The Yiddish word for “expert,” maven (or mayven), is derived from the Hebrew word mayvin (מבין), which means “understands.” A maven is an expert who understands the skill or subject at hand. To sound like a Yiddish maven, use this word wherever you’d normally say “wiz,” “genius,” “expert,” or “connoisseur.”

Moshe the Mayven and Mezuzah Mavens

Children of the 1980s may fondly recall Moshe the Mayven,1 the nerdy genius associate of Mendy and Rivky Klein, heroes of the Mendy and the Golem comic book series. Moshe makes his first appearance in “Might Makes Write,”2 in which he helps the Kleins (and their pet golem) vanquish a nefarious counterfeit-mezuzah seller. Since mezuzahs must be handwritten on parchment by a trained scribe, those mezuzahs were not kosher and posed grave spiritual danger to the unwitting purchasers of the fake mezuzahs.

Even if you are not a Jewish comic book maven, the lesson is clear: It is imperative that every door of a Jewish home or business have bona fide kosher mezuzahs. So if yours may be iffy (or if they have not been checked in several years) take them to a sofer (mezuzah maven) to make sure they are (still) up to snuff.

Read more: Caring for Your Mezuzahs

It Takes a Maven

Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch was a deeply loving and devoted leader of the Jewish people. In fact, he was known to lavish significant time, effort and attention upon the simple folk.

The venerated chassid, Reb Monia Mosenson, who was a gem dealer and an accomplished Torah scholar, once asked the Rebbe why he gave of himself so freely to people who seemed so ordinary.

Instead of answering the question directly, the Rebbe began asking his visitor several questions about different gems and their comparative qualities. After listening to Reb Monia’s explanations, the Rebbe asked if he could perhaps see some of his finest stock.

“They don’t look very special,” commented the Rebbe after inspecting several stones and hearing of their fine qualities. “I don’t see any unique characteristics.”

“But Rebbe,” the chassid replied, “to understand gems, you have to be a maven.”

“And to understand neshamahs [souls], you also have to be a maven,” replied the Rebbe.

Every neshamah is a gem, for every person’s soul is an actual part of G‑d.