Language

Beware the Ice of March

Don’t let anybody tell you that etymology — especially Hebrew etymology — is some esoteric field of study, with no practical application. The Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew: Based on…

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Clowning Achievement

It has come to my attention that people have been laughing at me. I take this very seriously. My daughter-in-law Ariella takes time from writing her own books to read…

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Davening: The Unsolved Mystery

Are you old enough to remember the Palm Pilot (great-granddaddy of the iPhone)? The first time I saw someone daven (recite the prayers) from the screen of a Palm Pilot,…

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Ready, Aim, Daven!

“We gotta have an ops meeting,” said Danny Grossman. “What is our kavanah?” Grossman was laying out the “ops” — combat operation plans — for Steven Pressfield’s oral history of…

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Vetting Invitation

I’m going to let you in on an inside secret. I’m a headliner. No, that doesn’t mean I get my name big and in lights. I mean that I also…

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Understanding the Maven

Back in the 1980s, my wife taught in a public school in Far Rockaway. A 12-year-old student there went with her Italian mother to buy a toaster oven. After the…

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Truth Ache

Just when I thought it was safe … I got them old dejection, inspection and election-rejection politics blues again. I turned on the radio and heard a news story: George…

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The King and Oy

What’s the good word? Judging from the Word of the Year (WOTY) selections for 2016, you’d think there are no more good words. From Oxford’s choice of “post-truth” to Merriam-Webster’s…

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Herring Aid

Today, kinderlach, we’re going to start with a Yiddish folk song. Like many Yiddish folk songs, it’s part tradition — celebrating Shabbos — and part class struggle. And all irony.…

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Nominating the Predicate

I am being questioned. A reader, Mrs. R. Weiner, questioned my usage of predicate nominatives. My first impulse was to invoke the Miranda Rule and call my lawyer. (He’d say…

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Not Chopped Liver

Disclosure: This column has not been approved by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, nor the Israeli Health Ministry. It has not been evaluated by the…

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And Now … the Hamodia Word Of the Year

By the power vested (not to be confused with invested) in me (via keyboard and chutzpah), I hereby launch the Hamodia Word of the Year (WOTY) for 2016. (See below…

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So What Is Chanukah?

When my son Meilech was in his early single digits (I’m not good with numbers), his sisters celebrated birthdays in close succession. Feeling left out, Meilech asked, “When is my…

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Twixt Me and Thee

  Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z”l, once came to speak to a group of students who seemed to be particularly aloof. When one — more affable — student offered him a…

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Red Herring Maven

There are three things I can’t bring into the house: 1) s’chug (Yemenite hot sauce), 2) arak (anise-flavored liquor) and 3) herring. As you guessed, my wife is sensitive to…

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Playing the Nazi Card

How low can you go? Apparently, lower than we think. How far can we sink after the devaluation of rhetoric and descent into the post-truth era? A quick look at…

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Post-Truth and Consequences

I am different from Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie, but I won’t. ~Mark Twain Funny thing about the story…

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Rehabilitating Rhetoric

“I used to use the word incompetent. Now I just call them stupid. I went to an ivy league school; I’m very highly educated. I know words; I have the…

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By the Yard

Like most mysteries, it started out peacefully enough. I was telling my son Meilech about someone who adopted all the customs of a certain group. And I offhandedly added, “The…

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The Kvetch of Allegiance

My daughter-in-law Ariella is a writer. She just published her second novel and she works as an editor and proofreader. Somehow, bless her, she also finds time for her family.…

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