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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
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In Hebrew: The Meaning of ‘Haredi’

A daily dose of Hebrew.

חֲרֵדִים “Ultra-Orthodox” is the English term that describes a large group of Jews, whose religious practice tends to be very strict and whose dress remains very conservative, reminiscent of Eastern Europe before modernity.Many English speakers are familiar with another term that describes this group – Haredim. This is the English spelling of the Hebrew word, חֲרֵדִים.

What does חרדים mean?

The word first appears in the Biblical book of Isaiah:

שִׁמְעוּ דְּבַר ה’, הַחֲרֵדִים אֶל דְּבָרוֹ… (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ ס”ו:ה’)

Hear the word of G-d, (you) who tremble at His word… (Isaiah 66:5) Another example:

הַאִם הַמִּפְלָגוֹת הַחֲרֵדִיּוֹת יִצְטָרְפוּ לַקּוֹאָלִיצְיָה הַחֲדָשָׁה?

Will the Haredi parties join to the new coalition?  לַחֲרוֹד, an active-simple פָּעַל verb, means to tremble or to quake. The root is ח.ר.ד (kh.r.d) So by calling themselves חרדים, the Ultra-Orthodox are stating that they tremble before the word of G-d.

So it turns out that in dress, religious devotion and name as well, this Jewish group parallels the American Quakers. Their theologies share similarities as well, but also considerable differences.

A Haredi man is an אִישׁ חֲרֵדִי, while a Haredi woman is an אִשָּׁה חֲרֵדִית.

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About the Author: Ami Steinberger is founder and director of Ulpan La-Inyan.

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