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In Mishnah Yuma 1:7,

ביקש להתנמנם, פרחי כהונה מכין לפניו באצבע צרידה

If he [the Cohen Gadol] sought to doze, the sprouting youths of the priesthood would strike before him with a צרידה finger.

[left צרידה untranslated because not sure what it means]

It seems from Kehati's explanation that this is the familiar action of snapping one's fingers, done using the middle finger, thumb, and palm. But Bartenura seems to say it involves the first finger: how would that work--how would a sound be made?

  • It's possible that the snapping involves three fingers - the middle, first, and thumb... – Isaac Kotlicky Sep 28 '17 at 17:36
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    Like the snap Ali G makes – Clint Eastwood Sep 28 '17 at 18:32
  • @ClintEastwood, could you describe what that snap is? – paquda Sep 28 '17 at 18:46
  • the word is "strike". Maybe they poked him? – DanF Sep 28 '17 at 19:02
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    @DanF, it says they strike לפניו (before him), not they strike אותו (him). So, doesn't seem like it involves contact with him. – paquda Sep 28 '17 at 19:11
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Rash"i on Gemarah Yoma 19b says that this noise is done by merging the index finger with the thumb and hitting the two against one's palm.

I tried it, and to me, this noise wouldn't wake me up, but, then again, I have arthritis :-)

  • Is that the opposite palm, or the palm of the same hand? I am finding the latter to be impossible. – Chaim Sep 29 '17 at 0:39
  • @Chaim I don't mean to sound "trivial", but how could you physically do this move on the same hand? – DanF Sep 29 '17 at 2:45
  • @DanF, "... this noise wouldn't wake me up ...". I think the idea is to snap the High Priest out of his drowsiness, before he is able to fall asleep ( Bikesh le-Hitnamnem, 'sought sleep', as opposed to Hitnamnem, 'fell asleep, slept', though I personally wouldn't translate Nimnum as 'sleep'). Once he's actually fallen asleep, and needs waking up, the battle is lost. Also, I'd assume that, as it was in the High Priest's interest to remain awake, he would be more responsive to the weaker noise made. – Tamir Evan Sep 29 '17 at 8:43
  • @DanF precisely the issue I'm running into. Perhaps some Kohanim were double-jointed. (I'm being facetious.) – Chaim Sep 29 '17 at 14:13
  • @TamirEvan, regarding 'nimnum' what would be a better word? maybe 'doze'? – paquda Sep 29 '17 at 15:11
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I learned that it was the same gesture made by the angel when a baby is born, to make him forget his Torah. It's called a fillip in English. It's like a flick of the fingers.

  • I don't think it's quite that. See my answer with a reference to Rash"i. As I understand it, it involved hitting the palm of your other hand. – DanF Sep 29 '17 at 15:22
  • @DanF There may be different traditions regarding this.... – SAH Sep 29 '17 at 16:03
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I had a Persian classmate in elementary school who would snap using his index finger. There was a special way to hold both his hands and the noise was much louder than our snapping done with the thumb and middle finger on one hand. I found some how to videos on YouTube. This guy is having lots of fun. This lady does a little better getting across how loud it could be, but with the compression on YouTube videos, you'll never really get the full experience.

Apparently it's a very common middle eastern move. The words of Bartenura, and Rashi who he seems based off, could be read creatively as describing this technique. Considering their explanations seem based on a tradition of a practice neither one of them saw, I don't think that is such a stretch to assume.

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