These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Week 37: The Practical Dictionary of the Pardes Lexicon

Posted on May 19, 2012 by Derek Kwait

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(X-posted from my home blog, Yinzer in Yerushalayim)

One of the unadvertised perks of Pardes is that after studying holy texts in their original in the Beit Midrash for a whole year, no matter how advanced your Hebrew level, you come away with a black-belt in using dictionaries. Yet I have noticed that for all the dictionaries we have for Jewish religious language, there is, incongruously, not a dictionary of “Pardesian,” that unique jargon you learn upon entering the Orchard. Until now. As a gift to any incoming students who may be reading this and as a memento to those who are leaving, I present this necessarily abridged first edition of The Practical Dictionary of the Pardes Lexicon, heretofore to be known as “The Kwait.” You’re welcome.

*Indicates the entry is to be found in the Second Edition.

Avoda Zara – Idol worship, literally “foreign service.” This is an all-encompassing term used to describe worship of foreign deities and/or the self, and commonly used around the Pardes Beit Midrash to describe any “Jewish” subject that does not involve learning Gemara and/or Halakha. There is a Makhloket about the Tanakh.

Bittul Torah – Literally “canceling Torah.” One of the most popular pastimes at Pardes, this is the Halakhic term for the sin hanging out at the coffee station, checking what’s on the Hefker table, shooting the breeze with your Chevruta*, checking email and Facebook, flirting with people of the gender(s) you are attracted to as they walk past you in the Beit Midrash to grab a dictionary or a Tanakh, or any number of other things people do to waste the time they should be spending studying Torah (see: Avoda Zara, “Blog, The”, FOMO). However, it should be noted as Rabbi Dr. Levi Cooper has famously said, “Bittul Torah is better than no Torah at all” (see also: Shiur Clali*, Thursday Night*).

Blog, The” – Usually used to refer to Pardes student blog, These and Those. There are two types of students at Pardes in relation to These and Those: Those who write for it (all 5 of us) and those who are constantly being nagged to post their pictures, videos, poems, reflections, bored doodles they made in class, whatever they can do, onto the blog. It is most famous for being the second-most Coercive* institution at Pardes (for the first, see: Community Davening).

BDB, The” – Abbreviation for Index to Brown, Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon. Arguably the best-kept secret in the Beit Midrash, this is the best thing ever to happen to studying the Tanakh in Hebrew. Beginning with Genesis 1, it lists nearly every Hebrew word in the Tanakh then gives its definition. As a bonus, rather than just give you the word as it appears in the Tanakh, it lists only the roots of words in each verse in alphabetical order, forcing you to have to think at least a little bit about the unknown word in question, thus saving you from feeling too guilty for using it. This book is also notable for being perhaps the only index in history to make the book that it indexes obsolete.

Community Davening – A Shira Hadasha-style Halakhic partnership minyan that meets for Shacharit services every Monday as a sort of compromise between the Egal and Mechitza Minyans. Like most compromises, however, this one too apparently has proven so traumatic for those involved that most participants repress it from their memories each week as soon as it ends, thus necessitating its organizers to need to remind students about it’s existence and how good it is for them to participate in it roughly every hour for the entire rest of the week. The advent of this minyan marked the moment when Pardes could no longer consider itself a non-Coercive* environment (for the second moment, see: “Blog, The”).

Community Lunch – Universally considered one of the highlights of the week, this is the communal meal eaten every Tuesday at Pardes. Each week, our master chef David Berman outdoes himself again to prepare another fantastic, elaborate, exotic vegetarian meal (with vegan and gluten-free options for those who so require them, of course); so far we’ve had Southern, Italian, Mexican, South African, Middle Eastern (duh), Thai, and doubtlessly tons of others I’m forgetting. This meal is not free, however, it comes at the cost of having to sit through about a half-hour of announcements, most of which you’ve already heard at least twenty times (see: Listserve, Community Davening).

Egal Minyan – The egalitarian praying option at Pardes, it usually meets a few days each week for Shacharit and every day for Mincha in Room 5. Most students at Pardes are of one of three minds about this prayer option—some consider it to be a more liberal, inclusive, modern alternative to the more traditional Mechitza Minyan, some are indifferent towards it, and some consider it Avoda Zara. While the Egal Minyan by definition counts men and women equally there is a continuing Makhloket over precisely which men and women should be counted. As a result, the announcement, “There will be an Egal Minyan meeting” is one of the most common contexts in which this phrase is used (see also: Community Davening, Creative Davening*).

Frank, The” – Nickname for The Practical Talmud Dictionary by friend of Pardes, Rabbi Yitzhak Frank. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Gemara, this is a thoroughly remarkable book no one should ever think of even coming near the Talmud without. In this book, Frank gives all the most common words in the Talmud in the forms they are commonly found in, their Hebrew equivalents when the word is Aramaic, colloquial, clear English definitions, contextualizations, and textual illustrations, complete with lots of “?” and “?!”’s to show a phrase’s proper emphasis, plus lists and conversion charts of Talmudic measurements and monetary values, and a separate reference guide for all the Talmud’s many abbreviations in the back. That rare and happy moment when you discover Rabbi Frank took his textual example for a word from the very instance of it you were looking for is called a “Frank Find.” As I gushed to him as he signed my copy of his book when he came to lecture at Pardes, I don’t know how I could have ever studied Talmud without it (see also: “Jastrow, The”).

FOMO – Acronym for “Fear of missing out.” By far the most common illness effecting Pardes students, it is responsible for countless hours of sleep lost and Torah Bittuled (see also: Thursday Night*).

Hefker – Ownerless. While this word denotes a technical Halakhic category of ownerlessness, at Pardes, it is most frequently used in connection with the Hefker Table, where free stuff, like 3-day-old challah and rugelah, trashy old novels, pitas, leftovers from community lunch, maps of Jerusalem, chocolate, flyers, and, occasionally, homemade cookies or brownies can sometimes be found. You know there is something good on this table when Pardes students are buzzing around it like vultures on roadkill. Without having the statistics to back this up, I would conjecture that Hefker is the largest-source of non-FOMO-related illness at Pardes (though whether such illnesses are really non-FOMO-related is debatable).

Jastrow, The” – Nickname for the Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature by the late, great Rabbi Dr. Marcus Jastrow. While the Frank contains just about all the technical terms of the Talmud, this dictionary seems to contain about 98% of the other words in the Talmud you don’t know (i.e., 98% of the words in the Talmud), including miscellaneous words like “wind blast” (זיקא) and “witches” (חרשין) that you couldn’t possibly make sense of the passage without. That rare and happy moment when you discover Rabbi Jastrow took his textual example for a word from the very instance of it you were looking for is called a “Jastrow Jackpot.” An added bonus of this dictionary is that it comes in app form. (see also: “Frank, The.”)

Koh Echsoyf” – Considered by many Pardesniks as the greatest of all Shabbat songs, it is best sung on Friday night with a bunch of guys drunk enough to think they’re Chasidic (see: ‘Shkoyach).

Listserve – Arguably the world’s leading producer of kosher spam, the Pardes Yahoo! listserve each day produces a flood of emails, with a typical ratio of one useful one for every 10 useless ones. Listserve emails typically give information on schedule updates, events going on around town, reminders, upcoming events, what David Berman is cooking today, Community Davening reminders, job opportunities, and requests for information on where to buy a deck of playing cards. The amount of time it takes you to go through all the information sent through it on a typical day is dependent on how long it takes you to delete emails. (see also: Bittul Torah, Community Lunch).

Makhloket – Disagreement. If Pardes had a short, pithy motto like “Veritas,” or “E Pluribus Unum,” this would be it. All of Pardes’ philosophy and approach to Judaism, and what is so special about the place, summed up in one word. If we had to expand on it, it would be “Makhloket l’shem shamayim,” argument for the sake of Heaven (see also Chevruta*, Night Seder*).

Mechitza Minyan – The more traditional, gender-divided prayer option at Pardes. This minyan meets every day but Wednesday for Shacharit (a.k.a. “No Pray Wednesday”) and every day for Mincha in the Beit Midrash. Like the Egal Minyan, Pardes students tend be of one of three minds about this service—some like it because feel it is their only Halakhic option and/or that it a comfortable, traditional prayer-space for them, a place where they can focus on prayer with a little less distraction; some are indifferent towards it; and some consider it exclusionary, sexist, antiquated and feel discriminated against when they have to pray behind a wall and not matter (see: Processing Session).

Processing Session – A moderated session convened following a major experience (like living in Israel) during which students are free to discuss their thoughts and feelings on a given matter in an open, warm environment. These sessions can get heated, but more often than not discussion is civil and respectful and most people leave feeling better about themselves and the issue at hand or else keeping the potentially offensive things they really wanted to say bottled up inside until they can let it out later amongst like-minded friends. Such sessions are particularly associated with the Self, Soul and Text Track, dealing as it does with new and sometimes deeply personal and emotional spiritual practices (see: Avoda Zara. See also: Chevron*, Shabbaton*).

‘Shkoyach – Perversion of the Hebrew יישר כחך, “y’yeshar ko-khakha “(“kokhaykh” if the honoree is female), figuratively meaning “congratulations,” or “great job.” This expression usually used to show someone your appreciation for and pride in the good deed they did is used more often than not at Pardes in a sarcastic sense, after the manner of a certain teacher. For example, “You’re laying tefillin now while you still have 4 whole minutes left until shkiah [sunset]? ‘Shkoyakh.” This ideally should be followed by an eye-roll and a sneer.

Tiyul – One of three (not including the two Shabbatonim*) school-wide hiking excursions during the year. The first in November explores the Negev Desert, the second, in January, the Aravah (part of the Negev Desert), the third, in March, the Golan Heights. The tiyyulim are extremely popular and present much-welcome opportunities to get out of the Beit Midrash to actually move around a little, spend quality time with friends and teachers, eat lots of great food, and see sights more novel than the new zit on your Chevruta’s* nose. (see also: Vatikin).

Vatikin – Correctly pronounced “va-Tee-KEEN,” it is the earliest possible time to pray the Shacharit service, basically sunrise. This is the time at which Pardes davens before leaving for Tiyyulim in the winter months when it is around 6:00 AM. Attempts to organize an egalitarian, musical service of this type at the tayelet (promenade overlooking East Jerusalem and the Old City) have thus far proven unsuccessful.


Quote of the Week: “I’m frangry….and I think you should all join in my franger.” – Laynie Soloman, using a word coined by Zvi meaning “frum and angry.”

Hebrew Word of the Week: מלון (“meelohn”) – Dictionary