Jewish Words: Vort

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

Avort in Yid­dish is far more than wort, “word”, its Ger­man root. A vort means first of all any con­cisely ex­pressed idea, say­ing or ex­pres­sion. You could say, “I heard an in­ter­est­ing vort on why the stock mar­ket went down”, or “Here’s a great vort you could use in your speech”.

A vort also means the moral or mes­sage, as in “You clearly didn’t un­der­stand the story; ac­tu­ally the vort is…” From this, vort also means a pithy dis­qui­si­tion on To­rah. It’s briefer than a dvar To­rah and much shorter than a de­rashah. A vortlich is briefer still. A vort might be as short as “Rabbi Zusha said, ‘When I die, they won’t ask me in heaven, why were you not Moses or Abra­ham. They’ll ask me, why were you not Zusha.’”

This ex­plains why a Charedi en­gage­ment party is also called a vort. Al­though the pre-wed­ding en­gage­ment does not have strong ha­lachic sig­nif­i­cance, there is a cus­tom at a vort to sign tenaim, fi­nan­cial con­di­tions bind­ing the fam­i­lies of the bride and groom.

There is also a tra­di­tion at a vort of smash­ing crock­ery and giv­ing a piece to un­mar­ried friends of the cou­ple. (The rea­son for this ap­pears to be the same as for break­ing a glass at a wed­ding, to re­mem­ber that Jerusalem is not yet re­built.) But the party takes its name from the vort, the word of To­rah that some­one gives, wish­ing the bride and groom well.

Rabbi Ju­lian Sin­clair’s dip into the dic­tionary

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