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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1answer
815 views

What does “Ribbono Shel Olam At” mean?

What does "Ribbono Shel Olam At" mean?
5
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2answers
111 views

Why does Onkelos translate “לֹֽא יוּכַל” as “לָא יִכּוֹל” rather than “לֵית לֵיהּ רְשׁוּ”

The verse in Shemos 19:23 says "וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־יי לֹֽא־יוּכַל הָעָם לַֽעֲלֹת אֶל־הַר סִינָי." Rashi says that although it uses the words "לֹֽא־יוּכַל" it means they're not allowed. Onkelos ...
3
votes
3answers
221 views

Definition of Baal Nefesh

I have seen "Baal Nefesh" used frequently in various contexts: sometimes as one who is scrupulous in halacha, other times as someone who is a quality person. What is its simple translation/meaning?
7
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8answers
221 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 ...
3
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2answers
150 views

What does the word לאַטקעס (latkes) mean?

לאַטקעס is the Yiddish word used for the potato pancakes commonly eaten on Chanukah. Where does the word לאַטקעס come from originally? What exactly does it mean?
6
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2answers
142 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 ...
3
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0answers
101 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" apparently originated in 1897 through a ...
7
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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
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3answers
266 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 ...
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 ...
14
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3answers
1k 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 ...
10
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3answers
299 views

Why is the wicked son sanctioned for doing what the wise son does?

In the Passover Hagada we're told about the four sons. The second one is called wicked because he asks, "What is this service to you?!" ("מה העבודה הזאת לכם?") (emphasis mine), while the first one is ...
2
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0answers
82 views

Difference in Tehillim 82:7 quoted in Avodah Zarah 5a

This is Tehillim 82:7 in Masoretic: אֲנִי-אָמַרְתִּי, אֱלֹהִים אַתֶּם; וּבְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כֻּלְּכֶם Yet, see the following passage in Avodah Zarah 5a where Tehillim 82:6-7 is quoted by Rabbi ...
5
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1answer
394 views

What is the difference between adonai and adoni?

I'm sure I've missed something quite obvious here, but I've always been told that adonai is "my Lord", and so I always assumed that it was adon with 'my' stuck to it. But, that would be adoni, with a ...
5
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1answer
102 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, ...
10
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3answers
236 views

וינוחו בה\בו\בם ישראל in Shabbat shemoneh esrei — why the change?

I've noticed that the Friday night shemoneh esrei (nusach Ashkenaz) uses the line "בה", shacharit and musaf use "בו", and mincha uses "בם" in the phrase "וינוחו _ ישראל מקדשי שמך..." What is the ...
2
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1answer
197 views

What does “Maaseh Rav” mean?

I believe many people think the term "Maaseh Rav" means a story of a Rabbi: since we see from the story that a Rabbi acted a certain way, we can bring this as a proof to the halacha. However, I ...
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3answers
2k views

Gmar Chasima Tova - What does it mean?

When we wish one another during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva "Gmar Chasima Tova" what does it mean? Does it not depend on what is written in the document? What difference does it make if the seal is good ...
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2answers
186 views

How does the definition of reishit differ from bereishit?

If I am not mistaken, the Hebrew word for "in the beginning" in Bereishit 1:1, could have been reishit. However, the word used was bereshit. It is my understanding that the use of bereshit (reishit ...
3
votes
1answer
150 views

Difference between the words zachor and pakad

What is the difference between the words zachor and pakad? They are used with what seems like very similar meanings throughout the Rosh HaShanah davening, as well as in the Chumash. Here are some ...
4
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3answers
169 views

The dagesh in “elo-ha” means what?

I'm not so clear on the use of the dagesh as a point of definition -- I understand some fo the pronunciation issues but not all of them either so I would appreciate any help here. I recall learning ...
2
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2answers
213 views

Why is Eretz Yisrael called “Eretz Tzvi”?

Why is Eretz Yisrael called "Eretz Tzvi"? What does this mean exactly? Why? and Where does it say this?
2
votes
3answers
94 views

Rashi on Bereishis 37:12: Only their sheep, or also their father's?

Bereishis 37:12: וַיֵּלְכוּ אֶחָיו לִרְעוֹת אֶת צֹאן אֲבִיהֶם בִּשְׁכֶם.‏ Rashi there says (as I understand it) that we cut out the word es (אֶת) because they only went to to feed their own ...
2
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3answers
440 views

Why “hayom yom rishon”, not “echad”?

Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt (St. Louis, Missouri) mentioned at s'uda sh'lishis (Shabas parashas "Ki Setze" 5772) that the correct name for Sunday is echad b(a?)shabas, as is written in k'suvos and ...
3
votes
2answers
121 views

Why no play on words for apple and honey?

The other simanim eaten on Rosh Hashana contain a play on words with the name of the food and either a wish for a good omen or a wish for bad to befall our enemies. The yehi ratzon for the apple has ...
3
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2answers
93 views

ורב להושיע instead of רב להושיע in אתה גבור

Siddur Tefila Yeshara (the Berdichever Siddur) has, in the second blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh, ורב להושיע - "v'rav l'hoshea", "and abundant in deliverance". Literally every other siddur I've ever ...
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4answers
257 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
167 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 ...
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2answers
135 views

Source for abrah kadabrah

I remember seeing a passuk that has the phrase "abrah kadabrah," or maybe a Rishon. Does anyone know a source?
8
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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 ...
6
votes
4answers
415 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. ...
8
votes
3answers
164 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
146 views

Why don't translations of Tehilim 119 translate נשף like the Gemara?

The Gemara on Berachos 3b asserts that נשף can mean either "dawn" or "evening", and cites Tehilim 119:147 as an instance of "evening". However, every translation I have seen of this verse - the ...
6
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1answer
114 views

Universal theory of Biblical eye-raising

Do any of the commentaries or Midrashim offer a universal interpretation (perhaps of the form "any time you see this, it means that") of Biblical idiom of "raising eyes"? Below are some examples that ...
1
vote
1answer
139 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 ...
1
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0answers
66 views

Words in Sefarim in Modern Hebrew [closed]

Sometimes in the more modern seforim, I see an alternate spelling of סוגיה instead of סוגיא, with a Hei (ה) replacing the Aleph (א). Why is this? Also, is this done with similar words? For example, ...
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vote
2answers
558 views

What's wrong with 'Hip Hip Hooray'?

When cutting the cake at a Jewish birthday party, or other celebrations when a cheer is called for, 'Hip Hip, Hooray!' is never used but rather the Hebrew 'Heyach!' 'Heydad!'. It seems to be a great ...
1
vote
1answer
42 views

Learning words from the servants of Rebbi

Where is the gemarah that discusses how the sages didn't know the meaning of certain words until their heard the servants of Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi using those words in everyday conversation?
2
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2answers
128 views

Why was Chanah called an “Ishah Kesheirah”?

The Gemoro says that when Chanah was caught by Eli davening and whispering, he asked the Urim Vetumim about her to see if she was ok. The letters ה ר ש כ appeared on the Urim Vetumim. Eli understood ...
12
votes
1answer
161 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
136 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 ...
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2answers
163 views

Can the word “eitz” mean “a thought” in the Torah?

Is there support in the Talmud or later rabbinical literature to interpreting the Torah term "eitz," commonly translated as "tree," to also mean "thought". This of course, is a common usage in ...
15
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2answers
449 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
304 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
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 ...
9
votes
4answers
314 views

All you need is love?

I once had a Hebrew professor state with absolute determination that "Ahavah" (the Hebrew word for "love") does not, in fact, mean love. His proof was twofold: 1. G-d could not have commanded us to ...
4
votes
5answers
233 views

Why isn't Half Hallel called “85 percent hallel”?

When we say hallel on days like Rosh chodesh, we don't say parts of two prakim of tehillim. This is often called "chatzi" hallel, or half hallel. In fact, according to ...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

What's the difference between “Jew”, “Israelite” and “Judaizer”?

What's the difference between "Jew", "Israelite" and "Judaizer"? Can these three terms be used interchangeably? Can only one or only two of these terms be applied to one person?
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." ...
4
votes
2answers
175 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" ...