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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8
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1answer
131 views

“m'nora” on Chanuka

My kid came home from school one day insisting that the thing we light on Chanuka is not a m'nora but a chanukiya. I replied that that's the word most Israelis use now but that m'nora is a perfectly ...
8
votes
2answers
211 views

What is the difference between the words “tzur” and “selah” (which both mean rock)?

Beshalach (Shmot 17:6): ... you shall strike the rock (tzur) and water will come forth from it ... Chukat (Bamidbar 20:8): ... speak to the rock (selah) before their eyes and it shall give ...
8
votes
1answer
92 views

What is “reverse certification”

I got this in a daily halacha email but not sure what Reverse Certification means, I figure someone here does Reverse Certification It is permitted for a mashgiach to enter a non-kosher ...
8
votes
2answers
402 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
100 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, ...
8
votes
1answer
95 views

Why is it considered respectful to capitalize G-d and its derivatives/pronouns?

I recognize that in English proper nouns are supposed to be capitalized, especially in the case where a proper noun is also a common noun (e.g. the mall vs. the Mall), but only when referring to G-d ...
8
votes
1answer
125 views

Why is Kiddushin Performed “according to the tradition of Moshe and Israel”?

When betrothing a woman, the groom says "Behold, you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the tradition of Moshe and Israel." As explained in that article, "according to the tradition of ...
8
votes
4answers
316 views

What is the meaning of the inscription on the back of a m'zuza?

The string "כוזו במוכסז כוזו" is written on the back side of the parchment in many a doorpost scripture. According to the Ra"sh (hilchos m'zuza 18) וכן נהגו לכתוב באשכנז ובצרפת כנגד ה' אלקינו ה' ...
8
votes
3answers
163 views

Which word in “אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים” is חיים modifying?

"אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים" is generally translated as "These [and these are both equally] the words of the Living G-d" or some variation thereof. Is that correct, though? Is it not possible that it ...
8
votes
1answer
139 views

What are some good resources for finding the meaning of unfamiliar Hebrew and Aramaic words in Acharonim?

I have no trouble using Jastrow for Tanach and Shas but I find it difficult to apply to Acharonim. How might I use it more effectively? Are there peculiarities of grammar I'm missing? For a few ...
7
votes
8answers
220 views

Wording in Torah when Moshe is commanded to appear before pharoh

This shabbos, the parasha, Bo, starts with Moshe being told to "Bo El Paroh", "Come to Pharaoh". I don't understand this wording, should it have said "Lech El Paroh", "go to Pharaoh"? Is there a ...
7
votes
2answers
960 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
3answers
270 views

Double Yud as G-ds Name

What is the significance of the double Yud used as a stand-in for G-d's name?
7
votes
2answers
460 views

What is a hakira?

In the parlance of Talmud study and lomdus, what does the word "Hakira" mean and how should it be used? Why are Hakiras useful?
7
votes
3answers
240 views

What is the difference between a Kohen Gadol and a Kohen Rosh?

What is the difference between a Kohen Gadol and a Kohen Rosh? Both titles are used in Tanakh, sometimes even to refer to the same person. For example: Kohen HaRosh is mentioned in Ezra 7:5, Chron. I ...
7
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3answers
106 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
101 views

When did Ben Teshuva become Baal Teshuva?

Rabbeinu Yonah in Bava Basra 39a talks about someone who does Teshuva and calls him a Ben Teshuva. What is the earliest reference in history to the words Baal Teshuva? And why did it change from Ben ...
7
votes
3answers
344 views

Posek vs. Rabbi?

It seems to me obvious that certain sheilos are best dealt with by only the leading Rabbanim. At the same time colloquially we often say a Rabbi has "paskened" a sheilah when the answer is fairly ...
7
votes
4answers
767 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 ...
7
votes
4answers
552 views

What is the exact definition of Shituf (vis a vis 'Avodah Zarah)?

"Shituf" is the heretical idea of some sort of co-mingling of something with G-d (Has VeShalom). According to many rabbinic opinions, Christianity is Shituf (cf., Is Christianity Avodah Zara?), and ...
7
votes
1answer
162 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
98 views

Why isn't נִצָּבָה redundant?

In Bereshis 37:7 we read: וְהִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים בְּתוֹךְ הַשָּׂדֶה וְהִנֵּה קָמָה אֲלֻמָּתִי וְגַם נִצָּבָה - Behold, we were binding sheaves in the midst of the field, and ...
7
votes
3answers
278 views

What's the difference between כשב and כבש?

What's the difference between כשב and כבש? Why does the Torah use both?
7
votes
2answers
262 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
248 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
5k views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
189 views

Stress of הושיעה and הצליחה in Hallel

Why is הושיעה Mileel (penultimately stressed) whereas הצליחה is Milra (ultimately stressed) in Psalms 118:25?
7
votes
2answers
182 views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
133 views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
298 views

Boruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'Olam Voed after saying Hashem's name in error - ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד

When someone says Hashem's name in error, why do we say Boruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'Olam Voed - ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד?
7
votes
1answer
178 views

On Deuteronomy 28:23, Rashi says copper is “mazi'a”. What does this mean?

I have this question on Rashi every year in Ki Savo. Deuteronomy 28:23 says: "And the heavens above your head will be like copper and the earth that is beneath you, iron." Rashi says that the heavens ...
7
votes
4answers
167 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
263 views

Who are these “aliens” in Isaiah 56?

I was reading through this passage in Isaiah 56: 4 For thus saith the LORD concerning the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and hold fast by My covenant. 5 ...
7
votes
3answers
688 views

Hakaras hatov vs. hoda'a

It seems that there are two terms that could be broadly translated as "gratitude", which each express different aspects of the concept. הכרת הטוב denotes recognition, while הודאה has strong echoes of ...
7
votes
1answer
164 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
1answer
104 views

An interpretation of Shimon's “silence” in Pirkei Avot

In Chapter 1 of Pirkei Avot it's written: "17. Shimon his son said: All my days have I grown up among the wise and I have not found anything better for a man than silence. Studying Torah is not ...
7
votes
1answer
214 views

What is “בלי עין הרע”?

After mentioning that someone has been benefited by God in some way — say, with longevity or good looks or wealth — people often add the Hebrew "בלי עין הרע" ("without the evil eye") or ...
7
votes
1answer
106 views

Tzom Gedalya vs. Taanis Esther

Why is Tzom Gedalya known as Tzom Gedalya and Taanis Esther as Taanis Esther. Why not Taanis Gedalya or Tzom Esther?
7
votes
3answers
220 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!
7
votes
0answers
130 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 ...
6
votes
5answers
2k 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." ...
6
votes
6answers
166 views

Al Hamichyah - Wide land?

In the Brocho after eating grains which are not bread we say: על ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה Translated very loosely as: On the Land (ISRAEL) that is desirable good and WIDE. Now, anyone with a ...
6
votes
5answers
507 views

Why is fear of Hashem known as Yiras Shamayim?

When people discuss the fear of Hashem it is called Yiras Shamayim. Why is it called Yiras Shamayim? Should it not be called Yiras Hashem?
6
votes
3answers
290 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?
6
votes
2answers
162 views

What does שעטנז (sha'atnez) mean?

.שעטנז. I'm asking about the literal meaning behind the word, its etymology, etc.
6
votes
4answers
250 views

Are there unnecessary words in torah?

I've been taught, often enough that I thought it was universal, that there are no unnecessary words in torah (chumash) — every word is there to teach us something. I've seen plenty of discussions in ...
6
votes
2answers
780 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
400 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. ...
6
votes
3answers
214 views

Difficult phrases in the “Sale of Chametz” document

I am currently working on a clarification of the document which is usually used by rabbis to sell chametz to a non-Jew. The version I am working with is that of Harav hagGaon Avraham Aharon Yudelewitz ...
6
votes
3answers
274 views

What is the difference between the following words referring to commandments?

What is the difference between the following words? Commandments Law Testimonies Precepts Judgements Statutes Ordinances Deut 26:16 - 19 reads 16: This day, the ...