Word of the Day Kibud: Honor Thy Father, Mother and Snack Time

To give honor to, and to provide refreshment, are the same word in Hebrew. This may not be coincidence

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Sure, I know the close relationship between Jews and food has become something of a cliché. And while I did once witness a woman in the park practically force-feeding spaghetti Bolognese to a child in a swing, and have seen parents stop children from playing just so they can give them a cookie, I realize there are other cultures that are also pretty big on food.

All the same, it strikes me as particularly Jewish, in a stereotypical Jewish-mother-who-stuffs-her-children-with-food-at-every-opportunity kind of way, that the word kibud means both “honor” and “refreshments.”

If you get a letter about a meeting or minor function and see the words kibud kal, that means there will be light refreshments (not a “light honor”), possibly burekas and rugelach, the savory and sweet (respectively) pastries that are Israel’s go-to meeting food.

One of the 10 commandments is kibud av v’em, honoring one’s father and mother. But when snack time rolls around (and it’s always snack time), it is the fathers and mothers who are doing most of the kibud, in the sense of handing out the nosh.

Don’t worry about your junk-deprived kid longingly eyeing someone else’s peanut puffs or bear-shaped potato chips, though. Those Israeli parents and grandparents who are a bit obsessed with putting things in their own descendents' mouths are looking out for your kids too -- for better or for worse. And how do they urge their little ones to share? “Lekh tekhabed et hayalda”: literally “Go honor the girl,” meaning, of course, “Give her something to eat.”

This isn’t a newfangled use of the word. Vayikra Rabbah, a collection of homiletic commentary on the Book of Leviticus, thought to date to the fifth century, says: “To a king who was traveling in the desert and his friend came and kibdo [gave him kibud] with one bunch of figs… he said to him: This is a major kibud!

Whether most of the kids in the park would agree to swap their lollipop for a fig, even one fit for a king, is a different story.

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.

A light kibud at O'Hare International Airport's lounge.Credit: AP
Now that's a fig worthy of a king.Credit: Moshe Gilad

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