Q&A: How does one say “from rags to riches” in Hebrew?

There is no direct equivalent, but the common expression used for any situation where someone goes from a low point to great success is a paraphrase of a Talmudic expression:
מאיגרא רמא לבירא עמיקתא (mi’igra rama lebira amiqta)
Which is Aramaic for “from a high roof to a deep hole”. 

So “rags to riches” would be the opposite: מבירא עמיקתא לאיגרא רמא (mi’bira amiqta leigra rama).

Q&A: What percentage of modern Hebrew vocabulary is native Semitic?

Seriously, who’s measuring, and does it matter? What’s to say what’s “native Semitic”? Does that mean original Akkadian (the antecedent to Hebrew), or Northwestern Semitic/Canaanite which it became (and which itself had many foreign influences, from the Hittites and Sea Peoples as well as Egyptian)?

Do words such as Sanhedrin (from the Greek for “Council”), avir (air), cartis (card), téatron (theatre), itztadion (stadium)—all from Greek at least a thousand years before any modern European language began to emerge—count as “native”?.

Continue reading

Q&A: Are Jewish men forbidden to farm pigs?

Many years ago, I was working for a while as ‘Deputy Food Manager’ (i.e., ‘the guy who schlepps the big boxes from the delivery platform at the back to the walk-in fridge’) at a kibbutz in southern Israel.

The kibbutz members frequently complained about the lack of variety of our meat offerings (basically, chicken, turkey, or beef)—so one day the Food Manager took me for a ‘research trip’ to another kibbutz in the southern Negev—Lahav, some forty km to the east, where, it was rumoured, members were very happy with their food.

The ‘research trip’ was a sham—he and I, and everyone else already knew why the Lahav members were happy with their food: they had pork alternatives almost every day, thanks to their pig farm.

Continue reading