Abbreviate This!

A Shortened Guide to the Jewish Art of Shortening Stuff

Oh God, You Abbreviator: Writing “the Holy One Blessed Be He” as HKB”H is just one example of many abbreviations the Jewish language utilizes.
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Oh God, You Abbreviator: Writing “the Holy One Blessed Be He” as HKB”H is just one example of many abbreviations the Jewish language utilizes.

By Philologos

Published January 13, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
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‘IY”H’ is short for im yirtseh ha-shem, “if God wills it,” and the young lady’s well-wishers were telling her they hoped that, with some help from above, her turn, too, would come soon.

Finally, here are excerpts from an Internet chat room discussion I logged on to concerning ultra-Orthodox attitudes toward Zionism and the State of Israel. I have spelled the abbreviated Hebrew words according to the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the participants.

Participant 1: “We are not allowed to establish a Jewish state [while] in golus [exile].”
Participant 2: “Why do you say that it’s forbidden?”
Participant 1: “It was the opinion of the Satmar rebbe zt”l [zekher tsaddik livrokheh, “May the righteous man’s memory be a blessing”] that we can’t establish a government in E”Y [eretz yisrol, “the Land of Israel”] without Moshiach [the Messiah].”
Participant 3: “Neturei Karta [an extreme anti-Zionist group of ultra-Orthodox Jews based in Jerusalem] hugs rotzchim [murderers] who want to kill Jews. Their point is that [ultra-Orthodox rabbis who accept the State of Israel, like] Rav [Rabbi Aharon Leib] Shteinman, shlit”a [she’yikhyeh l’yomim toyvim v’arukhim — “May he live a long and good life”] and Rav [Rabbi Yosef Shalom] Elyashiv, shlit”a, are Zionists, and that those who threaten to kill them are our friends.”
Participant 4: “Neturei Karta has a point like Hitler y”sh [yemakh shmoy — “May his name be blotted out”] had a point.”
Participant 1: “I never meant that, c”v [chas ve’sholem — “God forbid”].
Participant 2: “Even though it [the State of Israel] is not Al Pi Halacha [according to Jewish law], it’s still in Jewish hands and we’re muvtach [promised] from HKB”H [ha-kodosh borukh hu — “the Holy One Blessed Be He”] that it won’t leave [that is, that it will remain forever].”

There are many more Latin-charactered Hebrew and Aramaic abbreviations of this sort currently in use in the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox worlds, such as ‘b”h’for barukh ha-shem, “God be blessed”; ‘b”n’ for bli neder, “without a vow” (commonly said after making a promise or declaring an intention in order to make clear that it is not religiously binding); ‘bs”d’ for be’siyata di’shmaya, “with the help of heaven” (frequently written at the top of a letter or written communication to invoke God’s help), etc.

The ‘a”h’ of Mr. Schranz’s letter is thus part of a widespread trend. His query about nebekh, however, will, nebekh, have to wait until next week.

Questions for Philologos can be sent to philologos@forward.com


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