The Hebrew language is rife with phrases used to ward off misfortune, such as lo aleinu (“not on us”) and shelo neda (“we shouldn’t know”), but perhaps the most direct way to seek God’s safekeeping in the face of adversity is to simply say: Hashem yishmor, “May God protect.”
- Word of the Day / Shelo Nedah
- Word of the Day: Lo Aleinu
- Word of the Day / Pirsomet
- Word of the Day / Kishmo Ken Hu
- Word of the Day / Has Vehalila
- Word of the Day: Kaba’it
- Word of the Day / Me'anyen
- God vs. Gods: Hebrew's Deity Complex
“The Lord shall guard [Hashem yishmor] thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth and for ever,” reads Psalms 121:8.
Hashem literally means “the name,” and is a euphemism for God, a roundabout way of referring to the Big G without actually invoking the divine name. Another version of the phrase is Elohim [or sometimes Elokim] yishmor, which substitutes another name for God.
The phrase comes in handy when one hears of a calamity, similar to “Oh my God!” but with the added benefit of asking the aforementioned deity to provide some assistance (“What, an avalanche? Hashem yishmor!”)
Sometimes the scale is a tad smaller, as in someone writing for advice about how to prevent her toddler son from catching lice from his cousins. “Hashem yishmor! Lice…” she entitled her entreaty.
Since Hashem means “the name,” Hashem yishmor has also become a popular catchphrase for articles about people's names, like one on unusual monikers such as Namer (“Tiger”), Nana (“Mint”) and Tel Aviv.
Another article with the same headline reported on an Israeli study that found that children with action names like Barak (“lightning," "sparkle”) and Sa’ar (“storm”) were more likely to have attention problems than those with names like Noam (“pleasantness”) and Shalom (“peace”).
And Elohim yishmor was the first part of a headline on a story about what news and entertainment website Mako called “the nun whose bikini got the Christians angry.”
The nun in question was Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model Kate Upton, who, in a scene that ended up being cut from the 2012 movie “The Three Stooges,” steps out of a pool in a revealing nun-kini that the New York-based Catholic League didn’t much appreciate.
Peace out, Catholic League. And don’t you worry: Hashem yishmor.