Philologos


No Simple Answer

By Philologos

‘The best kashe is kasha with gravy,” goes an old pun about the Passover Seder’s Four Questions, which are known in Yiddish as the fier kashes — a pun based on the word kashe in Yiddish meaning both buckwheat grits and a question.And yet a kashe is not an ordinary question. If you ask someone, “What time is it?” or “Are you…Read More


Of Thugs and Bandits

By Philologos

‘A bunch of thugs,” General Tommy Franks has called the irregular forces fighting against the coalition army in Iraq. The Iraqi regime and much of the Muslim world, on the other hand, calls them shuhada, “martyrs,” and feda’in, “redeemers” or “self-sacrificers,” i.e., Islamic commandos.Read More


Fifty Days and Fifty Nights

By Philologos

‘Fierce desert weather, even more than the stubborn pockets of [Iraqi] resistance, conspired to slow the allied advance,” wrote John Kifner, reporting from southern Iraq, in last week’s International Herald Tribune. “The sandstorm, reaching the level of a hamsin, the brown dust that blots out all vision in the desert, began…Read More


The Politics of Repair

By Philologos

When a Hebrew expression that was unknown in the English language 20 years ago appears not once but twice in a column by Thomas Friedman about the war on Iraq, on the editorial page of The New York Times, that’s a linguistic success story. The expression is tikkun olam (pronounced “tee-KOON oh-LAHM”), and I don’t have to define it for you…Read More


The Jews of Old-Time Medina

By Philologos

Nathan P. Baker of Walnut Creek, Calif., has a query about the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia, the second-holiest site of Islam after Mecca. “I was quite surprised,” he writes, “to learn that it was a Jewish city, called Yathrib, long before the time of Muhammad. Could you furnish me, please, with the dates, the number of Jews in…Read More


Gallantly Grammatical

By Philologos

A promise is a promise. I ended last week’s column with the pledge to tell you why the Hebrew phrase ma’asei merkavah, “the doings of the chariot,” is sometimes humorously applied by political commentators in Israel to the process of forming coalition governments, such as the one just put together by Prime Minister Sharon, and I’ll stick…Read More


Car Talk: Hybrids Rule

By Philologos

Ze’ev Orzech writes from Corvallis, Ore: I just read your column on the Swahili mistake of taking the syllable “ki” of kitabu [the Swahili word for “book,” from Arabic kitab] for a prefix. I had the opposite experience in Jerusalem some years ago. I had put my car in a garage to have various things fixed and one item on the…Read More


Two Cheers for Daled

By Philologos

Forward reader Michael Katz writes: In a recent piece of yours, you referred to the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet as daled. I believe that the correct spelling is dalet, with the Hebrew letter tav as the word’s last consonant. I wonder why it is that Ashkenazim, who traditionally pronounce the final tav of all Hebrew words as an “s”…Read More


An Omission, Not a Sin

By Philologos

Readers Roslyn Weiss, Menachem Kellner, Peretz Rodman, Martin Jaffee, Jacob Haberman, Gil Student and Michael Bohnen have written in about my January 17 column “Faithful or Fraudulent” — in which, analyzing the Mishna in Sanhedrin containing the statement, “Whoever saves a single Jewish life [nefesh mi-yisra’el] is said by Scripture to…Read More


The Word in the Stone

By Philologos

Many of you have read by now of the “Jehoash inscription,” the black stone tablet with an ancient Hebrew text allegedly found by Palestinian workers while digging on the Temple Mount and purportedly dating to the reign of the Judean king Jehoash in the ninth century BCE. If this inscription is authentic, it would be a sensational find, for…Read More


Would you like to receive updates about new stories?






















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.