By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 7, 2010

Last week, I saw a sign in a religious neighbourhood of Jerusalem proffering advice for those who wanted a year of "geshmack Torah learning." In context, this probably means something like satisfying, enjoyable or delightful. But literally, the word means delicious or yummy in Yiddish. Geschmack in German means "tasty", from the verb schmacken to "taste."

It may seem odd to speak of yummy Torah learning, but Chaim Weiser's indispensable work Frumspeak gives several examples of how geshmack is used this way in the yeshivah world. For example, "I didn't understand what the rabbi was talking about, but since he said it so geshmack, I stayed all the way to the end."

This connection between taste and Torah learning has a long tradition. Famously, when children were first taken to cheder, the teacher would let them lick honey off the letters of the aleph bet to create a memory associating sweetness with Torah learning. For those who have merited to know the palpable, almost physical delight that Torah learning can yield, the metaphor of geshmack seems quite apt.

Last updated: 11:34am, October 7 2010