What’s “Yasher Koach”?

(Photo credit: mistergesl)

You’ve just said a Torah blessing, or given a drash [short speech about Torah] or helped with something around the synagogue. Suddenly people are sticking their hands out to you for a handshake and saying “Ya-sher KO-ach!” with great enthusiasm.  What the heck?

Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong; just the reverse, they’re congratulating you on a job well done. “Yasher koach!” translates, literally, “May your strength be firm!” but it’s an idiom meaning, “Good job!” and it carries with it the hope that this mitzvah will give you the strength to carry on to future mitzvot.   Think of it as a cheer.

It has a lot of variant pronunciations: YA-sher KO-ach, Y’Sh’KOICH, YA-sher-KOYch, and so on. The grammatically correct form when addressing a woman  is “Tashiri kohech” but usually you’ll hear the masculine. I do not correct the grammar when friends say “Yashar koach” to me – it’s a compliment, just accept it!

The polite thing to say in return is “Baruch Tihiye” (Ba-rooch tih-hee-yeh).  That means “blessed you will be,” which might translate colloquially as “Back atcha!”

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

17 thoughts on “What’s “Yasher Koach”?”

  1. Thank you for your efforts. I have a Catholic friend who’s very ill and has done good things his whole life.
    When I wished him Yasher koach, and told him that in his case it meant to have strength to do other good things, he was very touched.


  2. I think you have your pronunciations incorrect. For a man, the correct pronunciation should be ye-yasher kochacha and for a woman it should be ye-yasher kocheich. The subject of the sentence is koach (which is a masculine word), not the person you are talking to.


  3. Sorry, but this is a circumsized, messed-up version of the original Hebrew blessing ‘Yishar Koach’. It derives from ignorance. No excuses accepted.


  4. Thank you Coffee Shop Rabbi for explaining this. While l know some Hebrew phrases, and guessed what this one meant, no one explained it to me. Yes, I am on the Board of my synagogue, and write about Jewish spirituality. But that doesn’t mean I know Hebrew. If I don’t know what it means, how much more so for the average congregant, and even how much more so for the 70% of Jews who are not members of a synagogue or the 49% who do not know the Hebrew Alphabet.

    Great application of the Soul traits of Honor and Silence!


    1. Greg, thank YOU for serving on the board of your synagogue, thereby “keeping the home fires burning” for Jews in your town! And thank you for reading and commenting, too!


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