Monday, May 08, 2006


As you go through my archive of previous posts, you may be asking yourself, "How come this Mike guy doesn't use 'lehavdil!' more often?"! I'm glad you asked. Although in this case "more often" means "at all."

Among us Orthodox Jews, "lehavdil" (literally meaning "to separate" or "to distinguish") is used to mean "God forbid anyone should think you or I mean to make such a comparison." For example, if you said "Orthodox services are for those Jews who like the Latin Mass," you might well follow this with "lehavdil!"; if you don't, one or more of your listeners might say it for you (if you're foolish enough, and I know such a person, to say it to actual listeners). Or if you decry what Muslims seem to be learning in many of their yeshivas ("lehavdil!").

I don't use "lehavdil" (except as a verb meaning "to separate" or "to distinguish"). When I take it seriously, I see it as an attempt to micromanage someone else's speech to make sure it doesn't deviate from the communal orthodoxy (with a small o). It also assumes people don't know an analogy when they hear one. When I take it less seriously (and indeed it is often used jokily, especially when people use it to comment on their own speech), it strikes me as very self-congratulatory. "Ah, it's us, 'us' as in 'we,' meaning we who would never use such an analogy without saying 'lehavdil!'!" I guess one more self-congratulatory communal tic among us OJs is no big deal; on the other hand, who needs it, since we have plenty of them already?


Neil Harris said...

Nice post. Looking forward to the next one.

andy said...

What previous posts?

Michael Koplow said...

It was meant to be a joke, Andy. Not a very good one. Yep, this is my very first post. And you were there.

andy said...

I suspected that. I just thought I might be missing something because my computer literacy leaves much to be desired. Hatzlacha.