The Universality of Language

“A different language is a different vision of life.” – Federico FelliniGive Joy, Get Joy

Federico Fellini was an Italian film director. Known for a distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images, he is considered one of the most influential and widely revered filmmakers of the 20th century.

Whether films or vocabulary, Fellini understood that language provides different visions of life. How many of you remember TV in the late 70′s when Laverne and Shirley went skipping down a Milwaukee street chanting, “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!?” A schlemiel is a clumsy fool; a schlimazel is a magnet for bad luck. Yiddish makes a fine distinction between the two in that the schlemiel is the bumbling traveler who spills the soup and the schlimazel is the poor slob wearing it!

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon wrote the following which I found in Reader’s Digest. I thought it worth sharing with you.

Of the countless thousands of words English has borrowed from other languages, Yiddish loanwords are perhaps the weightiest. Think of it; how many of the following words do you use colloquially without knowing their true meaning or origin?

See how many you know? Kvetch (complain), Zaftig (pleasingly plump), Chutzpah (gall), Yenta (busybody), Plotz (collapse), Meshuga (daffy), Nebbish (milquetoast), Tchotchke (knickknack), Schnorrer (moocher), Oy Vey (Oh, woe!), Kibitz (tell jokes), Mensch (honorable person), Schlep (haul), Nudnik (bumpkin), Bubkes (nothing), Shamus (detective), Mazel Tov (best wishes).

Amazingly, as I type these, spell check only did not know four of them. The rest were already in the Microsoft dictionary. As a Rabbi in Recovery and Spiritual Counselor too many, my non Jewish clients use many of these terms as though they were born to them just as I use Irish, Italian, French, Afro American, Chinese and more adages and colloquial expressions.

The point of sharing this with you is to amplify how important we all are regardless of our racial and ethnic differences. There is so much we can learn from each other that will enrich and expand our lives. Integrating your specialness into mine grows both of ours. Whatever your heritage, customs, traditions and rituals, I can only benefit from learning them from you.

My prayer for you today is that you find joy in all that is yours and add joy from all that you can learn from others. We all have value and can add value to each other.

I am a modern and independent Rabbi with an MSW Degree and 24+ years of sobriety providing addiction counseling focusing on healing, spiritual guidance and personalized life cycle events. If you, a family member or friend are in need of my services, please contact me at 954-755-3764 to get the help you deserve.

Hugs and Blessings,

Rabbi Mitch

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