Goy

Goy

_he. Goy ( _he. גוי, regular plural _he. "goyim" _he. גויים) is a transliterated Hebrew word which translates as "nation" or "people". Historically and up to modern times it is a synonym for Gentile or non-Jew.

Etymology

In the Torah/Hebrew Bible, _he. "goy" and its variants appear over 550 times in reference to Israelites and to Gentile nations. The first recorded usage of _he. "goy" occurs in Genesis 10:5 and applies innocuously to non-Israelite nations. The first mention in relation to the Israelites comes in Genesis 12:2, when God promises Abraham that his descendants will form a _he. "goy gadol" ("great nation"). While the earlier books of the Hebrew Bible often use _he. "goy" to describe the Israelites, the later ones tend to apply the term to other nations.

Some Bible translations leave the word _he. "Goyim" untranslated and treat it as the proper name of a country in Genesis 14:1. Bible commentaries suggest that the term may refer to Gutium. [ [http://www.studylight.org/enc/isb/view.cgi?number=T3864 Goiim] in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] The "King of Goyim" was Tidal.

In Rabbinic Judaism

One of the more poetic descriptions of the chosen people in the Old Testament, and popular among Jewish scholarship, as the highest description of themselves: when God proclaims in the holy writ, _he. "‘Goy Ehad B'Aretz’", or 'a unique nation upon the earth!'.

The Rabbinic literature conceives of the nations ( _he. "goyim") of the world as numbering seventy, each with a discrete language. On the verse, “He [God] set the borders of peoples according to the number of the Children of Israel,” [Deut., 32:8] Rashi explains: “Because of the number of the Children of Israel who were destined to come forth from the children of Shem, and to the number of the seventy souls of the Children of Israel who went down to Egypt, He set the ‘borders of peoples’ [to be characterized by] seventy languages.”

The Ohr Hachayim [On Numbers, 8:2] maintains that this is the symbolism behind the Menorah: “The seven candles of the Menorah [in the Holy Temple] correspond to the world's nations, which number seventy. Each [candle] alludes to ten [nations] . This alludes to the fact that they all shine opposite the western [candle] , which corresponds to the Jewish people.”

Modern usage

As noted, in the above-quoted Rabbinical literature the meaning of the word " _he. "goy"" shifted the Biblical meaning of "a people" which could be applied to the Hebrews/Jews as to others into meaning "a people other than the Jews". In later generations, a further shift left the word as meaning an individual person who belongs to such a non-Jewish people.

In modern Hebrew and Yiddish the word _he. "goy" is the standard term for a gentile.

In English, the use of the word _he. "goy" can be controversial. Like other common (and otherwise innocent) terms, it may be assigned pejoratively to non-Jews. [The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition] ["There is nothing inherently insulting about the word 'goy.' In fact, the Torah occasionally refers to the Jewish people using the term 'goy.' Most notably, in Exodus 19:6, G-d says that the Children of Israel will be 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,' that is, a goy kadosh. Because Jews have had so many bad experiences with anti-Semitic non-Jews over the centuries, the term 'goy' has taken on some negative connotations, but in general the term is no more insulting than the word 'gentile.' [http://www.jewfaq.org/gentiles.htm#Goyim Jewish Attitudes Toward Non-Jews] , Jewfaq.org. Retrieved January 30, 2007.] ["The word goy means literally "nation", but has come to mean "Gentile", sometimes with a derogatory connotation." Diane Wolfthal. "Picturing Yiddish: gender, identity, and memory in the illustrated Yiddish books of Renaissance", Brill Academic Publishers, 2004, ISBN 9004117423, p. 59 footnote 60.] To avoid any perceived offensive connotations, writers may use the English terms "Gentile" or "non-Jew".

In Yiddish, it is the only proper term for Gentile and many bilingual English and Yiddish speakers use it dispassionately.

A stereotype of a _he. goy, as expressed in Jewish humor, bears derogatory elements, e.g., as Hillel Halkin writes: "A stereotypical _he. goy acts blindly; a stereotypical Jew thinks before acting," [ [http://www.hagshama.org.il/en/resources/view.asp?id=2180 "Why Jews Laugh at Themselves"] , an essay by Hillel Halkin, "Commentary Magazine", Vol 121, April 2006, No 4, pp. 47-54 ] when commenting on a skit of Jack Benny: "when a mugger comes upon him: "your money or your life", and prods him with the gun, he protests "I'm thinking it over!"

The term "shabbos goy" refers to a non-Jew who performs duties that Jewish law forbids a Jew from performing on the Sabbath; typically, lighting a fire to warm a house.

In Israel, secularists rarely use the term, preferring to either refer to foreign countries and nations by their specific names or use such terms as " _he. Ha-Olam Ha-Lo Yehudi" ( _he. העולם הלא-יהודי), "The Non-Jewish World".

References

External links

* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=398&letter=G&search=goy Goy] from Jewish Encyclopedia
* [http://www.askmoses.com/article.html?h=255&o=125 What does the word "goy" mean?] from AskMoses.com
* [http://www.faqs.org/faqs/judaism/FAQ/11-Miscellaneous/section-6.html Is "goyim" offensive?] from soc.culture.jewish FAQ
* [http://bible.crosswalk.com/Lexicons/Hebrew/heb.cgi?number=01471&version=kjv Goy] from The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon
* [http://www.onelook.com/?w=goy&ls=a Goy from One look dictionary.]


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