Word of the Day / Lehazek Et Yadav: Physical Therapy for the Soul

Would you like to offer emotional support but don’t know how to phrase it? Let this metaphorical stress ball do the work.

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Want to strengthen your hand muscles? You could squeeze a stress ball, use hand grips or do finger exercises.

But what if you want to make someone else’s hands stronger? No, you don’t need to be a physical therapist. All you need to be is sympathetic.

Those who stand by a particular person or institution or want to express their emotional support are said to lehazek et yadav – literally “to strengthen his hands.”

This phrase has come up a lot in Israel in recent weeks, as a way of showing support for Israeli troops or for families directly affected by the fighting.

Residents of southern Israel, which has sustained more rocket fire for a far longer period than other parts of the country, have repeatedly been told that their hands are being strengthened. Local politicians in the south have, in turn, strengthened the hands of the Israeli army – at least when not attacking it for failing to restore security to southern Israel, as the mayor of Sderot recently did after rocket fire resumed when one of the recent cease-fires ended.

While Lt. Hadar Goldin was thought to have been held captive by Hamas – he was later declared dead, though his body has yet to be returned to Israel – the families of the three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and then shot to death in June went to Kfar Sava “to strengthen the hands of the Goldin family,” news site Walla reported.

Another family in a similar situation was also involved in metaphorical hand exercises.

“We strengthen the hands of the soldiers, send a big hug to the families of the fallen, wish the wounded a speedy recovery,” said Raheli Gazit, the family representative of Oron Shaul, who was also thought to have been taken captive and was later declared dead.

A stress ball may help people recover from hand injuries or give string musicians more staying power, but in Hebrew, hand strengthening is also a way of offering physical therapy for the soul.

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