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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9
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4answers
346 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' ...
9
votes
2answers
138 views

verb + its infinitive

Many, many times in Tanach, including Chumash, a verb has its infinitive nearby. Examples include B'reshis 2:16 מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן אָכֹל תֹּאכֵל (I think that's the first example in Chumash) and ...
9
votes
0answers
163 views

What game is the Rama in 338:5 (טשי"ך) referring to?

In the English Mishna Brurah they translate טשי"ך as chess. The Mishna Brurah brings the Marah Sasson who forbids it because there is no chachma. It is also mentioned in the Rama that it makes noise, ...
8
votes
6answers
230 views

What do people mean when they say “Kaballah”?

I recently spoke to someone who said she was interested in learning Kabbala but could not find any classes. I mentioned to her she may want to try learning Tanya because there is a lot of Kabbala in ...
8
votes
6answers
295 views

Source of the Yiddish word Cholent

Does anyone know what is the source of the Yiddish word Cholent?
8
votes
4answers
295 views

Teiku VS. Kashya

When a Gemara does not have a solution to a question why does it sometimes it end off with "Teiku" and sometimes with "Kashya"?
8
votes
2answers
515 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?
8
votes
3answers
138 views

Identifying a chasid

Say you meet a stranger who is a member of a particular community of chasidus. What is the most polite and direct way to ask the person of which community they are a member? I.e. a question whose ...
8
votes
3answers
290 views

Is there a hebrew term for Jahrzeit?

The term "Yahrtzeit" presumably comes from the German word Jahrzeit. ("Jahr" meaning "year" and "zeit" meaning "time".) Is there a hebrew word or phrase (or spelling) for the concept of a yahrtzeit? ...
8
votes
2answers
265 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
4answers
587 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
102 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
325 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?
8
votes
2answers
456 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
122 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
98 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
128 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
2answers
77 views

What makes something a chag or not?

I have a friend who does not like it when people say 'chag sameach' on hanukah, claiming that hanukah is not a chag. What makes something a chag vs. not a chag?
8
votes
1answer
252 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
168 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
150 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
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." ...
7
votes
8answers
223 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
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
3answers
285 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
3answers
110 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
3answers
268 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
votes
3answers
359 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
2answers
110 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
4answers
924 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
3answers
97 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
190 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
302 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
266 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
86 views
+100

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 ...
7
votes
3answers
309 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
6k 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
195 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
190 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
147 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
418 views

Why 1,000 generations of ungiven Torah, not X years?

The Mainz Anonymous reads, in part (in my own translation): He created the Torah 974 generations before the world was created, then twenty-six generations [passed] from the creation of the world ...
7
votes
1answer
190 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?
7
votes
1answer
192 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
179 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
279 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
772 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
180 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
93 views
+50

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
118 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 ...