Jewish Words



Tzores is another of those well-worn Yiddish words which conjures up tiresome images from mainstream culture ofpantomime Jewish mothers clutching their foreheads and inveighing about the quantity of tzores in their lives.

Tzores is hard to translate precisely, but roughly speaking its a combination of trouble, distress, calamity, plight, woe and aggravation.

It can be usedof a wide range of individual hardships, such as poverty, illness and depression.

In the Bible, its used numerous times to mean personal trouble and suffering, eg God will answer you in your time of trouble (Psalms 20:2).

From the Talmud onwards, tzores is also used to describe the persecutions that were the recurrent collective lot of the Jewish people in exile. Tzarot follow, one upon the other, so that the later tzarot cause the earlier ones to be forgotten (Talmud, Berachot 13a).

Torah study was one of the key activities that enabled us to retain equanimity in the face of the reversals, as in the saying, Whoever neglects the study of Torah, will have no strength to face the day of trouble (Berachot 63a).

Tzores comes from the Hebrew word meaning narrow. In tzores our feelings are constricted or straitened.

The very use of this word for suffering implies that it is a temporary state which will in time be replaced by breadth and openness, as it says in Psalms 118:5: I called out to God in my straits, and He answered me with expansiveness.

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