Many, if not most Americans, I’d guess, know this phrase is used by Jews when congratulating other Jews on such happy occasions as weddings, bar mitzvahs and the birth of a child.
But, seriously, how did this most Jewish of Jewish expressions make its way into the wildly popular “I Gotta Feeling,” performed (annoyingly auto-tuned) by the Black Eyed Peas at halftime of Superbowl XLV?
Chicago musician Stuart Rosenberg, a talented bandleader who has played for countless simchas (happy occasions), provided an explanation for me on Facebook: “The Peas put that in to guarantee that song would be played by every DJ at every bar mitzvah for the next 30 years.”
Rosenberg, founder of the League of Creative Musicians, is probably right. The seventh graders who populate bar mitzvah parties love to shout “Mazel Tov!” when it comes up in the lyrics, seemingly at random, during the song.
Actually, the bar mitzvah DJ playlist might be more diverse if other groups also had injected their tunes with some Yiddishkeit (Jewishness).
For example, what if…
- Elvis had used fermisht as a synonym for “All Shook Up”?
- Stevie Wonder had thrown kine-ahora (ward off the evil eye) into “Superstition”?
- KC and the Sunshine Band had sneaked shep naches (experience joy) between the lines of “That’s the Way I Like It”?
Other suggestions are welcome, of course.
Meanwhile, the overuse of “I Gotta Feeling” seems to drive Stuart Rosenberg crazy:
“All the more reason to have a live band, not a DJ,” he says.
And to Stuart, I’ll shout “Yasher koach” (may you have strength), something that’s often said to scholars after they give a particularly insightful commentary.