Seinfeld Yomi: The English Patient

The English Patient featured

In another instalment of his Seinfeld Yomi, Jarrod Tanny discusses the episode, “The English Patient”.

Day 144, Thursday, March 24, 2022, s8e17, first aired on March 13, 1997.


Hillel: The English Patient

Shammai: Sack Lunch

Hillel: Neil Armstrong

Shammai: Neil Diamond

Hillel: Cubans

Shammai: Dominicans

Hillel: World’s Greatest Sage

Shammai: Number one Sage

Hillel: Mandelbaum

Shammai: Mr Peanut


Friends, said Rav Huna, is it just me or does this episode contain a touch of antisemitism?

Why do you say that? replied Rav Sheshet. Do you think Mr Peanut is supposed to be Jewish?

Schmuck, I’m talking about the Mandelbaums, retorted Rav Huna. I got the sense that they were making fun of diasporic Jewish weakness.

Oh come on, said Shimon ben Pazi. Izzy Mandelbaum is a champion weightlifter. He took on Charles Atlas in the 1840s.

Hey Pazi, do you have any idea who Charles Atlas is? asked Resh Lakish.

Actually, I don’t even know what the 1840s are, admitted Shimon ben Pazi.

I think Jerry was making an ageist joke about Mandelbaum, suggested Rabbah. You know like, the 1840s were a long time ago, around the time of the Civil War.

What civil war? asked Shimon ben Pazi. Do you mean the Maccabee Revolt? The civil war that pitted the Hellenizers against the anti-Hellenizers? That sure was a long time ago.

So that’s why he mentioned Atlas, inferred Rav Kahana. Charles Atlas was the Greek God that held up the heavens.

Right, so the feats of strength pitted the Jew Mandelbaum against the Hellenizer Atlas and caused the war that led to Hanukkah, added Bar Kappara.

So then why don’t we commemorate the “Mandelbaum Revolt” on Hanukkah? asked a perplexed Shimon ben Pazi.

And how do we even know Mandelbaum is supposed to be Jewish? asked Rabbah.

What do you mean? said Rav Pappa. Just look at him!

Potz, interjected Abba the Surgeon, keep your racist phrenology out of the Yeshivah.

The name Mandelbaum is a Jewish term for “Almond Tree” said Yontl the Librarian consulting the Academy’s prized copy of Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish.

But why would a Jew be named after an almond tree, asked Rabbah. And shouldn’t the Mandelbaums be named after crepes, since they are makhers in the crepe business and have all that crepe money?

You think he should have been named Izzy Crepelbaum? asked Shimon ben Pazi. That sounds a little off.

I agree, interjected Rav Kahana. And if nuts are going to be involved, given the plot of the episode, he should have been named after Mr. Peanut.

The Yiddish name for Mr. Izzy Peanut would be “Pan Izzy Nussbaum”, said Yontl the Librarian, consulting Leo Rosten once again.

So then I was right, said Rav Sheshet, Mr. Peanut is supposed to be Jewish.

In that case, this episode was replete with antisemitism. Mr Peanut was the victim of a combustible crepe, manufactured by Dominican terrorists who then went on to hijack an aeroplane.

It’s true. They failed to get a living wage from their Jewish employers in that crepe emporium, said Bar Kappara.

And yet another layer of gastrointestinal anti-Jewish bigotry surfaces concluded Rabbah: first we have the Soup Nazi and the Gazpacho police, then Uncle Leo’s hamburger is overcooked by an antisemitic chef, and now Mr Peanut is nearly roasted to death in the House of Mandelbaum.

You mean the House of Nussbaum, insisted Rav Kahana.

Yet George admired Mr Peanut’s skills, even after his calamity, noted Rav Pappa, all because he yearned for Danielle’s companionship. Hey Huna, what is the Halakhah on emulating a victim of antisemitism in order to get laid?

Pappa, how can you even ask such a question, said Rav Huna in disgust. A Jew almost perished and this is your thought process? Wait where are you going?

I’m off to get a top hat, a monocle, and a cane replied Rav Pappa. I will be Mr Peanut, and you will all admire my skills.


Bar Kappara: Master, why do we continue to indulge Pappa?

Rav Huna: Because his escapades actually bring a great deal of money into the Yeshivah.

Bar Kappara: How is that possible?

Rav Huna: I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you. And you know better than to ask me about my business, K.


Jarrod Tanny is Associate Professor of History and the Charles and Hannah Block Distinguished Scholar in Jewish History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He writes and publishes on various “Jewy” topics, including Jewish humor in post-World War II America and its place within the larger context of Jewish history.  
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