Knowing Each Other In The Biblical Sense
Sometimes, let’s just admit it, English isn’t quite as deft as one might like.
For example, now that it’s wintery up here in the Great White North, and all the more because we have a wonderful Danish foreign exchange student, we’re thoroughly about ‘hygge.’ Hygge, this right here, is how my brood and I roll all year long, but especially come The Cold.
The notion of hygge auf Deutsch is, naturally, a bit…heftier in pronunciation: Gemütlichkeit. It means more or less the same thing, though: each word just expresses the idea with a bit of its own linguistic and cultural accent (e.g., look for images of hygge, and you find photos of fires and warm feet and be-windowed rooms with blankets thrown over comfy couches; look for images of Gemütlichkeit, and you’ll see such things…annnnnd you’ll be seeing some pictures with a distinct bent toward beer gardens, brats, and spätzle).
There’s something of ‘cozy’ in hygge and Gemütlichkeit, but it’s more than that: it’s warmth and love and gladness and contentment and peace all rolled up into one word.
Or two, depending on how you look at it.
(Turns out that there is even a dispute about whether Danish hygge or German Gemütlichkeit is a stronger force in each culture, which seems to be very un-hygge and un-Gemütlich, but I digress.)
To the point of the blog, though, here’s another way in which English could benefit from more nuance in its language: the word ‘know.’
We pretty much use that word for one-stop-knowledge-shopping: I know my friend Sara, I know her address, I know German (though not as well as I once did!).
But other languages, like German, and French, and Spanish, have variations on the knowledge theme.
So, for example, in German, if you know someone, as in you have met them, or are friends with them, you would use the root verb kennen. The French use connaître, and in Spanish, it’s conocer. So, for example, eating a schnitzel I’d say Ich kenne Sara, eating coc au vin I’d explain that Je connais Sara, and over pozole I’d tell you that Yo conozco Sara.
But if you know something, there’s whole different verb at your disposal in these languages; its root form is wissen in German, savoir in French, and in Spanish, saber. So, to assure someone that I know where Sara lives, I would say auf Deutsch, Ich weiss ihre Adresse; en Français, Je sais ton adresse, and En Español, Yo sé su dirección.
Hebrew outdoes itself in the Language of Knowledge scene.
Hebrew has (drum roll) ) ָי ַדע.
Some of us would be more familiar with its Latin script version: yada.
It means ‘to know,’ too, but in the biblical sense.
Immediately, of course, we know (wissen/savior/saber) what “I know someone in the biblical sense” euphemistically means: to have made love to someone.
If you know someone in the biblical sense, you know them intimately; not just physically (left there, a different sort of sexual encounter is experienced, but you aren’t yada-ing).
Instead, when you yada someone, you know (kennen/connaître/conocer) who this person is, and why you are drawn to this person, and what about this person makes them uniquely desirable to you, and that you cherish this person, and that you want to be unqiuely vulnerable with this person, and then you share that knowledge with each other.
That’s lovemaking at its best.
But the word and the concept of yada is not just used in the Bible for those sorts of intimate love-exchanges.
Oddly, and in a head-cocking cool way, as I was researching and crafting this blog (based on all sorts of recent conversations about language and knowledge and wisdom and yada) I stumbled on this other blog written by, it seems…a webdesigner…about webdesign.
I did not see that coming.
I can’t speak to their web-tech savvy, but they have a great summary about, of all things, yada.
Here’s what they say, for they say it better than I could:
Yada: Showing Mercy
Another occurrence of yada can be found in one of the Hebraic wisdom books.
The righteous know [yada] the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. (Proverbs 12:10)
Wisdom literature frequently creates a dichotomy between good and evil. In this case, a good person knows the needs of their animals and takes care of them; an evil person neglects the needs of their animals and shows no mercy. In other words, yada is understanding the needs of those around us and taking care of them.
Yada: Acting Justly
We’d like to bring your attention to a very important illustration. In one of the prophetic writings found in the Hebrew scriptures, we see an incredible blending of the word yada.
“But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know [yada] me?” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 22:15-16)”
In this chapter, Jeremiah (a prophet) is delivering a scathing rebuke to the king of Judah. This king had acted selfishly, neglected the poor and needy, and exploited others to build his kingdom. The LORD tells this corrupt king what it truly means to know [yada] the LORD. 1. Doing justice, 2. Showing mercy to the poor and needy, 3. Exemplifying good and righteous character. In other words, yada is faithfully living out our covenant relationship with the LORD in every area of our life.
Whoever you are, yadadrop, I want to know you, and just to be clear, as in the kennen/connaître/conocer fashion.
This summary is terrific.
When we yada God, we can’t help but yada others.
And what does this mean?
Upshot according to my read is that it means that we get to know as many others in the biblical sense as humanly possible!
At least, that is, according to biblical values like mercy, kindness, concern, compassion, tenderness, justice, and tangible extensions of aid to those who yearn to be known and have their sufferings and grief known.
I’ve often said—quite recently, in fact, in Ohio and Pennsylvania—that it was quite the juxtaposition to have spent four years working on a Ph.D. that considered suffering, and then to live it.
Before the accident, I knew (wissen/savoir/saber) about suffering, because I’d studied it.
I even knew (kennen/connaître/conocer) suffering, because as a pastor I’d attended to people who had experienced it.
But I didn’t yada it.
Now I do.
I don’t think that one has to go through suffering to yada it, thankfully.
There are any number of ways to know it, not least of all getting out of our comfort(able) zone and participating in the suffering and the grief of others who are discomforted, who are uncomfortable.
That means not only being beside them, and wiping their tears, and holding them, but it means offering them food, and child care, and gift cards for coffee drive-thrus, and it means looking at the broader issues of why they are suffering, and advocating for political and social change even if it means that our best interests have to be sacrificed for the sake of others who struggle.
Conversely, though, there are other ways to yada others.
For example, a person could share some holiday hygge and Gemütlichkeit, offering welcome and cheer, and maybe even a pair of cozy socks and a fire.
As for us at 808, we happen to know how to do both hygge and Gemütlichkeit well (Gløgg and Glühwein and Kinderpunsch are hot hygge and Gemütlichkeit in a mug, as an aside, and we have all on hand all the time) so if you’re in the area, come on over so that we can know you.
You know what I mean.