Articles by Isaac Kinek

The Beauty of Chazanus


“What is chazanus?” asked my ainikle.

“Have you ever heard of Yossele Rosenblatt?” I responded.

He shrugged his shoulders – a gesture meaning ich vais nisht (I don’t know). I then wondered whether others had the same response, and found out that many people know little or nothing about chazanus. I therefore decided to educate them, beginning in my own backyard, so to speak. I asked my ainikle to listen to a vintage recording made by Chazan Rosenblatt singing, “Achainu Kol Bais Yisroel – Our Brothers the House of Israel,” a prayer pleading to Hashem for rachmanus (compassion) on the Jewish people.

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What’s Your Geduld Rating?


“Have geduld” is a Yiddish expression, usually told to folks who need additional geduld. Nu, you may ask, “voss hakst do ah cheinik, why are you blabbering”? Iz azoy, it’s like this: Without geduld, even things that are possible become impossible! Your response may be, “Zog shoyn, explain it already! What’s the meaning of the word “geduld”?

Nu, have geduld, and it will become as clear as the morning sky in Hawaii. The meaning of geduld is patience, and you have shown great geduld by following this little monologue.

Anyway, some folks have a tremendous amount of geduld, while others have as much gedul as a mahlpeh (monkey) in captivity. With geduld, you can drive all the way to California. Without geduld, driving to a nearby store is a problem.

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All You Need is a Little Mazel

mazel tov

The word mazel is a fabulous word that has been used vehr vais (who knows) how long! Mazel means luck, or good fortune – and mazel tov means good luck or, more commonly, congratulations.

Interestingly, mazel is not just for Jews any more. It has become a universal expression. But that must have happened in recent times, because when someone said “mazel tov” in the presence of the late Jackie Kennedy (wife of the late President Kennedy), her response was a shrug of the shoulders. If she had spoken Yiddish, she would have uttered, “Voss meint ess – what does that mean?” But the matter never got that far, so to speak.

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All about Shrek


Did you ever wonder about the meaning of the word “shrek”? European Yidden used it yeder Muntog und Dawnershtig! (every Monday and Thursday, i.e., often). Being constantly harassed by their “neighbors,” Yidden were in a state of shrek most of the time. Many books have been written regarding the terrible shrek experienced by Yidden during World War II because of the German chayess (animals) and their collaborators, which was beyond description.

By now, you have surely fathomed that the word shrek means fright, or fear. The former U.S. President F.D. Roosevelt put it this way: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” In Yiddish, the saying is similar but more expressive, as the word shrek is much more colorful than “fear.” It goes like this: Ess iz gornisht mit voss zich tsu shreken – oyser shrek.” Nu, you might disagree with his statement, especially after you take a hike in East Baltimore!

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Adventures with my Ainiklach


One of the most treasured words in the Yiddish language is “ainikel.” You may wonder why. Is dehr enfehr (the answer is) that ainikel refers to a grandchild, and ainiklach are many grandchildren. Many moons ago, I would hear “old timers” telling stories; I don’t remember the stories, but I remember them often saying how wonderful ainiklach are. 

Why? you may ask. Well, for one thing, ainiklach rarely rebel against their bubby or zaidy. As for their parents – nu, sometimes. For example, in the Tanach, there is a chapter about a Yiddel known as Avshalom. His father was the great King Dovid. Unfortunately, Avshalom decided that he, Avshalom, was more fit to be king than Dovid. If David’s father Yishai had got wind of Avshalom’s plot to overthrow his father, he would probably be the first zaidy who did not exactly cherish his ainikel!

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Stop Worrying Already!


Have you ever seen the magazine called Mad? It often illustrates a yokel named Alfred E. Neuman. Alfred is depicted as a dude without a die-geh (worry) in the world. The following quote describes his philosophy: All the sleepless nights, burdened days, joyless, restless, peace-destroying, health-destroying, love-destroying hours men and women have ever in all earth’s centuries given. Worry never wrought one good thing! Perhaps this quote regarding the uselessness of worrying is on the mark – doss hayst (that means), maybe it’s right!

If someone has a worried expression, it’s probably best to leave him alone. However, if it worries you to the point of plotzing (bursting), you may ask him (or her), “Fahr voss diegehst do – Why are you worrying?” The response may simply be, “Ich diegeh nit – I’m not worrying. That’s my normal facial expression!” He may then wonder why you are draying ah kopp (confusing him).

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