Thursday, July 10, 2008

Teruah learns a new word: Kumzitz!

My knowledge of Yiddish is woefully inadequate, so I'm delighted whenever I learn a new word or phrase. Today's is Kumzitz, which according to the Urban Dictionary meaning "a happening of epic proportions." Here's the sentence in which I saw the word used... "My friend Yacov ---- is giving a kumzitz in his apartment this Motzai shabbat in Washington Heights." How great a word is that? In honor of Yacov, his kumzitz, and Shabbat here's a video of another kumzitz that will get us all in the Shabbat spirit. This one was held at the Carlebach Shul back in February and features, I think, Chassidic vocalist Yehuda Green.

Carlebach Shul Kumzitz 02-7-08b


It's interesting, by the way, that I had to look up the word kumzitz in the Urban Dictionary and not an online Yiddish dictionary. Fortunately, Bashalon, the Hebrew Language Detective, can explain.
"It is very common around the Lag B'Omer bonfire to have a sing-along called a kumzits (also spelled kumzitz or kumsitz). As this article describes, kumzits is an unusual word. On the one hand, it is widely known that the origin is from Yiddish for "come [and] sit". However, the word does not appear in Yiddish dictionaries. Why is that?

It turns out that kumzits is a Yiddish word that exists only in Hebrew. It was adopted by the early pioneers in Israel, despite the establishments opposition to use of Yiddish words. Hebrew replacements were suggested such as shevna שבנא - "please sit" and the Talmudic tozig טוזיג. But nothing ever managed to displace kumzits from its place beside the fire."
Hat tip to YouTube user HolyBrotha for posting a video of a kumzitz (and lots more) and to Balashon for explaining the history of the word. Balashon is a good read, check it out. Finally, just to be honest. I can' read the article that Balashon references. My Hebrew isn't nearly that good. But he linked to it and so I did to. Ignorant in public, that's me!

5 comments:

Dave (Balashon) said...

Glad to have helped!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I am the Yaakov of the kumzits you wrote about, and happen to be the one playing the guitar in the video you posted. :-)
Have a great week. We'll mention this tonight!
-Yaakov Dov

Jack said...

Hi Yaakov. How great, I'm glad that we connected. I love the term kumzitz and that you host host them. I'd love to hear more about how you organize them. It sounds like a blast. I'm thinking maybe Michigan needs a kumzitz or three.

Anonymous said...

Hi jack, we mentioned your post at our melava malka, and how you ironically posted a video i was playing in, perhaps we can discuss jewish music etc.. some more.
is there a way i can email u directly?
Yaakov Dov

Jack said...

Yaakov, I'd like that a lot. My email is jackzero at gmail dot com.