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
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
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

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott