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Hebrew is Magic: Under Contract

As a self-employed stand-up comedian and author, I spend a lot of time with contracts – writing them, reviewing them, and once in a while, arguing over the finer points within.

I know I’m not alone.

It used to be we dealt with contracts once or twice a year – when buying a house, renting an apartment, buying or leasing a car.

But in our modern world, contracts are a daily fixture. Whether it’s downloading an app, signing up for an email account, or ordering a pizza online, we’re first presented with a War-and-Peace-length contract stating the terms and conditions, which we must the acknowledge that we’ve read, understood, and agreed to. (If not, no email address. Or pizza.)

Is it simply the nature of contracts that they’re like this?

And why do we have contracts at all?

Believe it or not, Hebrew has the answer…



The Hebrew word for contract is chozeh (חוזה)

If you’re familiar with Hebrew, look closely: Do you see another word hidden inside it? (Hint: it’s a body part…)

Indeed, embedded in chozeh are chet-zayin-heh (ח–ז–ה)

which gives us chazeh (חזה)

a three-letter word that means “chest.”

Now, why might this be?

As I see it, Hebrew is trying to tell us something about the nature of contracts. And it has to do with two unique aspects of the chest.

First, when facing another person, the chest is the only part of the body that you can’t conceal. You can cross your leg behind you, hide your arm behind your back, and you can even swivel your neck and turn away your head…but so long as you’re in front of that other person, your chest remains fixed in place. Move it, and you’re no longer facing them .

Second, the chest is the only part of the body that you can’t move in isolation. Fingers can be curled, faces scrunched up, but your chest? Move it, and other parts start moving too. Your chest is you: what you see is what you get.

According to Hebrew, our contracts should be the same way: forward-facing, declarative, and encompassing the entirety of the deal.

Nothing hidden, no fine print.

Once again, Hebrew proves itself an instruction manual for how to live an ethical life.

Joel Chasnoff is a stand-up comedian, podcast host, and co-author of Israel 201, winner of the 2023 National Jewish Book Award. You can find out more about his comedy, books, and upcoming tour at, and sign up for his weekly newsletter, Hebrew Is Magic, to learn more about the hidden life lessons in Hebrew words.  

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