Word of the Day / Hithasdut: More Hasidic Than Thou

It’s not about your religiosity, just your attitude.

On Friday we talked about hasidim who aren’t necessarily Hasidim; today I’m here to tell you that some Israelis can be more Hasidic than thou without actually being Hasidic in the first place.

While converting to Judaism can be described as hityahadut (“becoming Jewish”) and converting to Islam can be described as hitaslemut (“becoming Muslim”), hithasdut (heet-khas-DOOT) doesn’t mean becoming Hasidic. Rather, it means “sanctimoniousness” or “false piety.”

It can also connote a wolf in sheep’s clothing, like someone who dons the garb of a Hasid while committing acts that have nothing to do with the benevolence (hesed) that lies at the root of this word.

But religious leaders accused of sex abuse were not what Yossi Bachar had in mind when the then-director general of the Finance Ministry said in 2004, while talking about the financial reforms aimed at reducing the high degree of economic concentration and conflicts of interest within the Israeli banking system, that he does not like mithasdim (meet-khas-DEEM). At the time, Bachar said he was referring to the bankers who, purporting to wear the shabbier suits of neutral observers, “come to me and say: It’s true that I’m from the bank, or I work at the bank, but I’m objective.”

I have little doubt this pseudo-Hasidic critique left them crying all the way to the bank.

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.

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