Translatable but Debatable: מסגרת (misgerret)

Some say that life is just a bowl of cherries, or a dream, or a cabaret, but I think that any Hebrew-speaking philosopher would agree that whatever else it may be, life is our great misgerret. It is the scope in which we operate.

The word as such is not particularly hard to translate.  Besides the more abstract scope, Dov Ben Abba’s paperback dictionary gives (as do others) the more literal framework, generally an excellent equivalent if not overused.  Why is this boy unruly and unhappy?  Because he needs a framework.  He is not at school, not in the army, and not holding a job.  But if you ask an English-speaker what the boy’s problem is, the answer is likely to be something like “He’s not working and he’s not studying.”  The word framework is understood if used, but among English-speakers it does not so much spring to mind.

I received a note from Debbie Sharf (thanks, Debbie) suggesting that a suitable subject for this column would be “the hateful in the framework of.” Yes, it is hateful.  But in my opinion, only because it comes up too often.  In Hebrew, במסגרת functions rather like an everyday preposition that has nothing to do with a picture frame, a rim, or a visible border of any kind, whereas in English the word framework, being less common, does summon the image of a physical structure and the metaphor becomes irritating with repetition.

How else to translate במסגרת?  A framework is not just a time or place, but sometimes an indication of time or place is close enough.  During my reserve duty, I drilled in rescue work.  In such a case I can say during, or in the course of, and everyone will understand it was in the framework.  Or I can say that at my workplace I use an Epson printer and everyone will realize it’s in the framework of my job.  Alternatively, if they don’t, I can say that it’s in the context of my job (although context, like framework, can quickly get overused).

In the framework of our musical studies, we transcribed Louis Armstrong solos.  You could say as part of our musical studies.  It’s not exactly the same thing, but it’s close enough for jazz.

Sometimes instead of in the framework of, a simple in is sufficient.  The word  מסגרת is a word that appears a few times במסגרת התנ"ך and you could simply say it appears a few times in the Bible.

What do you think?  Please feel free to express yourself below within the framework of this topic.  If you have another topic to suggest, please write me at


Mark L. Levinson

Born 1948 a few trolley stops from Boston, Massachusetts. Bachelor's degree from Harvard College. Moved to Israel in 1970. Worked and learned Hebrew on Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet. Moved to Haifa and worked teaching English to adults. Did similar work in the army. After discharge, turned to technical writing, initially for Elbit. Then promotional writing for Scitex, and more technical (and occasionally promotional) writing for Edunetics, Daisy Systems (later named Dazix, SEE Technologies, and Summit Design), Memco, and Gilian. Also translated from Hebrew to English, everything from business articles to fiction, filmscripts, and poetry. Served as local chapter president for the Society for Technical Communication, editor of several issues of local literary journals, occasional political columnist and book reviewer for the Jerusalem Post, and husband & father.