This a traditional story; it was probably told a century or two ago much as it is today. No doubt it appears elsewhere in many places but it is an old favorite of mine so it’s going to appear here too.
About a century or two ago, the Pope decided that all the Jews had to leave Rome. Naturally there was a big uproar from the Jewish community. So the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Jewish community. If the Jew won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would leave.
The Jews realized that they had no choice. So they picked a middle-aged man named Moishe to represent them. Moishe asked for one addition to the debate. To make it more interesting, neither side would be allowed to talk. The pope agreed.
The day of the great debate came. Moishe and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him and raised one finger. The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head. Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope pulled out a wafer and a glass of wine. Moishe pulled out an apple. The Pope stood up and said, “I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay.”
An hour later, the cardinals were all around the Pope asking him what happened. The Pope said: “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions. Then I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground and showing that god was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and the wafer to show that god absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?”
Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe. “What happened?” they asked. “Well,” said Moishe, “First he said to me that the Jews had three days to get out of here. I told him that not one of us was leaving. Then he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I let him know that we were staying right here.”
“And then?” asked a woman.
“I don’t know,” said Moishe. “He took out his lunch and I took out mine.”
This page was last updated October 29, 1997.