April Fools Day completely baffles historians. We have no idea where it came from, what its original purpose was, or why it so infectiously spread through the Western World.
There’s speculation that it came from calendar changes: a “fool” being someone who kept the previous culture’s calendar instead of adopting the new one. There’s also a theory that April Fools Day is a rite of spring, a renewal holiday where people delight in all the behavior that they normally cannot indulge in during the rest of the year, like Mardi Gras, for example.
Nevertheless, April Fools Day persists without serving any real purpose. No one “needs” April Fools Day. I know I can go without a day of watching my back as my “friends” find many, varied and unusual ways of torturing me.
April Fools Day is a meme: a cultural idea passed on because it sticks to us so well. April Fools Day is fun, creative and silly. And I love it.
There are a lot of things in Judaism that spark the same “W-T-F” nerve in my brain as April Fools Day. First, tefillin. These weird black boxes and leather straps look like a Chassidic S&M tools. I understand the expression “bind as a sign” on your arm and between your eyes, but you would think the rabbis of the Talmud would have come up with something a lot less dirty looking!
How about the Sukkot etrog? Here’s a weird idea: let’s create a Thanksgiving holiday where a random piece of lemon-esque fruit has to hang in a hut for a week. It’s another one of those Jewish “what were they thinking” moments that I revel in.
When I think about all the silly traditions that I live by, I pause and wonder how I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “now there’s a rational human being”. But you know what? I don’t care how strange any of this seems to anyone. I like all the pointless, meaningless rituals in my life, because that’s what is great about being human. While the rest of the animal kingdom is simply trying to “get by”, our brains and abundance allow us the time to “piddle around” and do strange things like wrap ourselves in leather straps or gaze lovingly at the “fruit of the beautiful tree.”
So go ahead and enjoy April Fools Day. It’s another one of these silly things that makes you remember why it’s awesome to be alive. And when you remember why it’s fun to be alive, you might think about who gave you life, and what you should do with it.