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June 02, 2006

Profane parrot spared rabbi's wrath

la Mordida, originally uploaded by suertudo.

An Orthodox Jew was threatened with divorce after blowing several thousand dollars on a parrot that swore like a trooper, Israel's mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot daily said on Thursday.
After he brought his feathered friend home, the man's religious household in the Tel Aviv area was bombarded by insults such as "son of a bitch" and "homo" from the bird.
When its owner sought rabbinical advice, the rabbi recommended that the parrot be slaughtered -- or have its tongue cut out for being foul-mouthed.
But the horrified pet owner's wife threatened divorce if the bird went for the chop, and the parrot finally found refuge in a zoo. -- Sapa-AFP [M&G]

According to YNet News one rabbinical consultant was very blunt about the religious imperative cut the parrot's tongue out or kill it, rather than giving it away in its current profane condition:

“The parrot must be muted with the minimum of suffering,” Mazuz ruled. “If that doesn’t help, he must be slaughtered.” He stressed: “It is very harmful for children to learn swear words. In a secular household as well.”

Yeah, think of the secular children! Luckily, the parrot has found a happy home.


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Yeesh - the parrot is supposed to have his tongue removed, but what about the person who taught it to swear? Is their tongue supposed to be removed too?

My dear old dad used to swear up a storm at times (especially when he dropped something on his foot, or hit his hand with a hammer). I'm sure I learned quite a few words from him as a kid. Should his tongue be removed too? After all, we should think of the children.

didn't this character realize it was a swearing bird, befor he bought it? all that aside, it is pretty funny for a bird like that to be sold, of all place to such a religious neighbourhood.

Cute story, but I wanted to comment on the photo. The bird in the photo is a macaw, not a parrot. I love the expression on the woman's face (what you can see of it, anyway). She's anticipating a fierce bite, which the macaw appears to be contemplating, but what it's really doing is using its beak to grip the woman's sweater so it can pull itself up onto her shoulder. Climbing is standard behavior with these birds - the higher they can get the more comfortable they feel, which is why they always try to climb up onto your shoulder.

But then again . . . sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between "about to bite" and "just using my beak to climb up onto your shoulder" . . . so maybe the woman's grimace is appropriate after all.

Wow! Bad Rabbi!

And it reminded me of another parrot story I saw recently. (Thanks to Paul who pointed out that that's a macaw too. I woulda thought it was a parrot.)

Shit, what the fuck did the rabbi expect when he purchased the Ara Macao (better known as the god damned Scarlet Macaw) from George Carlin's "Taboo Piss and Pet Shop from Hell"?

In fairness, Lindsay, isn't it possible that you could bring a parrot home that said things so offensive that you would get rid of it?

In other words: What would a newly purchased parrot have to say to make you want to get rid of it?

Love that old testament!

This is a fucking ex-goddamned-parrot!

Not to be pedantic or anything but macaws *are* parrots. The term parrot refers to psittacines ( generally, and includes birds as diverse as macaws, cockatoos, lorikeets and budgerigars.

The Red Bird sitting nearby wanted me to clear that up.

I don't get it. I mean, so long as the house was dairy-free...

Cute story, but I wanted to comment on the photo. The bird in the photo is a macaw, not a parrot.


NOUN: Any of various parrots of the genera Ara and Anodorhynchus of Central and South America, including the largest parrots and characterized by long saber-shaped tails, curved powerful bills, and usually brilliant plumage.

From the American Heritage Dictionary, 2000 edition.

That photo is hilarious.

And the story reminds me a bit of a time when I was a kid, and my dad said "That sucks," in reference to something, only to have my mom shout back, "I don't want the kids hearing that kind of shit!"

Makes me chuckle even today...

Was Abraham's son perhaps a potty-mouthed little Touretter?

Reminds me of a rabbi-parrot joke:

A rabbi was walking home one day when he passed a pet store and heard a squawking voice shouting out in Yiddish:

"Quawwwwk...vus macht du...yeah, you...outside, standing like a"

The rabbi rubbed his eyes and ears. He couldn't believe it!. He went inside to see more.

Inside, the parrot looked at the rabbi, cocked his little head and said: "Vus? Kenst reddin Yiddish?"

The rabbi turned excitedly to the store owner. "He speaks Yiddish?"

"What did you expect? Chinese maybe?"

In a matter of moments, the rabbi placed five hundred dollars down on the counter and carried the parrot in his cage away with him. All night he talked with the parrot. In Yiddish. He told the parrot about his father's adventures coming to America. About how beautiful his mother was when she was a young bride. About his family. About his years of studying the Talmud. The parrot listened and commented. They shared some walnuts. The parrot told him of living in the pet store, how he hated the weekends. They both went to sleep.

Next morning, the rabbi began saying his prayers. The parrot demanded to know what he was doing and when he explained, the parrot wanted to pray too. So the rabbi went out and hand-made a miniature yarmulke for the parrot. The parrot wanted to learn to read Hebrew, so the rabbi spent weeks and months, sitting and teaching the parrot, teaching him Torah. In time, the rabbi came to love and count on the parrot as a friend and as a Jew.

One morning, on Rosh Hashana, the rabbi rose and got dressed and was about to leave when the parrot demanded to go with him. The rabbi explained that a synagogue was not place for a bird, but the parrot made a terrific argument rooted in Talmudic principles, and was carried to the synagogue on the rabbi's shoulder. Needless to say, they made quite a spectacle, and the rabbi was questioned by everyone. The rabbi explained that the parrot was a devout Jew who prayed in Hebrew.

Wagers were made. Thousands of dollars were bet that the parrot could NOT pray in Hebrew.

All eyes were on the parrot during services. The parrot perched on the rabbi's shoulder as each prayer and song passed — without making so much as a squawk. The rabbi began to get annoyed, slapping at his shoulder and mumbling under his breath, "Pray already, you stupid parrot!"

The parrot said nothing.

"Pray...parrot, you can pray, so pray...come on, everybody's looking at you!"

But still, the parrot said nothing.

After Rosh Hashanah services were concluded, the rabbi found that he owed the members of the congregation over four thousand dollars. He marched home, angry, saying nothing.

Finally, several blocks from the temple the bird began to sing an old Yiddish song in perfect pitch. The rabbi stopped and looked at him.

"You miserable bird! I taught you the morning prayers, and taught you to read Hebrew and the Torah. And after you begged me to bring you to temple on Rosh Hashona, I said okay. But then, when I bet thousands of dollars on you, you said not a word! Why? Why did you do this to me?"

"Don't be a schmuck," the parrot replied. "Think of the odds we'll get on Yom Kippur!"

epistemology: In fairness, Lindsay, isn't it possible that you could bring a parrot home that said things so offensive that you would get rid of it?

Are you serious? did you miss the part about cutting its tongue out or killing it?

My second daughter came crying to her mom once about a little boy she was playing with saying a "bad thing" to her. Her mom asked what it was, and she said she couldn't say, because it was so bad and she had been told never to say it. Her mom assured her that, just this once, it was okay, and to tell her what he said. She sobbed, "He told me to 'shut up'." Then her older sister added, "Yeah, but that's because you called him an asshole."

When my son was 4, he wanted to grow up to be a parrot. There are worse job choices.

Gaijin, that's a great joke.

When I lived in Iowa City, a single mom was raising a little boy, and she told him one day that the name he had was just the name she gave him, and when he got older, he could choose a name of his own.

"I already have a name I want," he said.

"What is it?"

"Orion Jetmouse."

Several years ago I went to check on a macaw that a fellow was selling, rather thinking it couldn't hurt to see.
"Molly", after an initial period of standoffishness, decided to make nice. Wondering why an affectionate bird was up for sale, I was told she was lonesome, that the owner couldn't devote enough time to her.
"How can you tell ?"
"I run to answer the fax machine because it's used for business. Lately she's been doing so good an imitation I can't tell the difference. It's her way of getting attention."

If I were a kid, secular or otherwise, I think I would be a lot more fucked up from my dad cutting out a pet parrot's tongue or killing the bird than from hearing the parrot swear and curse. Having your pets die is bad enough when you're a kid (or when you're an adult, for that matter). Having your pets die because your dad obeyed the bloodthirsty advice of a crazy rabbi would be just awful. Good call on the wife's part.

Thom: I didn't it mean like that. I love parrots. I was making the point that we all have things that would be unacceptably offensive for our bird to say. Except my bird, of course.

Of course the extremism of the response: cutting the birds tongue out (though, don't people debark dogs in this country?) is the major point, but there is the issue of the content of the bird's speech (I appeal to Jeff Goldstein to help us discern the parrot's intended meaning) that made it so offensive. Was it the "homo?"

Is there anything a parrot could say that would embarrass you with family and friends such that you would give it away?

I heard a (possibly anecdotal) story about a woman whose pet parrot happened to be in the room while she was having an affair. The woman was, um, vocal, during the illicit act.

The parrot picked up on her, um, vocalizations.

Epistemology, I doubt too many readers of this blog would keep a parrot whose vocalizations evoked violence, say, threats of mutilation or rape, against women, children, people of color: call it Poll-itical correctness about fowl language.

Of course the parrot shouldn't have its tongue cut out (and would that stop the vocalizations?) but note that detail appears only in the Yediot Aharonot headline, which was probably written by an editor, not the reporter. It is not supported in the text of the story, though it is in the AFP story, which cites only Yediot Aharonot. The recommendation (or "sentence") to cut out the bird's tongue purports to be the ruling of an unnamed rabbi who isn't quoted; instead it appears that this is what alternative medicine practitioner Oren Zarif told the reporter his patient had told him the rabbi had said. It's also curious that Zarif, who "refuses to accept the sentence," is being threatened with divorce if he were to have the parrot killed or mutilated.

OTOH, R. Mazuz is a respectable posek (rabbinic decisor.). I don't know what warrant there is in Jewish law for his decison: this isn't a goring ox. Where exactly are the children who are going to be harmed? Zarif could have found the bird a home -- a louche Tel Aviv bar, perhaps -- without involving anyone else, including the press. But maybe he needed the attention so someone would offer tha parrot a home.

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