Thursday, February 26, 2009

Accidental incomprehensibility

A few weeks ago, in a conversation with my rabbi, I used the term "davar sheh-bi-k'dushah," (literally, "a word/thing that's in holiness," meaning prayers that can't be said without a minyan). When he gave me a blank look, I assumed that I'd used the wrong term, and tried multiple variations: davar bi-k'dushah, divrei b'kodsho . . . Still, I got nothing but blank looks, which surprised me, since I'm under the impression that those terms, or some variation that I might have missed, are in common usage in traditional circles. I chalked it up to some challenges that the rabbi is known to have with reading, and forgot the whole thing.

Imagine my surprise when, several weeks later, the rabbi used the term davar bi-k'dushah in the course of another discussion. Apparently, the problem wasn't that he didn't know the term--the problem was that he didn't recognize it when it was said with the accents on the final syllables, in accordance with Modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation!

How silly, I thought--until he started talking about "roos," and I didn't realize, until he switched to the pronunciation "root" for the benefit of one of the Israeli American congregants, that he was talking about the biblical Ruth!


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