Judi's Journal 8-16-2013

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Jewish wisdom and sayings

By Judi Siegal

(For Carol: A doggone good friend)
You can always tell a lot about a people by their sayings. Our American culture is so peppered with expressions and borrowed slang from the many cultures that have thrived on our shores that it is sometimes hard to get back to the source and capture the true essence of the expression or saying. As Americans, we love to put our own stamp on our words, combining endings and “foreign sounding” syllables to English words. So we have coined “el cheapo” (a bargain) fashionista (a stylish lady) “fancy, schmancy” (so what if it is really over done!), the first two have Spanish-Latino origins, the latter, Yiddish.
Speaking of Yiddish, there are many expressions and sayings worthy of note. As we will see, they reflect the character, aspirations, frustrations and religion of the Jewish people.  They are true folk sayings and maybe not sanctioned by the rabbis or written in the Torah but certainly hold meaning and inspiration. Many are borrowed from the cultures and societies where Jews have lived for centuries, others are purely Jewish and reflect Jewish values and ethics.
In times of persecution and discrimination, being assertive and creative were ways to survive in a hostile society. So we have these wisdoms to impart: Nerve succeeds! And, If you want to, you can move the whole world. And this little gem about the power of women: If your grandmother had a beard, she’d be your grandfather!”
Jewish parents are noted for their devotion to their children. It is Jewish tradition to see the customs and culture of the Jewish people passed on to the next generation. The following sayings seem to support these principles: Small children don’t let you sleep, big children don’t let you rest. And be careful what you say in your homes: The talk of a child in the street is the talk of his father and mother at home. And we have this truism for the maturing that mothers do: One mother achieves more than hundred teachers. Also, It’s hard to raise sons, much harder to raise daughters. As for growing up and taking responsibilities, we have: If you’re still a child at twenty, you’re an ass at twenty-one. And having children at all, poses problems: Small children, a headache, big children, heartache. And in a role reversal, we have this gem: Parents used to teach their children to talk; now children teach their parents to keep quiet. As for the value of education, one Jews prize highly, I offer: One who teaches a child is as if he has created him.
In general, Jews tend to be pretty optimistic about life. This too shall pass is a common expression with the hope of a brighter day dawning soon. When it comes to dealing with life and getting along with others, these little wisdoms come to light: Not all you know, may you say; For the disease of stubbornness, no cure exists; Experience is what we call the accumulation of our mistakes and Easy to promise, hard to fulfill. As for knowing when to keep quiet and listen, I just love these two little gems: God gives us two ears and one mouth so that we may hear more and talk less and He who is aware of his folly is wise. Then there is A wise man hears one word and understands two. If we could only keep these ideas in mind when dealing with situations, how much easier our lives would be!
Next time you are looking for a good phrase or expression to make your point, you might want to pool from my little showcase list. Keep in mind: One is greeted according to one’s garb, bidden farewell according to one’s wisdom. And remember the best saying of all: The heart is small but embraces the whole world.