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What is the name of this week's parsha? What about the sefer? The text clearly says "Bemidbar" (or B'midbar), but many call it Bamidbar. Is this a grammatical or traditional difference? Could one ever say "Bamidbar Sinai"?

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My understanding is as follows:

  • "midbar" = desert
  • "hamidbar" = "the desert"
  • "midbar-sinai" = "desert of Sinai." There's no need for the definite article before desert, as we know which desert. It's already defined as Sinai.
  • "bemidbar" = in a desert
  • "bamidbar" = "be+ha+midbar" = in the desert

So no, we would either say "in the desert" or "in desert of Sinai." No need to doubly define it.

(I vaguely recall an occasional exception to the rule, maybe?)

So yes, the book uses the word bemidbar. But that word leaves one hanging. ("In desert of ...") So it's easier to refer to the book by the standalone word "bamidbar", "in THE desert."

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Calling it "Bemidbar" would be similar to those who call bentching "Birkat" or who call a Torah speech a "Devar." –  Isaac Moses May 14 '10 at 17:21
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@Isaac: on the other hand, we do call the second book of the Torah "Shemos," not "Sheimos." –  Alex Dec 13 '11 at 3:24
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