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What is the exact meaning of the phrase "יישר כחך", and what is the gramatically-correct way to pronounce it?

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The expression is taken from the Talumd (Shabbat 87a and several other locations). The sage Resh Lakish expands the word "אשר" to the now ubiquitous "ישר כחך" .

You can see from the following Talmudic excerpt (Shabbat 87a) that the original use was to validate Moshe Rabeinu's action. It would seem to me that current usage is quite the same. When one performs a Mitzvah those around him will confirm that the action was proper and worthy of validation and strengthening (the action or possibly the performer.)

For it was taught, Three things did Moses do of his own understanding, and the Holy One, blessed be He, gave His approval: he added one day of his own understanding, he separated himself from his wife, and he broke the Tables. ... 'He broke the Tables': ... And how do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave His approval? Because it is said, which thou brakest, and Resh Lakish interpreted this: All strength to thee (=יישר כחך) that thou brakest it.

What a great question! Shkoiyech!

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Literally it means "He (i.e. Hashem) should straighten your energy." It means that Hashem should guide you in choosing actions that will allow your energy to flow on a straight path from its source on high down to you.

It is correctly pronounced "Yi/Ya/sher Ko/cha/cha". Its Yiddish pronunciation is "Ya/shi/koi/yach".

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    Most of the people pronounce it: yi/shar/ ko/cha/cha (that actually means - your energy will be accepted by hashem, and he will think it's good. Don't know if this is the right meaning, or that we are pronouncing it wrong). – Avital Aug 24 '11 at 9:51
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Hebrew Wikipedia entry says that "ישר" is an Aramaic root meaning "חזק" and that the phrase therefore means "may your power be strengthened" or, for a pretty good English idiomatic equivalent, "more power to you".

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeaya Andy! Thanks for the answer! Hopefully you will choose to stick around the site. – mevaqesh Sep 14 '16 at 18:23
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Good Moed:

As referenced above - Rashi - in the concluding Rashi of The Torah quotes maseches "Shabbos" (87a) where HaShem says to Moshe - "יישר כוחך ששברת". Grammatically, the phrase would be pronounced as "Yishar Kochacha" - may your strength be made straight. In the Hoshanos in the Artscroll Siddur, the word is written as "Yishar" - see page 738. Also, HaShem wouldn't be referring to Himself in the third-person by saying "may He straighten your strength" - referring to Himself. That's why it doesn't make sense to pronounce it "Yiyasher Kochacha.

Also see:

https://www.kby.org/english/torat-yavneh/view.asp?id=4011

  • But when the phrase is not being used as being spoken BY haShem (i.e., not quoting haShem TO Moshe), but is used by us mortals as a wish/prayer/encouragement that HE will straighten the strength of the person to whom it is being said, i.e., He will empower the strength of that person to continue to do such good deeds (have an aliya to the torah), acts of kindness (do CPR on one in need, or sponsor a celebratory kiddush for the congregants), etc., it would not be Him referring to Himself!! Thus, y'yasher kochacha (or kokachaych) would be grammatically valid. – food4thought Nov 7 '16 at 0:16
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Most people (wrongly) pronounce it "yashar koach" or "shkoyach" and this is the way it is said in Yeshivish circles and in Yiddish. However it should properly be pronounced something like "yishar kochacha" based on the way it's spelled. I often tell people it's meaning is something like "more power to you" and although this isn't the most accurate translation it gets the point across. "Shkoyach" is used somewhat like "thank you".

  • From a certain perspective wrong. Shaleshudes is also wrong, or it is how in Yiddish you say it? – Kazi bácsi Jun 26 '18 at 16:55
  • @Kazibácsi You say it in Yiddish Shuleshsudes you're right – ezra Jun 26 '18 at 17:07
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    I just wanted to say that shkayach is not wrong (or proper either), but it is just the way how Yiddish renders this expression. – Kazi bácsi Jun 26 '18 at 17:21

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