Big Little Book of Jewish Wit & Wisdom


By Sally Ann Berk

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$15.49 CAD



  1. Hardcover $12.99 $15.49 CAD
  2. ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 15, 2000. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

This small, chunky volume presents the witty, wonderful, deadpan and droll insight of Jewish culture and humor.

With chapters on wisdom, mitzvahs, dybbuks, proverbs, jokes, curses, conventions, mores (ethics), love amd marriage, men and women, children and family–this captivating collection provides reflections gleaned from a wealth of ancient, traditional and modern sources. The range of wise observations on the ways of the world, snappy one-liners, stories and expressions captures the spirit of the Jews throughout the centuries. Illustrated with sixty watercolor paintings, The Big Little Book of Jewish Wit & Wisdom will delight and engage even the toughest Jewish mother.

Some examples include:

When we hear a baby laugh, it is the loveliest thing that can happen to us. — Sigmund Freud

A child’s wisdom is also wisdom. — Yiddish proverb

May you lose all your teeth but one, and may that one have a cavity. — Anonymous (Yiddish curse)
























You can always wash your hands.

Sally Sternberg

Iron the sleeves first.

Leona Soltz


I don’t believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.

Woody Allen

What is painful to one generation is insight for the next.

Eli N. Evans

I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.

Bernard Baruch

When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was just sick.

George Burns

Becky at eighty: I’m obsessed with the hereafter. Every time I walk into a room, I have to ask myself, “What am I here after?”

David Shore

It is a sobering thought, that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for two years.

Tom Lehrer

I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.

Lauren Bacall

For dying, you always have time.

The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten.

After thirty, a body has a mind of its own.

Bette Midler

One does not get better, but different and older and that is always a pleasure.

Gertrude Stein

From birth to age eighteen, a girl needs good parents, from eighteen to thirty-five she needs good looks, from thirty-five to fifty-five she needs a good personality, and from fifty-five on she needs good cash. I’m saving my money.

Sophie Tucker

An eighty-year-old man walks into a confessional and says, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I just spent the entire night having sex with two eighteen-year-old girls.” The priest asks, “How long since your last confession, my son?” The old man laughs and says, “Confession? I’ve never been to confession. I’m Jewish.” The priest asks, “Why are you telling me this?” The old man replies, “Telling YOU? I’m telling EVERYBODY!”

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

—Woody Allen

Gray hair is a crown of glory. It is attained by a life of righteousness.


The virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate; their flaw is that they cannot improve. Humanity’s flaw is that we can deteriorate; but our virtue is that we can improve.

For the ignorant, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the harvest.

Hasidic saying

There is a big controversy these days concerning when life begins. In Jewish tradition the fetus is not considered a viable human being until after graduation from medical school.

For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age.


You have to learn to do everything, even to die.

Gertrude Stein

The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core strength within you that survives all hurt.

Max Lerner

You’re never too old to become younger.

Mae West

The whole business of marshaling one’s energies becomes more and more important as one grows older.

Hume Cronyn

The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.

Doris Lessing

Morty is on his deathbed. He raises his head slowly, and calls for his wife. “Gittel, are you there?” “Yes, Morty, I’m here.” A moment later Morty says, “Danny, are you there?” His son, Danny assures him he’s by his side. “Davey,” says the ailing Morty, “Are you there?” “I’m here, Papa,” said his other son Davey, taking his hand. With all the strength he can muster, Morty raises himself up on his elbows and yells, “Then who the hell is minding the store?”

There’s a thing that keeps surprising you about stormy old friends after they die—their silence. For a while an echo stays in your ear. You hear a laugh, a knowing phrase or two, a certain quality of enunciation. Then, nothing. Another death takes place—voices.

Ben Hecht

Middle Age: When pulling an all nighter means not having to get up to go to the bathroom.

Michael Feldman

Old age and sickness bring out the essential characteristics of a man.

Felix Frankfurter

Every death leaves a scar, and every time a child laughs it starts healing.

—Eli Weisel

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

—Jack Benny

Every man knows he must die, but no one believes it.

When a righteous man dies, he dies only for his generation. It is like a man who loses a pearl. Wherever it may be, it continues to be a pearl. It is lost only to its owner.

The Talmud

An elderly man goes to the doctor complaining of aches and pains all over his body. After a thorough examination, the doctor gives him a clean bill of health. “Hymie, you’re in fine shape for an eighty year old. After all, I’m not a magician—I can’t make you any younger,” says the doctor. “Who asked you to make me younger? Just make sure I get older!”

Learning in old age is like writing on sand; learning in youth is like engraving on stone.

Solomon Ibn Gabirol

You shall plan your work, choose your tools, and number your offspring so that one generation after your death, the earth is as whole, healthy, and holy as it was one generation before you were born.

—Rabbi Arthur Waksow

In his will, my grandfather stipulated: Take care of your grandmother. Preserve your Yiddishkeit. I don’t want any monuments. If people read my books, that will be my best monument. Read one of my stories aloud in whatever language is convenient.

Bel Kaufman, granddaughter of Sholom Aleichem

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is work of art.

Garson Kanin

It is always self-defeating to pretend to the style of a generation younger than your own; it simply erases your experience in history.

Renata Adler

In the hour of a person’s departure, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones nor pearls accompany them, but only To rah and good works.

—Ethics of the Fathers

A baby enters the world with hands clenched as if to say, “The world is mine: I shall grab it.” A man leaves with his hands open, as if to say, “I can take nothing with me.”


“You’re in great shape,” says the doctor. “You’re going to live to be seventy.” “But I am seventy,” the patient replies. “Nu,” says the doctor, “did I lie?”


Behind every argument is someone’s ignorance.

Louis Brandeis

Words are like bodies, and meanings like souls.

Ibn Ezra

The simple believes everything.


A man should never cast his reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in back.

Moses Maimonides


On Sale
Sep 15, 2000
Page Count
360 pages

Sally Ann Berk

About the Author

Sally Ann Berk is the author of The New York Bartender’s Guide, Smoothies, Shakes & Frappes, and Farmer’s Market Cooking, among others. She is the editor of Secrets of the Druids and A Reasonable Affliction: 1001 Love Poems to Read to Each Other. She lives in Northern California with her husband and son.

Learn more about this author