Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Phrase of the Day: Yasher Koach

You'll hear this Hebrew phrase a lot. You may also see/hear it as "yishar koah."

It literally wishes the person strength. "May you have strength!"

In short, it means something along the lines of "Good job!" It congratulates someone who has had the merit of performing a mitzvah or some other good Jewish task. Most often, it is said by many people at once when someone has finished giving a Jewish talk (a drash or d'var Torah). It is also said man-to-man with a handshake for those who have fulfilled a mitzvah during a synagogue service, such as reading the Torah, carrying the Torah, or receiving an aliyah. As a practical matter, for synagogue mitzvot, it is normally said to men. Women can certainly wish a man "yasher koach," but there probably wouldn't be a handshake. If you are not shomer negiah, you still shouldn't offer your hand to a man if you don't know whether he is shomer negiah or not. (See The Most-Thought Yet Least-Asked Question: Are you shomer negiah? and Awkward Moments: When You're Not Sure Who's Shomer Negiah.)


An interesting piece on the history of the phrase: From the Sources by Eliezer Segal

3 comments:

  1. By the way, if you get an aliyah or other honor in shul and people say Yasher Koach to you, the proper way to respond is to say "Baruch Tihiyeh" ("You shall be blessed").

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  2. I think if you are offering congratulation to a female you say Yasher Koacha but somebody with greater knowledge of grammar should weigh in here.

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  3. To a woman it's "yashar kochech".

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