Simanim of the Times

I suppose it’s just another symptom of the times; in many chareidi circles Yiddish has disappeared as a spoken, living language.

When growing up we had far fewer simanim the first night of Rosh Hashanah (the only meal my father, z”l, was noheg to eat symbolic foods), but one of them was carrots. We would dispense with Lashon Kodesh for the mehrin and simply say in Yiddish (no Shem u’Malchus), “Ess zuhl zein Dein villen as ess zuhl zich mehrin inzer’re zechusim” (Yes…we said zechusim, not zechuyos).

This year, much to my chagrin, sneakily inserted amid a long, long list of simanim employing both Lashon Kodesh, Aramish and, in this case, I imagine, modern Ivrit, I discovered that carrots were no longer mehrin but gezer with some newfangled gobbledygook about gezeiros tovos or ra’os (it was hard to read the fine print with all the blood rushing to my skull).

Now, I know that the Poskim write that the simanim can and should be expanded to reflect wordplays current at various junctures of our long galus, but I never heard of scrapping an old siman in one language in favor of a newer one from a more currently chic language. And as simana milsa reflects things other than foods at this time of the year (e.g., not to get angry, sleep, or, as the Kotzker, zy”a, famously pointed out, sin; as not only egoz but chet is b’gematria chet as well), I tried to be dan the printer of this attack-on-Yiddish-by-subtraction l’chaf zechus. I figured that perhaps gezer is actually a word of ancient provenance and that perhaps among our Sephardic brethren this Yehi Ratzon about gezeiros had been recited since time immemorial. But later I saw the same mehrin-to-gezer-siman-change operation in a handout published by a venerable Ashkenazic charity of Poilishe upshtam.

The fewer eidos of Ashkenazi-extraction Jewry who speak Yiddish, the more impoverished the language becomes for all Yiddish speakers. I just reached the age of ziknah and I can tell you that scores of idioms used regularly by my G-tt’s-heiliga elteren, zei in lichtig’n Gan Eden, and their friends … pleitei cherev one and all … are rarely if ever heard anymore and would ring hollow in the ears of almost all Yiddish-first-languagers under the age of 45. I hope that the solitary tear I shed over this injustice to an innocent Yiddishe siman will be pronounced “tear” rhymes with care and serve as a siman to be kore’a ro’a gezar dineinu.

Wishing all of Israel a year during which Ess zuhl zich mehrin inzer’ra zechusim.

Itche Otvotzker