Wednesday, May 22, 2013

FOUND AT LAST! Mel Brooks' Lost Five Commandments


One of Mel Brooks' funniest bits is a scene from his 1981 film A History of the World: Part 1, in which Brooks, in the role of Moses, comes down from Mount Sinai carrying three tablets containing 15 commandments, only to drop one of the tablets, losing the last five commandments as the tablet shatters into bits.

The scene is short, and the third tablet containing the five lost commandments is visible for only a few seconds. We always assumed that the writing on the tablet was some random Hebrew letters, because we never got a good look at them.

On Monday night we watched the PBS tribute to Brooks on American Masters, on which they played this clip. Seeing it on a 55 inch screen in high definition, all we had to do to read the words on the tablets was to push the pause button. And there they were -- the long lost shattered five commandments.

Here's a translation of the five: You can interpret them any way you want -- that's what we've been doing to the surviving Ten Commandments for thousands of years. But our favorites are Lo Tatzkhik or Lo Titzkhak - obviously an inside joke by the Brooks crew, Lo Tikneh - perhaps the basis for not buying retail, and Lo Teshaber - irony of ironies - as the tablet fell to the ground and broke into tiny pieces.

11. Lo Ta'avor - You shall not pass.
12. Lo Tatzkhik - You shall not make people laugh or Lo Titzkhak - You shall not laugh.
13. Lo Tikneh - You shall not buy.
14. Lo Talunu - You shall not stay. (But the third letter may be a resh, which makes translation difficult.)
15. Lo Teshaber - You shall not break. 

COME ON, ALL YOU HEBREW LINGUISTS. THIS IS A FIND THAT RIVALS THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS.

LET'S SEE SOME MORE CREATIVE INTERPRETATIONS! POST THEM AS COMMENTS.

Here's the full clip. Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)     



P.S. If you missed the PBS Mel Brooks special, it's being shown nine more times during the next week. Here are the listings for Cablevision in the New York-New Jersey metro area. Check your local listings for dates and times on your networks.

6 comments:

  1. Lo Ta'avor could be a reference to Monopoly (Do not pass go, do not collect 200) or to one of Brooks' comic obsessions (as in Blazing Saddles) namely, passing gas.

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  2. With regard to "Commandment" #14: The third letter is in fact a "resh", and the word suggested
    by the Hebrew transliteration is: 'Thou shalt not tolerate us!"
    When transliterating into Hebrew, the "t" sound is substituted with the letter "tet" and not "taf";
    therefore, the confusion originates with the Hebraist who counseled Mr. Brooks's prop master!

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  3. I teach at a university and I show this scene to students whenever it fits, which is pretty often! It was always clear to me that the tablets were inscribed in the traditional Jewish way and I had always thought that the tablet that was dropped was a repeat of the tablet with #6-10.
    I teach both Jewish and Islamic subjects, and point out that God confirms Brooks' approach, it least insofar as the Qur'an requires there to have been three tablets: The Qur'an refers to the plural of "luh" tablet, not the dual--the dual is always used if there are two of something. On a more serious note, I usually turn to reading the image of Charlton Heston and the Ten Commandments, which has been readily available. It's written in "Old Hebrew" script, with 4 on the first tablet and 6 on the second, and more of the text than is found on the Brooks Tablets or in artwork and synagogue displays. Commandment #3 is "Thou shalt not make an idol"(lo ta'aseh lekha fesel)--"lo tisa" Thou shalt not take the name... is not on the tablet. There are a few letters missing from the Heston Tablets. The Heston Tablets do not correspond with any of the major enumerations of the Ten Commandments, whereas the Brooks Tablets are clearly derived from Jewish tradition and have more accurate Hebrew, whatever you can say about the Hebraist and prop master. And they find many uses in my classroom.

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  4. The Brooks Tablets had better Hebraic advice than Charlton Heston's. I show the clip in my classroom all the time, always wondered what was on the third tablet. I teach Jewish and Islamic studies, and observe that the Arabic of the Qur'an proves that God prepared at least three Tablets, since Arabic uses the dual when there are two of something, never the plural, and the word for "tablet" appears in the plural--hence, at least three. Comparing Brooks and Heston, The Heston Tablets are written in "Old Hebrew," have "lo ta'ase lekha fesel" instead of "Lo tisa" have a little more of each line than is usual in Hebrew settings and have 1-4 on the first tablet and 5-10 on the second, not as usually done, and have a few letters missing. Thanks for this important analysis of the Brooks Tablets!

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  5. Lo teshaber means you shall not be broken
    but it is most probably Lo tishbor which means you shall not break (in reference to breaking the tablet itself?)

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  6. Lo Talunu (or maybe Lo Talun) - could also mean:
    You shall not complain

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