Q&A: What is the mystery in Genesis 1:1?What’s the Hebrew equivalent of the Yiddish word “Mensch”?

Off the top of my head, there is no single Hebrew term that truly conveys the same meaning of someone who is honourable, courageous, courteous, and just an all-round good person.

The closest Hebrew terms that I can think of are:

  • gever la’inyan גבר לעניין – lit., ‘a man for the matter’, i.e. someone you can trust in times of need.
  • melaḥ ha’aretz מלח הארץ – lit. ‘salt of the earth’ – more typically used in pre-independence days, when kibbutzniks and moshavniks (people living in small farming communities in the countryside) were held in highest esteem.
  • baḥur tov בחור טוב – lit. ‘a good guy’.
  • A related variation: baḥur ka-erez בחור כארז literally, ‘a guy like a cedar tree’.

My favourite, however, is the highest compliment that a person can get from one of the greatest mentschen I know: my uncle Uri—a kibbutznik, former paratrooper, survivor of the brutal Battle of the Mitleh Pass in 1956; founder and oldest veteran of the triathlon and Iron Man competitions in Israel; a man of few words; and (above all) a generous man of total integrity:

• ‘hu beseder. הוא בסדר’. (He’s OK.’)


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