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Learn, Practice, and Perfect Your Hebrew: What’s Kosher?

The StreetWise podcast from TLV1 in Israel can help you use Hebrew to express what’s kosher, dodgy, and fit

Rose Kaplan
April 26, 2016

As we’re in the midst of the Passover, questions of kashrut are on everyone’s minds—whether or not we may consume Girl Scout cookies, artisan matzo, and even marijuana. It seems that for nearly everything we pick up, we ask: Is this kosher for Passover?

But in Israel, the Hebrew word kasher has a number of meanings that extend beyond conversations about what you can or can’t have on your Seder table. And in this week’s selection from TLV1’s StreetWise Hebrew podcast, host Guy Sharrett examines the word’s alternate meanings.

For example, have you ever wondered why we say “kosher” in English instead of “kasher?” Sharrett explains here that the English word “kosher” is based on the Yiddish pronunciation of kasher: “KOY-sher.”

In Hebrew, as in English, saying something isn’t kosher—lo kasher—is another way of saying it’s a bit off, dodgy, shady, suspicious, etc.

The Hebrew word kosher—a variant of kasher—means fitness, or ability. And this translates to slightly different contexts, as well—from kosher bituy, meaning “articulate,” or, roughly, one’s linguistic ability; to kosher sichli, meaning “mental ability”; to kishurim chevratyim, meaning “social skills.”

Of course, there’s also the word kashrut, which specifically refers to kosherness in the way we understand it in English. In Hebrew, a mashgiach kashrut is a “kosherness inspector” who might visit your restaurant, for example, to issue a teudat kashrut (a “kosher certificate”).

Listen to the episode, titled “How to keep your Hebrew kosher,” below, and as always, follow along with the words and phrases as you listen.

Kasher – Kosher, fit, valid, reliable – כשר
Mashehu po lo kasher – Something is a bit dodgy here – משהו פה לא כשר
Kashrut – Kosherness – כשרות
Teudat kashrut – Kosher(ness) certificate – תעודת כשרות
Mashgiach kashrut – Kosher(ness) inspector – משגיח כשרות
Kosher – Fitness, ability, capability – כושר
Madrichat kosher – Fitness instructor – מדריכת כושר
Chadar/Machon kosher – Fitness center – חדר/מכון כושר
Kosher bituy – Articulation – כושר ביטוי
Mishehu im kosher bituy – An articulate person – מישהו עם כושר ביטוי
Kosher gufani – Fitness – כושר גופני
Kosher sichli – Mental ability – כושר שכלי
Kashir – Capable – כשיר
Kashir la-avoda – Fit to work – כשיר לעבודה
Haya li kisharon gadol – I had a big talent – היה לי כישרון גדול
Kishurim – Qualifications – כישורים
Pitu’ach kishurim chevratyim – Developing social skills – פיתוח כישורים חברתיים
Kishurim – Links – קישורים
Lehachshir – To render something kosher, to train, to prepare, to authorize – להכשיר
Lehachshir mivne she-kvar nivna – To “kosherize” a building that has already been built – להכשיר מבנה שכבר נבנה
Hechsher – “Kosherizing,” authorization – הכשר
Hachshara – “Kosherizing” meat; training – הכשרה
Hachshara miktso’it – Vocational training – הכשרה מקצועית
Huchshar – It was kosherized, authorized; he was trained – הוכשר
Ha-basar muchshar be-rega ze – The meat is being kosherized right now – הבשר מוכשר ברגע זה
Anna muchsheret, hamon potentsial – Anna is talented, (she’s got) a lot of potential – אנה מוכשרת, המון פוטנציאל
Muchshar, muchesheret – Talented – מוכשר, מוכשרת

Rose Kaplan is an intern at Tablet.