By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

Broiges is Jewish for "angry" or "upset." Most Jewish families have broiges. Broiges defines your relationship with cousins you haven't spoken to for 20 years because they seated you at the table next to the kitchens at their son's barmitzvah.

It often denotes a pent-up, inexpressible, unresolvable rage or frustration, which may have originally arisen from some innocent misunderstanding.

At a communal level, broiges is a subject of endless interest. Who's upset with whom, and why, is a staple of Jewish politics.

Broiges is the pornography of the Jewish community: it elicits our fascination and sells newspapers as only exposed flesh can in the non-Jewish world.

Broiges is a yiddishised version of the Hebrew "b'rogez;" "b'" means "in," and "rogez" means "agitation," "anxiety," "anger of frustration." "Rogez" appears quite frequently in the Bible and midrashim.

One of the consequences of exile which the Bible predicts is "lev ragaz," "agitation of heart" (Deuteronomy 28:65).

In the Song of the Sea, we read that "people will hear [of the Exodus] and be anguished" ("yirgazun.")

One of the most poignant biblical instances of the word comes in the story of Joseph. On the words, "And Jacob settled," which open the story, the Midrash comments: "Jacob sought to dwell in peace... then the agitation of the Joseph episode sprung upon him."

Just when Jacob felt that he'd earned a peaceful retirement, the most tumultuous events of his life erupted.

"The righteous have no rest in this world or the next," observes the Midrash. Tension, even conflict, are ineradicable features of existence. Let us hope that the conflicts we are involved in are few, and over issues which matter.

Last updated: 4:35pm, November 4 2008