Word of the Day Yeshiva: Sitting Down on the Job

Sure, yeshiva can mean institute of Torah study, but even the most secular businesspeople often find themselves in one, with nary a rabbi in sight.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Critics of the ultra-Orthodox practice of spending all day studying in a yeshiva, or institute of Torah learning, regularly charge the Haredim with doing nothing but sitting on their backsides – their yashvanim – all day instead of joining the army and then working for a living.

But while such comments may be meant as an insult, they do have some support in the language itself. That’s because yeshiva, like yashvan, comes from the word lashevet, meaning “to sit.”

In fact, the word ye-shee-VA (typically pronounced in English as the Yiddish-inflected ye-SHEE-va or ye-SHI-va) also means the very act of sitting. If there are no chairs handy at the yeshiva, students might have to balance the Talmud on their knees as they sit cross-legged, in yeshiva mizrahit (literally, “Eastern sitting”).

The funny thing is that even the most avowedly secular, anti-Haredi of Israelis often end up in a yeshiva, sometimes multiple times a day. For when the context is an Israeli workplace, yeshiva means “meeting” (even if the participants are forced to stand).

If someone answers a phone call and then adds: “I can’t talk, ani bayeshiva,” it could mean “I’m at the yeshiva” or “I’m in a meeting.”

Though Israelis of different stripes often sit in judgment of each other, when it comes to sitting on their backsides, they sometimes end up standing (linguistically) united.

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.

They may not be religious, but they are still in a yeshiva.Credit: Emil Salman

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

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

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

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