What’s “Yasher Koach”?

Good_Job
(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!” is 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, or a thumbs’ up.

It has a lot of variant pronunciations: YA-sher KO-ach, Y’Sh’KOICH, YA-sher-KOYch, and so on.

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!”

(Todah rabbah, thank you very much, to Daniel J. Lieberman for correcting my error in an earlier version of this post. Thanks, too, to my colleagues in the CCAR who consulted on the issue.  Torah is always, always a community project.)

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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.

21 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.

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  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.

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

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  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!

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    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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    1. Skylar, as Daniel pointed out, that was bad grammar, so I will tell you that the correct form is “Yeyashar koheich.” Unfortunately I have difficulties using a Hebrew font in these replies.

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  5. I mentioned this before, but I think you might want to correct the transliteration of the feminine form. While many people to say “yasher koach” to men as abbreviation of the more correct “ye-yasher kochacha,” “tashiri kocheich” is just plain ungrammatical. The second-person feminine form of the word “yeyasher” would be “tiyasheri.” But in any case, in this sentence, the subject of is “koach” which is a masculine noun. Your (feminine) koach is (as you said correctly) kocheich but the word itself is still masculine and should be referred to in the third-person, not the second. “Yeyasher kocheich” is the correct response to a woman.

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    1. Thank you so much for pointing this out.

      I took this to several colleagues, and as sometimes happens, a friendly argument erupted. While several agreed that “yeyashar koheich” was grammatically correct and the other was incorrect, there were some variant opinions about feminine forms and a third group of opinions suggesting that “yasher koach” really should be fine for all.

      I decided that given the purpose of this blog (basic instruction for beginners), I would edit out the error and drop the whole discussion of the feminine.

      I appreciate your time and effort in pointing out the mistake.

      Like

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