June 25, 2024
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No paucity of names exists in our tradition when referring to Hashem. The same holds true l’havdil (perish the comparison) when referring to idols. Because the prohibition against idols and idolatry receives top billing in the Ten Commandments which we read this Shabbat, I feel that it would be of interest to see some of the Yiddish names and terms accorded to idolatry, a worship which is unacceptable in Judaism and repugnant to our Maker.

Getshkeh (idol). Derived from the word getz, it shouldn’t be difficult to see how these terms are extracted from the Yiddish word Gott. At best, Judaism regards getshkehs as cheap knockoffs or poor imitations. When non-Jews worship getshkehs, the Holy One is dismissive. When the Children of Israel worship getshkehs, the Holy One becomes so incensed that one would be well advised to head for the hills.

Getzendeener (idol worshipper/s). A getshkeh is dependent upon getzendeener. Once getzendeener no longer exists or ceases to worship the getshkeh, the getshkeh is out of business. In contradistinction, our Gott in Himmel (heavenly God) existed before humans and will continue to exist should humans vanish from the face of this earth. Our Heavenly Father depends neither on time nor worshippers.

Gettehr (gods). Gettehr is the plural of Gott. Since the Master of the Universe is one and there are no others, gettehr by implication show that they lack divine status. The term Gettehr is found in the Yiddish rendition of “Dayeinu.” Venn Ehr volt gemahcht shtroffgerichten oif zayehreh getter (If He had executed judgment against their gods).

Oppgott (deity). When the playwright Oscar Wilde said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he could not have had any deity in mind. An oppgott is repugnant to our Creator. An oppgott may be alluring and enticing. An oppgott may succeed in attracting millions of faithful followers who subscribe to the teachings promulgated in his name. But Gott an oppgott will never be. That’s why it will have to content itself with the sobriquet oppgott.

Fahrgehttehrt (idolized). Personally, I have never heard fahrgehttehrt used in conversation. Rather than employing fahrgettehttehrt, one would say “Zay hobben im gemahcht fahr a gott. (They made him into a god).” As opposed as Judaism is to fahrgehttehroong (idolizing or deification), there were Jewish parents, particularly those of the 1940s and 1950s, who would regularly engage in idolizing. It was better known as “My son the doctor” syndrome or “My son the lawyer” syndrome.

Whether it be a getshkeh, an oppgott, or gettehr or the act of fahrgehttehroong, a getzendeener would do well to understand the folly of idolatry. Idolatry is when we worship that which we ourselves create, rather than worshipping the Almighty who created us.


Rabbi Shawn Zell has recently returned to New Jersey, after serving at a pulpit in Dallas. He possesses certification in teaching Yiddish. Rabbi Zell is the author of three books.

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