A badchen or badkhn (a Hebrew word meaning jester that has been Yiddishized as badchen) is a Jewish comedian with scholarly overtones who entertained guests at weddings among the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe. Today they are found in all countries with Chassidic populations, including the United States, performing their shtick at weddings.
The badchen was considered a standard part of the wedding party, as de rigueur as the officiating rabbi. An elaborate traditional wedding might also involve a letz (lit. a clown, here a jongleur or musician) and a marshalik (a master of ceremonies).
The badchen has to be able both to provide the energy for a party before and after the ceremony itself and also to make the transition to a more serious tone immediately before the ceremony. To this end his comedy was not of a slapstick variety but rather verbal with many intricate Talmudic references and in-jokes.
Following the Council of Vilna on July 3, 1661, a decree was issued banning merry-making, including the setting of limitations on wedding celebrations, public drinking, fire dances, masquerades, and Jewish comic entertainers. The badchen was exempted from the decree.
Some famous badchonim include Chaim Menachem (Mendel) Mermelstien (born March 2, 1920 in Munkacz, died November 7, 1985 in New York), considered the father of modern day badchonus, and the present-day performers Yankel Miller and Yoel Lebowits.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cyrus Adler and H. G. Enelow and Joseph Jacobs (1901–1906). "Badhan". Jewish Encyclopedia.
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