The term "am ha'aretz"

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    I’m HashemLovesMe’s mom.

    I just want to say that the term “am ha’aretz” really bothers me. I recently saw part of a video which portrays a man as an “am ha’aretz”. It shows children and adults alike laughing at him. Then it proceeds to show that the Rabbi of the shul tries to teach him, but ultimately gives up on him! How awful!! I believe this sends a terrible message to children – “It’s ok to laugh at such a person”. You may tell me that since I didn’t see the end of the video, I shouldn’t comment. Maybe the ending is good and the poor guy does become learned at the end. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. It still shows that when he was not learned, it’s ok to make fun of him. I find it apalling!!!

    I remember when I was in high school, one particular teacher used the term in such a negative way, that I actually thought an “am ha’aretz” is truly a BAD PERSON. All it really means is this person is not a talmud chacham, not a great learner. However, he may be the nicest, most caring person around. Maybe he gives a lot of tzedaka or does a lot of chesed. Hashem created everyone differently. People learn on different levels.

    So why do we use this term so negatively? Why do we use this term at all??

    I’d love to hear some opinions.


    Are you talking about the DVD Yankel Am Haaretz thats based on the song by Abie Rotenberg?


    HashemLovesMe’s mom,

    I think I saw that video a while back. The fact is, that any person who acts like that will be laughed at by children, it doesn’t make it right but kids are kids and I don’t think they can be blamed for laughing at someone who looks ridiculously hopeless.

    Maybe you should ask your kids if they feel the video is promoting laughing at others because kids don’t usually think about and see things the way we do.


    this is hlm’s mom again


    first of all, my youngest is sixteen. if you are wondering why i watched the first few minutes of it, it’s because my daughter was babysitting somewhere, and the kids were watching this dvd, and my daughter came home and told me about it, so i wanted to see what it was all about.

    second of all, yes. it is a natural reaction for kids to laugh, but it is our responsibility to teach them that it’s wrong. that’s what chinuch is all about.

    also, what about the adults in the video who were laughing? what’s that showing children?

    i would still like to hear peoples opinions on using the term “am haaretz” all together.


    HLM mom

    The whole video is exaggeration and comedy. None of it is realistic its entertainment.


    I think the origins are prob from Pirkei Avos where it says “Lo Am Haretz Chossid” so it became a term for unlearned men.

    I dont know what video you are talking about, but could it be they were trying to bring out a point?


    WIY – Exaggeration and comedy???? Sorry that doesn’t hold water. It’s not a funny situation. I say this is a horrible influence on children!!! Period!!! How would you feel if it were you or your child who were being laughed at?

    Sacrilege – ok – so it’s used in Pirkei Avos and came to mean an unlearned man. Fine. But why is it used in such a negative way? Not everyone was born to be a Talmid Chacham.


    There is a big big difference between a talmid chochom and an am haaretz. Most of us probably fall somewhere in between.

    They claim the Chazon Ish said that a girl who got a Bais Yaakov education cannot be considered a “bas am haaretz” regardless of how boorish her father may be.


    It’s a touching video and yes,you must watch the whole thing–of course!


    The term Am Ha’aretz as used in the Gemara does not mean someone who is only unlearned. It also implies someone who is anti-religious at worst and willing to bend Halachah for their own means at best. There is a big Machlokes Tannaim (the famous part is in Brachos, don’t remember where, sorry) as to what someone has to do to be termed an “Am Ha’aretz”. But it was never meant to refer to the average non-Talmid Chacham. Sadly in modern times it has been changed to that usage.


    Truth be told and Sam2 just reinforced my feelings. If an Am Ha’aretz is either a boor or someone anti-religious, IT CERTAINLY SHOULD NOT BE USED THE WAY IT IS IN CONVERSATION. People use the term so loosely. One must be very careful of how they speak.

    Eclipse – Based on what I just said, NO – I do NOT have to watch the whole thing. The title itself is demeaning.


    That’s funny. Some of the shitos mentioned in that braisa place an am ha’aretz at levels that many of us would love to reach.


    Only Rabbi Meir. And that was only because that was the social norm of the time of everyone who was Shomer Halachos. Look at the third Perek of Chagigah. It’s clear that those who didn’t observe some level of Taharah like that were viewed by the religious society as not meeting the religious standard of the time. I don’t know or care to guess at the sociological reasons why, but for whatever reason that was the case.


    Berachos 47b:

    ????? ?????? ????? ??? ???? ??? ???? ?????? ????? ??? ?? ????, ??? ?? ???? ???? ??????


    And the Gemara in other places says people like that end up destroying the world because they do not know the proper Halachah but think that they do and therefore end up bringing improper Halachos into Klal Yisroel.

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