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Follow up to this M.Y. question

Why do congregants say to a person who has received an aliyah or was shaliach tzibbur (there may be other situations, but I can't think of any others) either "Yeyasher Kochacha" (Sometimes abbreviated to "Shkoi'ach" or something similar) meaning "May your strength be straightened" or "Chazak Ubaruch" meaning "Strengthen and be blessed".

  • What is the origin of these expressions?
  • What do they mean, in terms of it being a blessing to the recipient. I am Ashkenazi, so I hear more often "Yeysasher Kocacha". I don't understand what it means for strength to be "straight".
  • Why do we say this specifically after the occasions mentioned above? For that matter, why say anything (other than perhaps, "Thanks"?)
  • Ashkenazim tend to say "Yeyasher Kochacha" and Sefardim tend to say "Chazak Ubaruch". Why is there a difference?
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Regarding יישר כוח, i will be basing information off of the Hebrew Wikipedia article on the phrase.

What is the origin of these expressions?

יישר כוח comes from a line in Shabbos 87a:

שנאמר (שמות לד, א) אשר שברת ואמר ר"ל יישר כחך ששיברת

חזק וברוך (some also say חזק ואמץ) seems to be based on the Gemara in Brachos 32b that says that four people deserve to be strengthened: (from this site)

ת"ר ארבעה צריכין חזוק ואלו הן תורה ומעשים טובים תפלה ודרך ארץ

This also answers your third question, of why specifically at these times.

I don't understand what it means for strength to be "straight".

יישר is Aramaic for strengthen, so it actually means "may your strength be strengthened". (It actually seems to work better in Hebrew that has different words for the concept of strength as a noun [כוח], and strengthen as a verb [חז"ק].)

Ashkenazim tend to say "Yeyasher Kochacha" and Sefardim tend to say "Chazak Ubaruch". Why is there a difference?

Wikipedia doesn't know. :)

לא ברורה השתלשלות הביטוי ומדוע חדר דווקא לארצות אשכנז...

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    Me either, but it was the top result on a Google search for יישר כוח. – Scimonster Jul 23 '15 at 18:54
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    יישר כחך! :-) – Shokhet Jul 23 '15 at 19:15
  • @Shokhet I think just a "Shkoiach" would have saved you some syllables. "Chazak Ubaruch" for your efforts. (You must have had a slow business week this week, BTW.) – DanF Jul 23 '15 at 23:47
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First and foremost, the correct pronunciation of יישר כוח is Yishar Koach, and similarly Yishar Kochacha. I have read that in Chabad the common pronunciation is yeyasher, but among Hebrew speakers, Yishar is standard and Yeyasher would be interpreted as a blunt error. The ambiguity is probably due to the fact that without Niqqud, יִישַׁר Yishar is indistinguishable from the much more common יְיַשֵׁר Yeyasher, which means "will make straight".

I'm adding some information based on the Hebrew Academy's figures of speech page - it is naturally in Hebrew, but online translation can confirm if necessary.

The origin of this figure of speech is indeed Shabbos 87a as noted in Scimonster's answer.

The common interpretation of the word yishar is of the Hebrew root ישר which is related to straightness and honesty (as in Num 23:27). However, linguist Ze'ev Ben-Haim's opinion is that it is from the Aramaic root שרר which is related to strength and persistence (the modern Hebrew word for muscle, שריר Shrir, is of the same root). This opinion was accepted by the Hebrew academy's historical dictionary, which included the interpretation of יִשַּׁר in this context as "let it be strong", and thus the blessing can be translated as "let your strength persist".

With this interpretation, יישר כוחך "let your strength persist" actually has almost the same meaning as חזק וברוך "strong and blessed". The similar יישר כוח, commonly abbreviated Shkoyach, means "let (someone's) strength persist" and it is understood as a generic blessing.

Finally, the similar blessing חזק ואמץ (Chazak Ve Ematz) means "Be strong and brave", and it comes from the Torah: It is in Moses's blessing to Joshua in Devarim 31:7, and in many other places, in a similar meaning.

Readers of Hebrew may find more information in the Hebrew Wikipedia article.

  • This doesn’t exactly answer the question. While it explains what the terms mean, it doesn’t address why and when we say them. – DonielF Mar 18 '18 at 0:32
  • First and foremost, the correct pronunciation of יישר כוח is Yishar Koach, - Actually most people pronounce it Shkoyach! And shkoyach to you for your answer. But, I have to digest it a bit more. – DanF Mar 18 '18 at 1:00
  • You ignored the issue of Dagesh, but it follows here that only in the Yishar version from י.ש.ר. is there no Dagesh in the Shin. – Double AA Mar 18 '18 at 1:11
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This gives a good answer.

Since Scripture uses the term “this book of Torah,” the Midrash understands that Joshua was actually holding the Torah scroll, and when he completed it, G‑d told him “Chazak.”3 This is why the custom developed to say “Chazak” to one who finishes reading the Torah. (Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim 139; Rema, Orach Chaim 139:11.)

Thus, the Sephardic communities say “Chazak” every time one finishes reading a part of the Torah. The custom further developed to where the congregants tell the person who was called to the Torah, or anyone who led the congregation in prayer or recited kaddish, “Chazak ubaruch” (“Be strong and blessed”), and the person responds “Chizku v’imtzu” (“Be strengthened and heartened”).

On the other hand, as mentioned above, Ashkenazic communities say “Chazak” only when they finish reading an entire book of the Torah

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