My conversion process has been a huge learning curve. One of the many challenges is getting my head around all the terminology. I can finally pronounce Chanukah correctly, and I now know the difference between Kiddush and Kaddish (was embarrassing when I didn't), but there is one word that still confuses me: Shkoyach (spelling?). I hear people shout "shkoyach" after the rabbi's sermon, after someone gets called to the Torah, and sometimes even when I pass the herring at the Shabbos table. What exactly does shkoyach mean and when is the right time to say it?
According to the Oxford Etymological Dictionary of Jewish Jargon[*], Shkoyach is a condensed version of the Hebrew phrase Yeyasher Kochacha, literally, "May your strength be extended." Ironically, the word "extended" was shortened, and people didn't have the koach (strength) to say the two guttural 'ch' sounds at the end, so it became Yasher Koach, which when said quickly sounds like Shkoyach.
Shkoyach is a versatile expression. It can be used to say bravo for a great sermon, good on you for being called to the Torah, or thank you for passing the herring. But the meaning is always the same. You have done something good, you should have the strength to do more.
This is much deeper than just saying thank you. Thank you is an acknowledgement of the good deed that has been done in the past. Shkoyach also encourages more good deeds in the future. It is bravo and encore rolled into one.
The message is that no matter how much good we have done, we can always increase. No matter how much we know, we can always learn more. As you know from your conversion process, in Judaism the learning never ends. The Talmud says, "Don't be shy to ask, or you will never learn."
So I'm glad you asked. Shkoyach for the question.
[*] Soon to be published, B'ezras Hashem (with G-d's help)
Are text messages private? My husband and I have a major disagreement over this. He gets furious when I look at his phone, saying I have no business reading his private messages. I feel that as a married couple we should have nothing to hide from each other. I am not saying I am at all suspicious of him, I completely trust him. But should his inbox be totally out of bounds for me?
The answer to your quandary is on the tip of your finger. Just look at your wedding ring.
We use a ring to get married because it represents the ideal relationship. A ring wraps itself snugly around the finger. It has to fit securely, otherwise it will fall off and get lost. But at the same time, a well-fitted ring should not cramp the finger. It can't be so tight as to cut off circulation. A comfortable ring will hug the finger, not strangle it.
This delicate balance of holding on tight but not too tight is the exact balance required in a marriage. Being married means being intimate. When we are in love, we want to embrace our spouse on all levels, surrounding them with care and showering them with affection. We want to share every experience and explore every layer of their being. We want to hold them tight and be there for them every second of the day.
But this devotion can go overboard. What starts as inclusion can become intrusion. If we smother each other to the point where lines distinguishing us are blurred, when we invade on the private space of the other to the point where nothing is sacred, we have drifted from being loving to being over-bearing, from supporting to squashing.
Even loving partners need space. Not everything has to be shared and not all that is mine is yours. For me to maintain my dignity and my identity, I need to protect a certain level of privacy, a domain that is mine and mine alone.
Each couple has to find the balance between intimacy and privacy that is right for them. Some couples share one email account and are fine with that. Others would find that stifling. Your husband has expressed where he draws his line. You feel differently.
But if as you write you indeed trust him, then his wishes deserve to be respected. Be like a wedding ring, tight enough to be intimate, loose enough to give some space. He doesn't want to feel like he's being bugged, he wants to feel like he's being hugged.
I am a constant worrier. I worry about everything and I know it. Everyone tells me to chill out but I can't. The problem is, I always feel if I don't worry and something bad happens, I will feel guilty forever more that I wasn't worried enough. Now I'm pregnant and am obsessing about what may go wrong. But if I don't worry, doesn't that mean I don't care? I am in therapy, but do you have any Jewish strategies for me to get out of this cycle?
There is wonderful old Yiddish proverb, which is also said to be an ancient Chinese proverb, and a more recent Indonesian proverb, sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, Socrates or Dr Seuss:
"There are two things you should never worry about. One is something that you can't help, because you can't help it. The other is something you can help, because you can help it."
Some matters are simply out of your hands. Life and death, weather patterns and parking availability are G-d's domain, not yours. Worrying about these is not just pointless, it prevents you from achieving in the areas where your efforts are needed. The precious energy wasted on being anxious would be better saved for more important pursuits.
An expecting mother's frame of mind has a direct impact on her unborn child. Your positive thoughts and trust in G-d are as vital for your baby as pre-natal vitamin supplements and pregnancy pilates. Worrying, even with good intentions, is not really caring for yourself or your baby.
When something worries you, meditate on this question: Is there anything I can do about this, or do I need to leave up to G-d? Is it my business or His business? If it's mine I need not worry, I need to do something. If it's His, I need not worry, He knows what He's doing.
Worrying is no more than a useless diversion from your real mission. Don't get lost in it. Those Yiddish Chinese Indonesians were right, leave G-d to do His job, and you do yours.