficulty of defining who counts as a Jew, among other things.
- This video of two Jewish brothers imitating an old Jewish couple arguing about the logistics of doing a drive-by.
- Jackie Mason as Rabbi Krustofsky on The Simpsons.
- In Rugrats, Tommy's grandparents, Boris and Minka. Any time Boris asks Minka anything, her response was always, "What do I look like here? Your servant girl?"
- This is why Israel does not have a constitution. They (primarily orthodox vs secular) could not stop arguing about it. Also they're afraid that the Supreme Court would run away with a written Constitution if Israel had one (à l'américain, with whom Israel shares a legal tradition), potentially raising issues for virtually everyone. The Supreme Court under Aharon Barak and his successor Dorit Beinisch already started to do this without a written constitution, using the Basic Laws that serve in place of a constitution at the moment and applying them to check the government; this has naturally led to a great deal of argument in the Israeli legal community.
- The government can't really get stuff done without arguing anways--there's so many political parties that disagree fundamentally with other ones that the parties that * can* agree on even the tiniest thing form coalitions so that they can try and run the government. Although it started right at the beginning -- the original Knesset was supposed to draft a constitution. They couldn't agree on it, so they decided to draft laws instead (technically, outside their original mandate).
- An Asheknazi Rabbi, Rabbi Moses Isserles is renowned for his fundamental work of Jewish law, entitled HaMapah, an inline commentary on the Shulkhan Aruch. All his comments are to the effect of 'we Asheknazim don't do it this way'. In fact, so many Jewish Law books have commentaries written on them by dissidents...quite a few Jewish books have been called 'The Wars of God'. But guess who's actually fighting...
- Alan Dershowitz writes in one of his books that a Talmud court would not convict if there was a unanimous vote, on the grounds that it implied the accused had no advocate among the judges. This has an element of truth. The Talmud does state that the Sanhedrin must have someone at least give a reason why they shouldn't convict. Considering that the Sanhedrin had anywhere from 23 to 71 members depending on the time period and type called, this isn't difficult.
- In Jerusalem, arguments between rival yeshivas descend to bioterrorism -- throwing dirty diapers in each others windows.