By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Vatik is a word which has descended far from lofty beginnings. Today it denotes old-timers.

Vatikim on kibbutzim remember draining the swamps and vatikim of Jewish youth movements are at university.

Vetek, seniority, in an Israeli government office means that youve been hanging around long enough that they can no longer fire you.

Originally, vatik meant enduring, trusty or strong. God himself is described as vatik in some of the prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as in Yedid Nefesh, the poem that introduces the Friday night service in many communities. A talmudic source has God saying that He has made Israel vatik among the nations.

A distinguished yeshivah student was known as a talmid vatik. Discussing the right time for reciting the morning Shema, the Talmud (Berachot 9a) notes that the vatikim, the most spiritually advanced, used to recite it at sunrise. To this day, praying at sunrise is called davening vatikin, and a community which regularly does so is known as a vatikin minyan.

Last updated: 12:31pm, March 6 2009