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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2
votes
3answers
375 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
48 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
155 views

What is the Issur of Nivul Peh based on?

I am wondering what exactly the Issur of Nivul Peh is predicated on. Is it: That such words shouldn't be spoken from a person's mouth; or That its a cause of chillul Hashem ...
6
votes
6answers
4k 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
3k 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
238 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
484 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
743 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
170 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
153 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
212 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
4k 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, ...
16
votes
4answers
839 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 ...
14
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
538 views

Why aren't Tefillin called Totafot?

They're called Totafot in the Torah, so why do we call them Tefilin?
14
votes
2answers
339 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
241 views

What is the nature of the numeral “ashtei-asar” (11)?

What is the nature of the numeral ashtei-asar (meaning 11) as in וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי פָּרִים עַשְׁתֵּי-עָשָׂר (Pinchas 29:20): What is the basic word? Is this using semichus, as in ashtaim of ...
11
votes
3answers
221 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
799 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
173 views

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

Do these words ever appear together as one phrase in Tanach?
10
votes
4answers
140 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
2answers
167 views

“שליט״א” only for certain people

Living people sometimes have "שליט״א" added after their respective names. This means, roughly, "may he live a good, long life". That seems like a nice blessing for anyone; yet, in my experience, only ...
9
votes
4answers
338 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
2answers
478 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
1answer
100 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
211 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
3answers
338 views

K'shaim Shenichnas L'Bris Kain Yikones L'Torah L'Chupa U'Lmaasim Tovim: why that order?

When a baby boy has his Bris we wish him "K'shaim Shenichnas L'Bris Kain Yikones L'Torah L'Chupa U'Lmaasim Tovim" - just like you entered the covenant so to should you enter into Torah, marriage, and ...
7
votes
1answer
191 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
192 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
2answers
93 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?
6
votes
1answer
95 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
199 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
160 views

What's “chosen” about Jews?

Jews are commonly referred to as "the chosen people". I've heard it comes from Exodus 19:5 ("וִהְיִיתֶם לִי סְגֻלָּה מִכָּל הָעַמִּים", "ye shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples", JPS). ...
6
votes
2answers
149 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
76 views

Order of words (Oizer U'Moshia) in Shemona Esrei

In Shemona Esrei in the first Bracha it ends with Melech Oizer U'Moshia U'Magen מלך עוזר ומושיע ומגן, however towards the end of the Bracha of Modim it says HaKail Yeshuasainu V'Ezrasainu Selah האל ...
6
votes
1answer
118 views

How can you see words?

Has anyone else noticed the seeming incongruity in Lekh Lekha, Gen 15:1...that Avram is "seeing" the words? The verse states: אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, הָיָה דְבַר-יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, ...
6
votes
3answers
332 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?
5
votes
1answer
191 views

What does “Aman deAmar” mean?

I go to a Gemara shiur, and the rabbi always says "the first aman deamar", "the second aman deamar"... What does it mean exactly? What is the meaning of the different words?
5
votes
2answers
81 views

Prayer of Avraham Avinu at Mount Moriah

On Yom Kippur and in Selichos we pray "The One who answered Avraham Avinu's prayer on Mount Moriah, should answer us". "מי שענה לאברהם אבינו בהר המוריה הוא יעננו". What did Avraham pray for at Mount ...
5
votes
2answers
204 views

Israel Am v.s. Goy

Is Israël an Am or Goy or both? whats the Torah definition and best translation of both terms? Because it seems that Israël is being called both Am as a Goy. (Am Kadosh: Devarim 26:19 and Goy ...
5
votes
3answers
113 views

Etymology of מחילה

I am looking for a possible etymological root for the word מחילה as meaning forgiveness. The word מחל does not appear in Tanach1, and neither does מחילה, nor does מוחל, and I was unable to find any ...
5
votes
3answers
113 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
379 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 ...
5
votes
0answers
159 views

What does “p'ruath rosh” actually mean?

It says in the halakha that a married woman may not go out into the public market place with "p'ruath rosh." I have heard that this means "with uncovered head," but this does not seem to match up ...
5
votes
0answers
162 views

Is 'A father and son sleeping with a betrothed young woman on yom kippur' an expression?

Bava metza 83b: Rabbi Elazar brebbi Shimon is afraid that he may have wrongfully caused someone to be hanged, but is reassured that the hanged and his son 'slept with a betrothed maiden on yom ...
5
votes
1answer
123 views

What is “חצות האמצעי”?

While researching an answer to this question I stumbled across the term "חצות האמצעי". What does it mean? Does it refer to halachic midday, i.e. halfway between netz hachama and shkias hachama, or ...
5
votes
2answers
129 views

Why did Eisav say “red” twice?

Genesis 25:30 says: ... הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶּה ... ... "Pour into [me] some of this red, red [pottage] ..." Why did Eisav feel the need to say "red" twice?
5
votes
2answers
93 views

Shifting subjects and objects in Gen 12:15

There are three statements in Genesis 12:15: וַיִּרְאוּ אֹתָהּ שָׂרֵי פַרְעֹה וַיְהַלְלוּ אֹתָהּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה וַתֻּקַּח הָאִשָּׁה בֵּית פַּרְעֹה And Pharaoh's princes saw her, and they ...
5
votes
3answers
262 views

Charvona? How many Charvona's were there?

In the Megila twice the name Charvona is mentioned. However there is a difference - Once it is spelled with an Aleph at the end and once it is spelled with an Hai at the end? Were there two Charvona's ...