Did you just buy a new pair of shoes? Get a new car?
In both cases, the word you can expect to hear from Hebrew-speaking friends is “tithadesh” (teet-kha-DESH, for a man or boy) or “tithadshi” (teet-khad-SHEE, for a woman or girl), a term urging others to enjoy whatever new object they have just purchased. It can also mean something akin to “wear it well” (when referring to clothing, as it often is) or “use it well.” It comes from the word “hadash,” meaning “new,” and is the command form of “hithadesh,” meaning “was renewed” or “was resumed.”
It’s not only friends or relatives who wish others “tithadesh” or “tithadshi”; it’s something you might hear from the cashier as you’re about to walk out of the store with those new shoes.
Though the word generally has positive overtones, the late Hebrew and Yiddish writer David Frishman, who died in 1922, wrote a short story called “Tithadesh” that highlights its mournful underside. In the story, the son of a poor tailor spends his entire life longing for someone to wish him “tithadesh” for his new clothes, but he dies as a young man without ever having received the new clothing that would justify his being the target of the sought-after word. “Dad, why didn’t they tell me ‘tithadesh’ too?” he asks his father at the Passover seder one year, after hearing a flurry of “tithadesh” wishes at synagogue.
The answer given by his father, who sews new clothes for the wealthier members of town but doesn’t have the material to make any for his son, is straightforward: “Whoever doesn’t have new clothing, you don’t tell him ‘tithadesh.’” The boy is finally clothed in new garments on the day he is buried. “But,” writes Frishman, “his ears never heard ‘tithadesh.’”
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