Spell Check

Many young people today have forgotten the art of spelling, if only because easy texting depends on the absence of vowels. And “spell check” (some sophisticated programs were developed here in Israel) enables a youngster to type without regard to proper spelling because misspelled words are automatically corrected. Certainly anyone who rights (!) anything quickly learns the limitations of “spell check,” but I have also learned that transliterating Hebrew words triggers the “spell check” in ways that are humorous, insightful, and occasionally absolutely profound.

For example, my use of Mishpacha (family) was corrected to “mishap ha,” which could occur in families that are careless, or in which one jokester loves to sprinkle the floor with banana peels. Mechutan (the in-laws) became “me human,” a plea for understanding, sensitivity, or at least a request for civilized treatment (fortunately, I have been blessed in that regard). Nefesh (soul) was changed to “necessary,” which is certainly true even if not entirely definitive.

“Spell check” obviously struggles with death. Avelut (mourning) has been transformed into “a rout,” or “a slur.” The former is a prevalent sensation upon the death of a loved one, as the survivors often feel defeated and overwhelmed, and the latter is best omitted from a eulogy. When the nifeteret (deceased woman) became the “niftiest,” it was clear that sometimes the eulogy can write itself.

Theological positions are frequently staked out. Maharat (the woman ordained by the neo-Conservatives) was perceived as a “Maharaja,” a royal position to be sure but not necessarily implying any religious connotation. Conversely, musmachim (men who achieve true rabbinic ordination) became “mustache,” a compromise between the beard favored by most rabbis and the clean-shaven few. Eilu v’eilu (these and these… are the words of the living G-d) is our understanding of a true machloket, a rabbinic dispute in which both sides have halachic validity. But when it is used frivolously, or to justify heretical or unacceptable positions, it metamorphoses into “evil veiled.” That’s not me talking; that’s “spell check.”

I have seen Halacha (Jewish law) become “headache,”which it is to some, sad to say, but to others, it is a “Hibachi,” whose use on Yom Tov has triggered discussions of the appropriate application of Jewish law. The finer points of Halacha often generate Sheilot, some of which are invariably “shallow,” but deserve to be answered anyway. Sometimes the answer is “no,” and the item in question becomes an “issur” (a forbidden substance) with which some people take “issue.” The Shulchan (Aruch) was not the code of Jewish law but a “Sultan,” who was an authority in his own right. And a Korban (offering in the Bet Hamikdash) was actually spelled as “Korean,” many of whom have a real affinity for the Talmud, and probably Seder Kodashim.

Shuls became “ships,” on which those who lose kavana (concentration) can sail during services. That can also happen when the davening (prayer) becomes “deafening,” the bane of many Shuls. But Shuls (obviously a word with diverse meanings) can appeal to our “souls” and also occasionally be a home for “shills.” Shuls should be welcoming to everyone. After all, gerim (converts) are just trying to “get in,” a process that can be “grim” if conversions are sought for the wrong reasons. In a shul populated by misnagdim (who are by no means “misanthropes”), a chasid might feel “chased.” After Shabbat, we say havdala, whether or not we are in “Havana,” but why would we be, especially since Cuba is still not a free society?

I tried to wish everyone bsorot tovot (good tidings) but it went right to the “Baptists.” And just as well. I’m sure I’ve missed dozens of other Spell Check specials. The lesson is that it is hard to keep track of all the subliminal messages we send whenever we put fingers to keyboard.

8 responses to “Spell Check

  1. Dovi Schamroth

    Hi Rabbi Thank you for the blog post.

    I once wanted to write BARUCH DAYAN EMET And it came out after spell check BARUCH SATAN EMET

    Shabbat Shalom Dovi Schamroth On Feb 4, 2016 11:26 PM, “Rabbi Pruzanskys Blog” wrote:

    > Rabbi posted: “Many young people today have forgotten the art of spelling, > if only because easy texting depends on the absence of vowels. And “spell > check” (some sophisticated programs were developed here in Israel) enables > a youngster to type without regard to proper s” >

  2. Ingenious and cute !

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  3. The biggest offender of erroneous spelling corrections is Apple’s IPad. Rereading a comment is imperative before posting, otherwise the entire meaning can be changed by the well-meaning automatic spellcheck! It can be embarrassing!

  4. What a wonderfully whimsical (and still meaningful) post! Just what the doctor ordered.

    Minor quibble: “Mechutan” may be the “in laws” of one’s son or daughter, but for that there are other Hebrew words. “In laws” only refers to the parents of one spouse; it does not refer to the relationship the two sets of parents of married children have with each other. There is no English word for that (that I know of), perhaps reflecting the reality that in most cases such individuals have zero relationship or interaction with each other, whatsoever. it is only in our society, with (k’h) our many simchas, that the mechutanim become almost an extension of the mishap ha.

  5. I guess the message is we can’t take everything we read “transliteraly”. By the way “Rav” comes out “tab”. I not quite sure what that means.

  6. I feel dissappointed because there is still no article from the moderator of this blog about the only Jewish organization in the world that actually sues terrorists in court: Shurat HaDin.
    Please help Shurat HaDin SUE the terrorists in court:


    Shurat HaDin’s victory for Israel on FaceBook:

    Thank you!

    PS: http://www.camera.org * http://www.HonestReporting.com * http://www.memri.org * http://www.ActForAmerica.org * http://www.aish.com

    • I’m a big supporter of Shurat Hadin and quite familiar with its leadership. It’s just not relevant to this post.
      – RSP

  7. Rabbi, U R 2 funny!
    Spell check, unfortunately, is yet another step in the dumbing-down of our generation. It has obviously become archaic and unfashionable to think too much, lest we risk ostracizing ourselves from our 2,492 facebook friends, G-d forbid! I’m convinced that the “i” in iPhone stands for “idiot.”