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God and Man . . . and Rabbis!

March 8, 2011

SHABBAT SERMON- MARCH 5, 2011
RABBI MITCHELL WOHLBERG
God and Man … and Rabbis!

It is too early to talk about the Orioles and too late to talk about the Ravens, so today I am
going to talk about the “Canaries.” I have a feeling that you don’t know that “Canary” is a
Yiddish word.

Leo Rosten, in his book, “Hurray for Yiddish,” writes, “Canary was used by Bronx and
lower East Side children of Jewish immigrants in various ways, from placating to the
admonishing to the threatening. Thus “don’t give me a canary,” or “I’ll give her a canary.”
What these children of Jewish immigrants did not realize was that they were taking an
expression they had heard their parents say countless times in Yiddish, and turning it into the
English word of “canary.” What they had heard their parents say was “kein ayin hora,” or said
more rapidly, sounding like: “keinahora.” And thus, “canary.”

Kein ayin hora – literal translation: no evil eye. This was the phrase our Yiddish
speaking ancestors would use to ward off the potential evil eye. Whenever there was good news,
something to boast about or to be proud of, many of our grandparents and great-grandparents
would always add the words, “kein ayin hora – let no evil eye focus on such goodness.” It was a
part of their everyday vocabulary! READ MORE

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