Religious Mustard and Other Hebrew Acronyms

by Brian on January 26, 2011

in Jewish Holidays and Culture,Just For Fun,Only in Israel

Hodaya, the most famous "datlashit" from the TV show "Srugim"

In the U.S. and most western countries, Jews tend to identify their religious affiliation through one of the major Jewish movements, be it Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Jewish Renewal, and even Secular Humanistic Judaism. Not so in Israel, where one’s religious standing is far more nuanced. In a country that loves army-influenced acronyms, a whole school of literary shortcuts and word play have sprung up.

The two simplest and most frequent appellations are “dati” and “hiloni” – “religious” and “secular” respectively. Within the religious category, however, there is “haredi” (“ultra-Orthodox”); “dati leumi” (“national religious” also known as “modern Orthodox” and the basis for the main characters in the hit Israeli TV drama “Srugim”); “dati lite” (religious but not too stringent, as in “I’ll kiss you and still put on tefilin in the morning”); “masorti” (“conservative” but with a lower case “c” – as in, “we keep kosher but watch a movie after Shabbat dinner”); and a pejorative label used by haredim to describe anyone less frum than them: “reformim” (no translation required).

The strangest? “Hardal” (an acronym for “haredi leumi” – for those ultra-Orthodox who also serve in the army). The funny part is that the word in modern Hebrew also means “mustard.” Does that mean that they prefer spicy condiments on their glatt kosher army rations?

Where it gets really interesting is that there is a whole new emerging lexicon of terms for religion “in transition.” For the formerly religious, there’s “datlash” (“dati l’sheavar,” literally “religious in the past”) and its parallel “hozer b’shealah” (“return to questioning”). Going in the other direction and becoming religious, you can say “hozer b’tshuva” (“returning to repentance”) or “ba’al tshuva” (a true “master” of repentance).

A religious person who believes men and women should receive equal rights to be called up to the Torah would be a “datash” (for “dati l’shivyoni,” a religious egalitarianist), while someone who thinks he or she might become religious down the road (maybe after marrying a religious person – these kinds of “mixed marriages” are becoming increasingly common in Israel – would be a “datla” for “dati l’etid” (literally “religious in the future”).

My favorite of all is a new one I just heard from an Israeli friend: “Hashash” (for “hiloni shomer Shabbat” – apparently someone who is entirely secular but also keeps the Sabbath). The word in modern Hebrew also means “fear” or “apprehension” which led my friend to say to me “I have a hashash that you are really a hashash.” Perhaps she would prefer that I was a “hozer b’shealah l’sheavar” – a religious person who becomes non-religious and then becomes religious again.

Confused? Just invent one of your own!


My first foray into Hebrew jargon was published on the Israelity blog.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian January 26, 2011 at 11:35 am

A few more that were sent to me by email:

From Joesph Shmidman:

Dat”lash”lash – dati l’she’avar l’she’avar – for those who were religious, became dat”lash and are now religious again.

Or haw about dat”laf – dati lif’amim – that’s “religious sometimes.”

BTW, Israel does not have the monopoly on innovative new labels for these phenomena. I have heard two good labels from the US for dati-light – flexodox and orthoflex.

Keep ’em coming!

2 Rachel Selby February 26, 2011 at 1:21 am

If you don’t want to be labeled you can be reconservadox.

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