Passing Phrase -

Ein kocho Ela Befiv

Literally: He has no strength but in his mouth
Idiomatically: Big talker / He is all talk

A while ago I received a query from Oliver asking if this was a positive expression - "His strength is in his words" - or a negative one – "He is good at talking, but not at doing." This phrase definitely falls into the second category and is found in the Midrashic Bamidbar Rabbah 20 which was based on the Midrash Tanchuma written at the time of the Talmud. The phrase relates to the story of the kings of Midian (Numbers 22:4). The Moabites said to the elder of Midian "the Israelite's strength is only in their speech (blessing and cursing).. so lets do like they do".

המנהל הבטיח לעובדיו העלאת משכורת אבל אין כוחו אלא בפיו.

Hamenahel hivtiach la-ovdim aliyah besachar, aval ein kocho ela befiv.

The director promised his workers a raise in salary, but he was all talk.

This reminds me of an unforgettable line by Eli Wallach in the Good the Bad and the Ugly: "When you have to shoot, shoot don’t talk." Where is that cigar?

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