Jewish Word | When the Past Is Present and the Present Is Past

We Jews are obsessed with history. From ancient to modern times, from the Flood to the Exodus to the destruction of the Temples and the exiles, from the Middle Ages to the Inquisition and the pogroms to the Holocaust to the establishment of the State of Israel, we recall and retell our history.

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bogart

Jewish Word | Shamash

n the 1946 film The Big Sleep, based on the Raymond Chandler mystery of the same name, Carmen—the promiscuous, drug-addicted younger sister of Lauren Bacall’s character—sizes up Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart, and asks him, “What are you, a prizefighter?” Bogart responds, “No, I’m a shamus.” “What’s a shamus?” she inquires. “It’s a private detective,” he answers. Yes, Bogart is using the Yiddish version—more popularly spelled “shammes”—of the Hebrew word, “shamash.”

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