Monday, July 28, 2008

Kein yirbu

Well, I did it--I made my first really awful Hebrew flub today.

First off, a little background. (Of course.) As I may have mentioned, this is a shmitta year, which means that Jews may not sow, plant, or otherwise work the land. This also means that Jews may not eat any produce of the land, which, as we understand it, refers to land in Israel that is owned by Jews.

So what does one do, practically speaking, when one wishes to, say, purchase a potato? One can do a few things. One can buy a potato from outside Israel. One can buy a potato from last year's crop. One can buy a potato that was grown on an elevated platform, or hydroponically, off the land. (Are there such things as hydroponic potatoes? I know they do tomatoes...) One can buy fruit that grew on its own, but that comes with its own set of complicated issues. Or one can buy produce grown by a non-Jew--in Hebrew, a nachri.

In Ramat Beit Shemesh, the produce store has two signs under every bin of produce: what kind of produce it is, and what its shmitta status is. So you might see, "Carrots--outside the land," or "Oranges--sixth year." Got that? Good.

Today, I wanted to buy grapes. I saw the sign that said "grapes," but no corresponding sign informing the prospective purchaser of their shmitta status. So I asked the store's owner. What I meant to ask, of course, was, "Were these grapes grown by non-Jews?" I probably should have kept it simple and just asked, "Zeh nachri?" which he would have understood as, "Is this nachri?" But no. I had to get ambitious. I went up to the owner and asked, politely, "Ha'anavim nachriim?" "Are these grapes non-Jews?"

As soon as it was out of my mouth, I realized--but if I hadn't, the owner's reaction (highly amused) would have tipped me right off.


Deborah said...

All our stuff is non-Jews and grown by them, too.

tani said...

Well, it had to happen. It might have been embarrassing, but you can never learn a language without embarrassing yourself, so you might as well get it out of the way! When I was living in Bratislava, I wanted to tell some friends that I had come home the night before on the night bus. With a firm grasp of the instrumental case thanks to my Russian, but with still limited Slovak vocabulary, I told them in grammatically perfect Slovak that I had ridden the chamber pot home.

Anonymous said...

Well, they are in Ramat Beit Shemesh, so maybe they were converted grapes? Newly frum grapes?

I'm impressed you've gone this long without making a major Hebrew flub. Hebrew, she is not an easy language.

uberimma said...

Well, you have to know a certain amount to really be dangerous. Just standing there stupidly saying nothing is just, you know, embarassing. I mean, if you didn't know ANY Slovak, you wouldn't be able to say you'd done a thing on a chamber pot, right?

Yasmin said...

Hey, that one is not so bad. I can think of a lot of worse things you could have said about a bunch of grapes. Though I don't know if any of them sound at all like what you wanted to convey, in Hebrew.