Nimusim

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 2, 2009
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The concept of nimusim does exist in Israel, despite the stereotype of the brusque Israeli. Nimusim are manners. Someone well-mannered is menumas. The word nimusim is of Greek origins and entered Hebrew in talmudic times. It comes from the word nomos, which means law, custom or name. Nimusim is a cousin to the English words antinomian and nomenclature, which both derive from nomos. Sefer Devarim is called Deuteronomy, as it is a summation of previous books in the Torah. In Hebrew it is also known as Mishneh Torah, Second Torah. The English version, Deuteronomy, means second nomos.

When discussing the Megillah’s description of Mordecai as a Jew, “son of Yair, son of Shimi, son of Kish, a Benjamite”, the talmudic sage Rav Nachman says, “Mordechai was crowned with his names — benimuso”. His impressive lineage gave him more stature than his promotion to the King’s vizier at the end of the Megillah. Rashi explains that nimus means “name” in Greek.

Avshalom Kor, the great Hebrew language expert, points out that there are several words in Hebrew for manners or behavioural prescriptions— nimusim, derech eretz and halachah. Of these three, nimusim has more the character of etiquette, as opposed to the other two that are morally and religiously rooted norms of behaviour.

    Last updated: 12:19pm, July 2 2009