Wednesday, December 09, 2009


We've just discussed mehadrin - now let's look at that other word for "super kosher": glatt.

I once read an article where the writer was unhappy about the phenomenon where children would become more strict in their kosher food requirements than their parents were. This made it difficult for the children to eat in their parents' home. He then complained, "Honoring your father and mother is a Torah law - and glatt is only a Yiddish word!"

Without going into the debate of that article, lets look at that "Yiddish word." It means "smooth" in Yiddish, and refers to the lungs of a cow (therefore it technically does not apply to chicken, or even lamb, and certainly not to dairy food, despite labels like this.) The Sefardim were strict about the "smooth" lungs, whereas Ashkenazi halacha did not require it. This actually explains why the Yiddish term glatt became more popular - only Ashkenazim needed a special word for their extra stringency. The parallel Hebrew word is chalak חלק. However, whereas chalak still refers to the state of the animals lungs, in Hebrew, as in English, glatt has spread to mean "extra kosher".

The Yiddish (and Modern German) glatt come from the Middle High German glat, which in turn derives from the Indo-European root *ghledho, meaning "bright, smooth". From here we get the English word glad, as well as the Latin word for sword - gladius, more familiar by the name of its carrier - the gladiator. However, the gladiator was more concerned that his sword be smooth than the lungs of his victims...

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