Questions about the definitions, meaning and use of words specific to Judaism or words that carry unique meaning in Jewish law.

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5
votes
0answers
179 views

Source for not referring to Chanuka lights as a “menora”

Following up on this question about the use of the words "menora" or "chanukiya" to refer to Chanuka lights: I find it interesting that the use of "chanukiya," popularized in 1897 through a secular ...
4
votes
4answers
113 views

“And it was evening, and it was morning, *one* day”?

Gen. 1:5: וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד And it was evening, and it was morning, one day Gen. 1:8: וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם שֵׁנִי and it was evening, and it was ...
4
votes
2answers
275 views

Is Aggadah the same thing as Midrash?

(Inspired by a comment on this question.) What characteristics define Aggadah and Midrash, and how are they related? If the distinction is merely that Aggadah is a more general category of "legend" ...
4
votes
2answers
198 views

Tu B'shvat Seder

Where did the idea of doing a Seder on Tu b'Shvat come from? Why a Seder, not just the eating of fruit? Why do we call it a Seder if there is no formalized way of doing it?
4
votes
2answers
216 views

Ish Yehudi - where else?

Where else in Tanach are there the words "Ish Yehudi" besides Megilas Esther?
4
votes
3answers
137 views

HamanTashen - 3 cornered cookies

Why are 3 cornered cookies called HamanTashen?
3
votes
4answers
2k views

what does baruch atah Hashem mean?

most times, the beginning of a beracha is Baruch Atah Adonai, etc. which is usually translated as Blessed are You God, etc. what does it mean to say that God is blessed? (on the surface it implies ...
2
votes
1answer
55 views

What “malchus” exists today in America?

The Gemara (Gittin 79b-80a) says that we need to write the date of the malchus (kindgom) of the place where a get (bill of divorce) was written, on the get, for שלום מלכות (so that we don't upset the ...
2
votes
1answer
208 views

Were the prophets and holy people who lived before Judah (Yehudah) also Jews?

The word "Jew" originates from the name of the eldest son of Jacob. The term "Jew" was introduced many generations and decades after him. I wonder whether Adam, Noah, Lot, Abraham and Moses were all ...
2
votes
3answers
404 views

What does the term “sons of G-d” mean?

The term "sons of G-d" בני האלהים is found 3 times in the Hebrew Bible, once in Genesis (6:2), and twice in Job (1:6 and 2:1). What does it mean? Does it have the same meaning in both instances? What ...
1
vote
1answer
75 views

Difference Natzar and Shamar?

What is the difference between נצר natzar (keep, gaurd, watch, preserve) and שמר shamar? Their meaning looks so similar that I would like to know what makes the difference between these two. (For ...
6
votes
6answers
5k views

Online glossary of Talmudic terms

Is there an online glossary anywhere that explains important Talmudic terms, with similar scope to the Practical Talmud Dictionary? I'm more interested in an Aramaic-English resource, but ...
7
votes
5answers
4k views

What does Heimishe mean?

Literally it means "homey." But I'm asking about the sociological meaning of the group of people who call themselves "Heimishe." My best guess is that it means "midway between Hassidish and Litvak." ...
5
votes
0answers
323 views

Saying “Elokim” when not referring to Hashem

People often say "Elokim" instead of "Elohim" when speaking in order to avoid taking God's name in vain. I have observed, however, that some people always substitute the word "elokim" for "elohim" ...
17
votes
2answers
499 views

What was wrong with the word Talmud?

The Wikipedia article on The Talmud says: and Pope Pius IV commanded, in 1565, that the Talmud be deprived of its very name. The convention of referring to the work as "Shas" (shishah sidre ...
13
votes
9answers
770 views

What to call the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe

Often times a few different rebbes are mentioned (either previous Chabad rebbes or rebbes of other Chasudusim) in the same talk and then the word "The Rebbe" comes in and it's ambiguous. I have heard ...
12
votes
1answer
185 views

Best way to translate “קא”

In the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud, there is a widely used word "קא", like in the sentence והא קא קרי (in Berahot 13:1). What is the best way to translate it to Hebrew or English? Or maybe just ...
9
votes
1answer
623 views

“Don't say 'lehavdil' between one Jew and another.”

In today's Parashat Hashavu'a Chat, I used the qualification "lehavdil" (*) to apply to a pun that jokingly and innocuously related the actions of Datan and Aviram to those of a community member here. ...
8
votes
3answers
172 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, ...
6
votes
2answers
182 views

Changing the spelling of “G-d” and Halachic erasure

Is there a problem of "erasing the name of HaShem" if you erase the English word spelled G-o-d, and if so, is there then a problem of erasing it in order to spell it in a more acceptable way (such as ...
5
votes
0answers
127 views

What is the definition of Zera Yisrael? Please read description

Shalom Aleichem, I am considering a halachic conversion to Judaism after having converted (along with several family members of mine) with a reform rabbi several years ago. In my research and studies, ...
5
votes
2answers
247 views

Is Goy meant to be a pejorative term?

I have never heard this word before, but the Wikipedia article insists: The word is also used to pejoratively describe those not of Jewish descent. It is commonly used to refer to Christians and ...
4
votes
1answer
146 views

Pronunciation of Yerushalayim

In the Tanach, the word Yerushalayim is almost always written without a yud between the lamed and mem, but pronounced as if there is a patach under the lamed and a yud following it. We find though ...
4
votes
2answers
264 views

Jewish responses to a sneeze

I have heard la'briut and gezuntheit, and a Sephardic (Lebanese) Jew recently taught me 'tai-shi'. What are other words or phrases which are used to respond when someone sneezes?
4
votes
3answers
6k views

Meaning and Difference between baruch and bar'chu

I'm sorry, I don't know a word of Hebrew, and I really want to know what these sentences mean: Bar'chu et Adonai ham'vorach l'olam vaed Baruch atah Adonai If I didn't write them correctly, ...
2
votes
1answer
34 views

Where do the words sholom bayis come from?

I hear people speak of the need for sholom bayis. 1a) Where do the words come from? 1b) Where does the concept come from?
-3
votes
1answer
99 views

curse words and the Torah [duplicate]

American defines d*mn, f-word and b-word (excuse my language) as curse words. However, what does the Torah define as curse words or dirty language?
17
votes
4answers
996 views

Why Yehoshua **Bin** Nun and not Yehoshua **Ben** Nun

The Torah refers to Yehoshua as Yehoshua Bin Nun. (See here for an example). Why Bin Nun and not Ben Nun? Are there any places in Tanach where he is referred to as Ben Nun? Is there anyone else in ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

What should I be aware of when using the term “Jew”?

As a gentile who finds himself writing about Judaism in the ancient world, I've found myself reluctant to use the word "Jew". I tend to use phrases like "Jewish people" and "Hebrew" when it makes ...
14
votes
3answers
608 views

Why aren't Tefillin called Totafot?

They're called Totafot in the Torah, so why do we call them Tefilin?
14
votes
2answers
358 views

What does “the Talmud” mean in the Talmud?

The G'mara Bavli says in Shabas 63: אמר רב כהנא, "כד הוינא בר תמני סרי שנין, והוה גמירנא ליה לכוליה תלמודא, ולא הוה ידענא דאין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו..." Rav Kahana said, "When I was 18 years ...
11
votes
3answers
234 views

What does the aramaic “pon” mean?

Once in a while, Onkelos will throw in the word pon (פּוֹן) that doesn't directly translate from the Hebrew. Avimelech to Yitzchak: k'z'eir pon shachiv d'm'yached b'ama (Toldos 26:10) Lavan to ...
11
votes
2answers
979 views

חס ושלום! (whatever that means)

What on earth does חס ושלום mean literally, or what is its etymology? Why do people use that phrase in particular to "ward off" bad things? (That last part of the question is not asking whether saying ...
11
votes
2answers
183 views

Does the term “ארץ ישראל” ever appear in Tanach?

Do these words ever appear together as one phrase in Tanach?
10
votes
4answers
174 views

Significance of “Shema Yisrael”

The verse Shema Yisrael (Devarim 6:4) is highly significant. It is Biblically required to be recited twice daily, it is to be said at the end of one's life, and appears in the liturgy at the end of ...
10
votes
1answer
347 views

What is the source of the expression המבין יבין?

The Forward writer Philologos in his most recent column claimed that the earliest uses of the expression והמבין יבין are found in the Ra'avad and in the Radak. Based on the fact that both these ...
9
votes
4answers
386 views

Source of saying migdol / magdil in Bentching

I was once told by someone that saying migdol instead of magdil in bentching on Shabbos and yom tov is an error. That a siddur had the source in pesukim in short form on the side and people mistock it ...
8
votes
1answer
166 views

Rav vs. Rabbi in Talmudic Times

I was reading about the life of Rabbi Zera, and it said he was originally a Rav. The Rabbis of Eretz Yisrael offered to confer on him the title of Rabbi and at first he refused, until they told of ...
8
votes
3answers
131 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
553 views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
99 views

First use of the term “Taharat HaMischpacha ”

When and by whom (and why) was the phrase "טהרת המשפחה" ("family purity") first used to describe the halachot relating to niddah?
7
votes
1answer
109 views

Is it OK to compose a song that breaks up a pasuk?

Jewish songs taking their lyrics from tanach or davening have become pretty popular over the past 60 years. (See here for an answer saying that this is permissible.) Many songs, however, will break ...
7
votes
1answer
103 views

First Use of the Phrase “Cheit HaMeraglim”

The negative report given by the people who are sent to scout the land of Cana'an before Bnei Yisrael go in, resulting in the punishment that they have to wander for another 38 years in the desert, is ...
7
votes
1answer
244 views

What does the title “Hatomim” mean?

I have stumbled upon the title "Hatomim" before people's names in Chabad-oriented documents on the Internet. What is the meaning and significance of this title, in this context? Practically ...
7
votes
2answers
155 views

Why switch the reference from “גוי” to “עם” in Tachanun?

Why does the prayer "Shomer Yisra'el" in Tachanun say in two of the verses the word גוי in the first and last phrase, but עם in the middle phrase? שומר גוי אחד שמור שארית עם אחד ואל יאבד גוי אחד ...
7
votes
1answer
221 views

Why call so many olim “moreinu”?

I davened in a couple of different Chassidish shuls over the past few days, and in two different places (Tenka and Munkacs), I noticed that nearly all men who were called up for an aliya were ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

The meaning of Tzadik

I am having difficulty in understand the meaning of Tzadik. Maimonides says "One whose merit surpasses his iniquity is a tzadik". I have trouble in understanding this sentence. Can someone explain the ...
7
votes
1answer
200 views

wording of the invitation to birkas hamazon

I know some Ashk'nazim say rabosay n'varech, some rabosay mir velen bentschen, and some hertzi rabosay mir velen bentschen. (Any other forms?) Is there any particular reason given for one or another?
6
votes
4answers
397 views

What's “Modern Orthodox(y)”?

Is there a definition[1] of "Modern Orthodox(y)" that either has wide acceptability[2] or has the support of an expert (say, a renowned rabbi some consider Modern Orthodox, or an anthropologist ...
6
votes
1answer
220 views

How to vowelize “כתובה” (“marriage document”)?

The promissory note a husband gives his wife when they wed is called a כתובה. In my experience, people usually pronounce/vowelize this word "כְּתֻבָּה / k'suba". Such a form (mishkal) exists in ...