Passing Phrase - www.learnhebrew.org.il

Rachmana Litzlan

Literally: God save us
Idiomatically: God help us; Heaven forbid

We are probably most familiar with the Yiddish/Hebrew word “rachmanus” – mercy (sometimes used as “Mercy me!”). It has a wide variety of uses ranging from my grandmother’s kvetch at having to go to the dentist, to a heartfelt commiseration on hearing bad news. This almost knee-jerk reaction to bad news has been around for about 2000 years - my grandmother’s dentist slightly less than that. It originally comes from the Talmud (Taanit 9b), and it usually accompanies some unfortunate news. “Did you hear about that terrible car accident, “Rachmana Litzlan?” A person of belief would answer it with another Aramaic phrase, “Kol Deaved Rachmana Letav Aveid” - All the works of God are for the best (Berachot 60b).

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