How to Interpret a Stop Sign
Author unknown, from the internet.
Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you
do? That depends on how you apply exegesis to the sign.
- An average Jew doesn't bother to read the sign but will stop
if the car in front of him does.
- A fundamentalist stops at the sign and waits for it to tell
him to go.
- An Orthodox Jew does one of two things:
- Stops at the stop sign, says "Blessed art thou, O L-rd our
G-d, King of the universe, who hast given us Thy commandment
to stop," waits 3 seconds according to his watch, and then
- Takes another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign
so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the halachah.
- A Haredi ("ultra-Orthodox") does the same thing as the Orthodox
Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces
his brake lights with 1000-watt searchlights and connects his
horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal.
- An Orthodox woman concludes that she is not allowed to observe
the mitzvah of stopping because she is niddah. This is a dilemma,
because the stop sign is located on her way to the mikvah. She
refers the problem to her rabbi, who shrugs.
- A feminist Jewish woman sees this as a sign from the Shekhinah
that translates roughly, "Enough already..."
- A Talmudic scholar consults his holy books and finds the following
comments on the stop sign: "R. Meir says: He who does not stop
shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not
count to three before proceeding. R. Shimon ben Yehudah says:
Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law,
the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Yitzhak says: Because of
the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the L-rd at a
stop sign? Because it says: 'Be still, and know that I am G-d.'
R. Yehezkel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites,
the Holy One, blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out
of the house and overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop
at the stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out.
For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus was
he judged for his transgression at the stop sign. R. Gamaliel
says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though
his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the
words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town
and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out, 'Stop,
father!' In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same
time. Thus it is written: 'Out of the mouths of babes.' R. ben
Yaakov says: Where did the stop sign come from? Out of the sky,
as it is written: 'Forever, O L-rd, your word is fixed in the
heavens.' R. ben Natan says: When were stop signs created? On
the fourth day, as it is written: 'Let them serve as signs.' But
R. Yehoshua says: ..." [continues for three more pages...]
- A Breslover Hasid sees the sign and makes his boddidus [spontaneous
personal prayer], saying: "Ribono Shel Olam--here I am, traveling
on the road in Your service, and I am about to face who knows
what danger at this intersection in my life. So please watch over
me and help me to get through this stop sign safely." Then, "looking
neither to left nor right" as Rebbe Nachman advises, he joyfully
accepts the challenge, remains focused on his goal--even if the
car rolls backward for a moment--hits the accelerator and forges
bravely forward, overcoming all obstacles which the yetzer hara
[evil inclination] might put in his path.
- A Lubovitcher Hasid stops at the sign and reads it very carefully
in the light of the Rebbe's teachings. (In former times he would
have used his cell phone to call Brooklyn and speak to the Rebbe
personally for advice, but this is no longer possible, may the
Rebbe rest in peace.) Next, he gets out of the car and sets up
a roadside mitzvah-mobile, taking this opportunity to ask other
Jewish drivers who stop at the sign whether they have put on tefillin
today (males) or whether they light Shabbos candles (females).
Having now settled there, he steadfastly refuses to give up a
single inch of the land he occupies until Moshiach comes.
- A Conservative Jew calls his rabbi and asks whether stopping
at this sign is required by unanimous ruling of the Commission
on Jewish Law or if there is a minority position. While waiting
for the rabbi's answer, he is ticketed by a policeman for obstructing
- A secular Jew rejects the sign as a vestige of an archaic and
outmoded value system with no relevance to the modern world, and
ignores it completely.
- A Reform Jew coasts up to the sign while contemplating the
question, "Do I personally feel commanded to stop?" During his
deliberation he edges into the intersection and is hit from behind
by the secular Jew.
- A Reconstructionist Jew reasons: First, this sign is a legacy
of our historic civilization and therefore I must honor it. On
the other hand, since "the past has a vote and not a veto," I
must study the historic civilization and therefore I must honor
it. On the other hand, since "the past has a vote and not a veto,"
I must study the issue and decide whether the argument in favor
of stopping is spiritually, intellectually, and culturally compelling
enough to be worth perpetuating. If so, I will vote with the past;
if not, I will veto it. Finally, is there any way that I can revalue
the stop sign's message so as to remain valid for our own time?
- A Renewal Movement Jew meditates on whether the stop sign applies
in all of the kabbalistic Four Worlds [Body-Emotion-Mind-Spirit]
or only in some of them, and if so, which ones? Must he stop feeling?
thinking? being? driving? Since he has stopped to breathe and
meditate on this question, he is quite safe while he does so,
- A biblical scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic
differences between the first and second halves of the passage
"STOP." For example, "ST" contains no enclosed areas and five
line endings, whereas "OP" contains two enclosed areas and only
one line termination He concludes that the first and second parts
are the work of different authors who probably lived several centuries
apart. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself
actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic
differences between the "O" and the "P."
- Because of difficulties in interpretation, another biblical
scholar amends the text, changing "T" to "H." "SHOP" is much easier
to understand in this context than "STOP" because of the multiplicity
of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred
because "SHOP" is so similar to "STOP" on the sign several streets
back that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the
sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a commercial
- Yet another biblical scholar notes that the stop sign would
fit better into another intersection three streets back. Clearly
it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus
interprets the present intersection as though the stop sign were