We have made it through the fall holidays although it has been different. Hopefully each of us found special ways to connect, learn and be Jewish! The month of Tishrei is always a whirlwind of holidays and then Heshvan comes and we can take a deep breath. There are no holidays in the month of Heshvan except, of course, Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat. This year with the early holidays, Thanksgiving is in Kislev. So what will we do during this holiday-less month? Definitely enjoy Shabbat but more than that, we have time to think about what being Jewish is all about if it isn’t a holiday!
With no holidays to talk about? Fortunately, there is always more to learn about being Jewish. I am getting ready to talk with our pre-K classes about the Tower of Babel, and the idea of languages and how they help and hurt communication is always interesting. Each language has a depth of meaning that often cannot be translated. We Jews use expressions that can be translated but need a deeper understanding — every word has a story. I found on myjewishlearning.com a list of “7 Jewish expressions to start using today” by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller. Here they are and you can get more details online:
· Baruch Hashem — Blessed is God: a common expression that reminds us that everything comes from God and is used for the big things and even the mundane.
· Gam zu l’tovah — This, too is for the good: This is from Rabbi Nachum and again reminds us that everything is from God and is good even when we may not see it immediately.
· B’ezrat Hashem — With the help of God: reminds us that even when we are making the effort, the ultimate outcome is in God’s hands. (I wonder if the football player says this when crossing the goal line?)
· Baruch Dayan ha’Emet — Blessed is the true judge: the response to hearing of someone’s death, recognizing that we know that God is in charge even at this sad moment.
· B’hatzlacha — With success: This is somewhat like saying “good luck” but knowing that our success is part of God’s plan for us. We work to achieve our purpose and goals.
· Yasher koach — This phrase is a congratulatory expression that encourages us to continue striving with strength.
· Bli neder — Without vowing: This is used before making a promise or commitment. We all know when we say to our child, “We’ll see,” they know it may not happen. This is not to give you an out, but to recognize that we can’t always fulfill every commitment.
Now that you have at your fingertips some phrases, first learn more about each one and then find opportunities to use them. Each one gives us the understanding and appreciation that we are not always in control of everything around us. Especially today when we are feeling there is much out of our control, we must let go and trust in a higher power. One last phrase comes from the story of the scouts who went to check out the land before the Israelites were to enter it. After they returned, 10 of the spies were against going forward. Only Caleb and Joshua said, “Let’s go!” Caleb’s words were, “Yachol Nuchal — Surely we can overcome.” Read the story in Numbers Chapter 13 (and what happened after). It’s hard to be the one who says that we can when others say no but it is up to all of us to work together to overcome the obstacles of the day.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.
Learn these useful Jewish expressions