Jewish words

Oneg

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

In the student and youth movement worlds, an Oneg Shabbat (or oneg for short ) is a post-dinner programme on Friday night, usually involving crisps, marshmallows, singing and cheap alcohol.

In fact, Oneg Shabbat is a halachic term for the sheer physical enjoyment we should take in Shabbat. (Oneg literally means pleasure or delight.) Isaiah 58 says: You shall call the Shabbat a delight (oneg) and the holy thing of God shall behonoured.

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Ta'am

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Monty Pythons classic film, The Meaning of Life, translates into Hebrew as Taam Hachayim. An American newspaper recently (and nonsensically) translated an Israeli politician saying that there is no taam (sense) in the question as saying the matter has no taste.

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Ivrit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Ivrit is the Hebrew language. Until the 20th century, however, Hebrew was called lashon hakodesh, the holy tongue, the language of prayer and Torah study.

The early Zionists liked to refer to themselves as Ivrim, Hebrews, to distinguish themselves from the stereotypical humiliated diaspora Jew, an image which embarrassed them. Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was typical in declaring, The Yid is trodden upon and easily frightened, therefore the Hebrew ought to be proud and independent. The revived Hebrew language of the Ivrim was, naturally, Ivrit.

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Daled Amot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



Daled amot translates most accurately as personal space. Using it in a sentence, one might say, Whether you choose to put on deodorant is your own business, as long as you stay out of my daled amot.

A secondary sense of the word is an area of expertise, as in Dont ask me about quantum physics, thats outside my daled amot.

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Yeshivish

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009







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.

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Vidui

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

The Vidui is the climactic section of each of the five Yom Kippur services when, bent over and contrite, we beat our breasts and enumerate the ways we have fallen short of the mark in the previous year. According to many, Vidui is the actualisation of teshuvah, repentance (Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 1:1). The Torah does not clearly command repentance, but it does command Vidui (Numbers 5:6-7).

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Shofar

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Shofar is the rams horn that we sound each morning during the month of Ellul, on Rosh Hashanah (unless it falls on Shabbat) and at the close of Yom Kippur.

The word shofar comes from a root meaning rounded, which describes the shape of the shofar. (A shfoforet is a tube or egg shell.) This shape was not uncontroversial. The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 26b) cites an argument about whether the shofar for Rosh Hashanah should preferably be bent to symbolise a bowed and contrite posture on the Day of Judgment, or straight to indicate our upwards yearning.

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Hekdesh

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Hekdesh is a Yiddish-Hebrew word meaning, in popular parlance, a big mess, as in, Clear up your bedroom right now; it looks like a hekdesh. (In truth, Ive heard it used colloquially only in the United States, where Yiddish was not deliberately purged from Eastern European immigrants as it was in the UK.)
Originally, hekdesh meant something very different. Money or objects pledged to the Temple were designated as hekdesh.

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Kalkalah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

This months award to Israeli professor, Robert Aumann, of the Nobel Prize for Economics, kalkalah, got me thinking about the origins of the Hebrew term.

Kalkalah derives from kol, meaning all and kollel, meaning to encompass or include. The verb kilkel therefore means to provide with everything or sustain. On Yom Kippur we ask for parnasah and kalkalah, all the material support and wellbeing that we need over the coming year.

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Vatik

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.

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