A few weeks ago, Dan and I went to a live stand-up show. The headliner was a friend of a friend from when we lived in Brooklyn, Myq (Mike) Kaplan. Myq not only told explicitly
Jewish jokes, his jokes were self-referential, just like a page of Talmud. It is not surprising that I was the person who laughed the loudest in the audience. “I can’t believe other
folks laughed so much.” I commented to Dan. “I don’t think they would have if you hadn’t been laughing so hard,” Dan responded. Laughter is contagious.
It was refreshing to think of myself as patient zero spreading laughter after two years worrying about spreading COVID-19. Neurobiologists in the 1990s found that mirror neurons are the contagion of laughter. Mirror neurons are the nerve cells that allow us to imitate behavior and they promote empathy and our connection with others. While I don’t have scientific data to support this theory, it has been my experience over the past two years leading programming virtually that while it is possible to activate mirror neurons over Zoom, things like
laughter, joy and empathy are just more contagious in-person.
I want to invite you join me in-person with your Temple Beth Or community this spring to laugh, sing, celebrate, and connect. We have in-person services on Fridays, March 4 and April 1, and Purim festivities for all ages on the morning of Sunday, March 13. Our Sages teach us that it is a mitzvah to be happy during the month of Purim, the month of Adar. Let’s come together this spring and spread “light, celebration, happiness and enrichment” (Esther 8:18).
Rabbi Rachel Kort