Yeshivish

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009
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Yeshivish is an adjective of broad scope that may refer to the values, style, manners, or language of the yeshivot, the institutions of Talmud study that are today the powerhouses of the Orthodox Jewish world. In colloquial use one might say that Mickey Mouse socks are not a very yeshivish article of clothing, or that youd prefer to move to Edgware as its a more yeshivish area than Mill Hill.

Academies of Torah study known as yeshivot have existed for at least 2,000 years. The word derives from yoshev, meaning to sit, which is a basic precondition for learning anything. Today you can still say, After sitting in yeshivah for 12 years, he is a big talmid chacham (Torah scholar).

For most of Jewish history, yeshivot served to produce the elite of rabbinical leadership. After around 1800, the great Lithuanian yeshivot aspired to educate a broader swathe of the Jewish public, and since the Second World War, the yeshivot of Israel and the United States have become the principal engine for the renewal of Orthodox life in the wake of the Shoah. This sweeping role accounts for the profound influence of yeshivah mores on the Orthodox community at large.

Graduates of English or American yeshivot speak a dialect that is closely related to English, but with an admixture of Yiddish, Aramaic, Hebrew and technical terms from Talmud study that can render it almost incomprehensible to outsiders.Chaim Weiser, an American linguist, has defined yeshivish as a separate language and compiled its first ever dictionary, Frumspeak. He includes helpful translations into yeshivish of famous passages from English literature including Mark Antonys eulogy from Julius Caesar, beginning Raboisai, Roman oilam, haimishe chevrah

    Last updated: 12:31pm, March 6 2009