Shabbat April Fools' Day

March 31, 2017

So . . . this Shabbat is also April Fools’ Day. Nobody knows, actually, how such an odd “holiday” began, but there are SO MANY theories. But is April Fools’ Day in any way Jewish?

There seem to be precedents in so many ancient cultures in the early part of the Spring. Think of the Carnival of Mardi Gras, for example. There was a Roman festival in antiquity called “Hilaria!” (I’m not making this up). April Fools’ Day is even celebrated in India! There’s something to be said for such a season of frivolity coming after the discomfort of the winter: darkness. Snow. Or terrible rain storms. Celebration seems to be in order. Some even think that April Fool’s day is connected our own holiday of Purim, our version of the springtime Carnival with costumes and hilarity. And – Purim and April Fools’ Day are celebrated close together. Hmm.

Of course the main idea of this “holiday” is pranks. And, believe it or not, April Fools’ Day pranks are even prominent in Israel! Here’s one from the JTA (The Jewish Telegraph Service):

April 2, 1971

JERUSALEM – An April Fools prank caused a major traffic snarl outside of Jerusalem today. Practical jokers, as yet unapprehended by the authorities, switched the direction of the arrows on traffic lights at the entrance to Jerusalem. Hundreds of unsuspecting motorists made the wrong turn creating a jam that took police several hours to unravel. Drivers said they didn’t question the reversal of the arrows because they were used to seeing detour signs on the Jerusalem highway that seems to be constantly under repair. They forgot that today was April 1. 

For more examples of Jewish April Fools’ Day pranks from the JTA, click here:

For more information about the history of April Fools’ Day, click here:


Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Sameach.