Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

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A Hebrew–English joke

From here.

In Medieval England, a Jewish gentleman by the name of Mordecai once did a favor for the king. The king decided, against all tradition, that he would like to reward Mordecai by knighting him. The king asked one of his courtiers to instruct Mordecai in all of the etiquette and ritual that will be required of him for the knighting ceremony.

The courtier and Mordecai spent weeks preparing for the ceremony. Mordecai learned all of the Latin phrases he would need to speak and practiced them morning and night. When the courtier was satisfied, he returned to the king and told him that they were ready for the knighting ceremony.

Mordecai spent the night before the ceremony in contemplation, as tradition demands. He became more and more nervous about the whole thing, sure he would forget something important.

In the morning, the courtier came for him and brought him before the king.

As Mordecai knelt before the king, everything he had learned over the last few weeks flew out of his head from nervousness and lack of sleep. When the king instructed Sir Mordecai to rise, Mordecai knew there was something he was supposed to say. But his mind was blank.

Finally, he blurted out the only phrase in a foreign language that came to mind: "Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot?"

The king turned furiously to his courtier, who was supposed to have instructed Mordecai in the proper rituals, and demanded to know, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?!"

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