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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10
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1answer
159 views

What is the first use of the word “Seder” (סדר) for the Pesach night proceedings?

The Pesach night proceedings are commonly called the "Seder" (סדר). This word more generally means "order." What is the first recorded use of the word סדר for this event?
10
votes
1answer
412 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
3answers
250 views

Lag Baomer - why not Laomer?

Nusach Askenaz says Baomer, Nusach Sefard and Sefardim say Laomer - Why does everyone call it Lag Baomer - why not call it Lag Laomer?
9
votes
7answers
459 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 ...
9
votes
5answers
313 views

What's a floor?

There are certain laws pertaining to a floor. For example, if a Sefer Torah is dropped on the floor, one is supposed to do some sort of atonement (eg., most famously, fasting for 40 days). What is ...
9
votes
1answer
110 views

Mitzva of Netilat Yadaim

Does anybody know what word Netilat exactly means and how it refers to the mitzva of Netilat Yadaim?
9
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3answers
111 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 ...
9
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1answer
75 views

Where is Shabbos called “the most precious of days”?

In our Shabbos tefillos, we say that חמדת הימים אותו קראת You (Hashem) called it (the Sabbath) the most precious of days. In the Shabbos poem "Baruch Keil Elyon" (composed by HaRav Barukh ...
9
votes
4answers
219 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, ...
9
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1answer
713 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. ...
9
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4answers
453 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
120 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?
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votes
6answers
241 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
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6answers
327 views

Source of the Yiddish word Cholent

Does anyone know what is the source of the Yiddish word Cholent?
8
votes
4answers
367 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
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3answers
728 views

Where does “probeh” come from?

Every time recently that I've heard of an Orthodox congregation conducting a search for a rabbi, the stage at which the rabbi visits the community for a Shabbat and auditions for the position is ...
8
votes
3answers
137 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
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6answers
494 views

Where is there a good online source to check how often a word appears in Tanach?

Where is there a good online source where you can check how often a word appears in Tanach?
8
votes
2answers
760 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?
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votes
3answers
147 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
360 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
1answer
208 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 ...
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2answers
441 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
740 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
4k views

What is the original meaning of the word “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 ...
8
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2answers
379 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
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2answers
619 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
1answer
116 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
123 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
138 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
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1answer
312 views

*Asher Bamayim* (אשר במים) in kashrus halacha

To find the kashrus status of an organism, we first need to correctly classify it as plant, animal, bird, or asher bamayim*, as each group has its own distinct requirements. E.g., animals need to chew ...
8
votes
1answer
96 views

Why do we call the “judges” experts?

The hataras nedarim of Erev Rosh Hashanah starts with "Listen now my masters, expert judges" ("‎שמעו נא רבותי, דיינים מומחים‎").1 In practice, at least as far as I've seen, these judges are ...
8
votes
1answer
380 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
1answer
79 views

What does the ל of לבעבור mean?

Shemos 20:17: ויֹּאמֶר משֶׁה אֶל הָעָם אַל תִּירָאוּ כִּי לְבַעֲבוּר נַסּוֹת אֶתְכֶם בָּא הָאֱלֹהִים וּבַעֲבוּר תִּהְיֶה יִרְאָתוֹ עַל פְּנֵיכֶם לְבִלְתִּי תֶחֱטָאוּ What does the 8th word in ...
8
votes
3answers
189 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
188 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
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." ...
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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 ...
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3answers
331 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
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2answers
202 views

What does שעטנז (sha'atnez) mean?

.שעטנז. I'm asking about the literal meaning behind the word, its etymology, etc.
7
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3answers
341 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
335 views

Why masechet “Beitza”?

Why do we call it masechet Beitza now, and not masechet Yom Tov, as was apparently once common? Unlike the parshiot, which are named after their first words, masechtot are all named after topics, ...
7
votes
2answers
179 views

Can songs use the words from pesukim?

I asked Is it OK to compose a song that breaks up a pasuk? and was told (in comments) that perhaps it would be good to first clarify whether songs can use pesukim at all. So, question: Can songs, ...
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5answers
550 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
2answers
128 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
483 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 ...
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votes
4answers
1k 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
161 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
103 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
266 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 ...