By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 23, 2008

So similar to the English, package, and yet pekeleh has endured as an endearing term for a parcel. Pekel is the original Yiddish form of the word, deriving from the German word pack. The eleh suffix turns it into something warm and fuzzy. English does not have a strong tradition of diminutive suffixes, which is perhaps one of the reasons for the survival of pekeleh, for who could keep a straight face while saying, “Look what Daddy has! A cutie packagey!”

Pekeleh is used to refer to the small parcels of sweets given to children at birthdays and on festivals — that is perhaps its most common usage today. But I remember being told, when little, the sombre insight, “We all have our own pekeleh to carry,” which was a Yiddish version of the overtly Christian, “Everyone has his cross to bear.”

Why would we use a term of endearment to refer to the struggles that sometimes darken our lives? Well, as it was explained to me in my youth, the Yiddish saying goes on to explain that if we all took our pekelech off our shoulders and dumped them out onto the centre of the floor, after surveying the contents of other people’s pekelech, we would choose our own pekelech over anyone else’s. We grow accustomed to our issues, to use a term from the 90s, and even grow fond of them.

Last updated: 6:28pm, December 23 2008