Questions pertaining to the Hebrew language, [as related to Judaism](http://judaism.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic).

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Why is there a ה in “מוהל”?

The Hebrew word for the act performed at a circumcision is "לימול". The root appears to be נ.מ.ל. Following the exceptional rules for roots whose first letter is נ, the causative participle and ...
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250 views

Is the bracha pronounced “ha-MO-tzee” or “ha-mo-TZEE”?

The blessing we say on bread, "hamotzee lechem min ha'aretz" -- on what syllable is the stress in the word "hamotzee"? Is the bracha pronounced "ha-MO-tzee" or "ha-mo-TZEE"? In Psalms 104:14 we find ...
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1answer
291 views

A Lubavitch custom of reciting zecher and zeicher in “Ashrei”?

My cousin, a Lubavitcher, says both zecher and zeicher (that is, both זֶכֶר with a segol and זֵכֶר with a tzeire) in "Ashrei". I noticed this when I visited him a good few years ago, and assumed it ...
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Two words for “redeem”: what's the difference?

When we talk about "redeeming" a first-born son or a captive, we use "pidyon" (root פדה). When we talk about what God does for us we use "goel" (גאל). My dictionary translates both of these roots as ...
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Why can't Ploni Almoni be a real name, in Ruth?

The verse states (Ruth 4:1): וּבֹעַז עָלָה הַשַּׁעַר, וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם, וְהִנֵּה הַגֹּאֵל עֹבֵר אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-בֹּעַז, וַיֹּאמֶר סוּרָה שְׁבָה-פֹּה פְּלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי; וַיָּסַר, וַיֵּשֵׁב Now Boaz ...
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118 views

Origin of the term Motza'ei Shabbos

I often hear that מוצאי שבת means "departure of the Sabbath," but it seems to me that the phrase for this should be צאת שבת (or יציאת שבת). The phrase מוצאי שבת seems to me to mean המוצאים של שבת, ...
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5answers
349 views

Learning Hebrew on my own?

I am trying to learn Hebrew on my own. I currently am not in a position to be attending Hebrew classes, and I tend not to do so well in a classroom environment. I wish to learn biblical Hebrew ...
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207 views

הקדוש ברוך הוא אנחנו אוהבים אותך ‎— or אותו?

There is a popular song some of whose lyrics are "הקדוש ברוך הוא אנחנו אוהבים אותך". Does anyone have a source — besides some recent lyricist — for these words precisely, or a source for any instance ...
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339 views

Why shin and sin?

Why does Hebrew use the same letter to represent two different sounds: shin and sin? As far as I know, with the exception of when using a dagesh kal, no other Hebrew letter has this property.
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1answer
129 views

What is the difference between (for example) “notein” and “hanotein”?

I was looking through the brachot this morning. Many are structured as identifying hashem as "one who __" such as "matir assurim" or "oteir yisro'el btif'arah." But the final three add in the letter ...
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679 views

Hebrew letters Hey-Yud-Dalet after a name

I'd seen some stuff written about a man, with the Hebrew הי"ד (Hey-Yud-quotes-Dalet) after his name. What does that mean?
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108 views

The difference between צדיקים and חסידים

What's the difference between צדיקים and חסידים? I assume that there is a difference because of Psalms 145:17. Also at the end of Nishmat Kol Chai where it says "uvdivrey tzadikim titbarach uvilshon ...
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896 views

Does “ki” have four meanings or one?

There is a well-known statement by Resh Lakish in Gitin (90) that כי" משמש בד' לשונות: אי, דלמא, אלא, דהא" "ki" expresses four meanings... There has been discussion over the ages as to what ...
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273 views

Why the emphasis on Hebrew in Judaism?

Why does Judaism have such an emphasis on Hebrew phrases in their religion and seems reluctant to translate them to English or another language?
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82 views

Why does kaftor vaferach mean “very nice”?

I have seen sefarim, and heard people giving derashos, use the expression "kaftor vaferach" to mean that an idea works out very nicely, or everything comes out very cleanly. The words kaftor vaferach ...
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1k views

What is the original meaning of the world “hevel”?

I am not religious myself, but lately I have found myself somewhat attracted to Ecclesiastes. Reading about it, I am fascinated about what seems to be endless meanings and interpretations of the word ...
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265 views

Definition of Leitzanus

I have often seen leitzanus, mockery, defined along the lines of making a joke out of serious matters. Intuitively this is a good definition, but does anyone have a source which spells it out? And to ...
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what is “kodesh”?

What does the word קֹדֶשׁ (sometimes קודש), kodesh, mean? Its form is that of a noun, like אֹכֶל or בֹּקֶר or לֹבֶן. But קדושה is a noun, and (I'm pretty sure) it means "the state/quality of being ...
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Why do many (most?) people call the upcoming holiday “Peysach”?

In some Ashkenazic dialects, lots of words in which the first syllable is accented and the vowel is segol are pronounced as though they had a tzeirei. Examples include "meylech," "tzeydek," and ...
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Correct response to tizku l'mitzvot

What is the correct response to someone saying, "tizku l'mitzvot" after you do a mitzvah, or something helpful? For example, after helping someone make an Eruv Chatzeirot they might say "tizku ...
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בְּתוֹךְ and בְּקֶרֶב are used in different places and both translated “in the midst”; what's the difference?

I understand בְּתוֹךְ as "in the midst of". The tree of life is b'tokh ha-gan (in the midst of the garden), and God spoke to the people mitokh ha-eish (from the midst of the fire). I learned today ...
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Why are several Biblical characters called “man of the Lord” (Ish HaElokim), but no one in the Bible is ever “man of God” (Ish Hashem)?

Ramban makes this observation (Deut. 33:1), and says "anyone with a good intellect" can figure out the reason. Okay I'm stumped ... help me out here please?
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לשון הקדש: the oldest language?

Rashi to B'reshis 2:23 says that the language Adam spoke was one that Rashi calls לשון הקדש, lashon hakodesh (or l'shon hakodesh), and that contains the words אִשָּׁה and אִישׁ. Keeping to Rashi's ...
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176 views

The difference between שור and פר

In Mishpatim (and perhaps elsewhere), the Tora refers to an animal incurring or causing damage, and calls it a shor, שור, commonly translated ox. In Pin'chas (and Achare and perhaps elsewhere), the ...
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158 views

גמר חתימה טובה gender

During the nine and a half days ending with Yom Kipur, we wish each other "גמר חתימה טובה" (an end to the good signing). This seems very strange. Shouldn't it be "גמר חתימה טוב" (a good end to the ...
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286 views

Why is Hebrew Called “Jewish” in the Bible?

We see that in most of the Bible, the Jews are called "בני ישראל/Israelites"; only in later books are they called "יהודים/Jews" (e.g. Esther 2:5, Zechariah 8:23), after the loss of the 10 tribes. ...
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440 views

How is “Jerusalem” pronounced when reading a Ketubah?

"Jerusalem" is spelled the same way in Hebrew and Aramaic (if you ignore the vowels); but in Hebrew it's pronounced "Yerushalayim", and in Aramaic it's pronounced "Yerushleim" (as it appears in the ...
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242 views

What was the language spoken by Jews in Israel in 16th century

Did the Jewish inhabitants of Safed and Jerusalem (contemporaries of Rav Yosef Karo and the Ari) speak Hebrew when they learned Torah or did they speak Arabic, Ladino or some other language? I saw a ...
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409 views

Pronunciation of “Two”s in Hebrew

Thomas O. Lambdin calls out the words שְנַיִם and שְתַּיִם as exceptions to "shewa as the initial vowel in a word is always vocalized," i.e. it is "shtayim" and "shnayim". That's a secular expert's ...
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224 views

Shiluach HaKen: why not “Hatzipor”

If you send away the bird, why is Shiluach HaKen called that, meaning "sending the nest", and not "Shiluach Hatzipor", "sending the bird"? The nest is staying in place!
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346 views

How much is Classical Hebrew (in which the Hebrew Bible is written) is different from the modern Hebrew? [closed]

How much is Classical Hebrew (in which the Hebrew Bible is written) is different from the modern Hebrew? In which areas lie the main differences? Can any Jew or Israeli today understand what is ...
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728 views

Hebrew for ice - and other “new” words

After reading MB OC 301:17:65 (thanks, YDK!) I am baffled by a nagging question regarding Modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew. Eliezer Ben-Yehudah is known to have revitalized Hebrew, in part by taking ...
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312 views

The Absolute Unity of G-d

As we all who know Hebrew can assert, the sufix "im" in the words usually means plurality. How can HaShem be Elohim or Elokim if He is absolutely One and the Only Lord?
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183 views

What does שעטנז (sha'atnez) mean?

.שעטנז. I'm asking about the literal meaning behind the word, its etymology, etc.
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427 views

Pronunciation of משנה הלכות

Are R' Menashe Klein's volumes of responsa pronounced "Mishna Halachos" or "Mishaneh Halachos"? Can someone provide the grammatical explanation please?
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257 views

Resources for learning Hebrew from scratch?

I was raised as a Jewish identifying secular child, and it's only in my adolescence/adulthood I've really become at all observant. One of the problems is, of course, I've never had a Hebrew class! ...
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222 views

Formal Hebrew honorific for one's mother

Many men, when going up for an aliya, tell the gabbai their name as, e.g. "Reuven ben Rav Yaakov", even if "Yaakov," the father, isn't actually a Rabbi." I believe the reason for this practice is to ...
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4answers
505 views

What is the meaning of tehom?

Throughout the Tanach, and I've seen it in Midrashim as well, there is a concept of the "Tehom", translated as "Deep Waters". It appears in the creation story in Bereishis, and in the song at Yam Suf. ...
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705 views

What's the difference in Biblical Hebrew between “zahav” and “paz”?

What's the difference in Biblical Hebrew between "zahav" and "paz"? Artscroll calls one "gold", the other "fine gold." Any other distinctions?
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131 views

Root of the name Aharon

What is the etymology of the name Aharon? The only serious site I've found that proposes an etymology is this, but I'm hoping for a more classical source, i.e. Chazal or Rishonim.
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65 views

How to teach tefilla to small children in a way that makes it meaningful?

Are there any schools of thought or practical methodologies for teaching tefilla to children under the age of 10 who are not native hebrew speakers in a way that is fun, engaging and makes the ...
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1answer
166 views

Does G-d only hear one language?

I'm a little confused by Rambam Hil. Tefilla 1:4. Consequently, when someone would pray, he would be limited in his ability to request his needs or to praise the Holy One, blessed be He, in ...
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95 views

Did Achashveirosh and Haman speak Hebrew?

Tosfos in Megilah (13b, s.v. הַכֶּסֶף נָתוּן לָךְ ) expound the pasuk in Esther (3:11) וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן, הַכֶּסֶף נָתוּן לָךְ; וְהָעָם, לַעֲשׂוֹת בּוֹ כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֶיךָ - And the ...
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יִבָּנֶה הַמִּקְדָּשׁ עִיר צִיּוֹן תְּמַלֵּא — why not תִּמָּלֵא?

The Shabas table song "Tzur mishelo achalnu" contains the following line: יִבָּנֶה הַמִּקְדָּשׁ עִיר צִיּוֹן תְּמַלֵּא yibane hamikdash ir Tziyon t'male the Temple should be built; you ...
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1answer
416 views

מֶה, מָה, מַה - Meh, Mah, Ma - What's the difference?

What causes the difference in vowelization of the Hebrew word for "what"? In some contexts it is מֶה, in others - מָה, and in yet others - מַה. The hypothesis that an acquaintance and I converged on ...
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79 views

“Qof, Qof” What does this mean?

An old (formerly used) synagogue building in my town has this sign on the front of it. The text says "Shaaray Torah", the name of the congregation, but what is the meaning of the two qofs above it?
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What does the Bible mean by “those that urinate against the wall” in I Samuel 25:22?

A more precise version of this vague question: What does the Bible mean by "those that urinate against the wall" in I Samuel 25:22? There are different translations for the phrase; what is the ...
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3answers
3k views

What is the meaning of יוֹם (yowm) in Bereshit?

I've heard conflicting reports of how the creation days , יוֹם (yowm), in Bereshit are interpreted in the Jewish community. How do actual Hebrew scholars define day in Bereshit? six 24 hour periods or ...
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3answers
112 views

Is there a substantive difference in meaning when the Torah uses the Hebrew verb root דבר rather than אמר?

Is there a substantive difference in meaning when the Torah uses the Hebrew verb root דבר rather than אמר, or do they both pretty much mean "to say" or "to speak"? Do any sages see the choice of one ...
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72 views

Theological Aspects of Hebrew Grammar

Are there any aggadic, kabbalistic, halachic or other theological teachings related to the grammar or morphology of Hebrew? I am not referring to the orthography (or anything at all related to ...