After a person reads Torah for the benefit of the congregation, we say to them, “Yasher Koach!”
The “ch” is the guttural “h” that clears your throat as you finish the phrase. A very Jewish sound… 🙂
“Yasher Koach!” is appropriate any time a person does a deed that benefits others in a holy way, especially sharing Torah wisdom.
The term literally means “straight strength.” A more colloquial translation would be “More power to you!”
Basically it’s the Yiddish way of saying, “Good job! You upheld the Torah, and may you do it again!” Which is ironic because the term originates from a Talmudic commentary on the moment that Moses smashed the Tablets of Testimony, and God approved of his action. (Shabbos 87a, B. Talmud)
Why did God approve? Because Moses tore up the contract before it could be enforced against the Jewish people, who were worshipping the golden calf. God endorsed the action because Moses put the safety of the people ahead of their nascent religion.
God even suggested that the people be erased from the earth for their sin, and a new Jewish people would emerge from Moses’ descendants. Moses talked God out of that plan because he loved the existing Jewish people, flawed as they might be, and God was touched by Moses’ loyalty.
Upon receiving a heartfelt “Yasher Koach,” the proper response is “Baruch Tihiyeh” meaning “May you be blessed.”
My pals, may we all merit to hear “Yasher Koach!” many times in our lives!
Image: “Tomer’s Bar Mitzvah” by Or Hiltch
Note: “Yasher Koach” is an Ashkenazic tradition. Sephardic Jews say “Chazak u’Baruch” (strength and blessings) for the same purpose.
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