I heard an audio post about “Hebrew mistakes that make Israelis cringe”. I won’t judge whether they’re reasonable or not; I’ll just try to avoid them as much as possible. But the advice that he offered was to use the phrase אפשר as much as possible.
Is it possible?
I mean, it means “Is it possible?”
So when you want something, just say/ask אפשר?
Such as, “Can I get some service here?”
” Can I get a discount?”
“Can my children cut into the bathroom line?”
It’s pretty much what could be defined as chutzpah, what Israelis have in abundance.
And that got me thinking…
The word חוצפה is so similar to the word for desire. There’s an interesting article that Dan Reisel wrote about the value of chutzpah in Jewish sources.
Everybody knows what chutzpah means. However, when it comes to defining the word, it is actually surprisingly difficult. Most people connect it with life in the shtetl and, when pressed, suggest yiddish as its linguistic origin. The surprising fact is that the word chutzpah (חוצפא) comes to us from ancient Hebrew. It’s first mention is in the Mishna, which was compiled around two thousand years ago. It has many meanings, the dictionary suggests barefacedness, boldness, impudence, irreverence. The Hebrew root is chatzaf (חצף), which is a verb that means ‘to bare’. Cheekiness is perhaps the most apt English equivalent, because it manages to bring out the physical aspect of the definition. In the Jewish tradition, chutzpah has many meanings. The first mention of chutzpah in the classical Jewish sources is in the Mishna, in Masechet Sota 9:15. The phrase employed is surprising, perhaps: In the messianic period chutzpah will prevail (יסגא חוצפא משיחא בעקבות). Chutzpah is also mentioned twice in the Talmud, on the same page, in Masechet Sanhedrin 105a. The first mention is that Chutzpah carries its point, even against Heaven (מהני שמיא כלפי אפילו חוצפא) and later on that Chutzpah is royalty without a crown (היא תאגא בלא מלכותא חוצפא). The notion that chutzpah is royalty without a crown is a particularly powerful reminder of how the Rabbis saw chutzpah as something much more significant, much more morally complex, than the modern usage of the term would warrant.
He then lays out four examples of how our rabbis of old, Moshe, and Avraham, all used chutzpah to stand up to G-d, as it were.
So we’re being told, in some way, in many ways, to push what’s possible, little by little.
It doesn’t mean we’ll get what we want. Neither does it mean we won’t.
(If it weren’t the Nine Days, when we are not supposed to be enjoying music, I would cue up the Rolling Stones and their song.)
But even if you can’t always get what you want, you’ll never get anything without trying. So what I’m learning is to push my objectives slowly slowly. Push what is possible to be possible.