Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Shvitz demonstrates true range – it is an extremely physical phenomenon that has very evocative metaphorical connotations.

Of course, at its most basic, shvitz is the sweat on your body. And shvitz is the great equalizer – everybody shvitzes.

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But there are also more rarefied worlds of shvitz. You can go “to the shvitz,” the original hot box, another term for a sauna or Turkish bath. I don’t personally see the appeal, but no sweat off my back.

Yiddish – and by extension, modern Hebrew – offers us yet another use for this term – the “shvitzer,” or braggart, someone who’s trying too hard and constantly showing off. They probably just want to see the fruits of all their sweat equity!

So, just like your mother probably warned you, shvitz gets all over the place: from experiencing perspiration to extraordinary fumigation to exhibiting prosperation.

Truly Yiddish at its best!

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Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier is a Research Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion. A Yale PhD in Judaic Studies, he recently completed YU’s Kollel Elyon.
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